ChatGPT Does Not Solve All Academic Writing Problems

If allowed by your university’s AI policy, ChatGPT can help you to write your research paper or thesis. It can also be used in your studies more generally (e.g., to learn more about a topic).

At Scribbr, we also use ChatGPT and other AI tools to work more productively.

However, academic texts use a specific style that you should adhere to in your coursework and other academic writing. ChatGPT outputs don’t always conform to this style.

Texts created with ChatGPT may have the following shortcomings:

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Imprecise wording

ChatGPT outputs may contain imprecise wording that is not suitable for academic purposes.

  • I’m writing my bachelor thesis on the following topic: “Attentiveness as a core competence in nursing.”Outline the objective of my work and note that it is important that the nurses keep their finger on the pulse of the situation at all times.
  • The primary objective of this bachelor thesis is to explore and underscore the pivotal role of attentiveness as a fundamental core competence in the nursing profession. This study aims to comprehensively examine how attentiveness enhances nurse-patient interactions and contributes to the overall quality of patient care. A key focus will be on emphasizing the critical importance of nurses consistently keeping their finger on the pulse of the situation at all times. By investigating the multifaceted dimensions of attentiveness within nursing practice, this thesis seeks to illuminate how nurses’ acute awareness and responsiveness to patients’ needs, emotions, and medical conditions significantly impact patient outcomes, safety, and satisfaction. Through the lens of attentiveness, this research aims to contribute to the advancement of patient-centered care and the cultivation of a healthcare environment marked by empathetic and effective communication between healthcare providers and patients.

As you can see, ChatGPT incorporates the metaphor “keep their finger on the pulse,” which was used in the prompt, in its output.

While this expression is commonly used in informal contexts to mean “be aware of the current situation,” it may be confusing in a medical context and may be misunderstood as having a more literal meaning.

To ensure your text is accurate, you can use Scribbr’s proofreading and editing service. Your text will be checked by a human specialist for unclear passages and incomprehensible arguments.

Tip
If you don’t want your ChatGPT outputs to contain informal phrases like “keep their finger on the pulse,” don’t use them in your prompt.

Words and phrases that are included in ChatGPT prompts are often included in the output. This is called the “garbage in, garbage out” concept:

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Informal or unscholarly style

Academic writing should be formal and unbiased. However, ChatGPT outputs sometimes contain words or phrases that are not appropriate for an academic context.

  • Please rewrite the following sentence for my bachelor thesis: “Unfortunately, teachers do not know enough about social media.”
  • Regrettably, educators possess inadequate knowledge concerning social media.

While ChatGPT accurately paraphrased the sentence, it failed to produce text that is appropriate for academic writing. The word “regrettably” is a value judgment and an emotional expression, both of which should be avoided in academic texts.

Instead, the negative consequences of teachers having little knowledge of social media should be objectively explained.

Logic error

ChatGPT outputs sometimes contain logic errors. This may occur when the tool generates an error on its own, or when it reproduces an error found in the prompt.

For the following prompt, we used a real work sent to our editing & proofreading service. We modified the text and made it anonymous.

  • I created a survey for my bachelor thesis. Please formulate a brief overview of the characteristics of the participants for the results section. A total of 20 people took part. 40% between 40 and 50 years. The rest between 20 and 60 years.
  • The survey included 20 participants. Among them, 40% were aged between 40 and 50 years, while the remaining participants’ ages ranged from 20 to 60 years.

The text is illogical because the age ranges of the two groups overlap:

  • Group 1: between 40 and 50 years
  • Group 2: between 20 and 60 years

A correct alternative would be to divide the participants into three groups:

  • Group 1: between 20 and 39 years
  • Group 2: between 40 and 50 years
  • Group 3: between 51 and 60 years

ChatGPT has taken this error from the input and not corrected it (see the “garbage in, garbage out” concept in the “imprecise wording” section).

Repetitions (redundancies)

While ChatGPT outputs are often well written, they are also often unnecessarily long and repetitive.

In the following example, we had ChatGPT write a key objective for a bachelor thesis.

