2

There are weekly homework assignments based on a textbook. We will finish each problem set and hand that in every two weeks.

Since the assignments are straight out of the textbook, it is very easy to get a copy of the textbook solution manual from online sources.

As an undergraduate student, if I try the problem myself, and then refer to the solution manual only for comparing the final answers, am I committed of academic dishonesty?

Since I have referred to the solution manual, it is very likely that I will receive a good score on the assignment. If I also have a very good score on the exam, does my score reflect that my homework wasn't copied from the solution manual?

The homework is only worth 10% of the overall grade.

  • 12
    Ask your instructor if he/she permits looking at the solution. It's his opinion that matters, not that of strangers on the Internet. (P.S. You said that you refer to the solution manual to "compare" your final answer. You haven't said whether you will change your answer before you submit the homework, if it's different from the one in the solution manual.) – ff524 May 6 '16 at 17:34
  • 2
    One might think in this day and age that the instructor should realize that answers to textbook problems are readily available (often in the back of the student's copy!). Although, those of use who haunt other SE sites see many attempts by students to lure us in to doing their homework for them. – Jon Custer May 6 '16 at 19:32
  • 1
    No, it's not academic dishonesty, as I understand it. If you can justify the final answer and show your own work, you should be fine. Copying solutions will land you in trouble, however. – User001 May 6 '16 at 20:17
  • In one of my classes, I had a hard time doing the homework and asked the professor if I could look up information online. During our meeting, my professor explicitly told me that he was OK with me finding solutions to the problems online and directly paraphrasing them, as long as I cited them in my homework submissions! – Kevin May 6 '16 at 23:36
8

I agree (as usual) with @ff524. Consulting an outside source is not academic dishonesty in a global sense -- academic culture does not prohibit students and faculty from reading academic sources! -- but it may be academic dishonesty in a local sense: i.e., it may be against the rules of your course as set up by your instructor. You can find out whether you are being "locally academically dishonest" in this way by consulting your instructor.

Two further points:

1) Since the homework grade is only 10%, unless the homework is wildly more difficult than the rest of the course, a student who consults answer books to do their homework is unlikely to gain a competitive advantage against other students. In fact, as you hint at, it is more likely that such a student would miss the learning opportunity the homework is designed to provide and this would show up in lower exam scores. The old chestnut "You would only be cheating yourself" seems to apply here.

2) Although consulting an outside source is not academic dishonesty, as ff524 brings up there is still the question of what happens after you consult it. If you do the problem, then look at the textbook, then change the answer if it doesn't match, and never mention that you consulted the textbook, then yes, you are at least in danger of having committed plagiarism.

Overall, you should talk to your instructor and find out whether it is permissible to consult the textbook. If it isn't, then obviously you shouldn't do it. If it is, then it really is and you should mention in your homework when you do so. To an undergraduate student this practice may seem strange, but it is really the right thing to do and I would expect your graders and instructors to react well to it.

  • 4
    On the professor side, I tell students to do their work in one color, and when reviewing their answers with the textbook, show it in another color. The OP could potentially also do this and just note that the bright orange ink is their corrections, and the original pencil is purely their work. – guifa May 6 '16 at 19:32
  • 2
    This is probably dependent on the field but when I taught math I would have actually preferred if the students took the time to check the answers against a solution manual. I graded the work rather than the answer anyway and if they bothered to check they might have figured out what they did was nonsense. Of course all too often students decide it must be the answer book that's got it wrong (this is not helped by the fact that occasionally the answer books do get it wrong much less often then the students think though). – DRF May 6 '16 at 21:53
  • Hmm, @DRF, this brings up a possible counterstrategy. The prof could spike some websites with subtly wrong solutions, to find out who doesn't bother to activate their own judgement in developing a solution. – Captain Emacs May 7 '16 at 0:48
3

The instructor knows that the solution could be found out from the text book itself. But still he/she gave you the assignment. The expectation is that the student would be honest with self to learn something. At the end what matters is "what you learned in the course" rather than "what score you got in the course". If you solved the problem yourself and then tried to verify and learn something from it, then its good. And, as per me, it is not academic dishonesty. However, if you feel so, you could have a word with your instructor.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.