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Using an instructor's solutions manual considered cheating?

  1. Nov 30, 2011 #1
    If yes, why? My professor does not assign any problem sets out of the exercises in the back, and yet, does not allow students to purchase the instructor's solutions manual. The student's solutions manual only has a handful of worked exercises and in most cases, does not have the answers for the more difficult problems that would be very great preparation for the tests.

    If marks are not given for doing the questions at the end of a chapter, why is it still considered cheating to have the instructor's manual (solutions to all the problems)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2011 #2
    i dont think it would be. . .
  4. Nov 30, 2011 #3


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    How is your professor not allowing you to purchase a solutions manual? Or has he or she simply not recommended purchasing it?
  5. Nov 30, 2011 #4
    There are two kinds of solutions manuals: The student's solutions manual and the instructor's solutions manual. The student's solutions manual contains only a few worked examples (not even half of odd numbered questions are answered) and the challenging problems do not have a worked solution at all, while the instructor's manual has the solution to every worked problem, including the challenging ones.
  6. Nov 30, 2011 #5
    but where can you purchase a teachers soln manual?
  7. Nov 30, 2011 #6
  8. Nov 30, 2011 #7
    That is very odd. The only that would be cheating is using it if he takes a take home exam. But even then he should be smart enough not to give a take home exam with problems from the book.
  9. Nov 30, 2011 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    From dodgy web sites that we do not want to promote, so please, nobody try to post links to them here.

    Textbook publishers generally sell/distribute instructor's solutions manuals only to people who can prove that they are actually instructors. We do not want to serve as a vehicle for bypassing those restrictions.
  10. Nov 30, 2011 #9


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    Some instructors actually assign problems from the textbook as homework, grade the solutions, and include them in the course grade.
  11. Nov 30, 2011 #10
    im not trying to promote ways to get the manuals or anything, i was just under the impression that they weren't available to anyone other than instructors.
  12. Nov 30, 2011 #11
    Oh I know. But if I was a professor I would assign problems that are not so easily accessed on the web.
  13. Nov 30, 2011 #12


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    In some subjects (intermediate E&M and QM come to mind) there are simply not very many problems that are reasonably solvable as homework problems (aside from simple variations). Solutions to most of them are probably already available on the Web to a student who is willing to put in some effort to search for them, without having to resort to an "official" instructor's manual. In my classes, with my students, I don't think this has been a significant problem yet, but at some point instructors are going to have to deal with this, if they haven't already.

    An obvious solution is simply to stop basing part of the course grade on homework, and use only in-class or proctored exams. Students would be given a list of recommended homework problems, and would be expected to do them on their own initiative, as preparation for exams, without the direct incentive of being counted as part of the course grade. Students might very well see some of those problems (or other problems that they solve or find solutions for on the web) on the exam, but they would have to reconstruct the solutions on the spot.

    I think in most US colleges and universities, this would be a major change for students. Here, the homework grade can serve as at least a partial cushion against poor or mediocre exam grades. That would no longer be the case. Of course, this would simply put us in line with other parts of the world, which mostly use an "exam-only" grading system as far as I can tell.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2011
  14. Nov 30, 2011 #13
    That's exactly how my course is structured. The problems out of the book are recommended problems, but do not count at all towards the grades even though I tend to do much more than the recommended problems. Testing and exams makeup for 70% of the course grade, while the other part of the final grade comes from labs and only 9% is left for mastering physics questions.

    What I don't understand is this: If the textbook questions we do won't be marked, why does my professor still consider it cheating and a student caught with an instructor's manual may even be sanctioned academically? It can save so much time for both the prof and TA's so students can actually ask them the conceptually hard questions rather than spending 10 minutes to go through a very long problem and to see where a student went wrong.
  15. Dec 1, 2011 #14


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    Have you tried asking him? We can't read minds.

    I can't speak for him or anyone else, only for myself. For what it's worth, if I were in that situation, I would distinguish between using solutions that another student had worked out and posted on the Web to share with others, and using an instructor's manual that the author and publisher had restricted specifically for distribution to instructors only.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2011
  16. Dec 1, 2011 #15
    I have, and the answer is really ridiculous and has nothing to do with preserving academic honesty and integrity. I was asking for your perspective on the matter, seeing as you happen to be a professor.

    If you didn't base any grades on the questions in the textbook, would you have a problem with students using the instructor's solutions manual?

    Edit: Ah, I just saw your edited post.
  17. Dec 1, 2011 #16


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    When I was teaching I never weighted homework more than 10% of the final grade because it's too easy to google "Sakurai 3.14" and get the worked-out solution. I will say, however, that it was pretty obvious on the midterms and final exams who put effort into the homework and who just looked up the answer.

