Say I watch some YouTube videos to learn merge sort, and during the lesson the code for merge sort is shown and explained, if after this I write my own program and use the merge-sort algorithm I learned from the video, am I plagiarizing?

Say if I need to hand in an project for university and it requires a mergesort on an array of integers in a part of the program like the example in the lesson was, can I get wrecked for plagiarism if I used the mergesort method from the lesson to use in my project?

edit: assuming that I completely understand the algorithm and can explain every part

  • Do you plan on citing the video in your submission? – Mad Jack Nov 1 '17 at 1:49
  • I was just making up a situation, I'm just wondering if using algorithms the exact way I learned them off the material counts as copying, be it from some website, video, or textbook. – dshawn Nov 1 '17 at 2:06
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    Best to ask your instructor for what is allowed. At the very least, if instructor's are OK with students getting inspiration from various online resources, then citing the source(s) is a excellent safeguard against plagiarism. – Mad Jack Nov 1 '17 at 2:16
  • If you copy the code without citation, that would be plagiarism. Using the ideas from that video but writing your own implementation of the ideas would, in my opinion, be OK because mergesort is such basic knowledge (in computer science) that citations are not needed (rather like using the Pythagorean Theorem or the chain rule for derivatives in mathematics). – Andreas Blass Nov 1 '17 at 3:05

Plagiarism is using the words or ideas of another without proper credit. So, if you don't give credit, you're plagiarizing. If you do give credit, you're not. It is really that simple.

In your particular case, there may be something else at work. If your professor taught merge sort, and the assignment is to demonstrate that you know how to do it, then you might be in trouble for copying another's code even if you give proper credit; it's not plagiarism, but it still might not be allowed. As Mad Jack has said in the comments, ask your professor.

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