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ChatGPT and text-based AI

Text-based Generative AI tools like ChatGPT can be useful for you when you are brainstorming topic ideas or trying to come up with keywords to use to search on a specific topic. Remember that these tools are NOT sources of knowledge -- they are fluency-based text-language generators ("large language models"), which means that they literally guess what word comes next.

ChatGPT cannot yet find specific peer-reviewed articles, but it can help you get ideas for how to search for scholarship. It can suggest keywords, search strings, and format citations. 

Example: I asked ChatGPT for some keywords to search for sources on the Conquest of Mexico. ChatGPT generated the following list, is mostly fine until about the 15th option:

Here are some keywords that you could use to research the conquest of Mexico:

Hernán Cortés, Aztecs, Montezuma II, Spanish Conquest, Tenochtitlan, Indigenous peoples of Mexico, Conquistadors, New Spain, Mesoamerica, Nahuatl language, Mexica, Tlaxcala, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, La Malinche, (less-than-accurate keywords begin here): Francisco Pizarro (best known for expeditions that led to conquest of Peru - not Mexico), Inca Empire (The primary indigenous empire of Peru), Conquest of Peru, Colonialism (too broad), Imperialism (too broad), Indigenous resistance (too broad)

You can prompt ChatGPT to be more specific in one or more areas, but note that the same will happen - a mix of good ideas, wrong ideas, and overly broad suggestions. 

In addition to ChatGPT, there are several other AI tools that are similarly useful.

The ROBOT Test

When we are doing research online, we need to think critically about the sources we use and if we want to build our research off these sources. Some questions we ask ourselves are:

  • How relevant is this to my research?
  • Who/what published this? When was it published? 
  • Why was this published?
  • Where did the information in here come from? 

We also must ask ourselves questions when using AI software tools. The LibrAIry has created the ROBOT test to consider when using AI technology.







  • How reliable is the information available about the AI technology?
  • If it’s not produced by the party responsible for the AI, what are the author’s credentials? Bias?
  • If it is produced by the party responsible for the AI, how much information are they making available? 
    • Is information only partially available due to trade secrets?
    • How biased is they information that they produce?


  • What is the goal or objective of the use of AI?
  • What is the goal of sharing information about it?
    • To inform?
    • To convince?
    • To find financial support?


  • What could create bias in the AI technology?
  • Are there ethical issues associated with this?
  • Are bias or ethical issues acknowledged?
    • By the source of information?
    • By the party responsible for the AI?
    • By its users?


  • Who is the owner or developer of the AI technology?
  • Who is responsible for it?
    • Is it a private company?
    • The government?
    • A think tank or research group?
  • Who has access to it?
  • Who can use it?


  • Which subtype of AI is it?
  • Is the technology theoretical or applied?
  • What kind of information system does it rely on?
  • Does it rely on human intervention? 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

To cite in APA: Hervieux, S. & Wheatley, A. (2020). The ROBOT test [Evaluation tool]. The LibrAIry.

Like all of us, AI makes mistakes

Poet Joy Buolamwini shares "AI, Ain't I A Woman " - a spoken word piece that highlights the ways in which artificial intelligence can misinterpret the images of iconic black women: Oprah, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Shirley Chisholm.

This spoken word piece was inspired by Gender Shades, a research investigation that uncovered gender and skin-type bias in facial analysis technology from leading tech companies.

Read more on MIT's Black History Archive

How to Cite AI Tools

There is no consensus on how to easily cite AI software tools in your papers, as it's difficult to track where the information is pulled from. 

One librarian at the University of Calgary, Paul Pival, on his blog "This Distant Librarian" discusses some of the current information he and his colleagues have said based on what citation styles are saying: 

  • OpenAI released an update to ChatGPT, which reinforces why it's so important to include that date of access in your citation: ChatGPT just got an update that makes its responses more accurate.
  • "The APA Style team is currently collecting feedback about citing, quoting, and using ChatGPT and fielding related questions about large language models so that we can construct official guidelines about how to document their usage. What follows is some interim guidance in response to your question, but it should not be considered the final word. Please keep an eye on the APA Style website and the APA Style Blog for a more definitive and detailed update and guidelines on this topic.
    • Because the purpose of references is to direct readers to the specific sources that a writer used, hopefully the text that ChatGPT generates in any particular chat can be saved, is shareable, or is otherwise retrievable. If so, the reference format in Section 10.10 (Software) can be used, with the company (“OpenAI”) as author, not “ChatGPT.” If the chat has no title, a description in square brackets (that ideally includes information on what prompts were used) would be created. That would give us the following:

      OpenAI. (2023, January 17). [ChatGPT response to a prompt about three prominent themes in Emily Dickinson’s poetry].

    • If the text that ChatGPT generates is not retrievable or shareable, then it falls into our catch-all “personal communication” category, where you cite with an in-text only citation: “(OpenAI, personal communication, January 16, 2023).” 

    • Read more from APA style here: 

  • As of May, 2023, the Chicago Manual of Style does not require crediting ChatGPT or similar tools whenever you use the text that they generate in your own work:

    Q. How do you recommend citing content developed or generated by artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT? Many scholarly publishers are requiring its identification though also requiring human authors to take responsibility for it and will not permit the AI to have “authorship.”
    A. You do need to credit ChatGPT and similar tools whenever you use the text that they generate in your own work. But for most types of writing, you can simply acknowledge the AI tool in your text (e.g., “The following recipe for pizza dough was generated by ChatGPT”).
    If you need a more formal citation—for example, for a student paper or for a research article—a numbered footnote or endnote might look like this:
    1. Text generated by ChatGPT, March 7, 2023, OpenAI,

Other information about citing can be found in the links below: