I've long been out of college, never cheated, but knew plenty of students who cared nothing about learning and would cheat anytime they could. I can't help but think that a large percentage of questions on StackOverflow sound A LOT like questions on some homework assignment, or even test.

How many questions on the site are someone's homework? Of course, nobody knows for sure, and we can only speculate...but...

  • 1
    Ask it on meta.stackoverflow.com, btw homework tag from stackoverflow.com/tags is currently at 5287 Qs...and I don't think its cheating as long as take efforts to solve it and then ask related questions.
    – Misnomer
    Nov 23, 2010 at 16:19
  • @rlb It doesn't show the number of homework questions, it shows the number of questions tagged [homework]. I'm sure there are homework questions without the [homework] tag, and retaggers regularly add the [homework] tag if they think a question is homework when it might actually not be Nov 23, 2010 at 16:31
  • I doubt many actually tag their questions as 'homework', I have a hard time believing that. I understand I apparently hit a touchy subject, inquired about before, so I apologize for that. I was just always frustrated at seeing some of the people my school gave degrees to. It was absurd. They knew nothing and I felt sorry for anyone who hired them. They wouldn't ask a question here to learn something, they'd ask it here to copy&paste an answer (which as the IT professor mentions can often be easily detectable).
    – dyasta
    Nov 23, 2010 at 17:03
  • Of course, the professors themselves often gave the answers verbatim the day before. I never understood how ANYONE could not make it through college. It was absurdly easy. Maybe I just went to a crap school.
    – dyasta
    Nov 23, 2010 at 17:05
  • Well, no, we're not grading it - but - it's a meta evaluation of your meta question. I really think that in obtaining the answer through stack, you've got to take on a number of tasks... come to think of it, I think I'll expand my answer above.
    – Alex C
    Nov 23, 2010 at 17:38
  • 1
    I'd say "a select few": most homework is not people doing their homework, but people trying to get their homework done for them, so they can avoid actually learning something :-| Nov 23, 2010 at 17:50

3 Answers 3


I was a high school IT teacher for just around five years and I take exception to the 'Cheating' tag you've added. Learning is learning - if you get the question right and understand the answer, it isn't cheating to discuss it with someone.

Maybe if you copy and paste the answer without even reading it - but even then, that comes out in the long run.

EDIT To expand on this. In order to answer a question in your homework you've got to go through a number of steps.

  1. Read the question
  2. Think about whether you know the answer
  3. Decide you don't
  4. Seek out an answer (usually in the palce closet to you, maybe the textbook?)
  5. Decide you can't find it easily, post it to stack
  6. Phrase your question appropriately - communicate effectively
  7. Wait for an answer (all the while the problem 'percolates' in your head
  8. Read the answer you get, decide that it's right
  9. Have the final answer, discover it has value - know the answer - it's now 'stuck in your head' because you had to work for it

Homework isn't necessarily supposed to "draw blood" - it's supposed to make you think. I honestly believe that you WILL learn if you try to figure out your homework using stack. It's a discussion after all.

There's a lot of value in all of the above - I don't think it's necessarily cheating. It's certainly possible to use stack to cheat (if as discussed earlier, you don't pay any attention to the question or answer, if you get NOTHING out of the process) ... but working with the help of others isn't cheating on its own.

Think of it as more analogous to working with a study group or a tutor.

  • 1
    Well, yes. But don't neglect the number of people who post to SO asking for the cloud to do their homework for them... Nov 23, 2010 at 16:33
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    Forget copy/pasting the answer -- people copy/paste the question straight out of their class website Nov 23, 2010 at 16:42
  • Perhaps that is right, but my implication here was that they were using it to cheat by avoiding analytical examination of the question. They have someone else do the 'thinking' for them, if you get what I mean.
    – dyasta
    Nov 23, 2010 at 17:08
  • analytical examination, or just analysis ;p. LOL, I feel like my posts are being graded now.
    – dyasta
    Nov 23, 2010 at 17:09

The truth is this: it doesn't matter.

It's not the site's place to determine if a question is morally acceptable to be answered. It's just a question. If you feel a question is being asked for the purposes of cheating and you have a moral objection to that, then don't answer it.

Besides, if people are cheating on exams or trying to not do their own homework, they're really only cheating themselves.

  • 2
    Only themselves, huh? Not too sure about that: "Oh, and this is our new junior dev, he has a diploma from $javascriptschool, and all he has learned there is to ferry strings from the assignments to SO and back, so he'll be pestering you with all and any problems more difficult than 'how do I right-click'." (Not A Real Story, obviously, but I've worked with people who would fit that description) Nov 23, 2010 at 18:29
  • @Piskvor: Fair example, but it doesn't change my position. It's up to an employer to keep track of its employees, not Stack Overflow.
    – Jon Seigel
    Nov 23, 2010 at 23:24
  • You are right, we can't and shouldn't police people's intents. Nov 24, 2010 at 8:58
  • But you guys do this every day. You police the most mundane things. Is it off-topic, too narrow, too broad, well-formatted, etc..?. Oh well.
    – dyasta
    Jul 26, 2017 at 20:20

Using the http://odata.stackexchange.com/ you can quickly query the total number of SO questions. I got: 3675849 total questions. SO tags says Homework has 5287 questions.

5287 / 3675849 = 0.00143830718 or 0.14% of all questions are tagged homework.

  • 1
    This is a good idea, but it depends on the [homework] tag being accurately applied. And from what I've seen... dependency not met.
    – Pops
    Nov 23, 2010 at 16:34
  • Yes, this is true. But this is the actual, non-speculative, number we do have (of questions tagged homework).
    – rlb.usa
    Nov 23, 2010 at 16:44
  • That is not a viable statistic, as others have pointed out, and I am not saying anyone asking for help with homework is cheating.
    – dyasta
    Jul 26, 2017 at 20:21

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