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Student Guide to Generative AI (ChatGPT)

This research guide provides definition, information, and resources for students to understand the basics of generative AI and ChatGPT including concerns, limitations, and opportunities.

As a student, there are both practical and ethical considerations around using any technology in school, including AI like ChatGPT. 

  • Review your syllabus for guidelines or ask professors for guidance on if and how to use ChatGPT in your individual courses, especially courses with writing components. 
  • If you have additional concerns, seek guidance from university departments like the Library, Learning Commons, or your Advisor. 
  • Refer to the Academic Integrity Code for more details on plagiarism and academic misconduct. 

Considerations Before Using AI

Exclamation point iconConsiderations Before Using AI...

  • It is not a database of factual or reliable information. 
    • You may get different responses each time you prompt it for information. This also makes it difficult to evaluate it as a "source". 
  • It is not "thinking" or using logic, but "predicting" the next word in a sequence. So it is not very creative and doesn't critically think.
    • Any responses you receive should be evaluated for accuracy and logical issues. It has not been proven capable of creating entirely new information but ideas based on its training data. 
  • They're not always accurate! So it can give you extra work to evaluate the content. 
    • Since AI tools can make things up (called hallucinating) or be inaccurate, you may have to do extra work to verify the information. By going directly to sources that you can verify and synthesizing the information yourself, you are eliminating the "fact checking" needed when using AI. 
  • They're hard to cite since they are not original work & could lead to unethical uses.
    • As we learned in the "What is Generative AI?" tab, AI is not generating new ideas but predicting the most relevant next words and ideas based on its training. There is contention about how this should actually be cited as "work". See our tab on the left on Writing and Citing for more information. 

Using AI in College

Using ChatGPT in College Work 

As people experiment with ChatGPT and other AI tools, many options have been discovered that college students can use to enhance their work (in ethical ways!)

For example, you could use ChatGPT to:

  • Summarize a large block of text or a complex reading. 
  • Brainstorm ideas for research questions or narrow down existing ideas.
  • Suggest an opposing viewpoint against your thesis to expand your knowledge and hone your debate skills. 
  • Input a draft of a paper for the tool to review for grammar, sources, or content.
  • Locate sources on a topic to get you started with a research topic. 
  • Create flashcards to study for tests.

Using AI Technology Tools in College

Outside of ChatGPT, there are a variety of artificial intelligence tools that also use language models and other technologies to help people with daily tasks. Some things you might try AI tools for might be:

  • Help with improving your writing and grammar (Grammarly)
  • Create images and videos
  • Breaking large goals into smaller, manageable tasks (Goblin Tools)
  • Developing a literature review for in-depth research (Scite or Consensus)
  • Building visual presentations

See the articles below for additional suggestions and ideas for tools to try out.

Alternatives to ChatGPT

ChatGPT may have exploded into our consciousness but it is not the only large language model tool - and it won't be the last. If you'd like to consider other options, these are a few alternatives:

Fact-Checking AI

One of the limitations of artificial intelligence tools is that they are known to provide inaccurate answers or "hallucinate" references. In order to combat this, you should become familiar with strategies for fact-checking such as lateral reading. 

Effective Chat Prompts

Effective Chat Prompts

There are ways to craft a chat prompt, depending on your information need, which has been shown to be more effective than simply inputting a question or request. 

  • Be specific in your request rather than just asking it for ideas on a topic. 
  • One way to be specific is to give the AI a persona in your request. For example, "You are an expert career advisor" (From WGMI Media)
  • Tell the AI what your goal is so it can help tailor the response. 
  • Provide examples and ask for additional suggestions. Giving the tool a framework can improve its answer. 
  • Provide one side of a debate and ask the tool to provide other perspectives. 

See the articles below for additional suggestions and examples. Using AI tools and practicing with various prompts can help you improve the responses you receive.