ChatGPT Citations | Formats & Examples

ChatGPT, the popular AI language model, is quite new. Educational institutions and style guides are still working out their policies on when and how content from the tool can be used and cited in academic writing.

Guidelines are still evolving, so we provide formats based on what the different style guides have said about the issue so far. This article will be updated over time to reflect the latest guidelines as different authorities develop their recommendations.

We also discuss when you should cite ChatGPT and whether ChatGPT itself can cite sources.

Note
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 to cite ChatGPT in APA Style

Create an APA reference entry that lists OpenAI as the author and ChatGPT as the title, adding the date of the version used (shown at the bottom of the page on the ChatGPT site), the descriptive text “Large language model” in square brackets, and the URL.

The in-text citation consists of “OpenAI” plus the year of the version you used. Add an in-text citation each time you quote or paraphrase text from the tool.

APA advises describing how you used the tool in your methodology section or introduction and including the prompt you used whenever you quote a ChatGPT response. You may also add an APA appendix that includes the full text of any longer ChatGPT responses you quote from.

Example: APA ChatGPT citation
APA format OpenAI. (Year). ChatGPT (Month Day version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com
APA reference entry OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Feb 13 version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com
APA in-text citation (OpenAI, 2023)

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How to cite ChatGPT in MLA style

MLA suggests creating a Works Cited entry for any responses you quote or paraphrase from ChatGPT, as well as an in-text citation at the point where you include it in your text.

The Works Cited entry starts with the title (the specific prompt you used, in quotation marks). Then write “ChatGPT” and the date of the version you used, “OpenAI,” the date when you received the response, and the general URL of the tool.

The in-text citation consists of a shortened version of the title (shortened to three words) in quotation marks.

Example: MLA ChatGPT citation
MLA format Text of prompt” prompt. ChatGPT, Day Month version, OpenAI, Day Month Year, chat.openai.com.
MLA Works Cited entry “Tell me about confirmation bias” prompt. ChatGPT, 13 Feb. version, OpenAI, 16 Feb. 2023, chat.openai.com.
MLA in-text citation (“Tell me about”)

MLA advises that if you use an AI tool like ChatGPT or Bing AI to locate sources and then use those sources in your work (rather than using the AI-generated text itself), you only need to cite the sources you actually used, not the AI tool used to find them.

MLA also states that if you used an AI tool to edit your writing or translate words, you should acknowledge this at an appropriate point in your text or in a note.

How to cite ChatGPT in Chicago style

Chicago style recommends citing ChatGPT in a Chicago footnote, treating it as a personal communication similar to an unpublished interview. Personal communications are non-retrievable sources and therefore shouldn’t be included in your Chicago bibliography.

If the prompt you used on ChatGPT is already mentioned in your text, the footnote consists of the phrase “Text generated by ChatGPT,” the date you prompted it, “OpenAI,” and the URL. Use the general URL of the tool, not one that links you to the specific response—this won’t work for other users.

If you cite the same ChatGPT text again, you can shorten the note to just “ChatGPT.”

Example: Chicago ChatGPT citation
1 Text generated by ChatGPT, March 31, 2023, OpenAI, https://chat.openai.com.

2 ChatGPT.

If the prompt you used doesn’t already appear in your text, add it to the footnote.

Example: Chicago ChatGPT citation including prompt
1 ChatGPT, response to “Tell me about confirmation bias,” February 16, 2023, https://chat.openai.com.

If you’ve edited the text generated by ChatGPT, mention this in your note.

Example: Chicago citation of edited ChatGPT text
1 Text generated by ChatGPT, March 31, 2023, OpenAI, https://chat.openai.com. Edited for style and content.

Do I need to cite ChatGPT?

Universities and citation authorities are still working out if and when it’s appropriate to cite ChatGPT in your work. There isn’t a clear consensus yet. Always check your institution’s guidelines or ask your instructor if you’re not sure.

If you’re using ChatGPT responses as a primary source (e.g., you’re studying the abilities of AI language models), you should definitely cite it for this purpose, just as you would any piece of evidence.

If you use ChatGPT to help you in the research or writing process (e.g., using it to develop research questions or create an outline), you may be required to cite or acknowledge it in some way. Check if your institution has guidelines about this.

Don’t cite ChatGPT as a source of factual information (e.g., asking it to define a term and then quoting its definition in your paper). ChatGPT isn’t always trustworthy and is not considered a credible source for use in academic writing.

