AI and Chat GPT can be used as a supplement to enhance your research, format your work, and revise your essays.

It may be tempting to use AI for the bulk of your school work. Doing this risks getting caught for plagiarism, and enables people to go into tests underprepared. Overusing AI can lead to achieving high grades on your take-home assignments, but it will inevitably lead to poor ones in a monitored exam setting.

Here are some ways to use AI to personalize your learning experience while mitigating its risks.

Ask AI clarifying questions.

Since it was trained on a large repository of general information, large language models such as ChatGPT are great for filling in gaps in contextual understanding that you may need for your assignment — similar to a good session on Wikipedia.

For example, let’s say you have a history assignment, something like this:

Explore how the fall of Constantinople helped set the stage for the Renaissance

While studying this complicated historical event, all sorts of details come up that can quickly get confusing. Depending on what you already know, there may be all sorts of questions worth asking chatGPT: “Where was Constantinople located, “How was Constantinople connected to ancient Rome”, “Where did the Ottoman empire come from”, and so on.

These prompts will help you get a broader understanding, which will better equip you to think creatively about how to approach your assignment. Knowing how Constantinople was related to ancient Rome, for example, will give you deeper insight into the overall context of the period, even if you or the assignment do not directly mention Rome at all.

The questions you ask can be as specific and informal as you need them to be. This can lead to some very informative conversations that target your unique way of learning and understanding things.

However, while this can be a huge help, it’s important to remember that the responses provided by AI are generated based on patterns in data and may not always be accurate or reliable.

Don’t use AI for your research.

If you just took the school assignment, copy and pasted it into ChatGPT and took the answers it gave, it is unlikely you will do very well on your assignment, or build any important skills.

First of all, it could be immediately noticeable that the writing did not come from you. This can result in all sorts of penalties or even accusations of plagiarism.

Secondly, the answers you’d get would most likely be very generic. Generic is helpful when asking clarifying questions, but when answering an assignment it is often required that you go deeper.

And most importantly, you cannot factually guarantee anything that generative AI provides.1 This is also true for Wikipedia, by the way.

So, you should always reference more reliable sources.

Generally, your school assignment might come with reading material or other resources to do this. If so, you should stick to that material for any primary arguments that you make. The clarifying questions that you ask AI should be used to make sure that everything in the reading material makes sense to you.

The assignment might also ask you to find and cite materials to reference yourself.

In this case, the clarifying questions that you ask AI might be used to help you get creative ideas of what resources to look into.

For example, chatting with ChatGPT a bit might inspire you to read on the Ottoman Empire and its trading routes with Florence, to answer the assignment from a unique and interesting angle.

After finding inspiration for topics that you want to explore, you should then find reliable sources on those topics.

Remember, it is essential to verify any information provided to you by generative AI before using it in your assignment.

Use AI to help format your citations.

This is one area where AI can truly shine, but only if done carefully, and with its limitations in mind.

Large language models such as ChatGPT are naturally adept at language processing — as the name suggests. This includes more esoteric applications of language such as working with code2, decoding sperm whale language3 and — relevant for our interests here — formatting citations.

It is important to recognize what AI can do and can not do in this area.

Let’s say you already have a full MLA citation for your source, but you need it in Chicago instead. You can certainly plug it in and ask ChatGPT to reformat it for you. Just make sure to double-check the accuracy of the generated citations, as AI may not always provide perfect results.

However, if you don’t have any existing citations, and don’t know what information you need to cite correctly (publisher name, location, etc.) be careful how you make your request.

For example, if you just input a book title and ask for a citation, there is a strong chance that you will get an AI hallucination. Generative AI models are known to “fill in the blanks” when they do not receive specific enough instructions; this can mean providing inaccurate information such as a wrong publication date, author or publisher.

A safer prompt would be something like this:

I need to cite a book in Chicago format. Can you give me the information I need to collect, and the proper formatting?

By prompting generative AI to explain the correct formatting, you are minimizing the risk of getting an AI hallucination since the information you are requesting is much less vague. You are also taking a much more active and engaged role in the work that you are doing!

Ask AI to revise your writing or provide help with wording.

If you’re struggling with finding the right words or structuring for your sentences, AI can be a useful tool to ask for help. You can ask AI to revise your writing or suggest alternative phrases. This can be especially helpful when you’re trying to convey your thoughts clearly and effectively.

You can also use AI to build your vocabulary and writing habits in this way.

However, keep in mind that AI-generated suggestions should be reviewed and adjusted as needed to match your own writing style and voice.

Don’t have AI write out arguments for you.

It’s important to remember that the critical thinking and analysis required in assignments should come from your own understanding and knowledge. Relying on AI to generate arguments can undermine the authenticity of your work.

It’s important to develop your own ideas and perspectives based on your research and learning. This is what gives what you write authority.

Authority is a term often used in SEO writing4, but its principles apply to academic work as well. It refers to the credibility, expertise, or legitimacy of the source providing information. Authority is the key measure by which a written work is worth reading in the first place.

In the context of a schoolwork assignment, you provide authority by reliably citing and referencing materials written by authors who have authority themselves. You may even choose to discuss the authority of your cited authors in the assignment.

On its own, it is impossible for generative AI to write with any authority on a given topic. This makes it inappropriate to use as a reference, or to rely on for any speculation, arguments or reasoning.

Remember, while AI can be a valuable tool in your schoolwork, it should never replace your own thinking, analysis, or research. Use it as a supplement to enhance your learning experience and improve the quality of your work.


  1. This is set as a disclaimer on the interface of ChatGPT itself. However, the most reliable source I could find to use as a citation is on PC Guide: ↩︎
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