Generative AI can be a powerful tool for helping with your academic work, but you may be wondering how to use it responsibly so you can get the assistance you need, without cheating or breaking the rules.
Here, we explain eleven ways to use AI to help you with your college courses and give some examples to show you how to do it yourself.
Note, it’s always best practice to ask your instructor or check their rules and guidelines for the use of generative AI for coursework. Each instructor has different parameters and definitions when it comes to cheating. Follow instructor guidelines and transparently acknowledge what tools and prompts you used in your assignments.
Is using AI cheating?
Cheating can be a tricky definition to nail down because it’s subjective; what one professor thinks is OK might be off-limits to another. It also depends on the assignment and how you’re planning to use AI to assist with your work. However, copying AI writing and saying it’s your own is cheating by plagiarism, just like copying the text from a human author.
How to avoid cheating with AI
There are a number of AI writing tasks you can perform that don’t involve plagiarism. AI really shines when it comes to preparation and organization, such as the early stages of writing, like developing ideas and outlining, as well as the late stages, like revisions and citations.
11 ways to use AI without cheating
1 Generating ideas
Don’t know what to write about? You can always ask AI to help you think up ideas. For examples, essay topics can be abstract, and it’s OK to ask AI to help you develop a useful, narrower thesis, just as you might ask a friend or teacher to help you think about what to write about. Don’t forget to add the assignment guidelines in the AI writing prompt, so the AI generates usable ideas.
It’s not always easy to write a summary. Some works can get excessive and overly complicated, making it difficult to condense all that information. AI can help with this, especially because it can “read” thousands of pages in just a few moments.
Using AI for summaries can work in two ways. First, it can summarize sources that you’re considering using. If you don’t have time to read each source before you decide what to use, AI summaries can help you choose the best ones. Second, you can use it to outline the main summary points of a work if you need to write about it in your own text. This helps you identify the key points and can suggest the most succinct wording.
3 Recommend research
Another helpful aid in finding sources is to hear AI recommendations. If you use a prompt like “What are some of the best/most accurate/most controversial works about . . .” the AI can browse through the virtual library and deliver a list of what are generally regarded as the top sources on a topic. This gives you a head start when preparing your sources.
Knowing how to write an outline can give your work much-needed structure. But if you’re not sure how to organize your sections, you can ask AI to help. Sometimes you’ll have to explain everything you want to include, which makes a pretty long prompt, but the AI can organize your points in the most logical and organized sequence. This works for both a research paper outline and an essay outline.
Using AI without cheating can actually help you avoid other forms of cheating. Paraphrasing is when you rewrite someone else’s ideas in your own words, and it’s absolutely essential for incorporating sources unless you want your paper to include all direct quotes.
Sometimes paraphrasing can be a chore, especially when the original author seems to choose the right words. Feel free to get AI to help; just use it for ideas instead of copying and pasting what it says. If you want to paraphrase, you have to support it with a citation to give credit to the original author.
6 In-text examples
Have you ever understood something perfectly, but when put on the spot, you can’t think of any examples? Well, AI can provide an example or two for you in no time at all. Examples generated by AI can come in handy to remove your own personal biases or to simply come up with something that best illustrates a concept.
One AI tool that’s been around for a long time is the ability to proofread your text to check for typos, like misspellings, grammatical mistakes, and misplaced or missing punctuation. Using AI to ensure your writing is error-free is always a good idea. Those little mistakes can be hard to catch, but can cost you when it comes to your grades.
8 Revisions and suggestions
All-in-one AI tools can also check your grammar and spelling. At the end of a writing project, an entire first draft can be checked from start to finish in no time at all. You can even use AI to touch up individual sentences if you’re worried about them being too boring or redundant.
You can ask AI to “read” your finished work to receive early feedback and prepare yourself for your audience’s reactions.
In particular, getting AI feedback works great for strengthening your arguments. AI can analyze your work and present counterarguments that might undermine your position. If you catch these early enough, you can work them into your writing and debunk or otherwise address them. Similarly, AI can also point out parts of your argument that are missing, which can then be added in a second draft.
10 Write citations
Using an academic format like MLA, APA, or Chicago requires proper citations. However, each style guide has its own rules, so knowing the correct citation formatting for each can be confusing. Now you can simply ask AI to create a citation for a particular source. You don’t even need to include all the source’s information; the AI can “look it up” online. Just be sure to double-check it afterward.
11 Study aids
Lastly, AI can be used to help you study. You can ask AI to generate study aids like flash cards and quizzes, or to explain in simple words any complicated concepts you’re having trouble with. If you’d like physical materials, you may have to print them out or write them yourself, but even so, AI can provide a reliable blueprint.
Examples of AI without cheating
Create an outline for a three-page paper on photosynthesis in algae.
A. Definition of photosynthesis
B. Importance of photosynthesis in algae
II. Photosynthesis Process
A. Light-dependent reactions
B. Light-independent reactions
III. Factors Affecting Photosynthesis in Algae
A. Light intensity
C. Carbon dioxide concentration
IV. Applications of Photosynthesis in Algae
A. Biofuel production
B. Carbon capture and storage
A. Recap of main points
B. Future research opportunities
What are some good topics for an argumentative essay about a controversial idea?
When choosing a topic for an argumentative essay about a controversial idea, it’s important to consider a variety of factors. Some good topics might include the debate over gun control laws, the legalization of marijuana, or the impact of social media on society. Other potential topics could include the death penalty, abortion, or climate change.
Ultimately, the best topic will depend on your interests, your audience, and the specific requirements of your assignment. It’s important to choose a topic that you are passionate about and that you feel strongly about defending, but also one that is well researched and supported by evidence. With careful consideration and research, you can choose a topic that will engage and challenge your readers while also demonstrating your skills as a writer and critical thinker.
Paraphrase the “to be or not to be” monologue from Hamlet.
Whether it is better to exist or not to exist is a difficult question to answer. Should one suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or take arms against a sea of troubles and end them once and for all? To die, to sleep—and in that sleep, to dream, perhaps of a better life beyond this mortal coil. But what dreams may come in that sleep, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause . . .
AI without cheating FAQs
Can you use AI without cheating?
AI can be a great tool with the potential to help with your coursework, but it only benefits you if you use it responsibly. Every professor has different rules and guidelines for using AI, so check with them before you fire up the tool for your assignments—and always cite your sources, even if your source is AI.
How can you avoid using AI without cheating?
AI can be useful with paper preparation and organization, such as the early stages of writing, like developing ideas and outlining, and the later stages, like feedback and citations. In other words, let AI write with you, not for you.
What are some examples of ways AI can help?
AI can be used to come up with ideas, outline, paraphrase, summarize, research, revise, and study.