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  • Zoe Becker

How Should You Cite AI in Your Essays?


“ChatGPT” by Ayele Gousseva


From sophomore speeches to senior projects to even Rookery articles, there has been a lot of buzz around artificial intelligence at Walls lately, and for good reason. Generative AI tools have the potential to reshape the way students learn. Despite all the buzz, many students are still in the dark about how they should and can be using AI. Walls’ AI policies, however, are not as complicated as they seem.


Walls’ new AI policy, introduced by department heads this school year, requires students to “cite AI like any other source,” in order to ensure academic honesty and integrity. The problem is that AI isn’t like any other source; it has the ability to generate unique ideas and text, in addition to offering information.


Humanities teacher Ginea Briggs clarif ied that asking ChatGPT for inspiration for a project is considered “a perfectly legitimate use of AI” and doesn’t have to be cited. For example, if students are conducting a debate and want argument ideas, they can refer to AI tools as a starting point.


In fact, Ms. Briggs even encouraged students to use AI to take the step of asking for inspiration when they’re feeling stuck on a particular assignment and to ask simple questions that they might otherwise ask their teacher about, such as about grammatical styles.


Walls students, too, are permitted to use tools like Grammarly which utilize AI in order to make minor syntactic and grammatical edits. While Ms. Briggs warned against using generative AI programs like ChatGPT for research purposes as they’re notorious for feeding users inaccurate information, she highlighted that there’s no prohibition against doing so and recognized that using a chatbot for research can help students save valuable time.


“A student was talking to me about The Manhattan Project,” she said, suggesting that the student could ask a generative AI tool to, “‘give me background about the Manhattan project.” “I would prefer if they used another source,” she added, “but I can see a student doing that, in which case they would need to cite it.”


Generative AI programs have a tendency to “hallucinate,” a phenomenon in which the AI simply makes up information as a result of a variety of factors including the way it was prompted.


If, for example, a student were to ask ChatGPT why the Manhattan Project occurred during World War I (instead of when it actually did, during World War II) the AI might not point out the error and instead invent information in order to answer the student’s question. Students should ask more open-ended questions in order to avoid suggesting inaccurate answers.


Additionally, as with any other research, students should briefly cross-check information they find through AI with other sources.


Actually creating a citation for AI is fairly simple. There is already a Chicago and APA standard for how to cite AI sources and while AI citations have not been added formally to the list most recent edition of MLA, a current advisory instructed writers “to adapt [existing] guidelines to fit the situation,” and offered recommendations on how to cite AI.


Based on current MLA advisory, a citation for a ChatGPT conversation about the Manhattan Project would look like this: “Give me background on the Manhattan Project” prompt. ChatGPT, 26 Mar. GPT 3.5, OpenAI, 26 Mar. 2024, chat.openai.com/chat.


In the citation, the prompt given to the generative AI should serve as the title, the AI itself (i.e. ChatGPT) is the container, the company which owns the AI serves as the publisher, and no author information is included.


Still, there are restrictions on AI use. Students can’t use AI for research in all contexts. While in a Humanities class, AI tools are acceptable if cited properly, that’s not the case in AP classes, where Walls students are prohibited from using a tool like ChatGPT to generate analysis for them.


Ms. Briggs, who teaches AP Research, stated that, “The College Board however made it absolutely clear that any analysis must be student analysis and that you are not allowed to use AI.”


The College Board lays out stringent regulations stating that students must interact with primary and secondary sources directly, instead of bypassing these sources by using AI for information or asking AI sources to synthesize existing material.

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