Code Plagiarism

Discussion in 'Mac Programming' started by Hemingray, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. macrumors 68030

    Hemingray

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    #1
    Hey guys,

    I'm taking Java classes towards earning my B.S. in I.T., and I just completed a programming assignment.

    We have 3 different "teams" that we post our assignments to individually and then the team tests it out. A couple of days after finishing my program, I decided to look in another team's folder just to see how they had accomplished theirs. To my astonishment, one of the other students directly ripped off my entire program - VERBATIM! Right down to the comment lines. :eek: <-- that was me. I was amazed. Needless to say, I called him on it and informed the teacher. It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

    Now, I don't mind people taking suggestions from my ideas, but directly ripping off all 250+ lines of code I typed by hand? Not cool.

    Sorry if this isn't entirely on-topic, I just needed to vent! Has anyone else out there experienced this in software programming, either in the classroom or out in the workforce?
     
  2. macrumors 603

    Cromulent

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    #2
    Happens in all walks of life I'm afraid, whether that is writing or anything else. Only thing to do is confront them about it and as you did inform the teacher. If you don't you run the risk of being the one accused of plagiarism.
     
  3. macrumors regular

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    Troy, NY
    #3
    Moss

    Your professor should run *all* the code through MOSS. It detects plagiarism in software and has a very nice web interface to show explicit segments of code which were copied.
     
  4. macrumors 68040

    iSee

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    #4
    I wonder how the other student expected to get away with it? Surely the professor would have noticed the copied code, even without a tool like MOSS, considering there are only three teams in your class.

    Even if the other student planned to claim that you copied his/her code, it would be so easy for the professor to determine who really wrote the code with a few questions to each of you about what the code does.

    Hmmm, if the student hadn't yet submitted the code, they could claim they only made a copy of it so they tinker with it to understand how it works. Is it possible that's what was actually happening? It's not plagiarism unless they try to pass off the work as their own.
     
  5. thread starter macrumors 68030

    Hemingray

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    #5
    Not sure... maybe he thought the teacher wouldn't look at the code that carefully? Here's the post he made to his team this morning:

    "Mine"... ohh, you mean MINE! Yeah, he definitely tried to pass it off as his own. Looking back on his assignment for last week, it appears he copied portions from his own team, and probably got away with this, which emboldened him to attempt wholesale plagiarism this week.

    laprej, thanks for letting me know about MOSS, that definitely looks like a useful tool!
     
  6. macrumors 603

    wordmunger

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    #6
    Make sure you've got yourself covered -- he could turn the tables and accuse you of plagiarizing him. Keep early versions of your work to show that you created it.
     
  7. macrumors 68040

    lee1210

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    #7
    Hemingray, it might help us advise you if you gave us a bit more information about what it is that you are required to share with others. It sounds like there is some sort of testing/peer review required. If you have to share your code with others, it's going to be very difficult to prevent dishonest individuals from stealing your code as well as that of other students.

    If they just have to be able to test it, but not review it, you should be able to distribute your class file(s) and they can test it that way. You did the right thing telling the professor in advance, as things like MOSS aren't going to tell the professor who copied, just that copying went on. In a situation where you are not supposed to share your work, then that's fine, the professor can fail both students as you should not have given someone your code anyway. In a situation where students are supposed to share code, it becomes much more difficult to assign blame.

    -Lee
     
  8. thread starter macrumors 68030

    Hemingray

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    #8
    Fortunately, in this case I think it's pretty cut and dry. I posted mine two days ago, he posted "his" this morning. Plus, mine is consistent with my previous weekly builds, whereas his drastically changed from last week to this week.

    It's sad really, he didn't even change the variable names or comments or even TRY to make it look original...
     
  9. Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

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    #9
    I've nothing constructive to add to to this, but I love the fact that you think that 250 lines of code is a lot! And how else would you type it if not by hand :p
     
  10. thread starter macrumors 68030

    Hemingray

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    #10
    Hi Lee,

    Okay, I'll explain the purpose of the teams... each individual is to complete their own version of the assignment separately. Then, they post their completed assignment to their respective team folder. The other teammates test the program out, try to crash it, make observations, etc.

    In this case, someone from Team B copied my program I had posted two days earlier in my team folder (Team A). The only thing he changed was his name, the name of the Java file name, and the wording in a couple of comment lines at the top. Everything else, right down to the variable names are unchanged. I did a comparison between the two files in TextWrangler, and 284 out of 291 lines were identical, so that gives you a pretty good idea!
     
  11. thread starter macrumors 68030

    Hemingray

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    #11
    Hey now, you're talking to a guy who only has 8 weeks of Java experience! 250 lines may be nothing, but to a guy who's just learning, that's a lot! :eek:

    How? You could use something like Eclipse or NetBeans to do a lot of the work for you... I'm just creating mine in a VATE.
     
  12. macrumors G5

    gnasher729

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    Nov 25, 2005
    #12
    In this particular case, it would be obvious to the teacher that one of them got their honest work stolen and the other is the thief - question is: Which one? A decent teacher would invite each one separately and ask them a few questions, what they were thinking when they wrote the code, why they did things the way the did, and I would expect that one would be able to give good answers and one wouldn't.
     
