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Be critical and responsible when you use chatbots in connection with your academic work 


Chatbots, such as ChatGPT, are an example of a Large Language Model (LLM) that can answer questions and generate texts in a way that closely resembles a human response. It goes without saying that it’s not ok to ask a chatbot to do your work for you, including your homework assignments. That would be cheating. See AU's official guidelines for exam

But chatbots can be a useful resource for you as a student if you use them intelligently, responsibly and critically. For example, you can use chatbots to generate ideas, creative inputs or feedback on your writing proces.

In connection with the use of chatbots, it is extremely essential to familiarize yourself thoroughly with the curriculum and the course description's elaboration of the exam activities.




How to use chatbots without cheating 

You can’t quote a chatbot as a source in a paper or an exam. You may never use chatbots to generate texts that you turn in as your own work for a written assignments or exam. And you shouldn’t base your knowledge about a subject on output from chatbots. When the ChatGPT chatbot was asked how it can be used in connection with university academic assignments, it replied: 

“While an AI language model like ChatGPT can provide helpful information, it is not considered a reliable or credible source for academic writing. If You need information for your paper, consider consulting reputable sources such as academic journals, books, or reputable websites."(OpenAI, 2021). 

Know the rules

Chatbots cannot be used as sources for academic writing and are by default not allowed at exams, unless it is explicitly written in your course description. Even though you may not intend to cheat by using them, you can easily end up cheating by accident. So it’s very important that you take a critical and responsible approach to using chatbots in connection with your studies. And make sure you keep the following in mind: 

AU’s rules about plagiarism

AU's rules about plagiarism also applies to the use of chatbots. You are not allowed to use chatbots at an exam. It’s important that you familiarise yourself with the university’s rules about plagiarism so that you don’t end up cheating accidentally.  

How to cite a chatbot If you want to use a chatbot as a source or decide to include a quote from chatbot output, make sure you do this correctly, as described in the rules on plagiarism. For example,a reference to ChatGPT might look like this: "OpenAI. (2021). ChatGPT. Retrieved from https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/".
Follow good academic writing practices To avoid cheating by mistake, familiarise yourself with and follow the general guidelines for good academic standards. It’s a question of taking a responsible approach to carrying out scientific work – also when you use chatbots.  
When in doubt, ask for advice If you’re not sure how to use chatbots responsibly, ask your lecturer or supervisor for advice. 

Understand the limitations of chatbots

It’s also important to understand some of the limitations and disadvantages of chatbots: 

Out-of-date information Chatbots generate their output based on a limited dataset that may not be entirely up-to-date. For example, ChatGPT’s output is based on data from the internet harvested before a specific date (currently before 2021). This means that if your query refers to events or developments after this date, the chatbot’s response may be inaccurate. As a general rule, a chatbot’s ‘knowledge’ of contemporary events will be limited. The same goes for esoteric or specialised subjects and information. 
Chatbots make stuff up Chatbots can generate a lot of different kinds of text, but they’re not always accurate – and they won’t tell you when they’re making stuff up. They have been trained to generate coherent, fluent texts which sound authoritative and convincing. Despite the authoritative tone, the texts they produce are not necessarily accurate, and can contain errors, omissions, inaccuracies and even false information that is presented as fact. 
Limited subject knowledge Chatbots don’t necessarily have the advanced knowledge of your subject you as a student are expected to have. That can affect their ability to analyse and interpret data correctly.  
Lack of context If your question doesn’t provide the chatbot with enough context, the chatbot will fill in the gaps itself, which can result in a response that is unrelated to the original question or that is too generic to be useful.  
No sources cited It’s impossible to see what data the chatbot is basing its output on. Its responses are generated based on patterns it has ‘learned’ to identify in huge amounts of digital text; it doesn’t use sources as such. This means its output is based on general texts from the internet on the subject in question, not on research or surveys. 


Use chatbots as a resource in your studies 

Chatbots can be a valuable resource in your academic work, as long as you are aware of their limitations and understand how to use them appropriately. Of course, you should never use them to produce text for your assignments. That would be cheating. But you can use them to enrich your writing process – to generate ideas, provide creative inputs and improve your texts.  

Individual work

Get feedback on texts you write You can give the chatbot an excerpt from a text you have written, for example from a report or an analysis, and ask the chatbot to give you feedback on the grammar, coherence and clarity of the text. In other words, you can use chatbots to help you improve the quality of your writing. 
Get alternative formulations You can ask chatbots to suggest different ways of wording parts of your text, for example the title or headings, or to phrase your research question in different ways. 
Get over your writer’s block The chatbots can you get started on a new writing assignment by giving you initial drafts of sentences or passages that you can use to get started. This can be a good tactic if you’re struggling with writer’s block. 
Understand a topic better Chatbots can be a good tool to help you get a quick overview of a complicated topic, theory or concept before you investigate it in more detail and depth. But be aware that the information it gives you may not necessarily be correct.
Enhance your reading Before you start reading a complex primary text, you can use chatbots to get a basic grip on the main ideas, in the same way you use internet searches. This can make it easier to understand the text and clarify what you need to get out of it and how to approach it. Find out more about reading strategies.
Use chatbots as a topic Chatbots are a current topic of interest, and it might be relevant for you to analyse them in a paper or use theories from one of your courses to discuss them. Interesting perspective include law, philosophy, ethics and pedagogy. 
Identify holes in your knowledge Ask the chatbot to explain some academic material to you, and assess whether you – or the chatbot – lack knowledge about it. Maybe the chatbot will say something inaccurate, or maybe it will provide a different perspective on the material. 
Start your search You can use chatbots to get an introduction to a topic and get inspiration for specific keywords you can use when searching the literature.  

In your study group

  • Discuss how you can use chatbots in a responsible way as a resource in your work together without the risk of cheating. Draw on each other for inspiration – and ask your lecturer for help if you have any doubts.
  • Mythbuster: Confirm or reject the chatbot’s answer. Ask the chatbot a number of questions about a subject you’re studying, and assess its responses critically. Confirm or reject the chatbot’s answer based on your reading of relevant academic sources.
  • The Turing test ( a way of determining whether a machine can exhibit intelligence equivalent to a human):  Come up with a series of questions about your subject, as if you were designing an exam. Distribute the questions among yourselves. Answer your question, and then ask the chatbot the same question. You and your fellow students should take turns reading your own and the chatbot’s answers to each other. The other students should try to guess whether each answer was generated by the chatbot or written by the student.  
  • Chatbots are a current topic of interest, and it might be relevant for you to analyse them in a paper or use theories from one of your courses to discuss them. Interesting perspective include law, philosophy, ethics and pedagogy. 

How do other students use chatbots?

I used the bot to find a summary of John Dewey's educational philosophy, as I couldn't process the massive number of search results that appeared on Google. So I used ChatGPT to find the ‘canned’ version, and then I could easily continue my search using the different buzz words on Google

               - 2nd semester Master’s degree student, ICT-based educational design 

I use ChatGPT instead of Google to search for information. It’s much more advanced than a standard search engine. 

               - 2nd semester Master’s degree student, ICT-based educational design