# Ways which one can improve upon

Hi-

Everyone, there has been a lot of discussions about, the activities i am involved with, and there are i guess many users who find these things annoying. I really spend a lot of time here on this website, and i really don't want to denigrate the communities harmony.

• Question's without Motivation:

I agree that being a graduate student i should put more effort on my questions, but the thing is as you might have seen the questions, which i have posed are all quite hard, and i find lot of difficulty even, in getting a start. So, once i get a problem from a friend or through any other source, i look at it for some time and if i think i have no chance solving it, i post it here. So that's one of the reasons why Questions may be poorly motivated.

And if i know that i can solve it for e.g questions like this i surely have given an idea as to how i have thought of the question.

• Plagiarism:

Look, there are some questions, like this which i have taken from a website, but then that was when i newly joined a website. I will give a source reference, if i know it and if i don't know, then i can't. Suppose someone finds a problem, on the web and says, i copied it then i really can't help. If that's the issue with you people, then everyday, i can report hundreds of questions just by searching somewhere on the net.

I hope i get people's opinion, on this so that, questions can be posed more clearly and thereby improving each others harmony and belief.

Chandrasekhar

• Saying "I got it from a friend" or "seen somewhere (don't remember exactly) on the web" is still valuable information. It reveals that there may be an additional question of whether the problem is correct. This may reduce, slightly, the number of people interested in the question, but it would also reduce the number of people who waste time trying to solve problems that are incorrectly stated, mis-copied, or from sources of unknown reliability. Positive or negative information about sources is better than zero information. – T.. Nov 10 '10 at 22:01
• @T.. I, Completely agree. – Chandru1 Nov 10 '10 at 22:06
• @T..: Ok, its getting very late (3 A.M) now and i should go to sleep. Shall reply later! Good night – Chandru1 Nov 10 '10 at 22:10
• One could either disregard that comment, or (if your knowledge where the friend got it is X, where X could be "unknown" or "zero"), say "what I know about the source is [X]". Whether your friend thinks you are genius or idiot is not a question the math site should concern itself with. If, for whatever reason -- invitation, suspicion, accident -- the friend comes to the site and posts, that is one more user and any questions or answers he has could be contributed directly. – T.. Nov 10 '10 at 22:12

Plagiarism$\neq$copying. Hopefully I can help clarify this point.

It is fine to find questions from other sources, and to ask them here if you are interested in the answer and get stuck in trying to answer them. The question may even be quoted word for word, a.k.a. copied with citation. Similarly, if you find that a question someone has posted is answered in another source, even though you didn't personally solve the problem, it is fine to cite this source as an answer, either by simply posting a link (in which case it is almost always best to at least say how the link answers the question), or by quoting or paraphrasing with citation. "Copying" in the form of quoting with citation (or even posting copied and pasted images with citation) is not plagiarism.

Plagiarism is, more or less, dishonest copying. If you take something directly from a source and do not give the citation, then you are plagiarizing. If you are pretending that you came up the question or answer yourself, then the plagiarism is more blatant.

Sometimes there is a fine line. E.g., you may have heard of a question from somewhere else, but you honestly are unaware of its source. In such cases, it helps to indicate that you do not know the source, as T.. commented. Or you may have seen a mathematical argument somewhere, even though the idea was not original to you; this is something we all do, and is not the type of "copying" that causes concern. If you are taking it directly from a source, citation is necessary, but if you just happen to know an argument that you've learned at some point, there is no reason not to share it even though you do not know a source. One thing that distinguishes this from directly copying is that the answer is written in your own words.

To reiterate an important point, to not plagiarize means to be honest.

