Academic Integrity

Computer Science 1. Great Ideas in Computer Science (Spring, 2016)

Computer Science 1. Great Ideas in Computer Science (Spring, 2016)
Henry Leitner
nior Lecturer on Computer Science, Instructor 

A Commentary On Programming Ethics[1]

A computer program written to satisfy a course requirement is, like a paper, expected to be the original work of the student submitting it. Copying a program from another student or from any other source is a form of academic dishonesty, as is deriving a program substantially from the work of another.

Persons who do not know how to program a computer are understandably puzzled about how the concept of plagiarism could possibly be applicable in a computer course. Is a program not an exact object, like a number, and must not any two correct solutions to a programming problem be identical? The truth is quite different. Superficial appearances aside, computer programs more closely resemble essays than numbers. The copyright laws recognize this; so do standards of behavior at Harvard.  

Two programmers may adopt radically different approaches to solving the same problem, as different as the ideas of two students asked to write critically on the same painting. Very small programs do not admit this much variability in overall design, but anything over a page long certainly does, unless the design itself was specified as part of the exercise. But even when two programs are based on the same overall design, the variation in possible form of expression is vast. 

 Programming courses attempt to teach graceful and forceful forms of expressions for computational ideas, but every programmer has idiosyncrasies of style and vocabulary. The likelihood of two programmers independently creating identical programs of more than two or three lines in length is no larger than the likelihood of two writers independently writing identical paragraphs. And programs that are identical except for their choice of names (for example, one has “x” everywhere the other has “y”) are as improbable as two short stories that are identical except for the names of the characters. Paraphrase is as possible, and as dishonest, with programs as with papers; two programs can be copies of each other even though no single line of one is identical to any line of the other. There should be little confusion about what is legitimate and what is not in the production of a computer program; the rule is simple, simpler than in expository writing, since programming generally does not involve library research and use of sources: Do not submit as your own work a program based on the work of another! Violations of this rule is plagiarism; it is dishonorable behavior, and the penalty for it is requirement to withdraw from Harvard College.

Two obvious "exceptions" to this rule may be noted in passing. Courses sometimes supply the main idea or even some of the text of a program that is to be completed as an exercise; naturally, students are expected to use this assistance. And there is merit in “copying from oneself” in a course that develops cumulative programming skills. Here programs differ from papers; no author would want to write two different pieces with several paragraphs in common, but with computer programs, this is not unusual. A skill taught in programming courses is how NOT to reinvent the wheel; when a small phrase or short sentence has proven useful and reliable in one program, a programmer should feel free to reuse it if the same thing needs to be said in another program. Such clauses play the role of aphorisms; they make a point but they are not the main point of the piece being written.

Of course, neither of these examples obscures the basic point that a program submitted as original work should not have been derived from the work of another unless the course has specifically permitted this.

How much help on a programming exercise may you obtain before you are stealing, rather than being assisted? Teaching fellows and user assistants know the limitations of what is fair and legitimate; their goal is to help you understand how to solve your own problem, not to solve it for you. If you seek help from other students you are treading on much thinner ice. When a student answers a simple factual question which could have been answered out of a manual, no violation of principle is involved; it is not dishonest to ask another student the value of PI or the statement of the Pythagorean Theorem. But the more your request is for part or all of the solutions to the programming exercise itself, rather than for general factual information, the less acceptable it is. In the extreme case one student asks for and receives the actual text of a program which both were to have created independently; in this case both are guilty of academic dishonesty.

In the Harvard College Handbook for Students is a section related to collaboration:

It is expected that all homework assignments, projects, lab reports, papers, theses, and examinations and any other work submitted for academic credit will be the student’s own. Students should always take great care to distinguish their own ideas and knowledge from information derived from sources.

In some courses students are expected to work in teams on the implementation of very large programs. Just because you see two students huddled over the same terminal and discussing programs in great detail, do not assume that this is standard and acceptable behavior in your course! If you have any doubt about what type of collaboration is permissible, do not make assumptions: ask the instructor. A general argument that you were only doing what you saw others doing is not a legitimate defense.

[1] The principal author of this section is Prof. Harry R. Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science.


Computer Science 50. Introduction to Computer Science (Spring, 2015)

Computer Science 50. Introduction to Computer Science (Spring, 2015)
David J. Malan
Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science

Academic Honesty: This course’s philosophy on academic honesty is best stated as "be reasonable." The course recognizes that interactions with classmates and others can facilitate mastery of the course’s material. However, there remains a line between enlisting the help of another and submitting the work of another. This policy characterizes both sides of that line.

The essence of all work that you submit to this course must be your own. Collaboration on problem sets is not permitted except to the extent that you may ask classmates and others for help so long as that help does not reduce to another doing your work for you. Generally speaking, when asking for help, you may show your code to others, but you may not view theirs, so long as you and they respect this policy’s other constraints. Collaboration on quizzes is not permitted at all. Collaboration on the course’s final project is permitted to the extent prescribed by its specification.