  13. thread starter macrumors 68030

    Hemingray

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    #13
    The Plot Thickens...

    So, I get an email from one of this guy's teammates, and apparently the guy completely copied HIS project from last week!

    He also brought to my attention that someone ELSE in their team just copy & pasted a program they found in a Java help forum... from a student who had this same assignment two years ago:

    http://forum.java.sun.com/thread.jspa?threadID=720832

    What a corrupt bunch of *$@#&... I'm totally blowing the whistle on this. This teacher is not on the ball.
     
  14. macrumors G4

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    #14
    Copying is only a bad thing in the classroom. At work I use other people's work all the time. We call this "Open Source".

    Apple built most of Mac OS X using source code they did not write. All of BSD Unix is Open Source.

    All a teacher needs to do is put a code excerpt in quotes then past that into the google search box. He can find out quickly. Lazy teacher to give the same asignment over and oover to each class. Why are they teaching programming at a Unversity anyways? When I was there that was something you just had to figure out. They' give an asignment and you'd find a computer and pick a language.

    One of the better instructors in a compiler class made up a language and the task was to write a compiler for that language in that language. We couldn't test our work.
     
  15. macrumors 6502a

    Sayer

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    #15
    Funny thing is they will prolly end up being product managers or something equivalent.
     
  16. macrumors 68040

    lee1210

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    #16
    Well, it's pretty tough, then. As long as you use something like Turn-in or some other facility that timestamps your submissions, this is going to be your best defense. Just always ensure that you've submitted your work before others see it. While code of this length is easy to review, the plagiarist seems to be pretty sloppy. I would put your name backwards in a few comments or as a few variable names. Put your mother's maiden name or a pet's name in some comments. If he's really sloppy, those should remain there, and you should have an explanation of what they are, and they probably won't.

    -Lee
     
  17. macrumors regular

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    #17
    Call me a snitch if you like, but I would also blow the whistle on this guy. Even if the creep manages to slip by and actually get his degree, rest assured that he will fail miserably in the real world.
     
  18. macrumors 601

    HiRez

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    #18
    I don't know, I think Sayer is right, he'll probably get a nice job as a product manager. I see so many incompetent people at work. I don't even have a CS degree and I know more about programming than many of them who have jobs as programmers/engineers.
     
  19. macrumors 68020

    bobber205

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    #19
    Yeah. It's totally ridiculous to teach a programming language!

    What would that want to do that?

    :rolleyes:
     
  20. macrumors 65816

    Sbrocket

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    #20
    Because the better classes and universities don't teach languages, they teach principles. A CS education should be language and platform neutral.
     
  21. macrumors regular

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    #21
    I agree with the idea, but I do have a little difficulty believing in the end-product. I'm in a Ph.D. program and it's very clear to me the students who have only had the theoretical non-language/platform-specific education. Personally I think that they are at a disadvantage. Unless all you want to do is come up with algorithms (and only a very select few individuals are good enough to actually get by with only theoretical knowledge) then you'd better be able to implement your ideas at the end of the day.
     
  22. macrumors 65816

    Sbrocket

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    #22
    That's exactly what I was saying - of course you should be able to implement what you're taught, you just shouldn't have to be required to implement it in such-and-such language on such-and-such platform ONLY. That only serves to limit the breadth of student's knowledge and how well they can apply what they learn to their future work.
     
  23. macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    But Apple aren't in a classroom going for a degree to ultimately get a job, are they? The code Apple uses is open source and they are allowed to use it but this student isn't.

    By your reasoning this student should be allowed to pass off something like LimeWire or Azureus because the code is open and they're written in Java!
     
  24. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2006
    #24
    To the original poster:

    I too have been in several programming classes while working on my computer science degree. What you're describing is pretty rampant everywhere. Unfortunately, professors don't have the time to look through everyone's code to see if there are similarities between two different individual's assignments. Out of all the classes that I've taken, I've only had one professor that would actually look at the code. The rest would just compile and run it once. When they're grading several hundred of these types of assignments, it would be easy for them to overlook things like what has happened to you. I'm not saying it's right, and I'm not condoning the action in any way....it's just what happens.

    Kudos on blowing the whistle on them, though. Hopefully the professor will take the opportunity to actually do something about it in order to discourage the practice in the future. Let us know what happens.
     
  25. macrumors 68040

    lee1210

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    #25
    I think this has been covered pretty thoroughly, and I'm not sure if you would really want to do this or not, but if the university has an academic integrity policy of some kind (most do) and the professor will not act on the information you have given, I might think about reporting it at a higher level.

    I know there are negative ideas about those who snitch, narc, whatever, but this student is jeopardizing your success as well, as you are at risk of failing if you are blamed or implicated in cheating. It may be too much trouble to take this higher, but I would see how you are supposed to make reports about academic integrity. You probably have to go to a dean or ombudsman to report it, and you may or may not be able to do so anonymously.

    -Lee
     

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