Other Forms of Assistance

Discussing paper topics. Giving a roommate feedback on a draft. Comparing lab data. Working on a problem set side-by-side with a classmate. These are among other forms of mutual assistance that students often give one another. Most fall into a “gray area” that requires you to use your own good judgment.

As always, you should exercise caution to ensure that the assistance you give or receive is within acceptable limits. Brainstorming ideas with someone else before writing is fine, and acting upon general suggestions for revision could also be fine. But writing, rewriting, or copy-editing another person’s paper is not fine, nor is telling someone exactly how to revise. This level of involvement constitutes an infraction of Princeton’s academic regulations.

Remember, your goal is to maintain the integrity of your own work and that of others. Be sure to ask your instructor before comparing and analyzing your laboratory data with classmates. And just to be on the safe side, solve your problem sets privately.

If you do receive assistance from others—classmates, friends, or family members—acknowledge it in writing. In a long work, such as a senior thesis, your acknowledgments might take up an entire section, which would appear after the table of contents and before the first chapter. In shorter works, your acknowledgments would appear in a footnote or after your references. Some faculty may ask that you acknowledge informal collaborations on problem sets or other assignments by noting on the first or last page, “I worked with [student name] on this problem set.”

One final caution: be careful about allowing others unauthorized access to your work. Don’t leave the library for a coffee break with your newly written history paper on the screen of your laptop; don’t let the hardcopy of your sociology take-home sit in the computer cluster printer for hours, or leave extra copies or earlier drafts around in public places. There’s no need to be unreasonably suspicious. Just use common sense to safeguard your work.