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I'm performing a project course work in my computer science department. For example I don't know how to develop logic for some requirements in my project and I find the code in some tutorial.

If I implement the feature along the same lines mentioned in that tutorial, does it constitute academic plagiarism?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 13 '11 at 16:47

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marked as duplicate by gnat, MichaelT, GlenH7, Dan Pichelman, mattnz Jul 2 '14 at 6:58

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This is off-topic, since it could apply to lots of other departments unchanged, but it isn't plagiarism if you attribute it. You may flunk for not doing enough of your own work, but it isn't academic cheating or dishonesty. –  David Thornley Mar 14 '11 at 14:19

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As others have stated, as long as you give credit, it's not plagiarism. It still can be considered cheating or as not fulfilling the project requirements. Just like you can't copy someone else's answers during an exam and put a note next to it "I copied this answer from Jane", you can't necessarily copy material from others for homework or projects. I think most professors will be ok with it but you may want to check. The point is for you to get an understanding of the material. If using the tutorial accomplished that, then good. If you just copy without understanding how it works, that's bad. Ultimately it is up to the professor to decide which is which, even if that doesn't agree with the reality of your understanding of the assigned task.

But as long as you give credit, the worst that could happen is a bad grade on the assignment. For plagiarism, the consequences in an academic environment can be orders of magnitude greater.

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Plagiarism means using someone else's work without crediting your source. If "along the same lines" means copying someone's code, that could conceivably be a copyright violation, or not depending on such things as fair use (which might be implied by the code being presented in a tutorial). At any rate the plagiarism issue is separate from any copyright issues. If you are using the tutorial to perform course work, you should cite the source in your written report (and perhaps in the comments of your code).

If you cite your sources, it is not plagiarism. Of course all of us have knowledge whose source we can no longer recall with precision, and it occasionally happens that a prominent person will plagiarize without apparent intent to do so. But here you know the source and it should be easy to dodge any accusation of plagiarism by giving the reference.

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There are only so many ways a problem can be solved. Usually, there is an oral test after such a course, at least at my university, and the professor could question you about that specific code to see if you just copied it. So be sure you know what the code does, even if don't come up with it on your own.

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I'm not sure about academia, but in the professional world, it is expected that you will research programming problems online and make use of what you learn there. Quite often, a person working alone can come up with a technical solution to a particular problem, but it won't necessarily be the best solution or the only solution. So, it is desirable to look for alternative approaches. And especially to find answers quickly, as opposed to wasting hours trying to solve the problem yourself.

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Here's my two cents, from two perspectives:

1) As a student: does this help me learn what I was supposed to learn in the exercise? If not => don't use it. If it does => use similar code, make sure to add a link and attribution in the source code comments.

2) As an academic support professional (uh, tutor): it depends on what you mean by "along the same lines." If you're simply copy/pasting, I consider that cheating, as I suspect your instructor would as well. If you mean adapt the concept covered in the tutorial to suit your means, I make the distinction as "did you learn something?"

When it doubt, ASK before you submit the work. A bad grade is better than expulsion...

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Tutorials are designed to be followed.

Your professor might call it cheating, but it's not a problem as far as the tutorial goes.

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Can you please be more specific?? What do u mean by "but it's not a problem as far as the tutorial goes" ?? –  user20018 Mar 13 '11 at 16:51
@user: The person who wrote the tutorial isn't going to complain. Check its licensing terms, though (if any) –  SLaks Mar 13 '11 at 16:52

Do you understand what the code is doing? Can you explain every step/branch? If not, don't use it or else you run the risk of being busted as just a code copier.

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