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Gene Sequence Inspired Vhdl Plagiarism Screening

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

ECE Capstone and Engineering Practice

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.636.1 - 9.636.19



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Paper Authors

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Shawn Davidson

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Mark Johnson

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Douglas Eschbach

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Curtis Watson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3232

Gene Sequence Inspired Design Plagiarism Screening

Mark C. Johnson, Curtis Watson, Shawn Davidson, Douglas Eschbach

Purdue University / University of Illinois / Hewlett-Packard / Qualcomm


Plagiarism of digital system designs has become increasingly convenient with the emergence of language-based design techniques. Detection and proof of plagiarism are similarly facilitated. This has long been an issue in computer programming courses and non-technical courses that rely heavily on text based assignments. However, until recently, digital design instruction was based on graphical design methods that did not adapt well to electronic cut-and-paste or web searches. Tools are needed to encourage and verify the originality of digital designs. Such tools exist for many programming languages and for essay text, but not for hardware description language (HDL) based digital design. In this paper, we present an implementation of HDL plagiarism checking that is similar to what is used to evaluate the similarity and ancestry of gene sequences. This form of plagiarism screening has been used for one semester in a digital integrated circuit design course. Other less effective and efficient methods were in use for two years. Results show a strong sensitivity to commonality between closely related source code files, even in the presence of a variety of obfuscation techniques.


Plagiarism on the part of the few has long been a concern in most academic and professional disciplines. Copyright laws, patent laws, academic honor codes, and professional ethics codes all give evidence of the historic need to protect intellectual property (IP). In the public or commercial arena, the victim of IP theft usually has the burden of detecting, proving, and suing or pressing charges against the violator. In the classroom or instructional laboratory, the victims of IP theft (students) are not generally in a position to detect, prove, or prosecute the perpetrator. Academic honesty codes or honesty contracts encourage most students to fulfill their ethical obligations, but the codes do not guarantee complete compliance, nor do they provide a means of detection or proof. The course instructor and teaching assistants are in the best position to detect plagiarism since they all usually evaluate or at least have access to the complete set of student submissions. However, the logistics of checking for plagiarism can be prohibitive. Consider a class of fifty students. An exhaustive pair wise comparison of all student submissions for a single

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Davidson, S., & Johnson, M., & Eschbach, D., & Watson, C. (2004, June), Gene Sequence Inspired Vhdl Plagiarism Screening Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13875

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