    Copying from the instructor's manual does you no favors. No professor can reasonably enforce the rule that "you can't use the instructor manual," but you're really just cheating yourself.
  18. Dec 1, 2011 #17
    At my school, owning or using the instructor's solution manual is grounds for failure of the whole course. It says it explicitly in the Honor Code. I guess there was a fairly large group (~15 students) a couple years ago that failed a math course because they were caught using the instructor's manual about 2/3 into the semester. They were caught because there were a couple mistakes in the instructor's manual and since these students didn't verify the solution they were caught red handed. Homework is worth a fraction of the grade, 10-15% depending on the course, and if a student obtained those points from using the instructor's manual then it's clearly not from their own work.

    I agree with you though. There isn't a solutions manual in the real world. It's very obvious which classmates who just follow procedure and are probably cheating because they are oblivious to the most basic concepts and problems.

    P.S. - To the OP, my lings would pwn your goons. I hope you got stormers or reavers. :cool:
  19. Dec 1, 2011 #18
    I don't think it's cheating. I don't really see how your professor can stop you from purchasing it if it's a product on the market. I think it's a good thing to be able to make sure your answers are correct just so you don't go on thinking something you did wrong was right. You don't learn anything from your mistakes if you don't even know your answer was wrong, but if you see something is wrong you can try to find what you did wrong and learn from it. I'll admit that just having the final answer is probably better than a detailed answer because you still have to find what you did wrong yourself.

    Yes, these manuals could be misused. I think if you're just using them to check your answers there's nothing wrong. Some students will just look up the answers without trying and they will never learn how to really do the work and they will do worse on the tests. I think if a professor is so worried about students cheating for the homework portion of the grade they should just not make the homework worth a grade and make the tests / exams worth more to make up the difference.

    Also, I think student solution manuals are a total ripoff. I remember when I first bought one for my precalculus class I assumed all the answers were in it. When I found I spent over $100 for a book that mostly had the exact same answers that were in the back of my regular textbook (just with more detail on some answers) I couldn't believe it. If I'm spending over $100 on a solutions manual it better have every answer in it.
  20. Dec 1, 2011 #19
    The professor can't stop you from buying it but if the Honor Code at the school explicitly states that owning or using the instructor's manual is grounds for failure of the entire course then I think that's motivation enough to not buy it. I agree that it would be nice to know if the solution is correct but that's what office hours or other students are for. If I was self studying I would love to have a solutions manual then I wouldn't waste any time in knowing if I did things right.

    By the way, nice screen name. I can't count how many times I took a solo on Well You Needn't.
  21. Dec 1, 2011 #20


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    I think the instructor's manual is only meant to prevent the teacher from making mistakes in class. It isn't widely sold because it will hurt the student's chances to have it.
  22. Dec 2, 2011 #21


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    cheating is doing something that is against the rules for your course. so to find out you need to ask your instructor if this is allowed. But in general using a solutions manual for homework is not allowed and not advised.
  23. Dec 2, 2011 #22
    Around here homework doesn't count as grade, so using the solution manual is just a good way for self-teaching.
    I mean, the professors here won't give you the answer for textbook exercises(ok, they may help you if you ask them, but they won't give you the answer for every problem...), so you will never know if you are right or wrong.
    It's all exam based.

    If they pass some kind of homework it will be something they created themselves instead of the exercises of a textbook.
  24. Dec 2, 2011 #23


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    Using an instructor's manual is cheating, IMO. At the least, it will give you an unfair advantage over the other students who either can't afford another text, or who would consider using that manual unethical.

    When I entered engineering school, the only calculator available was a Bowmar 4-function model, and it was over $300 (more than 1/2 semester's tuition) so the department banned them and required the use of slide rules. Their motivation was that the calculators were so expensive that only wealthy students could afford them, and they would get a "leg-up" in tests and quizzes that way.
  25. Dec 2, 2011 #24
    Nowadays finding the right torrent site will get you any solution manual you want and everyone and their mothers in engineering schools today have a TI-89. If you don't think there's students with unfair advantages with or without a solution manual, well you might've forgotten what it was like to be an undergrad.
  26. Dec 2, 2011 #25
    I'd say there are appropriate ways to use a solution manual in which it could be beneficial.

    When I'm struggling on a problem, I find it helpful to glance at a solution to see if I'm at least on the right track, or if I'm not, to figure out how to get back on the right track. I differ from most people because at that point, I close the solution and keep working on my own, instead of copying what they put.

    Strictly speaking, it's probably cheating, but it's a lot less cheating than most of my classmates do, and I find it helpful in actually learning the material (as opposed to just copying for a grade).
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