Written Assignments

Papers and Other Written Assignments

One or more papers or other written assignments (e.g., problem sets, laboratory reports) are often included as part of the work required of students in their courses. Most students learn more effectively from a series of graduated writing assignments than from a single term paper, particularly in courses designed to introduce students to a new field or a particular mode of inquiry. The feedback that students receive on work completed early in the term helps to clarify what is expected in written assignments, and later assignments provide students the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned from the earlier comments.

The nature and number of written assignments and their due dates should be included on the course syllabus. All regular written assignments must be due by the last day of classes, though instructors may grant individual undergraduates an extension of time for medical reasons and other special circumstances up to the end of the Examination Period, but no later, and may grant graduate students an extension of time until the end of the next regular term. (See Late Work and Extension of Time for Course Work.) Incomplete (INC) cannot under any circumstances be given to undergraduates. This policy does not include written final assessments (take-home exam, final paper, etc.). For information on final assessment deadlines, please see New Legislation section of Information For Faculty.


Any material submitted to meet course requirements — homework assignments, papers, projects, examinations — is expected to be a student’s own work. Students are directed to Harvard Guide to Using Sources at the beginning of their first term, and in the required first-year writing course, Expository Writing 20; undergraduates are urged to take great care in distinguishing their own ideas and thoughts from information and analysis derived from printed and electronic sources. Although instructors are encouraged to take every opportunity to reinforce and develop these lessons, the final responsibility for knowing proper forms of citation rests with students.

In cases of suspected plagiarism by an undergraduate student, please contact the Associate Dean of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct. (See The Administrative Boards) In cases of suspected plagiarism by a graduate student, please contact the GSAS Dean for Student Affairs.


It is essential that instructors set out carefully in writing and at the outset of a course or course assignment the extent of permissible student collaboration in the preparation of papers, computer programs, or examinations. Students must assume that collaboration in the completion of assignments is permitted unless explicitly prohibited by the instructor. Students should be reminded that they are expected to acknowledge any collaboration and its extent in all submitted work.

Sample text for syllabus, if collaboration is not allowed:

Students should be aware that in this course collaboration of any sort on any work submitted for formal evaluation is not permitted.

If collaboration is to be allowed, the instructor may wish to define what is acceptable and what is not. Here is a possible approach:

You are encouraged to consult with one another on the choice of paper topics, and you may also share library resources. You may find it useful to discuss your chosen topic with your peers, particularly if you are working on the same topic as someone else, but you should ensure that the written paper you submit for evaluation is the result of your own research and reflects your own approach to the topic.

Submission of the Same Work to More than One Course

Papers and other work should normally be submitted to only one course. Any student who wishes to submit to another course or for another academic purpose the same or similar work used in a previous course must obtain the prior written permission of the instructor. If a student wishes to submit the same or similar work to more than one course during the same term, the prior written permission of all of the instructors involved must be obtained. A student who submits the same or similar work to more than one course without such prior permission will ordinarily be required to withdraw from the College or from GSAS.