AI is here--why not take the most out of its features and learn how to use it for good, like using ChatGPT for essay writing?

How to (correctly!) use ChatGPT for essay writing

AI is here, and it won't go anywhere. So why not take the most out of its features and learn how to use it for good?

Key points:

Since OpenAI’s ChatGPT launch in November 2022, it continues to bother teachers. No wonder:

The tool has a fascinating ability to craft texts that look like a human wrote them. Influencing the education niche, it’s a game-changer in the classroom. Not only does it make educators revise their approach to teaching academic writing, but some still see it as a threat to students’ academic integrity.

ChatGPT generates original texts. So, plagiarism checkers don’t see them as copied. How to know if a student uses AI to cheat on written assignments? More than that:

If students often ask ChatGPT to generate essays or make those essays longer, their writing and communication skills will suffer. We know that technologies affect how people read, write, and think. Possessing the ability to craft coherent essays, students negate the value of writing as a process responsible for critical thinking.

However, the devil is not as black as we paint it. ChatGPT isn’t as intelligent as many believe. It’s unable to craft creative and insightful texts. All it does is take the patterns from online and combine words into grammatically correct yet generic sentences without understanding the context. It often makes mistakes, introducing wrong statements as true ones.

Given the above, it may seem that ChatGPT is a terrible tool worth neglecting. But:

When used right, it can be a helpful hand in academic writing. If used as an assistant, not a performer, this tool will enhance a student’s productivity and prevent writer’s block and burnout.

Below are five ways students can (correctly!) use ChatGPT for essay and research paper writing.

1. Brainstorm and generate essay topics

While teachers often assign particular essay topics to students, sometimes a prompt says they are free to write on anything they want. And that’s where the challenge comes:

A student sits and wonders what topic is relevant to the subject and requirements. Is it argumentative yet affordable enough to cover? Will it have the potential to get a high grade? How to craft the title so it fits the format of an assigned paper type?

ChatGPT can help brainstorm topic ideas for an essay. The tool will generate a few titles based on a subject, interests, or assignment requirements. All a student will need is to pick the topic that best fits the query and adjust it to their assignment.

2. Develop thesis statements

A strong thesis is a must for A-worthy essays to have. Students need to state it in 1-2 sentences of the paper’s introduction to outline its main argument or point.

A thesis statement is the heart of a research paper. Its concise yet clear formulation is critical for the paper’s success: This sentence makes readers understand the argument and the issues a student will cover in the work. ChatGPT can help develop thesis statements for papers:

Give it the topic and the arguments you plan to present in your essay. The tool can save you time and compose a strong thesis outlining the point.

More than that, students can use thesis statements by ChatGPT as samples. They’ll see how to write and format this essay element and know how to do it without a tool’s help in the future.

3. Create essay outlines

Before they start writing a paper, it would help to craft its detailed outline. Essay outlines provide structure to texts. With such a plan at hand, the writing process will flow more easily: A student will see what to write in each paragraph, and they won’t stumble upon the arguments or evidence to mention there.

ChatGPT can help students outline the main sections, subtopics, and supporting points to use in essays. Thus, they ensure they won’t miss any information on the topic and that their draft flows logically.

It stands to reason that a student shouldn’t take essay outlines by ChatGPT for granted. They can use them as templates to adjust to their assignments: remove, revise, or add more appropriate sections to the work if needed.

4. Expand essay content

It’s not about making an essay longer but developing it for better quality.

If you’ve crafted the main arguments but need to expand on your ideas, ChatGPT can help develop them. Ask it to provide explanations, examples, and relevant information to support your points.

It’s a great tool to save students’ time on academic research. Given it crawls the internet to find relevant patterns based on your prompt, it can generate references within seconds. Users will have facts, quotes, statistics, and other data to mention in their papers.

It’s critical not to believe each piece of information the tool represents. It’s worth re-checking to ensure it’s still relevant and up-to-date. As said, ChatGPT makes mistakes and can present false info as if it’s true. Plus, it often provides inaccurate or biased data about issues it calls controversial: politics, religion, etc.

5. Proofread and edit essays

Once the essay is ready, ChatGPT can assist in reviewing and editing it. It will identify grammatical errors, suggest sentence restructuring for better clarity, and offer general proofreading assistance.

How to help the tool understand the context better:

Mention the citation style you need (APA, MLA, etc.) so it will review your document accordingly. Tell about the necessary tone of voice: Do you need your research paper to sound super academic, with corresponding lexical items, technical terms, complex sentences, etc.? Or, maybe a more conversational tone and writing from the first person is also applicable?

Final words

AI tools have pros and cons, and we can understand and justify teachers’ doubts about this technology. They worry about academic integrity, the risks for students to lose critical thinking and communication skills, as well as negate the value of writing.

But you know what?

AI is here, and it won’t go anywhere. So why not take the most out of its features and learn how to use it for good? Essay writing is not about placing words on paper; tools like ChatGPT can make this process more creative, inspiring, efficient, and productive.

Related: 6 tips to detect AI-generated student work

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