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When am I helping vs doing someone's homework for them? Answered

I try to answer all the questions that people post to my 'ibles. (At least all the ones I have a useful answer for) 

I also know that some of my projects are being taught in schools and universities, which is really really great!

Every once and a while I get a question that sounds like a homework question.  I'm not entirely sure it is, there might be cross-language difficulties or other reasons for the awkward phrasing and unusual specificity in the question, etc.

If it's not a homework question I want to answer it.  If it is a homework question... well I don't do people's homework for them.

I know there are lots of teachers (and students) here, what should I do?  Ignore it? Smartass answer? Something else?


A lot of lurkers,old-timers,irregulars  others here do share the feeling that as independent thinkers and makers, it is not our position to be doing someone's homework for them, we have no problem with maybe giving them a kick in the behind to use the search function, spell correctly or rephrase the question in some intelligible manner, but we will not do the work that the user should have the capacity to attempt to do.  If you check the user profile, you may garner an inkling if it is someone just signing up to ask a homework question, immature, has a track record of being lazy, or just a troll, then you can decide if it is worth a smartypants answer or you just want to play along for fun.  

That said, if the questioner responds with some inkling of serious interest or shows they are stuck at some point, I have no problem in offering suggestions.

Great answer. When I'm faced with this type of question I wonder if the query is because the "student" is finding it difficult to get started, doesn't understand the project or question that's been posed. In that case there is no need to answer the question directly. Rather give pointers on how to understand the question, etc. This may prompt them. I am against doing the work for them as it gains them nothing both in the short or long term.

Instead of giving someone something fishy, teach them how to fish, and then push them in deeper waters.

I like to get my sardines in a can, thank you very much

I moderate another forum for a microcontroller- the 8052. We had one guy trying to get his homework done for him....without realising one of our regular members was his supervisor.

Oh how we laughed when the supervisor posted the simple message "See me".


Thanks for everyone's feedback. There's a ton of good information, ideas and opinions in this thread.

I ended up replying to the question, though not directly answering it but showing the asker how I'd approach answering it and giving some links on how to seriously pursue the answer. (Ironically this took more work than answering it, but there you have it.)

Thanks again everyone!

yes, it does take more work, but think of how satisfied the other person is when they "work out a lot of it themselves"? I think that is always the best way to go, when it can be done.

I suspect you might be right on this one. A good answer might be "I haven't tried that" or "I haven't used a *** like that, let us know how it works!" As a part time instructor at the local community college I've seen students trying to "shortcut" homework and class assignments. What I wouldn't do is re-invent one or do the research to make it work. It can be hard to spot in a random question like that. Another thought, do you think it might be someone from industry trying to "shortcut" some engineering in a product development environment?

Well, that won't ensure it's not homework/an assigned project, but it might weed out *some* of the homework help seekers...

In my experience, the HW cycle is about a week, so you'd do their HW for them, they just won't get to turn it in.

Tricky, I don't see how answering her would help particularly as a homework question here. The answer is "yes, if you really want to spend a lot of time rewriting code from scratch and no, it would mean you writing all the code from scratch, since the PIC and AVR series use different architectures.


Rather than give a direct answer, give hints, or ask guiding questions, such as Have you tried...?

You could also be direct, and ask them if it's homework.


7 years ago

Well. From my point of view, how can you ever truly know, right? I think you need to use your discretion, but be light about it, answer everything YOU can! Right?