Aritifical intelligence (AI) and your academic work

Updated October 12, 2023

Imagine if you had a friend who had a vast memory and was excellent at improv, but was a pathological liar with no moral compass. That person might be very entertaining, but you’d probably have a hard time trusting them. That’s a pretty good description of an AI generator. 

This brief guide discusses whether and how these entertaining but often untrustworthy tools might play a role in your academic work.

Why do academic assignments exist?

You are required to do assignments in your courses so that you can practice what you have learned, and so that your professors can assess your learning. No matter how different they are, all course assignments share some things in common. Each assignment is

  1. a piece of original work
  2. completed wholly by the student (or students, in the case of group assignments).

While Artificial intelligence (AI) generators can be fun to play with, anything generated by artificial intelligence would not qualify as work completed wholly by a student. So submitting AI-generated text as part of a course assignment would be cheating, unless your professor gives you explicit permission to use AI to complete your assignment. Just like you need to ask permission from your professor to collaborate with other students on a solo assignment, so you also need to get permission to use an AI generator to complete an assignment.

AI: The fine print

Taking ChatGPT as an example, OpenAI’s Usage Policies ( specifically forbid academic misconduct:

We don’t allow the use of our models for ... Fraudulent or deceptive activity, including: … Plagiarism… Academic dishonesty

Further, any person taking credit for something made by ChatGPT would be violating OpenAI’s Terms of Use (, which state:

You may not… (v) represent that output from the Services was human-generated when it is not

AI: Errors and biases

AI text generators such as ChatGPT are essentially very powerful word and phrase predictors. They can quickly predict what word or phrase could come next given what has come before, and given the associations they have learned through their training data. Therefore, they can reproduce all the incorrect information, misinformation, disinformation, stereotypes, and biases that may already exist in their unfiltered training data.

Text generators like ChatGPT may seem very confident, but OpenAI acknowledges the potential for error in their Terms of Use ( 

Given the probabilistic nature of machine learning, use of our Services may in some situations result in incorrect Output that does not accurately reflect real people, places, or facts.

AI: The future

Recent advances in AI technology offer tremendous potential for all areas of our lives, including education. But many of the details are still being considered. Many professors are still figuring out how to incorporate AI into teaching and learning at Memorial. Legal professionals and scholars are still grappling with how copyright laws apply to AI-generated content.

One thing is clear, though: any material you use in an assignment but don’t create yourself is material that you have to cite, so you would have to cite an AI generator if your professor gave you permission to use one to complete coursework.

AI: Citation, attribution, acknowledgement

We cite sources in academic writing for many reasons. One reason is to point to the person or people responsible for creating the evidence we are using to support our work. AI generators are unable to take responsibility for the work they produce, so the idea of citing AI-generated content raises some philosophical questions. Neverthless, you must acknowledge any use of AI-generated content in your academic work, and citing your sources is a standard way to do so.

If you are permitted to use AI in your coursework, the major citation styles offer guidance on citing:

Things to remember:

  • In general, you should not cite sources that you have not actually read yourself. This applies to sources cited by AI generators too. The sources that the AI generator cites may not exist. Even if they do exist, the AI generator may wildly misrepresent the content.
  • If you are permitted to use AI generators in your coursework, you should keep a record of the prompt you use and the output you receive from the generative AI tool, even if the citation style you use does not require it.

Ask us

If you have questions about academic integrity, please see the Libraries' Academic Integrity page or Ask us.