How to deal with fellow students who put little effort on their part while solving assignments, and sometimes ask you to spoon-feed them solutions. Lot of times these students end up scoring more on the assignments on average, because I don't generally feel inclined to get any sort of help on assignments, and am content with submitting my best solutions.

It is very difficult to avoid these students entirely cause grad classes are typically small and you don't want to end up alienating them.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ff524
    Feb 19, 2017 at 0:33

7 Answers 7


Sometimes, as in your case, you want to protect your best interests without burning any bridges. That's understandable, as I assume some regions have a much higher culture of cheating than others. For example, I know of one nation where people used to hire proxies to take their exams. In this case, I assume you've already participated at some point, so the long-term goal is to protect yourself and wash your hands.

Make an excuse about how you haven't completed your assignment yet. You can easily extend this to the due date and claim you were working on it all night the day it is due. Any other excuses like not starting, and so on, while you have, to hide the fact that you've done so.

This also protects you from being further involved in academic dishonesty without making you look bad to your classmates. Your end goal should be to cover yourself, and lying about not being able to share your work is a significantly better endgame than being caught in a cheating ring.

As to reporting the academic dishonesty, I hate to say it, but I probably would not do so at this point. You're implicated, and if it's a small class, it'd be easy to track back to you.

  • 6
    without making you look bad to your classmates — But why would you care about looking bad to classmates who are trying to take advantage of you?
    – JeffE
    Feb 17, 2017 at 1:34
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    @JeffE I wouldn't, but the OP cares about his reputation with these people. I'm not here to judge, I'm just here to provide him an answer that meets his criteria.
    – Compass
    Feb 17, 2017 at 4:48
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    Wow, I am a little shocked how many would advise the easy way of lying instead of telling the truth about the own opinion... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_courage
    – JepZ
    Feb 17, 2017 at 13:16
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    @JepZ Without any guaranteed protections for the OP, I am unwilling to tell him to tell the truth and potentially be kicked out of his educational institution. At the end of the day "At least you told the truth" is a really horrible consolation prize for losing enrollment to an institution, and the potential income that enrollment would have provided.
    – Compass
    Feb 17, 2017 at 15:09
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    when it is is very difficult to refuse them to show them your work — [citation needed] Repeat after me: No, I will not show you my answers.
    – JeffE
    Feb 17, 2017 at 18:05

The issue of peer pressure should be taken head on. I prefer not to tell white lies about last minute work. Answer honestly by starting with a simple statement "honestly, I really don't like sharing my work until after it is graded. I guess I am just very private about this sort of thing. Sorry, hope it doesn't offend you. I hope you can understand, I'm just like this."

If your classmates are reasonable adults, they will respect your preference. If they proceed to publicly ostracize you, give a retort along the lines of "In this day and age, we are supposed to be tolerant of each other. Your attitude is childish and distasteful."

Please stay away from being vocally judgemental towards these grad students. Instead, be a role model.

Moreover, in that in most graduate programs, there is a camaraderie that build while you are taking classes and before qualifying exams. Make clear that you are willing to work together with others in solving difficult problems. Alternatively, if you are way ahead in this particular subject, hold informal review sessions to help other grad students solve their learning issues. These two ideas will make clear you are a helpful person, and if they are just lazy, you won't need to do anything.

Eventually, there might be a course that you find difficult and need help. Then, you can lean on your peers. Alternatively, when you start performing research, there will also be tasks (paper writing? coding? math? oral presentation preparation? moving apartments?) that you will need help with. You will need your peers, so help those who help themselves (and maybe you too). As an added bonus, nothing helps learning like teaching at a black board before your peers.

As for grades, IMHO you can forget about those. You're already in grad school.

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    There is a difference between working together and stealing solutions. My objection is with stealing solutions at the last moment cause they were unable to do the problems in the given time. As for grades being important, its not about the grades but fairness, personally I don't care for grades and just give my best but its annoying to see fellow students who copy scoring more. As for help during research being involved, research cannot be conducted unless you are totally honest and nobody can solve the problem for you, you can seek help, yes, but this is about spoon-feeding complete solutions
    – winawer
    Feb 17, 2017 at 7:00
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    @ramanujan_dirac I agree with your comment! I never tried to imply otherwise. Perhaps I should have only had the first two paragraphs. Feb 17, 2017 at 12:34

This may be seen as a facetious answer, but why not give them some answers that are subtly wrong; have non obvious errors. After a couple of times they will see that the answers are not getting them the results that they want and will stop asking.

