When ChatGPT was first introduced, students were among the early adopters. The AI program was quickly used to write essays for their classes as well as college admissions and scholarship applications.
As the AI content generator became more of a household name, many businesses followed suit and embraced the program as a way to write their content.
There’s no denying that ChatGPT is a powerful tool, but there are ethical concerns when it comes to using it, especially with content generation. However, students and employees alike have often made the mistake of using the technology to pass writing off as their own. If you decide to use ChatGPT in your content, whether for in house documentation, marketing, or any other use, it’s important to cite the tool properly. This will help ensure readers can go to the source if necessary while also giving credit where credit is due.
What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is not a content generator – it is an AI chatbot. Launched in November 2022, the tool was developed by OpenAI. Users can enter prompts to have a conversation with the chatbot, generate content, receive code, among other tasks. ChatGPT delivers cost and time savings to businesses and can solve a number of unique challenges for users. However, there are concerns when it comes to ethics, security, reliability, and sources.
Where Does ChatGPT Get Its Content?
ChatGPT gets its data through a variety of sources, including web scraping, knowledge databases, open data sources, social media, and user feedback. AI chatbots and content generators collect and store the data found and gathered from these sources that can then be drawn upon when a user asks a relevant question.
How Can You Use ChatGPT in Your Work?
ChatGPT can be used in several different ways, including:
- Meeting summaries
- Analyzation of data
- Content generation and editing
- Report summaries
- Automation of tasks
- Planning and scheduling
How Should You Cite Content Generated By ChatGPT?
When using content generated by ChatGPT, it is important to not pass the work off as your own. There are three major reasons for this:
- Doing so can cause an ethical dilemma. For example, you could be presenting yourself as a better writer or expert in a particular subject by simply using ChatGPT’s content without being the content originator.
- Readers may need to verify the information presented in the content. They need to know where you got your information in order to do their own research. This is especially the case with reports – if it’s unclear where you got your data, it can be extremely hard to verify later.
- How ChatGPT gathers content has sparked debates about the rightful ownership of the AI-generated output. You want to be sure you’re giving credit where credit is due to avoid plagiarism claims or lawsuits down the line.
So how should you cite the content that ChatGPT gives you after you enter a prompt?
What Does ChatGPT Say On the Subject?
If you ask ChatGPT, “How would you go about citing ChatGPT as a source?” the program returns with the following suggestions and recommendations for citation:
“When citing ChatGPT as a source, you can follow the guidelines below:
In-text citation: When referencing information obtained from ChatGPT in the body of your text, you can mention it as a conversation with an AI language model. For example: According to a conversation with an AI language model (ChatGPT, 2023), …
(ChatGPT, 2023) suggests that…
Reference list: In the reference list, provide the necessary information to identify the conversation and its source. Here is an example format:
ChatGPT. (date). Conversation with an AI language model. [Chat transcript]. Retrieved from [insert URL or platform where the conversation took place]
Note: Since ChatGPT is an AI language model and doesn’t have a specific author, you can use the model’s name as the author name in the citation.
For the retrieval information, if the conversation took place on a specific website or platform, provide the URL or the name of the platform. If the conversation took place privately or in a closed setting, you can mention that the conversation is unavailable to the public.
It’s important to note that while ChatGPT can provide helpful information, it’s always a good practice to verify and corroborate the information obtained from AI models with other reliable and authoritative sources.”
Citing Your ChatGPT-Generated Content
The above citation format is an excellent way to give ChatGPT credit for its content. However, for some areas of your work, you may need to take it a step further.
When data is involved, for example, citing ChatGPT alone won’t be enough. You need to identify where they received that information, and ChatGPT may not be able to give you specific sources.
We asked the chatbot, “How many undergraduate applications did Harvard receive in 2019?” ChatGPT returned with, “Harvard College received a total of 43,330 undergraduate applications for the 2019-2020 admissions cycle. This information is based on official data released by Harvard University.” While it did mention the official data released by Harvard University, it was unable to give us any source information beyond that such as a link to an official press release.
In this case, we had to look for the original source, (The Harvard Gazette’s article from 2019 matched the information ChatGPT gave us).
In the event you need to cite data or other information, such as The Harvard Gazette, you should follow the citation guidelines of your company’s style, such as MLA, AP, and Chicago.
Tips for Using Content Generated by ChatGPT
If your organization decides to use content generated by ChatGPT, make sure to follow these tips:
Don’t Rely On it For Up-to-Date Information
ChatGPT has only been fed information up until September 2021. As a result, the chatbot is unable to give you any data beyond date, so getting up to date, accurate information through this source is likely impossible.
Double Check Facts, Data, and Sources
Content generated by ChatGPT can and has been wrong. Just recently, two lawyers in New York used ChatGPT in their lawsuit against Colombian Airline Avianca. The problem was that the AI program cited court cases that simply didn’t exist – ChatGPT made them up. Furthermore, AI models have even been caught citing one another as sources!
ChatGPT also informs users that information can be inaccurate on the conversation page, and, in their messaging above regarding citations, suggests that users “…verify and corroborate information….” This suggestion applies to all AI generation tools, not just ChatGPT.
Don’t Skip Editing
As impressive as it is, ChatGPT is still a robot. Editing is required not only for facts, clarity, and accuracy, but also for the human touch. If the content is coming off as too clinical, your readers may quickly lose interest. AI can’t edit for tone.
Know When Using AI Content is Beneficial – And When It’s Not
ChatGPT can certainly create content, but it shouldn’t be used for all types of content. Instead of using the program to produce polished content, think of it as a springboard.
For example, when it comes to technical writing, chatbots and AI content generators can miss key points that make technical writing different from other types of writing. Technical writing must:
- Be very straightforward.
- Be clear of jargon.
- Understand technical principles.
ChatGPT is not capable of understanding the context of the project, will likely not match the writing styles of existing content, and doesn’t have the best grasp of technical principles. It also lacks the ability to adhere to all the guidelines, laws, and ethics that can be important to a technical writing piece.
However, ChatGPT can help technical writers gather their thoughts and better explain complex ideas in their writing, too.
As with any source of your information, citation is important, and using ChatGPT for your content is no exception. If you decide to use this AI chatbot or other content generation tools, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. By following the right citation guidelines, you can possibly save yourself and others from headaches and potential lawsuits down the line.
Have you recently used ChatGPT to create technical writing content for your business? We can help ensure it meets the guidelines of your industry while also providing the necessary information to your end users. Get in touch with us to learn more about our technical writing services today.