Is Using ChatGPT Cheating?

Using ChatGPT and other AI tools to cheat is academically dishonest and can have severe consequences.

However, using these tools is not always academically dishonest. It’s important to understand how to use these tools correctly and ethically to complement your research and writing skills. You can learn more about how to use AI tools responsibly on our AI writing resources page.

Universities and other institutions are still developing their stances on how ChatGPT and similar tools may be used. Always follow your institution’s guidelines over any suggestions you read online. Check out our guide to current university policies on AI writing for more information.

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How can ChatGPT be used to cheat?

ChatGPT and other AI tools can be used to cheat in various ways. This can be intentional or unintentional and can vary in severity. Some examples of the ways in which ChatGPT can be used to cheat include:

  • AI-assisted plagiarism: Passing off AI-generated text as your own work (e.g., essays, homework assignments, take-home exams)
  • Plagiarism: Having the tool rephrase content from another source and passing it off as your own work
  • Self-plagiarism: Having the tool rewrite a paper you previously submitted with the intention of resubmitting it
  • Data fabrication: Using ChatGPT to generate false data and presenting them as genuine findings to support your research

Using ChatGPT in these ways is academically dishonest and very likely to be prohibited by your university. Even if your guidelines don’t explicitly mention ChatGPT, actions like data fabrication are academically dishonest regardless of what tools are used.

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What are the risks of using ChatGPT to cheat?

ChatGPT does not solve all academic writing problems and using ChatGPT to cheat can have various negative impacts on yourself and others. ChatGPT cheating:

  • Leads to gaps in your knowledge
  • Is unfair to other students who did not cheat
  • Potentially damages your reputation
  • May result in the publication of inaccurate or false information
  • May lead to dangerous situations if it allows you to avoid learning the fundamentals in some contexts (e.g., medicine)
The consequences of using ChatGPT to cheat depend on your institution’s policies and the severity of the incident. Students who are caught cheating may face academic probation, failing grades, or even expulsion from university. Cheating can have long-term implications for your academic records and future educational and career opportunities.

An AI detector may be used to detect this offense.

How to use ChatGPT without cheating

When used correctly, ChatGPT and other AI tools can be helpful resources that complement your academic writing and research skills. Below are some tips to help you use ChatGPT ethically.

Follow university guidelines

Guidelines on how ChatGPT may be used vary across universities. It’s crucial to follow your institution’s policies regarding AI writing tools and to stay up to date with any changes. Always ask your instructor if you’re unsure what is allowed in your case.

Use the tool as a source of inspiration

If allowed by your institute, use ChatGPT outputs as a source of guidance or inspiration, rather than as a substitute for coursework. For example, you can use ChatGPT to write a research paper outline or to provide feedback on your text.

You can also use ChatGPT to paraphrase or summarize text to express your ideas more clearly and to condense complex information. Alternatively, you can use Scribbr’s free paraphrasing tool or Scribbr’s free text summarizer, which are designed specifically for these purposes.

Using AI tools to rephrase plagiarized content and passing it off as your own work is a serious offense. You should always include an accurate citation for every source you use.

However, we don’t recommend using ChatGPT to generate citations. ChatGPT citations often contain incorrect information or formatting errors. Instead, use a specialized tool like the Scribbr Citation Generator.

Practice information literacy skills

Information literacy skills can help you use AI tools more effectively. For example, they can help you to understand what constitutes plagiarism, critically evaluate AI-generated outputs, and make informed judgments more generally.

You should also familiarize yourself with the user guidelines for any AI tools you use and get to know their intended uses and limitations.

Be transparent about how you use the tools

If you use ChatGPT as a primary source or to help with your research or writing process, you may be required to cite it or acknowledge its contribution in some way (e.g., by providing a link to the ChatGPT conversation). Check your institution’s guidelines or ask your professor for guidance.

Frequently asked questions

Is using ChatGPT academically dishonest?

Using ChatGPT in the following ways is generally considered academically dishonest:

  • Passing off AI-generated content as your own work
  • Having the tool rephrase plagiarized content and passing it off as your own work
  • Using ChatGPT to generate false data and presenting them as genuine findings to support your research

Using ChatGPT to cheat can have serious academic consequences. It’s important that students learn how to use AI tools effectively and ethically.

How can I use ChatGPT ethically?

Using ChatGPT to cheat is a serious offense and may have severe consequences.

However, when used correctly, ChatGPT can be a helpful resource that complements your academic writing and research skills. Some tips to use ChatGPT ethically include:

  • Following your institution’s guidelines
  • Understanding what constitutes plagiarism
  • Being transparent about how you use the tool
Can I have ChatGPT write my paper?

No, it’s not a good idea to do so in general—first, because it’s normally considered plagiarism or academic dishonesty to represent someone else’s work as your own (even if that “someone” is an AI language model). Even if you cite ChatGPT, you’ll still be penalized unless this is specifically allowed by your university. Institutions may use AI detectors to enforce these rules.

Second, ChatGPT can recombine existing texts, but it cannot really generate new knowledge. And it lacks specialist knowledge of academic topics. Therefore, it is not possible to obtain original research results, and the text produced may contain factual errors.

However, you can usually still use ChatGPT for assignments in other ways, as a source of inspiration and feedback.

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.

Ryan, E. (2023, September 14). Is Using ChatGPT Cheating?. Scribbr. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.

1 comment

Eoghan Ryan
Eoghan Ryan (Scribbr Team)
June 29, 2023 at 4:07 PM

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