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    This is largely unethical Feb 17, 2017 at 12:14
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    So is copying/cheating/plagiarising
    – uɐɪ
    Feb 17, 2017 at 14:10
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    Of course, but I don't think fooling him/her is the solution though. Feb 17, 2017 at 14:31

Offer to help them, instead of either giving away your homework or declining to do so. Offer tutoring and showing them how to solve the problem.

You obviously care about both integrity and the social factor involved in this topic. This approach is a compromise that can actually lead to a win-win situation.

  • Integrity: you don't have to break any rules by giving away your homework and aren't required to lie to anybody.
  • You don't snub anybody by either lying to them or just blatantly saying no. Instead you actually appear willing to help, which is most likely an approach that will get you further than buying friendship with homework. In fact you may build up relationships that go further than "university stuff" this way.
  • Teaching what you've learned is a great step to improve your own knowledge. You might also like teaching as well.

In addition to the points above you may also benefit by learning some skills that are worth quite a lot, show that you've got some capabilities that might come in handy later when you aim for a job and teaching skills and knowledge to other people is in the spirit of university itself. It can also serve as a nice extra allowance or get you a few beers for free at the pub.

Of course this option requires the number of people that actually are interested in that offer to be limited and you to be willing to invest a bit of time. Personally I've gone that path and made quite good experience with it.

P.S.: Sorry for any mistakes I've made. I'm no native English speaker.


Although it seems a bit hypocracy, I usually first talk to the professor saying that they want the assignment and I cannot say no, show my current work, and then give them what they want.

I also tell them that I have shown my current work to the professor and therefore they should use my work with caution.

If they get upset about me showing my work, then it's their decision. A true friend would never be upset about something that could harm me. I just say "well, it is best if he/she did not talk to me at all, then."

All in all, it is your own academic life that you have to deal with. You are not and should not be responsible what the others do/feel in these matters.

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    Why can you not say no?
    – Dronz
    Feb 17, 2017 at 2:19

I studied in a Physics where cooperative work was the norm, assignments were done as a group. Within that group, work was not evenly done, but each member was expected to contribute to their fullest ability, and answers were discussed, not copied. If a member did not contribute, or distributed work outside the group, they simply were removed from the group. These were non-trivial tasks so none of us had any qualms of simply telling freeloaders no. In also worked in Comp Sci, where the opposite was true, work was, and needed to be individual. Yes, some get their nose out of place when the answer is no, but normal honor codes place the same level of honor on the person providing the answer as the one taking the answer. If the norm in the field is cooperative work, then cooperation is acceptable but is a two way street. If it is an environment to individual effort it expected, then anything else is an equal violation by both parties without regard to peer pressure in my experience. Hurt feelings heal much easier than honor.


To be honest, if I were you, I would not care about it! Why?

The deal is that the problem sheets are graded. But normally the number of points that you get does net get any better or worse if someone copies your solution. You still get the same amount of points. So your performance is graded as your professor said that he was going to grade it.

Besides that, you can always ask your fellow students to tell you if they find a mistake or find a better way to solve the exercise. Often, when I pass my solutions to somebody, they ask questions about what I made and I have to explain them what I did. This makes me think about my solutions and often I find errors in my solutions or I get aware of the fact that there are some things that I haven't understood as well as I have thought. So, this makes me improve.

I personally think that passing solutions to your fellow students is rather a good thing for you. You also profit and you are graded as they announced to grade you.

Besides that, one day you should be better than the guys who were just copying your solutions because they have never learned to solve problems on their own and you have.

Besides that: If you do not want to pass your solutions to anybody, just tell them. Why should you lie about it? It is always better to stand up for your opinion and tell them what youreally think about it. Sometimes you just hae to have the Courage to do things like this.

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