This post is not requesting that homework questions be treated as cheating on ELU.

It is seeking a means of reassuring users who are concerned about possible cheating that the general consensus does not object to homework questions.

I've had a good look around Meta this evening and (deep breath) am hoping this question doesn't constitute a duplicate.

Earlier I saw a question that sounded, to me, like an obvious case of a student cheating. They were even quite bald-faced about it; the post started with, 'My teacher gave me an error identification question.' It then proceeded to ask the community to identify the error.

I challenged the questioner about this because I couldn't in good conscience provide anything like an answer when I already knew this person was planning to transcribe it into their assignment.

And then I went looking for official guidance on dealing with cheating.

The following thread did give me the information I needed: How to deal with homework questions. However, certainly nothing helpful had come up in my searches for the word 'cheat', and it was only by combing through a lot of Meta posts from related search terms that I happened to spot the right one. Never would have occurred to me to apply the specific term 'homework'.

So my question has two parts:

  1. Am I correct in understanding that homework questions on ELU are not interpreted/judged as cheating?
  2. Is it possible to signpost the term 'cheat' prominently to redirect concerned users like me to the information about homework questions?

'Cause I figure these questions probably show up a lot.


The essence of my question does not seem to have come across very well initially, so I'll try to clarify.

First, my own opinion is that cheating on homework is possible, depending on what exactly has been assigned. That's why I was concerned enough to begin researching the topic here in the first place. I don't know, maybe teachers these days assume their students will Google everything and they design the questions accordingly. I'm pretty sure that when I was in school there was homework I was expected to do on my own, although (scary) it is getting to the point where that was so long ago that I can't remember with certainty.

As well, I'm not denying that study groups and parents will always have a place when it comes to homework. To me it seems that they differ to Stack Exchange in one crucial way: they are not like having experts on tap.

But I appreciate that on ELU, my interpretation is by the by; I gather that homework questions are officially(?) regarded as acceptable. And I understand the point about it being impossible to police this behaviour effectively anyway. (Someone who wants to get help on their homework from the internet, whether they're supposed to or not, is sure to persist until they find something.)

So in case another user comes along searching for 'cheating' because they believe they have witnessed it, I thought it would be nice for them to be able to find the right information.

If nothing else, hopefully this question can serve as that signpost. I think that will remain the case however much it gets downvoted (as long as it's not quite downvoted into oblivion, if that's possible). I made sure to include a prominent link to the comprehensive and illuminating discussion that can be found elsewhere on Meta.

  • 1
    Getting help with homework is not cheating. Do you think study groups and tutors and parents should be discouraged from helping students understand their homework? Can a student only get help with practice tests that haven't been assigned by a teacher?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 19:21
  • You're still saying that a student who doesn't come up with the "answer" themself (long story...) is cheating. Look at the Internet as yesteryear's library, only this time there are no opening hours and you don't have to leave the comfort of your home to reach that place. You make the assumption that other users have believed or accused of users of cheating on their HW in the past. Where is this evidence? No, asking someone else to solve your HW, without any prior research, is being lazy that's what it is. The OP in your example was not being lazy, they didn't understand.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 7:42

1 Answer 1


I'm taking my moderator hat off here. I don't want this answer to be construed as EL&U policy (unless it's agreed that it should be).

I think I disagree with your definition of cheating.

To me cheating is breaking the rules to get ahead, and the way you break the rules is detrimental to the other people you are competing against.

Education is not a competition.

If someone wants to ask strangers to answer their homework problem, that's not cheating.

That being said, what I want for EL&U are high quality questions and answers.

A question along the lines of "I've got this sentence and I need a word to fill in the blanks from this selection," should be closed as there is not enough research. I thoroughly believe in the "teach someone to fish" idea.

The question you highlight is borderline. The asker shows that they're almost there with their understanding, but need a nudge in the right direction. I would recommend that question be migrated to ELL, because the asker is clearly still learning English.

Questions like your example should, in general, be migrated to ELL. This is because EL&U is not for people still learning the basics of English. There will be exceptions, so take each one as it comes.

Education is something we do for each other. Getting other people's help is only a problem when doing so doesn't teaching you anything. This puts the onus on people answering the question to question if what they are saying is teaching the other person the right thing.

  • 1
    I'm a die-hard fishing-teacher myself. I've now elaborated on my original question in hopes of explaining what I meant better. Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 21:26

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .