Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Griffith's Solutions Manual: To Copy or not to Copy?

  1. May 28, 2012 #1

    This isn't a homework problem per say but a question about the homework problems in textbooks assigned to upper-division undergraduates. To give some context:
    I am currently taking my last quarter of EM and using Griffith's book. Since the solution manual is very easily found online, pretty much all my peers(and I) are just using the solutions manual instead of actually doing the problems, and we all do pretty well on tests(though the problems are easier than the ones assigned in homework).

    My question is: are we really supposed to be able to do ALL of the problems in these textbooks? How badly are we shooting ourselves in the foot by not actually doing these problems? I feel that a lot of these problems involve mathematical tricks that would involve hours of playing around with the equations.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 28, 2012 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    the hours and hours plus math tricks is the whole point. The reps that make you strong not the fact that you know how to lift the weight. We learn from our mistakes. So what do you learn by copying the solution from the solutions manual?

    In truth if a problem came up at your job finding a solution may speed you along. However in this case, you really want to explore all facets of a problem and solve it like you were the first one doing it. Think how deep your knowledge would be then vs someone always looking for the trick formula to apply.
  4. May 28, 2012 #3
    What you are doing is completely and utterly unethical. A college degree means something, it means that you went through the hard work. By doing what you do, you are devaluating college degrees. You are a cheater and you don't deserve the degrees you get.

    Furthermore, what you're doing is very stupid as well. You're basically not learning anything. So you pay thousands of dollars for a degree but you refuse to learn?? What's the point of going to college then?

    What if you're in a real job later and your boss/professor/supervisor sees that you can't do the work assigned to you?? This will happen because you're cheating your way through college.
  5. May 28, 2012 #4

    Ben Niehoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If you can't do Griffiths problems, then physics might not be the right degree for you.

    As someone mentioned, learning how to attack a problem, to play around with equations and discover mathematical tricks, is the entire point. You already know the basic "physics" of E&M...after that, these classes are about mathematical techniques like separation of variables, etc.
  6. May 28, 2012 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    If you think Griffiths problems are long then boy are you in for a surprise come Jackson.
  7. May 28, 2012 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yeah, what's the point of cheating? A high GPA? The second you get fired from your first real job because you're incompetent due to always taking the easy road, your college degree won't mean much.

    I knew a lot of people who copied their way through their BS and MS. None of them have jobs in the field because they couldn't cut it and never learned much anyways. I'm not going to say that they got jobs they could have received with a high school education, but if you just want a piece of paper, try going into some kind of finance or communications major :P Just passing a course doesn't make you a physicist.
  8. May 28, 2012 #7

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    Do you mean that Jackson solutions take longer to find on the web?
  9. May 28, 2012 #8

    Doc Al

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

  10. May 28, 2012 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Lots of people are getting indigmant about this, but it seems like a double win for me.

    The fewer kids straight from college who know anything, the better my job security is. And more people fighting for jobs mowing lawns, emptying trash, and flipping burgers will keep their wages low, which is fine by me when I'm too busy working to do that stuff myself.

    So stick with your plan. The less you learn, the better I like it :devil:
  11. May 28, 2012 #10
    Best answer so far :cool:
  12. May 28, 2012 #11


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The best part is half of the solutions I've ever seen for Jackson have been wrong.
  13. May 28, 2012 #12
    To answer the OP's question. You didn't shoot yourself in the foot. As you can see from the posts before mine, you basically shot yourself in the head.
  14. May 28, 2012 #13


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Yes - the point is to do the homework, i.e., all the problems in one's textbook. The point is to learn and understand the theory, then be able to apply it, not only to existing problems, but the new problems. The point is to become proficient with the mathematics, which are the tools with which one solves problems.

    One cannot fake one's way through the professional world. And the answers are not in the back of any book.
  15. May 28, 2012 #14


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    With Griffiths E&M, you should definitely be able to do all the "in-line" problems that are scattered through each chapter, and a decent selection of the end-of chapter problems. Don't feel too bad about skipping the ones marked with an exclamation point, though.
  16. May 28, 2012 #15


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Also, you should be able to do all of the problems, but that doesn't mean you should actually do them. You only have so much time and textbooks give repetitive problems (that is, problems with very little variation in the solution method) simply to give instructors flexibility in what problems to assign.
  17. May 28, 2012 #16
    A problem is that GPA is important too, not just learning. You can struggle and learn and get a B or cheat and get an A, guess who will get the scholarships and grad school offers?

    In the end, to get ahead you need to do both. You need to buckle down and spend real time studying to actually learn and you need to skirt the rules whenever you can to compete with the other cheaters.

    Its unfortunate that your teacher puts you in this position by assigning pre-made problems rather than their own. Teachers who take the easy way out by not making up their own problems make it difficult for students who dont really wnat to cheat. I hated it when my professors would assign book problems because I knew my classmates would then get immaculate scores and I would have a harder time out competing them.
  18. May 28, 2012 #17
    If you're doing OK on the tests then you are likely getting the information the instructor expects you to get out of the course.

    Not directly relevant to what you wrote but so far as an undergrad people always did homework in groups and copied off each other. It's nothing shocking or new and most instructors expect it.

    Well that's assuming you were social, if you were anti social you did everything alone.
    Last edited: May 28, 2012
  19. May 28, 2012 #18
    If you're unable to solve Griffiths, then you're not doing ok. Even if you're getting good grades.

    And yes, people often study in groups. But there's a big difference between studying in a group and explaining things to eachother and copying things from the internet.
  20. May 28, 2012 #19
    I'm not seeing the difference between copying someones work in person and copying someones work over the internet. In that same regard I don't see the difference between following how someone solved a problem online and following how someone solved a problem in person.

    Group study usually consists of 1-2 competent students and the rest of the people following what the competent students are doing.
  21. May 28, 2012 #20
    Then that is cheating. Doesn't matter what everybody does: it is unethical and it ruins your opportunities later on in life.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook