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Chat GPT - AI Literacy

Best practices for using Chat GPT in your Research

What Is ChatGPT?

chatGPT logo Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer (ChatGPT)  is a chatbot developed by OpenAI. Based on a large language model, it enables users to refine and steer a conversation towards a desired length, format, style, level of detail, and language.

Although a chatbot's core function is to mimic a human conversation, ChatGPT is versatile. Among countless examples, it can write and debug computer programs; compose music, teleplays and fairy tales; generate business ideas; write poetry and song lyrics;  translate and summarize text; and play games like tic-tac-toe.    (ChatGPT, Wikipedia)

ChatGPT is an "artificial intelligence language model,"  not a search engine where you are given results to a specific search; instead it creates “new content” by modelling human language and using mathematical models to predict the word most likely to come next.

Keep in mind: ChatGPT does not think. It does not understand, read, choose or give you the "best information." Sometimes it might feel or seem like it, but this isn't how the technology works. It may not be clear where the model got the information it is pulling from. 

ChatGPT version 3.5 is available free to the public on the internet and via Apple and Android apps. Data used to train the system is only current through January 2022. For a fee, users may upgrade to ChatGPT Plus (ChatGPT 4) which includes more tools and knowledge of events through April 2023. As of May 2024, users of the free ChatGPT will be allowed a limited number of free uses of ChatGPT 4o within a 3 hour window. ChatGPT 4o has access to the internet in real time, not just the older training data.

adapted from What is ChatGPT from the University of Minnesota and OpenAI's FAQ

Getting an Account:

ChatGPT does require users to register to use the software.

Register for ChatGPT with your Google, Microsoft or Apple accounts or create a login with an email.

If you are concerned about privacy, you should read through OpenAI's Privacy Policy.


You may keep up with the latest ChatGPT news at the OpenAI Blog

What is ChatGPT Good For?

We know there are many limitations to ChatGPT, however there are tasks it is fairly reliable and useful for.

Tasks Suitable for ChatGPT:

  • Creating/brainstorming a list of keywords (and synonyms for keywords) for library database searches
  • Writing or debugging computer code
  • Summarizing texts and creating outlines of content
  • Providing simple explanations to well known, non-controversial topics
  • Correcting grammatical errors
  • Helping you discover and narrow down research topics

Note: Although the ChatGPT interface comes across as a confident source, it is always important to check and confirm any results or "factual" claims provided by ChatGPT. You should plan on reworking the AI content to make it your own.