This isn't something that has come up, so it's possible we can deal with each case on its merits. However, on other sites, there has been a strong disposition not to answer questions that have been set as, or appear to be, homework/assignment question for schoolwork.

Do we have an opinion/stance on this? Obviously each school will have its own academic honesty and/or plagiarism policies, where do we stand on this?


When studying law there will often be times when a homework question proves difficult and students must seek out additional sources to find an answer. Some students may ask their parents, others may ask a tutor or a more experienced student, and others may ask online. There is nothing inherently wrong with asking questions about homework online if it is in the interest of expanding on one's knowledge.

Asking assignment questions designed to assess student's abilities however should be discouraged and any question that is obviously for an assignment (e.g. a scanned assignment sheet is posted) should be closed.

  • I'm reasonably happy with this. Would we judge each question on its own? Or would we consider that a user may have asked many questions on similar topics, which appear to be for the purpose of answering some larger question/assignment? – jimsug Jun 8 '15 at 12:12
  • @jimsug, I don't believe we should have to try and detect students who are asking assignment questions. This would be a very subjective process resulting in many false positives. Rather only if there is strong evidence that a student is blatantly asking an assignment question (e.g. "Can someone help with this assignment question") should we close. Yes, a case by case basis. – Kenshin Jun 8 '15 at 12:15
  • @Mew - on StackOverflow, there's a fairly clear possible tell-tale: homework assignments in CompSci classes are frequently comprised of "Do task X, while only using approach Y and no other - with Y being a method that no sane developer would use in reality". If such a tell-tale is possible in legal homework, it may be worth examining (while still enforcing case by case inspection) – DVK Jun 13 '15 at 20:26

Our stated purpose does not say that answering homework questions is okay. The closest I can come to that conclusion that that LSE is for students... and others. The on-topic list is silent on the matter.

As a teacher, I have a strong negative reaction to websites that sell homework solutions, and an even strong one to ones that give homework answers away. The leading answer here agrees that homework questions (of the form "do my homework") should be closed. Official close-reasons and how they gained that status is deep read-only arcana. Since in fact SE includes an open-ended "other" reason for closing (which was invoked in this case!) the fact that "do my homework" is not on the officially-enumerated list simply means that it's not a pre-set button: it's still a valid reason to close.

Speaking only mildly in favor of allowing homework solutions, such questions do at least serve the function of providing general answers applicable to multiple situations.

Speaking more against allowing homework solutions, I disagree with the premise that a person bears no moral responsibility if they know or should know that they are enabling an immoral act – unless one is giving legal advice, which of course nobody here is doing. You might imagine that a student is eliciting answers to homework questions and then fully citing the answers including LSE URLs: I see no evidence for believing that that is how individuals plan to use such answers. I don't deny that one can imagine there being a possible scenario where answering such questions is not pandering to the worst elements of society, I just don't have a reason to assign honorable motives to such questions.


From our stated purpose homework questions are ok

Only questions that ask for legal advice are explicitly off-topic - every other question should be judged on its merits.

In general, homework questions will be, by their nature, a very good fit for the site in that they are usually tailored to highlight specific aspects or nuances of the law.

To my mind, a good homework question should identify itself (with the or otherwise, and the OP should indicate what their thinking is and where they are stuck. With homework, the OP may just need help getting started or overcoming a specific issue rather than needing the whole question answered.

For those who have ethical qualms about “cheating” or “plagiarism” I will make these points:

  • 21st Century education isn’t about regurgitating facts or “knowing the answer”. It’s about knowing how to find, access and use appropriate resources - this site for example.
  • anyone who submitted an answer verbatim or even paraphrased is an idiot. One would hope that the question here is just part of the OP’s strategy for answering the question
  • the OP knows (or should know) how to cite appropriately to avoid plagiarism
  • we aren’t morally responsible if the OP uses our answers inappropriately

It seems to me that a student doing homework who wants an "authoritative source" can and should do better than this site (or Wikipedia). However, hoping for discussion of a point raised by a homework question seems reasonable, while asking for a full answer to a homework problem does not. We cannot always tell what an assignment is. But in a case like this question where the question reads:

Explain in detail whether illegal drug use, prostitution and gambling fit the seven elements of a crime . Include in your response whether these three crimes should be considered mala in se or mala prohibita.

The question seems obviously one asked to test a student's understanding of a legal concept and the student's ability to apply that concept to specific cases. The inquiry as to whether the specified laws have particular properties and the demand for classification and for detailed explanation seems a clear indication that this is a homework problem, probably one copied directly from an assignment sheet. I think this and similar questions should be promptly closed.

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