Learn about Chat GPT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools

Learn more about ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence technologies and what you should know to help make informed decisions.

What is ChatGPT? How does it work?

ChatlogoTools like ChatGPT or other artificial intelligence tools (specifically called large language models -LLMs) have been getting lots of headlines in the last few months. ChatGPT is an app created by a for-profit company called OpenAI. It was initially free but now has a subscription component. Other AI tools are Google Bard, Microsoft Bing AI and many more. 

How do they work? 
Unlike a search engine, which searches and then gives results using information already created -- LLMs are making "new" content predicting the word most likely to come next (e.g. based on HUGE dataset -- publicly available Internet sites (which includes racist, conspiracy sites, etc.) as of 2020). They are designed to model human language and use mathematical models to predict what the next word is most likely to be based on what you you are asking for. Keep in mind -- they don't think. They do NOT understand, read, choose or give you the "best information." Sometimes it might feel or seem like it but it is but this isn't how the technology works.


  • It is often wrong or incorrect or there is mix of accurate and inaccurate information or misinformation 
  • Doesn't have current information or context (using 2020 dataset)
  • Free vs. fee version (so who has access to the technology and who doesn't)
  • Content it is using likely is biased 
  • Privacy concerns -- what is the company doing with the data it collects from users?


  • Can help with giving simple explanations  
  • Can provide a sample text 
  • Can create a list of keywords or possible search terms  
  • Can give correct information for material that isn't controversial and that has been written about a lot

Is using it cheating? What about plagiarism?

Since there are many ways to use ChatGPT -- the answer on whether using it is cheating is it DEPENDS. Although there are not "new" policies about its use per se -- using (e.g. copy/paste) texts or code that is created by ChatGPT, for example, is covered under the UMN Student Conduct Code on Academic Dishonesty. As of late spring 2023 -- the University created statements that faculty could include in the course syllabus (or modify it) -  here are some examples "syllabus statements" from UMN.

Plagiarism is defined in the Conduct Code as Plagiarism, "representing the words, creative work, or ideas of another person as one’s own without providing proper documentation of source." Those some students might point out that "words" created by a a tool like ChatGPT isn't a "person" -- these arguments miss the intent of the policy. The bottom line is YOUR INSTRUCTOR will determine whether it is a violation of academic dishonesty. If you aren't sure, ASK YOUR INSTRUCTOR for clarity.

When should I "cite" ChatGPT? As a source? Or tell my instructor or others I am using it? 

  • If you are doing research ABOUT ChatGPT or other tools and using it is the topic and want to include example -- then yes you should cite it like any other source or evidence (e.g. in APA or MLA style). Or if you are using it to help analyze texts or using it as a tool -- include information on how you are using it in your assignment. 
  • If you are using ChatGPT to help with background research, to create outlines, select keywords, etc. -- you should likely check with your instructor about their class policies.
  • In general -- don't use Chat GPT as a "source" of information because it is often wrong or mixes correct and incorrect information. It isn't (yet) considered a credible source for academic research and writing. 
  • If you are using it to process text or data and creating materials that you later use or turn in as assignments or if you are using it to "create" content like text or code or writing -- you likely should discuss how you are using it in your assignments. 
  • There are many legitimate  and useful ways to use ChatGPT -- just be sure you are being transparent and sharing that you are using it as a tool with your instructors, lab partners, group members, advisors, peer tutors, career services staff, etc. 
  • In general, if you are "hiding" that you are using -- that might a sign you are using it in a not good way. 

Where can I get questions answered?


Impacts for college students (and professors)

Here are a few places to learn more about this technology and its impacts on college students and universities.

Sample of checkers
In response to these tools, there are now other tools which claim to detect AI or plagiarism.


Criticisms of the technology

Here are a few places to learn more about the limitations and criticisms of this technology:

Ask yourself! Questions to ask about this evolving technology

  • What do you think of these tools? Have you used or experimented with it? Why or Why not?
  • How do tools like ChatGPT work?
  • Where does the data comes from?
  • Who gains when we use tools like this? 
  • How do these tools generate text patterns and not meaning? Are they creative?
  • What biases do they contain?
  • Do you think it is the game-changer that many seem to believe it is?
  • What does it mean if we are at a point when the tool can create human-like content that isn't actually created by humans?
  • What are the potential implications for research? Education? Work? The Arts? Music?  
  • What do tools like this mean for future education and work? 
  • What questions do you have about these tools?

Impacts on research or science

Here are a few places to learn more as they apply to research that faculty or students might do :

Impacts on creatives and creators

Here are a few places to learn more as they apply to the arts, music, images, video, etc.

Tips for doing research ABOUT ChatGPT

Artificial intelligence and tools like ChatGPT are a fascinating research topic. Here are a few tips as you work on finding sources and learning more about these tools. 

Example keywords or search terms:

  • chatGPT
  • artificial intelligence or ai
  • large language models
  • generative ai
  • machine learning
  • chatbots
  • Language models
  • ethics or bias
  • misinformation 
  • racism
  • Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF)
  • content moderation
  • ghost workers
  • algorithm
  • artificial general intelligence
  • deepfakes
  • AI generated images
  • AI watermarking 
  • AI generated music
  • ai generated art

One way to narrow this topic could be to consider how it impacts certain parts of life. For example:

  • Law and legal
  • Healthcare and medicine
  • Business or employment
  • Education and learning 
  • Science 
  • Publishing and writing 
  • Communication studies 
  • Art
  • Music
  • and more

Suggested databases to search for sources: 

Sample of books available from the UMN Libraries

Where can I get more help?

Ask your instructors and professors. It is your responsibility to get clarity.

Here are some more experts on campus who can help answer questions:

Last Updated: Sep 22, 2023 1:54 PM