ChatGPT is the best-known example of what's called generative Artificial Intelligence (AI). Generative AI platforms, like ChatGPT, are so named because they can generate content: conversations, images, music, poetry, computer code and other things, including entire essays.
There's some debate whether using ChatGPT or other generative AI platforms is plagiarism; you aren't copying someone else's work after all and it is original content, but you are copying *something's* work and the work is not your original content - all you did was type a prompt "write me an essay on...". If not plagiarism, using generative AI is still a very bad breach of academic integrity. Using these tools is no better than copying your work from random internet sites, here's why:
- These tools are not intelligent. They're basically sophisticated versions of the autocomplete you see when you start typing a search query or the prompts that you see while texting (some people joke that the GPT in ChatGPT stands for good predictive texting)
- Consequently, these tools don't know anything, what's right or what's wrong, what's fact and what's nonsense. All they do is produce content that sounds plausible. They can sound authoritative but all they're doing is stringing words together.
- Because they don't know anything, they make stuff up, including fake references from fake information sources that don't exist. If you have ChatGPT write your assignment and it makes up references, then if anyone goes looking for these sources, you're busted.
- If you've submitted original work in the past, then your teachers have an idea of your writing voice (your style, born from the words you use and how you arrange them, your tone and point of view). Generative AI writes very robotically with a lot of repetition of words and sentence structure. It's possible (still) to distinguish AI-generated from human content, especially when you know the writer's voice.
Remember that the point of assignments is not just to produce an essay or other output, but to apply the skills, knowledge, and critical thinking abilities that you have developed in the classroom. Using AI as a tool to support your learning can be valuable as long as it stays within ethical and academic integrity boundaries.
Learners can use generative AI tools while still maintaining academic integrity. Here are some ways:
Use AI as a Learning Aid, Not a Replacement
Generative AI can assist you in various tasks, but it should be used as a learning aid rather than a replacement for critical thinking and effort. Use AI to complement your studies, not to do the work for you. You can ask it questions and have it suggest information sources for example (you will need to verify that the sources exist). This page has more examples how how learners can use generative AI
Understand Your Institution's Policies
Familiarise yourself with your educational institution's policies on AI and academic integrity. Different institutions may have varying guidelines, so it's essential to know what is acceptable. If they don't have a policy (they will soon!) then...
Seek Your Teacher's Approval
Before using AI-generated content in your assignments or projects, seek approval from your teachers. They can provide guidance on how AI-generated content can be used responsibly in your specific courses.
Learn and Improve Your Skills
Instead of relying solely on AI-generated content, use generative AI tools to learn and improve your skills. For example, you could generate a piece of AI content on work you have already completed and compare it against your own work
Use AI for Learning and Practice
Use generative AI tools for practice and learning, but not for assignments or exams that assess your knowledge and understanding. The goal should be to enhance your skills, not bypass the learning process.
Review and Edit AI-Generated Content
If you have permission to use generative AI content, then don't blindly accept its output. Review and edit it to ensure accuracy, coherence, and relevance to your assignment's requirements.
Clearly Signpost AI Contributions and Cite Them Appropriately
If you use AI to generate content, such as text or graphics, for assignments, then clearly indicate which parts of your work were generated by AI and which were created by you. Remember, you have to give credit to the work of others, even when the other is a piece of software! Always give credit to the AI tool or platform you used both in the text and and in the reference list. The referencing section has guidelines on citing generative AI
Engage in Discussions and Collaboration
Engage in discussions with your classmates and teachers. Talking to them might help you develop a better understanding of the subject matter and reduce the temptation to use AI as a shortcut.
Stay Informed About AI Developments
Keep yourself informed about the latest developments in AI and ethical AI use. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions and navigate the use of AI responsibly.
Seek Guidance and Clarification
If you're unsure about whether a specific use of generative AI is ethical or breaches academic integrity, then seek guidance from your teachers