    • I am writing my bachelor thesis on the following topic: “The impact of instant messaging services on communication in families.”Write a short paragraph indicating the key objective of my thesis.Use the following example as a guide:[Insert example problem]
    • With this context in mind, the central goal of this bachelor thesis is to assess the precise impacts of instant messaging services on communication dynamics and familial relationships. By systematically investigating shifts in communication methods, the role of technology in family interactions, and potential repercussions for family cohesion and social engagement, the study aims to uncover significant insights. Through this comprehensive exploration, the research endeavors to contribute to a more profound comprehension of how digital communication tools influence traditional family interaction, thereby enriching our understanding of contemporary family dynamics in the digital era.

As you can see, the first and last sentences of this ChatGPT output say essentially the same thing. This can make your text unnecessarily difficult to read and weaken the impact of your arguments.

To condense a text to its most important points and avoid unnecessary repetition, you can use a specialized tool like Scribbr’s free text summarizer.

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Content errors

While ChatGPT can quickly produce human-sounding text, it doesn’t actually understand the content it produces and may reproduce errors.

For the following example, we inserted three factual errors in a sample text.

Example: Text with three errors inserted

The Holy Roman Empire constituted a political entity in Central and Eastern Europe for more than 800 years. The empire had its roots in the Carolingian Empire established by Henry II in the 8th century, which laid the foundation for the medieval concept of a united Christian empire. This intricate confederation of states and territories was characterized by a complex relationship between spiritual and secular authority and encapsulated a diverse array of cultures, languages, and regions.

We then had ChatGPT summarize the text.

  • I’m writing my bachelor’s thesis on “The Holy Roman Empire.Summarize the following text:[Insert text with three errors added]
  • For over 800 years, the Holy Roman Empire existed as a political entity across Central and Eastern Europe. Its origins can be traced to the Carolingian Empire founded by Henry II in the 8th century, establishing the idea of a unified Christian empire in the medieval period. The empire featured a complex interplay of spiritual and secular authority, encompassing a wide range of cultures, languages, and regions within its intricate network of states and territories.

As you can see, the three factual errors were reproduced in the summary created by ChatGPT.

Mistakes such as these can undermine your academic credibility. It’s important to always check ChatGPT outputs against a credible source.

Grammatical errors

While ChatGPT can produce impressive written texts, its outputs are not always free of grammatical errors.

For this reason, we don’t advise using ChatGPT to check grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It’s not designed for this purpose and may fail to detect some errors.

Instead, we recommend using a more specialized tool like Scribbr’s free grammar checker, which will provide a smoother user experience.

Lack of originality

Put simply, ChatGPT creates texts based on a huge number of existing texts. When you type a prompt in chat, ChatGPT predicts what text is likely to match your prompt and produces this as an output.

However, due to a lack of human understanding, ChatGPT cannot create original texts. As this is the goal of academic research, this is a significant limitation.

Note
We strongly advise against having ChatGPT write text for you and trying to pass it off as your own work. This is academically dishonest and is widely considered plagiarism. This offense may be recognized by your university’s plagiarism checker or AI detector.

To learn more about how to use AI tools responsibly, see our AI writing resources page.

Other interesting articles

If you want more tips on using AI tools, understanding plagiarism, and citing sources, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations, examples, and formats.

Frequently asked questions

Why doesn’t ChatGPT solve all academic writing problems?

ChatGPT does not solve all academic writing problems because texts created with ChatGPT often have the following shortcomings:

  • Imprecise wording
  • Informal or unscholarly style
  • Logic errors
  • Repetitions
  • Content errors
  • Grammatical errors
  • Lack of originality
How can I use ChatGPT well for academic writing?

Formulating good prompts is essential to using ChatGPT effectively. The better your prompts are, the better ChatGPT’s outputs will be.

However, ChatGPT does not solve all scientific writing problems, and the tool has numerous limitations (e.g., ChatGPT outputs lack originality).

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Merkus, J. (2023, September 10). ChatGPT Does Not Solve All Academic Writing Problems. Scribbr. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/ai-tools/chatgpt-academic-problems/

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Julia Merkus

Julia has a bachelor in Dutch language and culture and two masters in Linguistics and Language and speech pathology. After a few years as an editor, researcher, and teacher, she now writes articles about her specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, methodology, and statistics.

1 comment

Julia Merkus
Julia Merkus (Scribbr Team)
September 10, 2023 at 2:38 PM

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