What are AIs, Chatbots, and Generative AI?
AI and chatbot are both terms that are used very loosely in popular media.
An AI is a computer program designed to process an enormous amount of data, identify patterns, and make recommendations to a human user or sometimes make decisions.
A chatbot is an AI designed to convincingly imitate human speech. Chatbots predict what a person would say when given a prompt, such as a question, and then write an answer based on the data that it has available to it.
Generative AI is a blanket term that has come into use to describe AIs that produce text, audio, or visual content.
Are AIs / Chatbots reliable?
It depends on what you want it to do. Technology is advancing quickly.
AIs are limited by how they are programmed and the datasets available to them. If they have incomplete, limited, or incorrect data they may give you no answer or they may make a very convincing guess that later turns out to be wrong.
Because AIs like ChatGPT are often programmed with text that isn’t screened for accuracy, AI created text may have factual and even spelling errors.
Recently, there has been discussion of "model collapse" a theoretical situation in which AI generated content contaminates the training data of Generative AIs and causes them to become more unreliable and more artificial.
Finally, make sure to read any About or FAQ pages associated with the AI and experiment with it. ChatGPT for example has recently been updated to be more transparent about how it works, but not all "bots" may be programmed with similar ethical or technical limits.
Can a reader tell the difference between AI written text and human written text?
The answer is “it depends.”
AI text often passes a casual look by a human reader, but certain kinds of factual errors can expose the AI. SCF instructors and librarians will frequently independently verify factual statements and cited sources in work that shows signs of having been produced by an AI.
The creators of ChatGPT have also created a tool that can spot signs of text that has been written by an AI and TurnItIn now examines submitted work for signs that it may have been produced by an AI.
There are certain tendencies that AIs have when writing that can give them away since, being computer programs, they tend to have rules or formulas that they follow very rigidly. However, these are not perfect strategies.
Ultimately whether you suspect something has been written by a chatbot or are using it as a tool to assist you, independently verifying any factual statements the AI makes is always a best practice - just like you would with a questionable piece of content from a human creator.
Is using an AI or chat bot on an assignment plagiarism?
By the strictest definition of plagiarism, it is plagiarism if you don’t cite it. The chatbot is the author of the text, not you, therefore you can’t claim that it is your own original work. This is similar to if you had given a human writer your topic and asked them to write a paper for you.
The chat bot is summarizing information for you. Its answers are only as accurate as the sources it selects and the quality of its summary. Much like human created content, a chatbot is only as credible as your ability to check its sources. Any lack of transparency should be regarded with skepticism.
Check with your instructor before using an AI or chatbot as a tool.
SCF Librarians are aware of instructors who are issuing failing grades for assignments proven to have been written by an AI.
Anything else I should know?
SCF’s Ask a Librarian chat service is 100% human operated. If an SCF librarian is unavailable, the person you are chatting with will still be a librarian from a Florida institution who has similar training and works with students with similar needs.
SCF librarians are neither encouraging nor discouraging students from ethically experimenting with AI tools, but because of the various issues discussed herein, it is important to treat it as you would any non-academic source. Chatbots, like Wikis, may be helpful in developing a basic understanding of a concept but this information should always be checked against a more credible source. If you are unsure as to who a more credible source would be or how to find it, ask an SCF librarian.
As mentioned, we are available for live chat, walk ins, face to face appointments, video calls, or via email.
Don’t forget that assignments are demonstrations of what you have learned and grades are a measurement of how well you proved that you learned what you were asked to learn. Grades are not the skill or knowledge itself.
Doing independent research and writing is an exercise for your mind, like cardio for the brain. Grades can open doors in life, but it's your skills that will enable you to thrive.
Further Reading and Resources
SCF Library Resources