Note
If you use ChatGPT to write your assignment for you, most institutions will consider this plagiarism (or at least academic dishonesty), even if you cite the source. An AI detector may be used to detect this offense. We don’t recommend using ChatGPT in this way.

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Can ChatGPT cite sources?

Some people are curious about where ChatGPT gets the information it uses in its responses and have asked it to cite its sources. When asked, it attempts to do so and sometimes provides real sources, but it also provides sources that don’t seem to exist.

This is probably because of how ChatGPT works: it reproduces patterns in the texts it was trained on, but it doesn’t actively consult sources to find information. It’s only able to use sources from its training data (which went up to 2021), it can’t search the internet, and it isn’t really conscious of what sources it’s using for each response.

People have also tried to use ChatGPT as a citation generator by asking it to cite specific sources or to insert citations into their work, but it tends not to work particularly well:

  • When given specific sources, ChatGPT can provide citations, but they often contain wrong information or are formatted incorrectly for the requested style.
  • When asked to add sources without being told which ones, it tends to create plausible-looking citations for sources that don’t actually exist.

Because of this, it’s not a good idea to use ChatGPT for citing sources. Instead, you can try a tool designed specifically for this purpose, like the Scribbr Citation Generator.

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

Can I cite ChatGPT?

Yes, in some contexts it may be appropriate to cite ChatGPT in your work, especially if you use it as a primary source (e.g., you’re studying the abilities of AI language models).

Some universities may also require you to cite or acknowledge it if you used it to help you in the research or writing process (e.g., to help you develop research questions). Check your institution’s guidelines.

Since ChatGPT isn’t always trustworthy and isn’t a credible source, you should not cite it as a source of factual information.

In APA Style, you can cite a ChatGPT response as a personal communication, since the answers it gave you are not retrievable for other users. Cite it like this in the text: (ChatGPT, personal communication, February 11, 2023).

Can I create citations using ChatGPT?

No, it is not possible to cite your sources with ChatGPT. You can ask it to create citations, but it isn’t designed for this task and tends to make up sources that don’t exist or present information in the wrong format. ChatGPT also cannot add citations to direct quotes in your text.

Instead, use a tool designed for this purpose, like the Scribbr Citation Generator.

But you can use ChatGPT for assignments in other ways, to provide inspiration, feedback, and general writing advice.

Is ChatGPT a credible source?

No, ChatGPT is not a credible source of factual information and can’t be cited for this purpose in academic writing. While it tries to provide accurate answers, it often gets things wrong because its responses are based on patterns, not facts and data.

Specifically, the CRAAP test for evaluating sources includes five criteria: currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. ChatGPT fails to meet at least three of them:

  • Currency: The dataset that ChatGPT was trained on only extends to 2021, making it slightly outdated.
  • Authority: It’s just a language model and is not considered a trustworthy source of factual information.
  • Accuracy: It bases its responses on patterns rather than evidence and is unable to cite its sources.

So you shouldn’t cite ChatGPT as a trustworthy source for a factual claim. You might still cite ChatGPT for other reasons—for example, if you’re writing a paper about AI language models, ChatGPT responses are a relevant primary source.

Where does ChatGPT get its information from?

ChatGPT is an AI language model that was trained on a large body of text from a variety of sources (e.g., Wikipedia, books, news articles, scientific journals). The dataset only went up to 2021, meaning that it lacks information on more recent events.

It’s also important to understand that ChatGPT doesn’t access a database of facts to answer your questions. Instead, its responses are based on patterns that it saw in the training data.

So ChatGPT is not always trustworthy. It can usually answer general knowledge questions accurately, but it can easily give misleading answers on more specialist topics.

Another consequence of this way of generating responses is that ChatGPT usually can’t cite its sources accurately. It doesn’t really know what source it’s basing any specific claim on. It’s best to check any information you get from it against a credible source.

Sources in this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

This Scribbr article

Caulfield, J. (2023, November 16). ChatGPT Citations | Formats & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/ai-tools/chatgpt-citations/

Sources

Chicago Manual of Style. (n.d.). Citation, documentation of sources. The Chicago Manual of Style Online. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Documentation.html

McAdoo, T. (2023, April 7). How to cite ChatGPT. APA Style Blog. https://apastyle.apa.org/blog/how-to-cite-chatgpt

MLA. (2023, March 17). How do I cite generative AI in MLA style? MLA Style Center. https://style.mla.org/citing-generative-ai/

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.

1 comment

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
May 15, 2023 at 12:18 PM

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