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Research Skills: Start

What is Generative AI?

Generative AI, sometimes called gen AI, is artificial intelligence (AI) that can create original content—such as text, images, video, audio or software code—in response to a user’s prompt or request.

When to use Generative AI?

Recommended uses:

  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Narrowing your topic ideas for a research paper, and keywords for searching in library databases.
  • Explaining information in ways that are easy to understand
  • Summarizing and outlining
  • Asking questions (be sure to fact-check the results) You can ask a million questions without fear of being judged.
  • Translating text to different languages (not completely fluent in every language)
  • Helping write or debug computing code
  • Humor and improvisation

Do not use:

  • It is not good to ask Generative AI to write your assignments, because work submitted by a student must be "all your own work".
  • Library research. For now, it's best to use Library databases or recommended resources.  
  • Asking for any information that would have dire consequences if it was incorrect (such as health, financial, legal advice, and so on). This is because of its tendency to sometimes make up answers, whilst the text is authoritative in tone.

Advice on using AI

Always verify the information it gives you: Think of your preferred Generiative AI as your personal intern. They need very specific instructions, and they need you to verify the information.

Your preferred Generiative AI sometimes makes things up: That's because it's designed to write in a way that sounds like human writing. It's not designed to know facts.

1. Check for Bias and Accuracy: AI might produce biased or incorrect content. Always double-check information and sources.

Therefore do not use AI content as a source, do not list Generative AI as a citation or use as an in-text source. Instead, use the sources you have double checked to ensure your facts are correct. AI is not in itself a reliable source.  You can use as a citation if you have been instrumental via your prompts in the co-create of a source as shown in the feral cat image examples on this page. 

2. Your Judgement Matters: See AI-generated content as a starting point, not a final solution.

Always adhere to our school's guidelines which is to acknowledge how AI was used to support your inquiries. See the page on Acknowledging Generative AI 

3. Know the Limits: What are the limits of AI's knowledge. Most stop at 2021. This is what Microsoft Edge's Co-pilot said; 

"As an AI language model, I don’t have direct access to external information or databases. My responses are generated based on patterns in the text data that I was trained on. The training data includes a diverse range of sources up until 2021, but I don’t have real-time access to the internet or any specific year beyond that."

4. Ethical Concerns: Generative AIs training data may include Copyright Works

There is concern and outrage in a number of countries regarding the lack of transparency and the inclusion of copyright material (without the auhtors permission) in the training data used.  Students should be aware of their moral and ethical responsibilities to observe Copyright Law and to avoid breaching copyright. For this reason, it is recommended that students refer to the source rather than Generative AI text.


What is prompting?

Prompting is the term used to describe what you put  into the chat box.

Your prompt is critical to the output that Generative AI gives you. So it's worth learning some tips.

Writing Effective Prompts

There no correct way to write prompts, but there are some guidelines for ‘prompting‘ help the AI return more useful results.  A general guidelines for ‘prompting‘ that seem to help the AI return more useful completions to you is: 

  1. Role: give it some context or a role to play.
  2. Task description: give it very detailed instructions
  3. Requirements: include how the results should be formatted and must contain.
  4. Iterative prompts: Keep conversing and asking for changes. Ask it to revise the answer in various ways to improve its completions.


  1. A role could be, "Act as an expert in [fill in the blank]." 
    Act as an expert community organizer.
    Act as a high school biology teacher.
    Act as a comedian.
  2. Example prompt:
    Act as an expert scientist. I’m writing a research paper for Climate change. Please give me a list of 10 topic ideas related to climate change.
  3. Example of iterative prompts: (keep conversing until you get something useful)
    Now give me some sub-topics or research questions for [one of those topics]. And give me a list of keywords and phrases I can use to search for that topic in library databases and Google Scholar.


    I didn't like any of those topics. Please give me 10 more.