How do I use (generative) AI responsibly?

To use AI responsibly, there are a few points you should keep in mind. When deciding whether to use a certain AI tool in your academic assignments, you can use the below step-by-step guide to ensure all of them are taken into account.

1. Check your course guide

First check your course guide to see whether (and in what way) you may use GenAI in your course. In case there is no information in your course guide, using AI to generate the content of your assignments is considered fraud.

2. Do not use AI as a replacement of skills

Don’t use AI as a replacement for essential academic skills (figure 2). Instead, use AI tools in ways that support and enhance those skills. A list of possible uses is provided here.

Figure 2

ChatGPT, when prompted to rewrite the above point as a catchy slogan: "Empowering my mind with AI, elevating thoughts to reach the sky. But halt the bots if they halt my wit, 'cause thinking big is the ultimate hit!"

3. Think of the limitations

Thirdly, it is crucial to be mindful of the AI tool’s limitations. These will differ depending on the specific tool. What are they, and do they pose a problem for your specific use case? Are you able to work around them? Based on the answers to these questions, make an informed decision on whether to use the tool, in what way, and for what purpose. 

Example: ChatGPT

The usage of ChatGPT poses numerous risks. For example, there is no guarantee that its output is true. In addition, it might perpetuate bias, and it was trained on a limited dataset, that stretches only up until 2021. Keeping this in mind, ask yourself the following questions: does it matter that the information ChatGPT outputs might be incorrect? Am I able to verify its correctness? Am I able and willing to take responsibility for its (in)correctness (considering that the Examining Boards hold me accountable for the correctness of my texts)? You can use the flowchart by UNESCO in figure 3 to evaluate whether using ChatGPT is safe in your case. Be aware that this evaluation is only based on the quality of the output, not on the other ethical issues.

Figure 3

Figure with step-by-step guide to determine when it is safe to use ChatGPT

Note. From “ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence in higher education: Quick start guide” by UNESCO, 2023, ( Copyright 2023 by UNESCO.

4. Prompting

Do your research on how to write good prompts in order to use your AI tool most effectively. What kind of input does it expect? What can you include in your prompt to improve the quality of the tool’s output?

5. Be critical

Always critically evaluate the (correctness of) the output of your specific AI tool, and compare it to other sources of information.

6. Data security

Mind your data security: anything that you feed into (generative) AI tools like ChatGPT may be stored by the company indefinitely, and might be used in unspecified ways. This means that you should both think carefully about what personal information you provide them, and that you should not upload any sensitive data. Be aware that some databases/chair groups/internship companies/etc. might not allow you to share their data with AI tools.

7. Sustainability

Think about sustainability: (generative) AI tools require vast amounts of computer processing power. As a result, they use vast amounts of energy. Therefore, consider not using AI tools like ChatGPT when a less energy-intensive alternative, or not using a tool at all, is an option.

8. Reference the AI you're using

For some citation styles (e.g. APA, MLA, and Chicago), guidelines exist on how to properly cite generative AI (McAdoo, 2023; MLA, 2023; The University of Chicago, n.d.). As an example, when using APA it is recommended to include a description on how you used the specific tool, your prompt, and relevant portions of its output in a relevant section of your paper (this could be the methods section, or the introduction). You may want to put the AI tool’s full output in an appendix (or, if applicable, in the online supplementary materials) (McAdoo, 2023).

Example: Citing ChatGPT in APA

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Mar 14 version) [Large language model].

Parenthetical citation: (OpenAI, 2023)

Narrative citation: OpenAI (2023)