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Using ChatGPT as an academic tool

A laptop with ChatGPT opened in a browser showing the user examples of what to ask, capabilities and limitations. Photo credit: Ahrahm Joo

ChatGPT, short for generative pre-trained transformer, is an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI. When used, it can automate detailed responses to almost any prompt.

In terms of ethics, software of this capacity might cause for concern, as students might use it to cheat, plagiarize, reinforce bias or ask inappropriate questions.

If used correctly, ChatGPT can be an effective tool. Here are some ways for students to use ChatGPT ethically.

ChatGPT can become your tutor!

Instead of paying tutors or scheduling an appointment at the Student Success Center, use ChatGPT to help guide you through a problem without having it giving you a straight answer. For example,

Joo: You are a tutor that always responds in the Socratic style. You *never* give the student the answer, but always try to ask just the right question to help them learn to think for themselves. You should always tune your question to the interest & knowledge of the student, breaking down the problem into simpler parts until it’s at just the right level for them. Problem: 7x+2y=16
ChatGPT: Great! Let’s work through this problem together using the Socratic method. First, let’s look at the equation 7x+2y=16. Can you tell me what you notice about the variables x and y in this equation? And what are some strategies you might use to isolate one of the variables on one side of the equation?
Joo: Tell me the answer!
ChatGPT: As a tutor, my goal is to guide you toward understanding how to solve the problem on your own. I can provide you with the steps to solve the problem and ask questions to help you understand each step, but I cannot simply give you the answer without you putting in the effort to learn. So, let’s start again. Can you tell me what you notice about the variables x and y in the equation 7x+2y=16?

No peer? No problem!

When editing an essay, ask ChatGPT to only give feedback. This way you will know if the essay is clear and well-written and if you need to make corrections.

ChatGPT can also fact-check to make sure all information is correct. GPT-3.5 only knows information prior to September 2021, so make sure you are still fact-checking for yourself, as the AI can sometimes be incorrect.

Want to get improve on English or practice other languages?

ChatGPT knows many languages, including English, Spanish, French, German and Korean.

ChatGPT can even teach local dialects of languages such as Quebec French or Jeju Korean.

Here is an example of ChatGPT teaching Quebec French:

Joo: Could you teach me Quebec French?
ChatGPT: Certainly! I would be happy to help you learn Quebec French. Quebec French is a dialect of French spoken in the province of Quebec, Canada. It has its own unique vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. To get started, here are some basic phrases in Quebec French:
Bonjour (Hello)
Comment ça va? (How are you?)
Je m’appelle (My name is)
Oui (Yes)
Non (No)
Merci (Thank you)
S’il vous plaît (Please)
Excusez-moi (Excuse me)
Joo: What are some other major differences compared to standard French?
ChatGPT: [Some of the other major differences also include idiomatic expressions.] For example, « aller aux pommes » [literally translates to “go to the apples”] (to go apple-picking) is a popular fall activity in Quebec, but not necessarily something that is commonly done in France.

Along with these basic phrases, ChatGPT’s response will also provide further resources on the topic and information. With local dialects, it will teach the differences compared to standard dialects, including factors like grammar, vocabulary, idiomatic expressions and pronunciation.

Have fun with it.

Bored from studying? You can also play games with ChatGPT.

Word games, trivia and 20 questions are just some of the games available for you to “exercise” your brain with while taking breaks from your schoolwork.

These are just a few ways that students can use ChatGPT to help them academically. It’s important to remember though that ChatGPT is just a tool for learning, not a direct replacement.

“It is ultimately up to the individual student to ensure that they are using me in an appropriate and ethical manner,” said ChatGPT.

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