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ChatGPT can write your essays, but should you use it?

The answer's a bit more complicated than a simple yes or no.
By

Published onMarch 12, 2023

ChatGPT stock photo 8

With the rising popularity of online writing tools, you may be wondering: can I use ChatGPT to write my essays? If you’ve never used the chatbot, it can generate several paragraphs of text within a matter of seconds. That’s certainly faster than any human can type, but there are many limitations to using it too. Here’s everything you need to know about how ChatGPT fares at writing essays and whether you should use it.

QUICK ANSWER

ChatGPT can write essays, but it isn't always the best choice as it suffers from a few technical limitations. Additionally, you may want to avoid using it if your work will be graded or judged in any capacity.


JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

Can ChatGPT write student essays?

ChatGPT stock photo 5
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Yes, ChatGPT can write you an essay as it has been trained on a wide range of text. However, there are some downsides to using it for that purpose. For one, it lacks logical reasoning and critical thinking, qualities that are critical to writing an essay.

Generally speaking, writing an essay involves researching the topic, structuring your thoughts in a way that makes logical sense, and writing it in a convincing manner. ChatGPT can help you with each of these stages separately. However, it cannot fully replace a human presenting their own knowledge and opinion in an essay.

As for the actual writing part, ChatGPT can indeed generate an essay that looks and sounds like a human wrote it. However, the output is usually verbose and a bit simplistic, making it stand out in a professional setting. There are ways around this, however, as we’ll discuss in a later section. Some may also argue it’s unethical to use AI-generated text in essays as it doesn’t represent your views and thoughts.

ChatGPT can write essays, but can't do any of the analytical thinking for you.

So can you use ChatGPT to write essays responsibly? Absolutely — you can use it to detect spelling and grammatical mistakes in your own text. Likewise, ChatGPT can help with brainstorming new ideas or finding key points and angles.

For example, I asked ChatGPT to provide some potential angles on an essay titled “The negative effects of social media on society”. It told me that I could discuss how social media impacts mental health, aids the spread of misinformation and enables echo chambers. Finally, I requested ChatGPT to provide an outline that takes those points into consideration, which gave me a starting point for the essay.

Can professors tell if you use ChatGPT?

openai chatgpt detector classifier
Online tools can detect AI-generated text

Yes, teachers and professors now have access to online tools that can detect AI-generated text. Chatbots like ChatGPT work by using a machine learning-based model to predict future words using statistical probability. Humans, on the other hand, tend to piece together words much more randomly. So with a little bit of knowledge about how ChatGPT works, it’s not hard to weed out AI-generated text.

Educators can use online tools to detect if a particular piece of text was written by ChatGPT.

OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, already has an AI classifier that detects whether or not a certain piece of text was written by a computer. Likewise, GPTZero provides professors with plagiarism scores for text. It also highlights sentences that it suspects have been written by an AI. These tools become increasingly accurate as the length of the text increases, so it’s harder to evade detection if you’re using ChatGPT to write longer essays.

Should I use ChatGPT to write an essay?

chatgpt outline
Calvin Wankhede / Android Authority
ChatGPT can create essay outlines

Generally speaking, you should not use ChatGPT to write an essay for school for the simple reason that you cannot pass off someone else’s work as yours. Moreover, many educational institutions have strict policies against plagiarism. Using ChatGPT to write an essay may be viewed as a breach of academic integrity. Some boards, including New York City’s public schools, have explicitly banned ChatGPT on student networks and devices for this very reason.

If you writing a research paper, you’ll also need to properly cite your sources. And as you may already know, ChatGPT cannot provide citations or links to external sources as it doesn’t have access to the internet. In fact, that’s one of the major differences between ChatGPT and Bing Chat — the latter provides sources for factual statements. Unfortunately, the latter’s Creative only includes a handful of sources — not enough to use in a professional piece of literature.

ChatGPT cannot cite sources or references for your essay or research paper.

Without citations, you also cannot guarantee the accuracy of ChatGPT’s responses. That’s likely not a problem if you’re writing an essay on a well-known concept. However, the chatbot can quickly go off the rails when it’s writing about obscure topics.

ChatGPT’s underlying GPT-3 language model was only trained on a limited number of text samples. That likely didn’t include organic chemistry, regional laws, and philosophical debates to name a few. In other words, it might not fare well in a liberal arts setting. ChatGPT will rarely turn you down if you force it to write about something it doesn’t know much about, but it will likely respond with fictional or made-up information.

How to use ChatGPT to write an essay

ChatGPT stock photo 7
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

If you want ChatGPT to write a high-quality essay, you’ll need to provide a clear input prompt. If you provide a single keyword, like “global warming”, you’ll get a generic output. To avoid this, you can offer more specific terms and topics that you need to be included in your essay. For example, you could use the prompt “Write an essay on global warming and its effects on Australian wildfires” to add some context.

In case you’ve never used ChatGPT before, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use it:

  1. Go to the ChatGPT website.
  2. Click Sign up and create a new account with your email address.
  3. Once logged in, you’ll see a text box at the bottom of the page. This is where you enter your prompts.
  4. From this point, you can ask ChatGPT to write an essay on just about any subject you can think of. Remember to be as specific as possible. If you need to include certain ideas, specify them in the input prompt.

With longer essays, you might run into ChatGPT’s hidden character limit before it can generate the whole text. If that happens, simply ask the chatbot to continue from where it left off. Alternatively, you can ask ChatGPT to write an outline for your essay before generating it one section at a time.