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Textbook problems in my class ... to cite or not to cite

  1. Sep 17, 2017 #1
    This is my first time to be an instructor for a class and I have to prepare problem sets for my students. For that purpose, I collect problems from different textbooks. Unfortunately, if I cite the source of each problem, students always find the solution manual of this textbook online and copy/edit the answer from the manual. This is certainly not very instructive. So, I thought I can remove all the citations, hoping that this encourages the students to work on the problems on their own. Is this considered plagiarism ? Is there a better solution? Advice from experienced instructors would be very appreciated.
     
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  3. Sep 17, 2017 #2

    Orodruin

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    I usually try to come up with my own problems for students. Granted, after som time they generally become variations on a theme. If you do not want to do this, you can always take your inspiration from existing problems but make small changes to them such that the students actually need to think about what they are doing rather than just copying a solution.
     
  4. Sep 17, 2017 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Cite where you got the problems on the solution sheet a week later.
     
  5. Sep 17, 2017 #4
    I like both suggestions that have been made.

    Have you also made the obvious point to the class as a whole that such behavior is self-defeating - one might even say, "self-cheating"? That would be my inclination; but I don't know the circumstances.
     
  6. Sep 17, 2017 #5

    vela

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    I don't collect homework, so there's no incentive for students to copy solutions. I point out that they need to do the homework if they hope to succeed and leave it up to them to make their own choices. Students who just look up solutions and don't actually do the homework will generally do poorly on the exams. It's their learning and grade, not mine.

    By the way, if you're looking for a source of problems, Ben Crowell has an OER book of problems for intro physics at his web site, www.lightandmatter.com.
     
  7. Sep 17, 2017 #6
    I also usually make up my own exercises, but there are certainly times when I like questions from other books. When this happens I usually try to put my own spin on it while still maintaining the essence of the question. In these situations I will usually make a footnote indicating a reference to the exercise it is based on. I usually provide numerical answers when the questions are numerical. I also have students do a fair amount of derivations of algebraic/analytic results. I've never noticed students hunting for solutions.
     
  8. Sep 17, 2017 #7

    Orodruin

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    To be honest, this is going to be extremely dependent on your student group. If you teach a class that the students are generally interested in you will have few problems. If you teach a physics class that is the only mandatory physics class in a biology program (or vice versa), that is a different matter...
     
  9. Sep 18, 2017 #8

    Andy Resnick

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    Welcome to the classroom "arms race". Perhaps these sound like silly questions, but (1) have you explicitly told students not to look online for answers, and (2) do you consider finding answers on-line 'cheating'? I ask because, believe it or not, unless I clearly communicate my expectations to students, many do not consider this activity cheating (since, for example, we look up stuff online all the time), and IMO, unless this activity was ruled out, I'm not sure it's cheating, or even all that bad: being able to search and find answers is an important problem-solving skill, after all.

    To your second question, if you remove the citations, then yes- it is plagiarism.

    We use online homework in our intro classes (WileyPlus), and any specific numbers in the problem are randomly assigned/changed via software, this way students can't copy or otherwise find 'the answer'. Online homework is not a perfect solution, but it's pretty good.
     
  10. Sep 18, 2017 #9
    Certainly some good ideas have been mentioned above. However, you can "work around" the plagiarism issue by making a note that sources will be disclosed at a later time - and then providing full documentation of your sources at the end of the semester. Of course, this only kicks the can down the road, because students in future semesters might get the sources from the current semester.

    Maybe an adequate solution would be a note that "sources on file in department office." My view is that disclosing the sources to a prominent authority in the situation takes care of the plagiarism issue. There is no need to disclose your sources to the students, since disclosing them to the department makes it clear that there is no intent to steal or claim original authorship, just to keep the sources private from the students for justified reasons.
     
  11. Sep 22, 2017 #10
    Thank you very much all of you for your feedback and ideas, very appreciated! I think I will take two actions starting next problem set:
    1) Explicitly ask the students not to search for online solutions and reminding that the purpose of the homework is for them to think and come up with the solutions on their own or through discussions with their class peers.
    2) Hide the citations of all problems obtained from textbooks and reveal the citations in the course file in the department office. This, as Dr.Courtney indicated, is needed to avoid repeating the same issue again with the students taking the class next semester.
     
  12. Oct 25, 2017 #11

    SciencewithDrJ

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    I always just gave take-home exams, and I told my students that in real life after they graduate, no one will lock them up for an hour to come up with solutions to problems. Researching for answers is a big part of life after graduation. So my questions always needed a thinking cap, and there was never a straight answer that could easily be found in a textbook.

    Having said that, I favor the suggestions by others to use external sources for ideas, but put your own twist and variation so it is unique for you, your course, and your students.
     
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