Helpful Tips for Using Generative AI in Academic Writing

·7 mins
Christoph C. Cemper
Helpful Tips for Using Generative AI in Academic Writing>

Helpful Tips for Using Generative AI in Academic Writing #

Generative AI tools like Google Gemini and ChatGPT can create grammatical text based on information found on the Internet. With the boom in the use of generative AI for a multitude of tasks, it’s important to understand the potential advantages and shortcomings of these tools and how they can best be applied in the area of academic writing.

A Caveat: Ask Your Professor First>

A Caveat: Ask Your Professor First #

Instructors’ opinions on AI tools can differ significantly, so before using generative AI for anything related to a college course, check the syllabus for rules about the use of AI. If it’s unclear if or when you can use generative AI, consult the instructor before submitting anything to be graded. Also, keep in mind that if you are allowed to use AI, most professors will assume that you’re using it to aid your thinking and writing process and not replace it entirely. Maintain academic integrity by not leaning too heavily on AI and upholding the same standards for quality and citations as you normally would in any other academic writing.

Generative AI and its Functions>

Generative AI and its Functions #

Generative AI uses large language models (LLMs) to analyze massive amounts of text, find patterns, and connect related ideas. This artificial intelligence can predict which words are most likely to come next in a sentence, and in this way, it can produce text that mimics what a human might write. Drawing on its vast amount of training data, including a significant amount of the entire contents of the Internet, it can answer questions and satisfy requests to generate a wide variety of text outputs.

However, it’s crucial to approach generative AI with a critical mindset. The data used to teach these models may contain inaccuracies, biases, or irrelevant information, as the AI cannot inherently distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources. You should never assume that its information is factual; always apply your own knowledge and judgment to what the AI produces. However, AI does have the potential to help you save time, come up with new ideas, or possibly even improve your writing skills.


Prompting #

Prompting is the act of asking questions or making requests to generative AI tools to produce responses. It’s akin to entering keywords into a search engine, but you can carry out much more complex tasks with a more complex prompt. Learning to prompt a generative AI tool effectively is an iterative process, meaning that you’ll need to keep refining your prompt to get better results. Playing around with example prompts can give you a better idea of the capabilities of AI and the effects you can get from using different prompting techniques. This can give you a better understanding of how you might be able to use AI responsibly for your academic work.

Potential Uses of Generative AI in Academic Writing>

Potential Uses of Generative AI in Academic Writing #

Brainstorming From a Professor’s Prompt>

Brainstorming From a Professor’s Prompt #

Generative AI is a great tool to help you develop ideas based on an instructor’s assignment. You can tell the AI what you’re studying in class and ask it to generate ideas for topics you should write your paper on. Ask it questions about these potential topics to get a better idea of which one interests you the most. Then, you can start digging into the assignment by seeking out authoritative information sources for your research.

Creating Outlines>

Creating Outlines #

AI tools can create outlines for all sorts of writing projects, including papers and slide shows. By refining your prompts, you can ask the AI to generate multiple outlines that can guide how you structure your draft.

Generating Examples of Different Styles of Writing>

Generating Examples of Different Styles of Writing #

If you’re unfamiliar with a particular writing style or genre, you can prompt the AI to show you some examples to follow. Asking for samples of an abstract or a cover letter can help you understand how your work should be formatted and phrased. However, you should not rely on the AI to do the writing for you: Just use its examples as an aid to create your own unique draft with new content.

Summarizing Long Texts>

Summarizing Long Texts #

You can save a lot of time by copying the contents of a long research article into an AI tool and asking it to summarize the article for you. If the summary makes it sound like a useful resource for your writing, you can dig into it further, reading the text yourself to gain a deeper understanding of the material and find passages to cite.

Revising and Editing>

Revising and Editing #

If you’re not a particularly strong writer, AI tools can help you get better. AI generally has a pretty good grasp of grammar, so you can input your own writing and ask the AI to check it for errors and suggest improvements. Once you’ve fixed up your text with AI’s help, look at the results and compare them to what you started with. Can you spot any patterns that reveal specific things you need to work on? And are the results better than what you could write yourself? Remember that AI isn’t perfect; if it has made your text less clear or removed your own voice from the work, fix it.


Translating #

Generative AI can translate audio and text data into different languages, so if you run across a resource in a foreign language, AI can help you understand it. However, like other translation tools, its accuracy may vary, especially when idiomatic phrases are used.

Potential Pitfalls of Using Generative AI in Academic Writing>

Potential Pitfalls of Using Generative AI in Academic Writing #

Factual Errors>

Factual Errors #

It’s crucial to approach AI-generated content with a critical mindset, as these tools don’t always generate accurate information. While the responses can appear well-written and plausible, they may be partly or fully fabricated, a phenomenon known as “hallucinating.” AI tools lack human intelligence, so they’re not really thinking: They’re just piecing together information, which could be false.

Inaccurate Citations>

Inaccurate Citations #

AI responses may produce citations or quotes, but these could be non-existent or incorrect. The tools may invent authors or book titles or attribute a quote to a source that’s not correct. Always verify quotes and cited works yourself before you use them.

Biased Responses>

Biased Responses #

The data used to train AI tools includes ideas based on human biases, and so their responses may reflect and perpetuate these biases.

Risk of Violating Academic Integrity Principles>

Risk of Violating Academic Integrity Principles #

Unless your instructor gives permission, you cannot copy text generated by AI into your own work. Check with your professor to find out what’s allowed and what their guidelines are on citing text created by AI. Remember that AI should aid your thinking and writing process, not replace it entirely.

Privacy Concerns>

Privacy Concerns #

Be cautious about inputting any private information (including text or images) into AI tools. Anything you type in could become part of the AI’s systems and be shared with others.

Unintended Changes>

Unintended Changes #

AI tools may inadvertently alter the intended meaning of your writing when you ask it to help you fine-turn your work. Carefully review its output to make sure that the results still reflect what you intended to write.

Additional Resources>

Additional Resources #