Artificial Intelligence sparks fears over plagiarism

With finals week fast approaching, some educators worry about students using Artificial Intelligence to do their homework for them.

ChatGPT is an AI tool released in November that allows users to input prompts and it will generate original written language. The tool scans the billions of Internet pages and uses data to input the next logical word based on the prompt. It can be used for a variety of tasks such as answering emails, writing advertisements, and even writing code, but some teachers worry about students using the tool to write their essays for them. 

This spring was the first full semester of ChatGPT and it has only escalated in popularity, leading to various payment plans with more features in addition to the free version. Potential changes to academic integrity policies are currently up in the air across the United States. Current plagiarism policies are focused on attempts to pass off another human’s work as their own, but this AI could spark a shift in what we view as original ideas, and to what extent does using these resources constitute original work.

Not everyone sees it as a problem, some have compared ChatGPT to other virtual writing assistants like Spell Check or Grammarly, and many believe the bot’s generic quality writing will be obvious if a student were to pass off ChatGPT’s copy for their own.

However, Minnesota State Technical Communication Prof. Abigail Bakke says educators need to learn this tool for themselves because, although right now the language isn’t perfect, the technology will continue to improve and give more human-like responses.

“I think it’s really important for professors to acknowledge that this exists and that it’s going to be tempting to use it, that it might actually put out really realistic and legitimate responses,” Bakke said, adding that comparisons should be analyzed in class to help students understand its uses and limitations.

“I don’t think that it is wise at this point to ignore it, or completely prohibit it, because students are going to use it anyway,” Bakke said. “The question for professors is, do you want them to use it in an informed way, or an uninformed way?”

Bakke said she advises instructors not to use AI detectors, as they can be unreliable and “set up an antagonistic relationship between instructors and students,” which will hinder the learning environment. “I think transparency on the part of both instructor and student will be important.”

Other professors shared this thought that ChatGPT should be worked into lessons for next semester and beyond, including Professor Matt Connolly, Film Studies, and Professor Kelly Moreland, Rhetoric and Composition.

Connolly said he first heard about the tool in November right before finals week, and said he saw concerns amongst colleagues at this unknown writing instrument.

“It seems like kind of a tricky case,” Connolly said about the conundrum of implementing this into plagiarism policies. “I’m sure as we sort of get a better sense of the real ins and outs of ChatGPT as a technology, maybe we’ll be able to hone or fine tune those policies a bit more to really target the things we don’t want students to do versus the things that we say are more permissible.”

Moreland said one of her students showed her their paper compared to a ChatGPT generated paper with the same prompt,  and the difference, in this instance, was clear to her.

“Because that is my area of expertise, I recognize the names that my students are citing, and I can tell right away that they are seeing the right people and engaging in the right conversations,” Moreland said, adding that this prompt was campus specific. “But, if I had not been working with the student all semester on their project, and checking in consistently on how the writing was going, I probably would not have known that it was ChatGPT. It was a finely written paper, I guess, but it was not to the standard that I know that student can do based on my previous work with them.”

With so much uncertainty about this tool and its implications on the academic and professional world, possibly the most clear thing for students to do now is to hone in their skills to set themselves apart from AI to potential employers.

No matter what educators choose to do about ChatGPT, businesses will continue to use it to efficiently put out content without the time or cost of human labor, meaning it is in students’ best interests to learn what it can do and how they will measure up.

“Lean into the aspects of your writing talent that are specific and nuanced, because those are going to be the skill sets that are going to allow you to say to a potential employer who, in the back of their mind is thinking ‘I can farm out this job to AI,’” Connolly said. “Here are the things you can bring to the table. Here is the creativity, here is the cultural specificity and sophistication that you are not necessarily going to get with that piece of machinery.”

Header photo: Professors have to be more diligent in their grading of papers as the Artificial Intelligence app, ChatGPT, is on the rise. (Phedias Pierides/The Reporter)

Write to Carly Bahr at

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