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So I have noticed that there are exact solutions to the exact question I found on an assignment sheet for a unit/class that I am currently doing (the source is from another college's publication on their own assignment). My question is that: is my professor allowed to use this particular question (which is identical in every way, even the wording) in an assignment given to us? Does this not count as being academically dishonest on the professor's part? I know that if I use these solutions it is plagiarism, but isn't using this question in an assignment given to us without any citations or references to the original source, counted as plagiarism on the professor's part?

marked as duplicate by Mad Jack, ff524 Nov 12 '17 at 16:18

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Did the professor claim that the assignments are his/hers? I do not see a problem if he did not. Also, it actually makes (some) sense since, otherwise, everyone would go and find the original source and simply copy the answer. In some cases, we do not need re-invent the wheel, especially if the questions are more less standard. What kind of course is that? – PsySp Nov 12 '17 at 12:26
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    This is the same question as at least academia.stackexchange.com/questions/67176/… and academia.stackexchange.com/questions/66301/… and academia.stackexchange.com/questions/65470/… . Does that make your question dishonest? If so is it academic misconduct and should be discussed here or stackexchange misconduct and should be discussed on meta? – dave_thompson_085 Nov 12 '17 at 12:31
  • These questions may come from a common pool of question used by a publisher. Textbook companies provide tests. If they are using or have used them in the past, then they could just be using the standard product the publisher produces. – Dave Harris Nov 12 '17 at 15:57
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    Copying homework or test questions, rather than answers, is not considered plagiarism, else we would have to replace most of the teaching community. – Mark Rogers Nov 12 '17 at 16:03
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No. Unlike for students (who have to demonstrate their understanding) and for research (which has to demonstrate an improvement to the state of the art in the field) there is no expectation of originality in homework questions, and there is no ethical problem with having multiple classes work through the same problem set. There are even arguments to be made that it is a good thing for students to be judged on a uniform basis.

It would only be a problem if your prof represented these questions as his own work e.g. when highlighting his teaching contributions in his evaluation or in candidatures for a new position. As a student, you wouldn't be in a position to know about this.

There might also be a copyright issue if your professor did not ask for permission to use these questions. But there is no reason to assume that he didn't.

  • While I second every word of the above, I still see negligence on the professor's part: The OP is in a bind indeed, just not the one she asked about primarily. Searching the internet for references, (secondary) source material / information on a topic to answer a question is common practice. As the OP herself states, "I know that if I use these solutions it is plagiarism". By assigning a home work question the model answers for are easily found online, the professor put students accidentally coming across these in a moral dilemma they do not deserve to stumble into by an innocent google... – Johannes Pille Nov 12 '17 at 12:17
  • ... search. How far does the student have to go to ensure her homework is original? Can she even do it? She cannot "unsee" the (assumably) perfect solution. – Johannes Pille Nov 12 '17 at 12:21
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    @JohannesPille: there are other questions covering this subject I think, but it's not really that much of a problem, at least in my field. A quick glance at an answer usually doesn't help enough to actually answer the problem thoroughly; if you just look at it long enough to ascertain that it's actually the same problem it will only make it vaguely easier to approach the problem, but you still have to work through all the steps yourself. – nengel Nov 12 '17 at 13:00
  • @JohannesPille out of context, but I'm a male! But you have basically explained something I did not actually include in my question for obvious reasons (as I know the outcomes of copying things off the internet and using them as your own solution). Is it really a good assessment task if the question is identically searchable on google by literally copy and pasting the question into a search field? In my opinion, it is not. And the solutions contain enough information that you will know exactly how the question is answered. – Mr10k Nov 13 '17 at 14:11
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Wikipedia defines plagiarism as:

the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" and the representation of them as one's own original work.

It is most likely not plagiarism:

  • You do not know if the professor "wrongfully appropriated" (stole) the work. Maybe the other professor gave him the questions or they worked together?
  • A question sheet may or may not be a "publication" (depending on local law).
  • The professor is not required to make his own questions, so he is not "representing them as his own work".

You should also consider the following:

  • Maybe they both got their questions from a third source, for example the teaching-version of a textbook (that allows questions to be copied)
  • Copying a question is not cheating. Copying an answer (as a student) is.
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Yes if he claims that his/her work. If not, that is not plagiarism.

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