Collaboration is a key component of your MIT education because:

  • peer-to-peer learning helps you understand the subject better.

  • working in teams trains you for collaborative work you will do in your profession.

  • crediting others for their contribution to your work promotes ethical practice.

By working with other students on projects, labs and papers, you carry on a long tradition of contributing to the knowledge that will shape the future of our world.

Be sure you understand the collaboration policy for each of your classes.

The accepted level of collaboration, as well as the specific requirements for documenting your collaborative efforts, varies greatly from class to class, even within the same department. Instructors determine the collaboration policy for each class.

Do not assume you know the collaboration policy. If the policy is not clearly described in the online course materials or in a class handout, ask your instructor how much collaboration is permitted. Make sure you know where to draw the line between collaboration and what could be considered cheating.

Math Department Collaboration Policy Examples

(Note that within the same department, the specifics of the collaboration policy can vary.)

Example 1: Spring 2012 18.03 Differential Equations Course Info document
(used with permission of Professor Haynes Miller, Dept of Mathematics)

Collaboration is encouraged in this course, but you must follow the rules. If you do your homework in a group, be sure it works to your advantage rather than against you. Good grades for homework you have not thought through will translate to poor grades on exams. You must turn in your own write ups of all problems, and, if you do collaborate, you must write on your solution sheet the names of the students you worked with. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism.

Example 2: Spring 2012 18.02 Calculus Course Info document
(used with permission of Professor Gigliola Staffilani, Dept of Mathematics.)

Cooperation policy:

You should not expect to be able to solve every single problem on your own; instead, you are encouraged to discuss questions with each other or to come to office hours. If you meet with a study group, you may find it helpful to do as many problems as you can on your own beforehand. But write-ups must be done independently. (In practice, this means that it is OK for other people to explain their solutions to you, but you must not be looking at other people's solutions as you write your own.)...

Problem Sets: At the top of each assignment should appear…

Either the text “Sources consulted: none" or a list of all sources consulted other than the main textbook, supplementary notes, and your own notes from lecture and recitation. This is required.
(Examples of things that should be listed if used: office hours, names of study group partners, OCW archive, Wikipedia, Piazza, etc.)

Example 3: From Spring 2012 18.440 Probability and Random Variables in Course Info document
(used with permission of Professor Jonathan A. Kelner, Dept of Mathematics)

  • Collaboration on homework is encouraged. However, you should think about the problems yourself before discussing them with others. Furthermore, you must write up your solutions by yourself and understand anything that you hand in. If you do collaborate, you must acknowledge your collaborators in your write-up.

  • Use of outside sources is strongly discouraged. If, however, you do use an outside source, you must reference it in your solution. Use of course bibles or materials from previous semesters is absolutely not allowed.

  • For each question on the problem set, please write a list of everyone with whom you collaborated on that problem. If you did not collaborate with anyone, please explicitly write, “No collaborators."

Communication-Intensive Class Collaboration Policy

From Spring 2012 21W.011 Writing and Rhetoric: Rhetoric and Social Issues Syllabus
(used with permission of Andrea Walsh, Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies)

Using someone else's language and/or ideas without proper attribution is academically dishonest. As members of this class and the larger scholarly community, you are expected to abide by the norms of academic honesty. While a good deal of collaboration between students is encouraged in and out of class, failing to acknowledge sources or willfully misrepresenting the work of others as your own will not be tolerated. Everything you submit must be your own work, written specifically for this class. Plagiarism can result in withdrawal from the course with a grade of F, suspension or expulsion from the Institute.

Laboratory Class Collaboration Policy

From Spring 2012 5.35 Introduction to Experimental Chemistry in General Information and Rules document
(used with permission from Mariusz Twardowski, Department of Chemistry)

Note that the “collaboration policy” may not always be labeled as such. In describing the requirement for the written lab report, the instructor of this laboratory class notes:

(7) Analysis of Data and Errors. ALL ANALYSIS OF DATA MUST BE DONE INDIVIDUALLY. The reproducibility and precision of data should be examined and the major sources of errors identified. Although detailed statistical analyses of error are rarely called for, you should at least attempt to distinguish between systematic and random error.

In describing “What to bring to the oral report,” the instructor further clarifies:

C. Notes, books, and pretty much anything (inanimate) which will help you in your discussion. You are, of course, expected to do your own data analysis and calculations. You may use any sources of help, including other students, written reports from previous years, textbooks, journal articles, etc. to aid your understanding the analysis as well as other aspects of the experiment. All such sources must be appropriately acknowledged in your report.