General Style Deductions

Students in CSE143 are expected to demonstrate good programming style in their homework solutions. Every homework assignment will describe specific style requirements and expectations that students should keep in mind when writing their solutions. This page lists general style issues that are likely to be relevant to multiple assignments. This list includes common style mistakes but does not list every possible style mistake. For more information about style, please refer to the style guide on the homework page.

TAs provide feedback on graded homework assignments and often give a "-0" warning to indicate a style issue that is not being penalized but might be in a future assignment. The list below indicates general style issues that will not be graded as "-0". Homework assignments are listed in reverse order because once a style issue is included for one homework, it is included for all future homeworks. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, although it includes the most common style issues. Students should not ask about the details of style grading on the message board, but can ask their TA or a TA at the IPL to explain any of these style categories.

In general, once a class has been discussed, it is available for use by students. For example, the String class and the Arrays class were covered in the CSE142 course, so it is reasonable to assume that you can use methods from those classes without asking permission. Student should realize, however, that saying that you are not forbidden from using a certain construct is not the same thing as saying that it is a good idea to use a certain construct. We don't give advice to students about which constructs to use in order to solve the homework assignment as this is the skill you are working to build up. You have to use your best judgment to decide and you might lose style points if you make a poor choice. In addition, there are some constructs that you are not allowed to use, as described in the next paragraph.

Forbidden features

Java has grown to be a complex language with many features. We don't have time to teach all of these features in CSE143. We have a general rule that students should not use "advanced" material that we have not covered in class. In addition, we have identified several Java features that we do not want students to use. It is not necessarily bad style to use these features, but we want to have a level playing field for all students. For any one of these features, we prefer that either everyone in the class knows about it and can use it or nobody is allowed to use it. The following features should not be used in CSE143 homework or exam solutions:

Many students find themselves wondering, "What is that feature you are describing?" If you don't recognize it, then you're unlikely to use it, so the best answer is, "Something that we have decided not to teach you in this class so that we will be able to focus on the really important concepts you need to learn."