I've noticed that a lot of the questions on SO recently are students blatantly asking for the community to do their homework for them. I'm not talking about legitimate questions like "I've been working on this for hours and am stuck on this part" or "I don't understand what this is asking; can you clarify?", but rather questions like "This is my homework question. Please answer it for me." I've also seen a few questions that look interesting, only to find that they are live questions from a programming contest. I even once saw someone recently ask for help with a question that was part of an online job interview.

I have absolutely no respect for this behavior. It is completely dishonest both to others who are taking the assignment/test/contest seriously and to the members of SO. It also shows, in my opinion, a serious lack of integrity on the part of the person asking the question.

Right now, the options on SO are to close the question or downvote it. These options seem far too lenient for something like this. If you were in academia and asked someone else to do your work for you, you would be disgraced and would likely never be able to do research again. If you were in industry and copied someone else's source code, you could be liable for millions of dollars for IP theft or copyright infringement.

Is there some way that we can increase the severity of the penalty for blatant cheating make it clearer that asking the community to do your work for you is entirely inappropriate? I am tired of reading over these posts when trying to help real people with real problems who have made an honest effort to get unstuck.

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    If it makes you feel slightly better, not everyone gets away with it: "Thanks to all who helped Justin with his university assignment: your solutions are his solutions. Justin has been monitored by the course staff for some time now and will meet shortly with the Dean to discuss his future academic career." (posted as a since-deleted answer)
    – Tim Stone
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 1:15
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    @TimStone: I want a link to that answer, please ;) Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 1:52
  • @NicolBolas: stackoverflow.com/a/4418432/34397 (10K only)
    – SLaks
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 6:04
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    @SLaks: It was actually converted to a comment on the question, so everyone can see it :) Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 7:14

2 Answers 2


These options seem far too lenient for something like this.

Well, we can't exactly blackball "user1389238928338293" professionally, so our options are limited... If they get enough questions down-voted and closed, they'll be blocked from asking further questions on Stack Overflow, which is pretty much the worst we can do within the system.

Of course, if their professor catches them cheating, they could end up failing the class - which is probably worse. In the end, the folks giving full-code non-pedagogical answers may be handing out the cruelest punishment of all...

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    Yes, if I were the instructor for a course I would be very interested in a student who turned in well thought out, neatly implemented, professional looking code and then choked on an exam. Very interested, indeed. And with Stack Overflow's high Page Rank... Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 2:11
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    @dmckee: Sometimes I wonder if this is not the best solution. Give cheaters the code, and have them choke on exams. Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 14:17

There are some people on SO who don't even think that we should know that a question is a homework question. They think that you should answer whatever question is presented or don't, based solely on the question itself. Granted, I disagree with this perspective. My point is just that there is a portion of the community that simply doesn't care.

In any case, how would this punishment happen exactly? Who would decide that one question crosses the line and one doesn't? How do you write rules that are not easily gamed (you could just say, "I worked on this for hours. Here's the question")? What would this punishment entail, and how would we enforce it? The worst that could happen here is being banned from the site, so the person would just go elsewhere.

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    The worst that could happen here is being banned from the site, so the person would just <del>go elsewhere.</del> <ins>keep creating new accounts and causing more problems for the moderators.</ins>
    – Nicole
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 1:12
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    Worth noting: there's at least one situation where a certain educational institution's entire IP block was banned because of the waves of crap flooding in.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 1:16
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    "...there is a portion of the community that simply doesn't care" - I don't think that the homework status of a question should have much (if any) weight on the answerer, but that doesn't mean that I don't care. Rather, I think people should simply avoid answering "Do it for me" questions period, regardless of how they originated.
    – Tim Stone
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 1:24
  • @Shog9 Do tell..? Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 16:44
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