CS244 and the Honor Code

In previous years, several students taking CS244 were found guilty of violating the Stanford Honor Code. In this course, the Honor Code is taken seriously and we expect all students to do the same. The good news is that the vast majority of students do take the Honor Code seriously. The bad news is that historical evidence indicates that some students will submit work that is not their own, shortchanging not only their own learning, but undermining the atmosphere of trust and individual achievement that characterizes Stanford's academic community. To protect academic integrity and the interests of all students, the course staff will investigate all possible Honor Code violations and refer them to the Office of Judicial Affairs as necessary. We're pleased to report that for the last time CS244 was offered, no-one was found to have violated the Honor Code. Please help us make it nine happy years in a row! If you have any questions or doubts about the Honor Code, please come and talk to me. Honor code violations are no laughing matter at Stanford and it is much better to ask what might seem like a silly question now than to risk your academic career. The Honor Code has a long tradition at Stanford dating back to Spring 1921 when the University first adopted the honor system. Today the Honor Code continues to govern academic conduct of both students and faculty at Stanford. The Honor code reads as follows:


  1. The Honor Code is an undertaking of the students, individually and collectively: (i) that they will not give or receive aid in examinations; that they will not give or receive unpermitted aid in class work, in the preparation of reports, or in any other work that is to be used by the instructor as the basis of grading; (ii) that they will do their share and take an active part in seeing to it that others as well as themselves uphold the spirit and letter of the Honor Code.

  2. The faculty on its part manifests its confidence in the honor of its students by refraining from proctoring examinations and from taking unusual and unreasonable precautions to prevent the forms of dishonesty mentioned above. The faculty will also avoid, as far as practicable, academic procedures that create temptations to violate the Honor Code.

  3. While the faculty alone has the right and obligation to set academic requirements, the students and faculty will work together to establish optimal conditions for honorable academic work.

The underlying premise of the policy is that all academic work represents independent, original work of the author and the Honor Code aims to foster an academic environment that encourages adherence to these principles. As we are all bound to respect and uphold the Honor Code, it is important to define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors with regard to this course so as to eliminate any ambiguity.

Permitted Collaboration: The following items are encouraged and allowed at all times for all students in this class:

  • Discussion of material covered during lecture, problem sessions, or in handouts

  • Discussion of the requirements of an assignment

  • Discussion of the use of tools or development environments

  • Discussion of general approaches to solving problems

  • Discussion of general techniques of coding or debugging

  • Discussion between a student and a TA or instructor for the course

Collaboration Requiring Citation: Two students engaging in more detailed discussions must be careful to document their collaboration. Students are required to include the names of those who provide specific assistance to properly credit their contribution, in the same manner as one would cite a reference in a research paper. The expectation is that even with a citation, the author must be able to explain the solution. Some examples of collaboration that require citation include:

  • Discussing the “key” to a problem set or programming assignment. Problem set questions are often designed such that the critical concept takes careful thought and gaining that insight from someone else must therefore be documented.

  • Discussing the design of a programming project. Design is a crucial aspect of the programming process and discussion can be valuable. Any design input received from others must be cited.

  • Receiving assistance from another student in debugging code. While the TAs are the preferred source for advice, any detailed assistance from someone else must be credited.

  • Sharing advice for testing. For example, if someone provides important information on lessons learned (“my program didn't handle the case where the value was 0”) that source must be credited.

  • Research from alternative sources. Researching related topics, such as through the Internet, must be documented if the solution submitted is derived from the research information.

Unpermitted Collaboration: All submissions must represent original, independent work. Some examples of activities that do not represent original work include:

  • Copying solutions from others. In particular, do not ask anyone to provide a copy of his or her solution or, conversely, give a solution to another student who requests it. Similarly, do not discuss algorithmic strategies to such an extent that you and your collaborator submit exactly the same solution. Use of solutions posted to websites, such as at other universities, is prohibited. Be aware that we photocopy some of the exams prior to handing them back.

  • Using work from past quarters. The use of another student's solution or the posted class solutions from a previous quarter constitutes a violation. We use a sophisticated tool that cross-checks every assignment against every other assignment submitted this year, and previous years. It catches common code, even if comments and variable names are changed. In fact, in order to “fool” it, you have to change so much code that it would be quicker to do the assignment yourself. Developing good problem set questions and programming assignments often takes years and new assignments invariably have problems and that require polishing. To provide the most effective exercises, questions and assignments are commonly reused. Students retaking the course are expected to notify the course staff to avoid coming under suspicion.

  • Studying another student's solution. Do not read another solution submission whether in electronic or printed form, even to “check answers”.

  • Debugging code for someone else. When debugging code it is easy to inadvertently copy code or algorithmic solutions. It is acceptable to describe a problem and ask for advice on a way to track down the bug.

This section on the Honor Code was based on a handout from Tom Fountain, who teaches EE182 at Stanford. Some portions are based on similar collaboration policies written by Eric Roberts, Julie Zelenski, and the Computer Science Department at Brown University.