• Notions of honesty and acceptable copying are location- and culture-dependent. What I think is more relevant to a worldwide site is that to withhold useful information about a posted piece of mathematics is bad form and can waste the time of the users compared to a full disclosure. e.g., posting as a "challenge" a question to which you have a source (which might include solutions) without stating the source can waste a lot of time for multiple users. Not revealing all available source information, including the lack of sources when that is the case, lowers the quality of discussions. – T.. Nov 12 '10 at 3:55
• @T..: I find your cultural relativism distressing. I think that ideas about academic honesty and acceptable copying are fundamental to the worldwide mathematical community and very largely agreed upon. I don't see how we could function otherwise. It's true that in a few places these ideas are held less strongly, but I don't see why concessions should be made for that. It would be like saying that an international conference on evolution should have a designated creation science component because some Americans believe this and we need to respect their cultural norms. – Pete L. Clark Nov 13 '10 at 18:59
• @Pete: that's a bit of a low blow, considering that I have not commented on any concessions to anything, but on what is more relevant to operating an international (and all-ages, all education levels, etc) site. Mathoverflow is in effect part of the "worldwide mathematical community" but math.SE is only a part of the larger "worldwide Internet community". What is important in one environment may not be as pressing (and might in practical terms be detrimental) in the other. – T.. Nov 14 '10 at 19:10
• @T..: Do I understand you correctly that you are saying that math.SE is not part of the mathematical community? This despite the fact that most of the questions are coming from university level math students and many of the most active answerers are PhD mathematicians? Also, saying that academic honesty is not as important in this internet environment certainly seems like a concession to me. Are you in fact an academic mathematician? If so, I'm having trouble understanding your lack of ethical problems with this. Please feel free to contact me privately to explain. – Pete L. Clark Nov 14 '10 at 23:13
• @Pete: by design, by various objective criteria and as a matter of common sense, MathOverflow is of the "worldwide mathematical community" (e.g., original research and discussions of priority and authorship have appeared there), while math.SE is classifiable as "worldwide Internet community". That there is an intersection is self-evident (one contains the other) but not self-evidently relevant. Your comments about supposed concessions on "academic honesty" or ethical standards continue to put words in my mouth. I did not opine on academic honesty but on the operation of web sites. – T.. Nov 15 '10 at 21:51
• @T..: I'm sorry for putting words in your mouth; we're evidently not understanding each other. For instance, you've just said that (i) MO involves the worldwide math community, (ii) the math.SE community contains the MO community and (iii) the math.SE community does not involve the worldwide math community. That's puzzling to me. Of course there are some people involved on this site that are not affiliated with college and university-level mathematics in some way (however, in my estimation, the vast majority are).... – Pete L. Clark Nov 15 '10 at 21:59
• ...Why this means we should not enforce the same standards of intellectual honesty that are fundamental to students and researchers worldwide and mostly orthogonal to everyone else is puzzling to me as well. When you say this is "not self-evidently relevant", it's hard for me to take this other than as an undermining of these core beliefs, as they seem quite relevant to me. Once again, are you an academic mathematician? – Pete L. Clark Nov 15 '10 at 22:02
• @Pete: This discussion belongs in the plagiarism thread, or possibly a new question. The population from which math.SE samples (its audience, if you prefer a term not confusable with the actual user list at a given time) is a superset of the population that MathOverflow samples. Pre-existing social relationships within the mathematics profession are constantly visible on MO and essentially nonexistent on math.SE. MO is funded through an NSF grant, math.SE is a commercial web site. Isn't it self-evident that MO is part of the international math academia and math.SE is a generic web site? – T.. Nov 15 '10 at 22:56
• @T..: "Pre-existing social relationships within the mathematics profession are...essentially nonexistent on math.SE." I'm not sure exactly what the point of this is, but it's certainly not true: I knew at least 10 of the users on the front page before this site was launched. Anyway, I don't understand why you are thinking of these things in terms of websites rather than people. As an academic, I am concerned about plagiarism and academic honesty by students and professionals, whichever website it may occur on. – Pete L. Clark Nov 16 '10 at 1:22
• @Pete: the "user X knows user Y" graph is much, much denser on MathOverflow than on math.SE, especially where "knows" is broadened to include having heard of Y, talked to Y at a conference, emailed Y or having read Y's papers. The "user X visibly refers to personal knowledge of Y" graph is astronomically denser on MO than here. Let us know if you dispute either assertion; they are obvious reflections of MO being a decently representative sample of mathematicians while math.SE is such a sparse sample as to not represent mathematical academia in any meaningful sense. – T.. Nov 16 '10 at 7:03
• Regarding "I am concerned about plagiarism", I think the point is not your or my levels of concern but whether your (or others') specific proposals are good or harmful for math.SE as a site, e.g., should concerns about homework or plagiarism dominate the directions in which the site, its technology and its culture will develop. I think that discussion belongs in the other thread. – T.. Nov 16 '10 at 7:06
• @Pete: recently I was reminded of an earlier posting that may answer some of your remarks on "moral relativism": meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/596/… – T.. Dec 1 '10 at 5:54