The latest AI system is becoming increasingly popular, for good reasons – and maybe for the not-so-good. As it promises to be 100% non-plagiarised, many university students are understandably wondering whether they can use ChatGPT to write an essay. And more importantly – should they? ChatGPT – or similar AI platforms – can be handy for writing assignments, but there’s a lot you should consider beforehand. Keep reading to find out the benefits of ChatGPT for essay writing, and what you absolutely shouldn’t use it for!

How ChatGPT CAN help with assignments

Here are the various ways ChatGPT can help you with essay writing:

Finding ideas

mind map brainstorming essay writing

ChatGPT can act like a friend you brainstorm ideas with. If you need to think of a topic, or an angle, you can discuss this with the AI platform. ChatGPT is quite good at generating ideas, as well as suggesting alternative topics or subtopics to explore. It’s a good idea to use it for narrowing down your ideas, but you may need to check if it’s relevant to today. After all, ChatGPT doesn’t have access to the latest news.

Summarising literature

chatgpt can help you write essays by summarising literature

One of the most tempting things to do is ask ChatGPT to write your literature review for you. But there are lots of reasons why you shouldn’t (see below). However, you can use it to summarise studies you find. If you’ve read like 1,000 articles and need a short-hand version of it, ChatGPT can come in handy. This is a great way you can use ChatGPT to write an essay, without it actually writing it. It’s a bit like scanning abstracts, but you can ask it to pick out things.

For example, what methodology did they use, or provide an overview of the findings. Once you know which articles are relevant to your study, you can then read them in depth. This will save you time and prevent you reading non-related studies.

Rewriting sentences

We all get mental blocks from time to time. And this often comes when we have to write assignments. But this is where ChatGPT can come to be really useful, and you can use it to write an essay. When you’re struggling for words, or simply can’t write what you want to say in a cohesive sentence – ask ChatGPT to ‘rewrite’ it. You can then tweak and edit it so it matches the tone you want, and ensure it’s how you want it to sound. As ChatGPT often uses the same sentence structures, it’s a good idea to rework them again yourself, which should be easier.

Research

Of course, the AI model isn’t going to jump from the screen and go and interview participants for you, but it can help with research. It can clarify research methods, as well as suggest which appropriate statistical techniques or methods you should use. Moreover, ChatGPT can also provide guidance on data interpretation and visualisation to help you better understand their research findings.

Editing your work

can you use ChatGPT to write an essay?

From checking style and tone, to pointing out grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and syntax issues. ChatGPT can help with the overall flow, as well as the clarity and coherence of their writing. As the super clever robot that it is, it can suggest alternative phrasing or rewording to improve the overall quality of the essay. But as mentioned, it does often prefer the same repetitive sentence structures and words, so it’s best to use your own intuition here.

Referencing

ChatGPT can provide assistance with citations and formatting. It can help students properly cite sources within their essays and provide guidance on the appropriate citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.). However, it’s a good idea to check it out for yourself as this is super important for markers. You’ll also need to make sure you ask for the right type of referencing specified by your university.

Language support

can you use ChatGPT to write an essay? language support

If English isn’t your first language, or you struggle with English grammar and spelling (who doesn’t?), ChatGPT can be of assistance. It can suggest alternative phrasing or provide explanations for confusing grammar rules. It can also suggest synonyms or alternative words to help students express their ideas more clearly. You could also try writing what you want to say in your own words/language and ask ChatGPT to translate them for you.

How ChatGPT CAN’T help with assignments

While ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for writing essays, there are some limitations to keep in mind. Here are some things that ChatGPT can’t do!

Write a literature review

can you use ChatGPT to write an essay?

While we stated ChatGPT can be very useful at sifting through articles and journals, this is when you give specific information to summarise. If you ask it to write a literature review, it will do it – very convincingly too! But if you try and google the sources it advises, they won’t appear anywhere. That’s because ChatGPT uses predictive modelling, and basically comes up with what it thinks could be the best possible answer. So it invents plausible citations. BIG NO!

Be critical

Most academic essays and assignments require critical analysis and thinking. This is human, and requires the human mind. You can feed things into ChatGPT to get information back, but the actual critical thinking needs to come from you. This is what will also make your assignment unique.

Provide feedback on subjective elements

can you use ChatGPT to write an essay?

In a similar vein, ChatGPT can get very sassy if you ask it to do things that require an opinion. It often answers back ‘As an AI model, I’m not accustomed to….”. So this is where your individual interpretation and critical thinking will need to come in. In other words, you can use ChatGPT to write an essay, but not to think for you.

Be original

While ChatGPT can help with writing tips and suggestions, it cannot guarantee originality in an essay. It is still up to you to ensure that your work is original and not plagiarised. It’s worth running anything written by ChatGPT (and not written by ChatGPT for that matter) in Grammarly. Grammarly detects plagiarism as well as lots of other helpful issues like spelling, grammar and tone.

Be up-to-date and provide context

chatgpt is not up to date

While ChatGPT is very good at generating language, it may not always fully understand the context in which the language is being used. This can lead to suggestions or responses that may not be entirely relevant or appropriate for the essay topic. It self proclaims:

As an AI language model, my knowledge and training are constantly updated and expanded. My current knowledge cutoff is September 2021, but this may change as I continue to learn and improve. ChatGPT

So, can you use ChatGPT to write an essay?

Well the short answer is yes. ChatGPT can be really helpful. But it’s important you only use it in certain ways. Don’t rely on it for up-to-date information or – as tempting as it may be – to write your whole assignment. You will be found out!

If you want more tips on how to write an essay, we’ve got all sorts. Starting with how to write a dissertation introduction, to what goes in the conclusion.