Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human thought processes by computers. AI has been around for a while. It powers the predictive text on your phone, spell checks your Word document or recommends items for your online shop. AI can be a useful tool.
Generative AI is a more recent development. With your prompts, tools like ChatGPT and Bard can process large amounts of data and create content. However, it is important to use these tools effectively and ethically, and to recognise their limitations. AI cannot think or create anything original. Those skills are up to you.
AI is not neutral. Just like any other source of information, it can be biased, inaccurate or discriminatory. It can be difficult to see where AI gets its information from, so it can be hard to evaluate the results you are given. It can also use the works of others without acknowledgement or permission. For example, this Perplexity.ai generated text names sources, but doesn’t cite them in the answer. In academic work, that’s plagiarism.
AI generated text could be helpful in explaining the basics of a topic and suggesting good search keywords. It is not something you can directly cite, and it is unlikely to lead you to good quality sources to read and reference.
Assignments are your opportunity to show what you have learned, to engage with your subject and to learn by doing. If you rely on AI, you won’t develop the research, planning and analytical skills that are an essential part of being a graduate.
It is vital that the work you submit for your assessments is your own work. It is important to be transparent about the tools you use and the sources you are reading and citing. If you are unsure whether use of AI is appropriate, please speak to your module tutor or course leader.
There may be some assessments where the use of AI tools is permitted or required. Your module tutor will communicate this to you in advance. Unless this is the case you should assume that the use of any AI tools for creating the content of an assessment is not permitted.
It is possible to use AI to search for information using natural language rather than keywords. However, as with keywords, it is best to be precise. Vague prompts lead to vague answers.
AI cannot search most academic journal articles or ebooks as they are behind paywalls so AI search results can be poor quality. For example, this search on Perplexity.ai gives Wikipedia and a range of tech and marketing companies rather than any academic information:
It is unlikely any of these sources would be good citations in an assignment. Many AI tools do not show what they are searching, so it is impossible to judge the quality.
As with any search, you need to evaluate the information you find. Is it relevant to your assignment? Is it accurate? Who wrote it? Why? How old is it? These questions are even more important and can be difficult to answer if you search using an AI tool. Library Services’ evaluating sources page will tell you more.
Whether you use AI or not, in academic work you need to be transparent. This means showing how you reached your conclusions. Library Services’ literature searching strategy is a good place to start.
You should also keep your essay plans and drafts, and record your search processes. To record your search processes you could try:
If permitted, AI might be a good place to start your research as it can give you an initial overview and help explain complex topics. However, your searching and planning should not begin and end with AI. You will need to use the themes and keywords you’ve found in AI to look at a range of information. You will need to read books and ebooks to broaden your understanding of your topic. You may need to search more widely on the internet to find documentation to back up your arguments. You will need to find and read journal articles to analyse the research underpinning your subject area. Try:
If you use AI tools as part of the process of creating an assessment, it is important that you acknowledge their use. You would typically do this as an appendix.
Make it clear:
I acknowledge the use of Perplexity.ai to generate a summary or the key points my essay could include in order to structure my assignment
I used this prompt to generate a summary:
Generate a 50-word summary on the topic of "parental stress in families of children with special educational needs"
This was the output:
Parental stress is a significant issue in families with children with special educational needs. A systematic review of relevant studies has identified risk factors and protective factors associated with parental stress. Risk factors include the sex of the parents, diagnosis-related coping issues, socioeconomic characteristics, and social isolation of the parents. Protective factors include financial and manpower assistance, professional support and services, and social policies and interventions. Early screening and continuous assessment of the parents' progress can help improve their mental wellbeing. Social policies and interventions can also play a role in reducing parental stress in these families.
I acknowledge the use of ChatGPT to generate keywords to improve my search
I used this prompt to generate keywords:
Generate keywords for a search about team working
This was the output:
If is unlikely that you would directly quote or paraphrase AI. If you do, you will need to reference it. Cite Them Right has examples, with the citation similar to the format for personal correspondence:
ChatGPT (2023) ChatGPT response to Fred Brown, 25 September.
Perplexity.ai (2023) Perplexity response to Jane Jones, 12 October.
riticise/ challenge the information AI gives you
cknowledge any use of AI
ecord your search processes
xpand your research beyond AI
The use of AI tools is only part of the competency you need to show as a student. Employers want students to be able to use these tools, but not depend on them.