Academic Honesty & Plagiarism

What Academic Honesty is, why it matters, and how to build your own academic integrity

Plagiarism & Academic Dishonesty/ Honesty and the Case of AI

Academic Integrity:

AI belongs in a conversation about Academic Honesty and Plagiarism because of its ability to generate sophisticated responses, such as essays and summaries, to prompts. The general expectation with school work is that students turn in work that is their own, including their own thinking, reasoning, research and writing, unless the instructor communicates other expectations. 

Turning in work created completely or partially by AI as your own work, therefore, is academic dishonesty and plagiarism.

When you do use ideas and/or content (language, images, code, etc.) created by an AI tool, we recommend that you be transparent about it.

  • MLA: MLA recommends citing the AI tool for all content it generates, whether paraphrased or directly used (quotation, image, etc); noting how it was used; and vetting the sources it recommends. It also recommends against naming the AI tool as author.
  • APA: While APA has not yet developed formal guidelines for citing AI-generated content in APA style, it recommends treating the AI tool as the author of the algorithmic output and providing a descriptive citation crediting the source. Because the AI-generated content is unique to that search, APA suggests that the citation only provide the root of the URL, as in the following for chatGPT: 
  • Please use the links below for more info from Holman Library on citing AI-generated content with MLA and APA styles.

An additional point to consider: One of the reasons we cite sources is to provide a clear path to the sources of information we use, so others can check our evidence and test the validity of that source. The content generated by AI tools is not stable. While you may be able to provide a link back to your specific search, that content was generated uniquely in response to your query and it reflects the information uploaded to the AI database at that moment and your specific prompt. Other searches on the same or another day will produce different results. None of it is edited or fact-checked at all. 

For any academic work, be sure to check with your instructor for information on what uses of AI are allowed in their class.

Click on each of the tabs in this box to learn more about:

  • what generative AI is,
  • ways AI can serve as a tool that supports but doesn't take the place of your original work,
  • and some of the reliability and ethical problems with AI.  

What is Generative AI?

  • AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the capacity of a computer system to process and respond to information in ways that  are human-like.
  • Generative AI refers to AI models that respond to human language (commands, questions, prompts, etc.) by producing, or generating, new content, including conversation, texts, code, and creative media, that responds to the prompt. Generative AI accomplishes this by using deep learning to analyze and find patterns in enormous amounts of information and using that content and training to predict and generate responses.
  • One of the most common generative AI tools we hear about is ChatGPT, a powerful AI that quickly generates text, images, code, media, and other responses. There are many other AI tools, including Google Bard, Elicit, and Perplexity.

How can Generative AI be Useful for Schoolwork?

A generative AI tool like ChatGPT can be useful in many ways - as long as your instructor approves! (very important to check with them FIRST)

For example, it can help you do the following (and you can cut and paste these example prompts directly into ChatGPT if you wish):

  • select a topic
    • example prompt: Suggest potential research areas based on my interests in [Your area of interest]. Please ask me at least 4 questions before you answer to stimulate my thinking and give specific examples on how my interests align with research areas
  • take a broad starting interest, like climate change, and narrow it down into more specific research issues
    • example prompt: Assist me in narrowing my research scope. Suggest potential subtopics or angles to explore within [Your Research Topic]. Please ask me at least 4 questions before you answer to stimulate my thinking and explain your thinking on the relevance and significance of these subtopics
  • take a specific issue or subject and suggest academic research questions
    • example prompt: Provide examples of well-structured research questions for [Your Research Topic]. Please ask me at least 4 questions before you answer to stimulate my thinking and give specific examples behind the structure and context of these research questions
  • test arguments and consider other opinions
    • example prompt: I believe [insert your idea here]. What would be at least five arguments given by different stakeholders who disagree with me?  Provide a description of each stakeholder.
  • identify keywords connected to a research topic
    • example prompt: First, help me brainstorm keywords and phrases for my research questions about [Your Research Topic] and explain your thinking on how to choose effective search terms. Then, Please ask me at least 2 questions to stimulate my thinking about keywords
  • identify key points from a source, including scholarly articles
    • example prompt: What are the main key points or takeaways related to this text: [paste in source text]
  • analyze data
    • example prompt: What are the three main takeaways or key insights from the data listed here [paste in data table]
  • ...and generally, summarize, research, review, and analyze ideas.

AI and Misinformation and Disinformation

When you include sources in a researched essay, presentation, or other original work, you try to include the most reliable evidence you can find. This points to the most significant drawbacks of AI-generated content. 


Generative AI tools are fed huge amounts of information - generally from freely available, open sources on the Web, though some of that content may be proprietary. Freely available generative- AI tools are not set up to dig within locked databases. AI tools "want" to provide a response when prompted, but those responses are limited by the information the AI has to work with and by the prompts they are given. AI responses may completely miss the point, provide poor information, or even manufacture, or "hallucinate," fake studies when asked to provide evidence for claims.


Generative AI tools have also been used to create disinformation, or misinformation designed with malicious intent. The fact that it can be very difficult to tell when information is disinformation is a significant problem for us all. Examples of AI generated disinformation have been discussed in the press and they include photographs, news stories, videos, and other content fabricated for political purposes. The information includes photography, videos, news stories, and more, that gain traction by being spread through social media. The link below from the technology news publication CNET is just one news story on the issue. 

AI and Copyright Ethics

While you should always cite AI tools to acknowledge any information gathered or created with the aid of an AI tool, the creators of many AI tools are themselves not necessarily using information ethically. That is because:

  • AI tools draw from information that is available on the Web. That information may, however, be copyrighted and being used without permission.
  • AI tools, additionally, do not credit the sources of the information they generate. 

News publications, such as The New York Times, are considering law suits against AI companies for the practice of "scraping" their content from the Web, while copyright infringement law suits from well-known artists and authors are already in the courts.