Below are rules of thumb that (inexhaustively) characterize acts that the course considers reasonable and not reasonable. If in doubt as to whether some act is reasonable, do not commit it until you solicit and receive approval in writing from the course’s heads. Acts considered not reasonable by the course are handled harshly. If the course refers some matter to the Administrative Board and the outcome is Admonish, Probation, Requirement to Withdraw, or Recommendation to Dismiss, the course reserves the right to impose local sanctions on top of that outcome that may include an unsatisfactory or failing grade for work submitted or for the course itself.

If you commit some act that is not reasonable but bring it to the attention of the course’s heads within 72 hours, the course may impose local sanctions that may include an unsatisfactory or failing grade for work submitted, but the course will not refer the matter to the Administrative Board except in cases of repeated acts.


  • Communicating with classmates about problem sets' problems in English (or some other spoken language).
  • Discussing the course’s material with others in order to understand it better.
  • Helping a classmate identify a bug in his or her code at Office Hours, elsewhere, or even online, as by viewing, compiling, or running his or her code, even on your own computer.
  • Incorporating snippets of code that you find online or elsewhere into your own code, provided that those snippets are not themselves solutions to assigned problems and that you cite the snippets' origins.
  • Reviewing past semesters' quizzes and solutions thereto.
  • Sending or showing code that you’ve written to someone, possibly a classmate, so that he or she might help you identify and fix a bug.
  • Sharing snippets of your own code online so that others might help you identify and fix a bug.
  • Turning to the web or elsewhere for instruction beyond the course’s own, for references, and for solutions to technical difficulties, but not for outright solutions to problem set’s problems or your own final project.
  • Whiteboarding solutions to problem sets with others using diagrams or pseudocode but not actual code.
  • Working with (and even paying) a tutor to help you with the course, provided the tutor does not do your work for you.

Not Reasonable:

  • Accessing a solution in CS50 Vault to some problem prior to (re-)submitting your own.
  • Asking a classmate to see his or her solution to a problem set’s problem before (re-)submitting your own.
  • Decompiling, deobfuscating, or disassembling the staff’s solutions to problem sets.
  • Failing to cite (as with comments) the origins of code or techniques that you discover outside of the course’s own lessons and integrate into your own work, even while respecting this policy’s other constraints.
  • Giving or showing to a classmate a solution to a problem set’s problem when it is he or she, and not you, who is struggling to solve it.
  • Looking at another individual’s work during a quiz.
  • Paying or offering to pay an individual for work that you may submit as (part of) your own.
  • Providing or making available solutions to problem sets to individuals who might take this course in the future.
  • Searching for, soliciting, or viewing a quiz’s questions or answers prior to taking the quiz.
  • Searching for or soliciting outright solutions to problem sets online or elsewhere.
  • Splitting a problem set’s workload with another individual and combining your work.
  • Submitting (after possibly modifying) the work of another individual beyond allowed snippets.
  • Submitting the same or similar work to this course that you have submitted or will submit to another.
  • Submitting work to this course that you intend to use outside of the course (e.g., for a job) without prior approval from the course’s heads.
  • Using resources during a quiz beyond those explicitly allowed in the quiz’s instructions.
  • Viewing another’s solution to a problem set’s problem and basing your own solution on it.

History 1330. Social Thought in Modern America (Spring, 2015)

History 1330. Social Thought in Modern America (Spring, 2015)
James T. Kloppenberg
Charles Warren Professor of American History and Chair of the Standing Committee on Degrees in Social Studies

Academic Integrity: Students in History 1330 often form study groups to discuss course material. Such informal interactions among students are an important part of the course. They give all students more opportunities, in addition to those in class and section discussions, to talk about the issues, ask questions, and teach and learn from each other. We want to encourage such cooperative exchanges, which can be extremely valuable for clarifying complicated concepts and the complex relationships among thinkers, ideas, and historical contexts. Once you begin writing your papers or preparing your answers to part two of the mid-term and final examinations, however, such exchanges of ideas are no longer appropriate. Sharing your written work, or your outlines of your essays for the take-home parts of the mid-term and final, constitutes a breach of academic integrity and is forbidden. All work you hand in must be your own.

Physical Sciences 12a. Mechanics from an Analytic, Numerical and Experimental Perspective (Spring, 2014)

Physical Sciences 12a.  Mechanics from an Analytic, Numerical and Experimental Perspective (Spring, 2014)
Efthimios Kaxiras
John Hasbrouck Van Vleck - Professor of Pure and Applied Physics
Christopher Stubbs
Samuel C. Moncher - Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Academic Integrity: Please read Harvard’s policy on academic integrity, in the Undergraduate Handbook. The relevant section is available at: dishonesty.html.

Problem Sets: Collaboration is allowed when working on the problem sets, and it is even encouraged. However, all work turned in for grading must be your own. For the numeric portion, you are required to write your own MATLAB scripts.

Module Quiz: The Module Quizzes will be take home and will take place in lieu of homework that week. You will be assigned a partner by the teaching staff, and you are not allowed to collaborate on the module quiz with anyone other than your partner. Each student must submit separate and distinct write ups – they must not be copies of each other. You’re allowed to consult any reference, however be sure to document any references that you consult.

