I am a computer science major and I was given a zero grade for having identical code to another student. I did not copy or share the code with anyone. The professor warned us that copying code from online sources or having overly similar code to another student will be punished. However, I did not copy or share the code and the professor don't seem to trust me because the code was identical. What can I do to convince/prove that it is my own work?

  • 4
    How many lines of the code?
    – Nobody
    Jan 4 at 6:14
  • He did not specify but said "code identical to code submitted by another student".
    – Jack
    Jan 4 at 6:19
  • How many lines you wrote?
    – Nobody
    Jan 4 at 6:20
  • 1
    Do you have any explanation how your code could be identical to another student's without you violating any rules? Same source (yours is cited)? Could they have had access to your code? Copied the files or photographed the screen? Is the code so absolutely obvious that only one way exists to write it (with 17 lines, this is difficult to believe)? Without a plausible route for incidental (from your perspective) match I think you will have a very difficult time to prove your innocence. Jan 4 at 12:36
  • 1
    You wrote 17 lines of code. We don't know how many lines are supposedly the same. With 17 lines of simple code, it is quite possible to have 5 or 6 identical lines. I actually had a colleague once whose style was quite exactly the same as mine. The first time I noticed was looking at some code, it looked exactly as if I had written it, but couldn't remember it. With this guy, both of us writing 17 identical lines of code would be not unusual. Emacs: In this example, there were thousands of ways to write the code, but we two would tend to write it identical.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 4 at 15:15

1 Answer 1


This sounds like exactly the sort of situation where university appeals processes, or "grievance" processes as they are sometimes called, can help. Whether they would help in your situation, or merely strain relationships, is something only you can judge. In deciding whether to initiate an appeal, I suggest you consider:

  1. The likely university-wide effect (if any) of your professor believing that you cheated.
  2. The value of the assignment for which you have received a 0 grade.

If you are at risk of being suspended from the degree course by the university administration because of your professor's belief, then that would weigh in favor of a rapid appeal. If your professor's beliefs have no carry-over effect, that might weigh against an appeal.

If the assignment forms a significant part of the course grade of an essential course, that again weighs in favor of an appeal. A small proportion of overall grade, or an irrelevant elective course, would weight against it.

Lastly, there are the consequences of an appeal itself, which might not be to your liking, even if you succeed! For example, it might sour your relationships with the professor, and that might be important to you.

In the end, only you can judge.

There is one last thing, which is actually a question: Is there any possibility that the other student saw your work and copied it? You might be able to judge that if you are in a position to know the emotional reaction of the other student to having likewise received a 0 grade.

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