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Information Essentials: Generative AI

What is generative artifical intelligence?

Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) describes a category of AI tool that can generate (or make) content. ChatGPT, for example, generates written content in response to prompts from users. Other forms of generative AI can create images, video, audio, code and more. Many of these technologies are currently free, but paid options are being introduced. You will find that many workplaces today are using AI tools, including ChatGPT, to work more efficiently

ChatGPT: A Force for Good by Ross Yates (2023)

Short answer: No.

On the surface ChatGPT looks like a good source of information. The information it provides is based on a database of largely free information and can give some "sophisticated and seemingly intelligent" responses, so it looks to be valid and accurate. However, ChatGPT’s responses reflect the most likely response to a prompt, based on the large database of information it has been trained on however it has very limited access to credible sources of information like research papers, so at university it is not a reliable source of information for assignments. In this way, it is similar to Wikipedia: a useful starting point for understanding a topic, but not rigorous enough to use as a foundation for academic learning.

ChatGPT does not fact-check, it doesn't tell you where it got the information from or how it came up with the answer, so its information can be wrong. Sometimes it even makes up fake sources when you ask it for references. The links to these fake sources can be easily checked by your lecturer so you should be extra careful and always double check the content before you use it.

While ChatGPT is not a good source of information for assignments, it can be a tool for learning.

If you are interested in how it can be used, you could experiment with its ability to:

  • Provide quick definitions for key concepts and terms
  • Summarise complex sources of information to help you understand them
  • Proofread your assignment for grammatical errors
  • Generate practice quiz questions to use for studying*
  • Generate practice interview questions when applying for jobs

Please note: If you do use it, don’t give it any personal or identifying information, like your name or where you live. Protect your rights related to intellectual property and copyright. ChatGPT uses the information you feed it to continue learning.

*Be aware that ChatGPT may not get all the facts right all the time so sometimes its ability to get correct quiz questions is lacking.

  1. If you do use ChatGPT to generate assessment content you must acknowledge or cite its use. Academic misconduct is a likely consequence if you don’t. You can learn how to correctly acknowledge your sources and tools using the ECU library referencing guide.
  2. Learn how to use AI tools for learning with support from an ECU Learning Adviser.

  3. Learn how to assess the reliability of sources. You will be assessed on your development of this in every unit.

  4. Learn to be a smart user of AI by learning what it can do, and what it can’t.

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van Dis, E.A.M., Bollen, J., Zuidema, W., van Rooij, R., & Bockting, C.L. (2023). ChatGPT: five priorities for research. Nature, 614, 224-226.