Participation: You are allowed to collaborate with your classmates. You are not allowed to use someone else’s classroom interactive device or otherwise impersonate another student in the class. This would constitute academic dishonesty.

Religion 40. Incarnation and Desire: An Introduction to Christianity (Fall, 2014)

Religion 40.  Incarnation and Desire:  An Introduction to Christianity (Fall, 2014)
Courtney Bickel Lamberth
Lecturer on the Study of Religion and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Academic Integrity: The course follows Harvard College’s policies on plagiarism and collaboration. Specifically, any material submitted to meet course requirements—homework assignments, papers, projects, posted comments, examinations—is expected to be a student’s own work. I ask all students to bookmark and consult regularly the Harvard Guide to Using Sources website at You are urged to take great care in distinguishing your own ideas and thoughts from information and analysis derived from printed and electronic sources, and you are responsible for knowing and following the College’s policy on proper use of sources. These policies are stated clearly at the Harvard Guide to Using Sources website.

Ethical Reasoning 42. Sex and Ethical Reasoning

Ethical Reasoning 42.  Sex and Ethical Reasoning 
Mark Jordan
Richard Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Divinity

Academic Integrity: Being a member of an academic community both requires and encourages the practice of specific virtues. These virtues are not so very different from the virtues required for life in any community—or in any relationship. Like most virtues, they are difficult to define; they are better learned by doing than by reciting formulas. But modern American universities are compelled by the current legal environment to articulate these virtues as if they were rules.

Here is a version of those ‘rules’ for this course: Serious discussion, in and out of class, is essential to what we are doing. Whether you are reflecting on the readings or imagining your writing, you are encouraged to talk with your instructors, your classmates, and anyone else who will listen. When it comes time to write, you should make sure that any written work you submit for evaluation is fully your own, as regards both conception and composition.  This means, for example, that you must acknowledge quotations, but also summaries, paraphrases, and any specific arguments you have taken from others. You must also adhere to standard citation practices for any books, articles, websites, lectures, or other sources. If you received any editorial help with your writing other than from the instructors for the course, please acknowledge this assistance as well. Finally, if you have any questions about when or how to cite the kind of material that you are using, please ask us—before submitting the assignment.

This brief description of ‘rules’ is not of course meant to cover all questions or cases. Rules never can. It is meant to remind you of the principles of the Harvard College Honor Code.

Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology 25. Biochemistry and Human Metabolism (Spring 2015)

Kiran Musunuru
Assistant Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology

Problem Sets: The problem sets will largely comprise case-based, short-answer questions and multiple-choice questions. They will typically be released after Tuesday class and be due at the beginning of the following Tuesday’s class. While it is reasonable and expected that students will draw on sources of information outside of the course materials (e.g., the scientific literature, the Internet, peers), students are expected to do their own research and express their answers in their own words. Since the midterms will have some questions similar in format to the problem sets, it is to each student’s benefit to go through the process of thinking through the questions on one’s own and formulating one’s own answers.

Discussion and the exchange of ideas are essential to academic work. However, you should ensure that any written work you submit for evaluation is the result of your own research and writing and that it reflects your own approach to the topic. Please remember that representing the words, ideas, or concepts of another person without appropriate attribution is plagiarism.

Psychology 18. Abnormal Psychology (Fall, 2014)

Joshua Buckholtz
Assistant Professor of Psychology

From Term Paper: 
Excellent papers will: 1) demonstrate that the topic is important and relevant to current issues, problems, or controversies in psychopathology, 2) provide a thorough background on the topic, citing extant literature, 3) present a strong thesis statement that builds on this background, 4) support the claims of the thesis statement by citing current literature, noting inconsistencies in the literature where present and suggesting sources for those inconsistencies, 5) critically synthesize available information to arrive at a thoughtful conclusion, offering future directions of research for this topic

Poor papers will: 1) leave the reader guessing why they should care about this topic, 2) provide scant or inconsistent background on the topic, with few citations, leaving the reader to wonder if the author really knows anything about the topic at all, 3) present a weak thesis that doesn’t logically follow from the background, 4) support the claims of the thesis by relying on “common sense,” opinion, popular science books, media reports, or anything other than primary source material from peer-review

Academic Honesty:
Discussion and the exchange of ideas are essential to academic work. For assignments in this course, you are encouraged to consult with your classmates on the choice of paper topics and to share sources. You may find it useful to discuss your chosen topic with your peers, particularly if you are working on the same topic as a classmate. However, you should ensure that any written work you submit for evaluation is the result of your own research and writing and that it reflects your own approach to the topic. You must also adhere to standard citation practices in this discipline and properly cite any books, articles, websites, lectures, etc. that have helped you with your work. If you received any help with your writing (feedback on drafts, etc), you must also acknowledge this assistance. All written assignments must be your own work, unless otherwise specified. Please take extra care to cite outside sources appropriately. When in doubt, cite! Poor citation does not have to be intentional to be considered plagiarism. Failure to document your sources or acknowledge collaboration is an ethical lapse that can have serious consequences. Do not jeopardize your academic career. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult Writing with Sources.