ChatGPT and other AI tools

Learn about using and researching AI tools like ChatGPT.

Using AI tools in your coursework

Is using it cheating? What about plagiarism?

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. Since there are many ways to use ChatGPT and other tools -- the answer on whether using it is cheating is it DEPENDS.

Although there are not (yet) 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 Scholastic Dishonesty.

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?

  • 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.

Where can I get questions answered?

I can’t find the citations that ChatGPT gave me. What should I do?

ChatGPT and other AI tools make up citations for articles and sources that don't exist.

ChatGPT might give you the citation for an article by an author(s) that usually writes about your topic, or even identify a journal that publishes on your topic, but the title, pages numbers, and dates are completely fictional. This is because ChatGPT is not connected to the Internet, so has no way of identifying actual sources. It is NOT a search engine. It is trying to guess the next "best" word so it literally is trying to give you a "good" ARTICLE TITLE -- not actually give you a real article that has been written or exists. Confusing? 

Yet -- they might give you actual real article citations, too. So you need to check. You can try to see if the articles are ready by searching in Libraries Search on our home page or in Google Scholar or Google, but there is a chance the sources do not exist.

It's better to use ChatGPT for tasks like:

  • Brainstorming and getting creative topic ideas
  • Editing and constructive criticism of your writing
  • Explaining concepts at multiple difficulty levels
  • Summarizing long texts
  • other writing and text-related tasks.

It's not designed to be a search engine. Use Libraries SearchGoogle Scholar, or databases for your discipline instead.

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? Is it biased? Is it verified? 
  • 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?
Last Updated: Feb 19, 2024 9:45 AM