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.

How to cite ChatGPT in APA Style

APA doesn’t have a specific format for citing ChatGPT content yet, but they recommended in a tweet that it should be cited as a personal communication, since the text is not retrievable (chats are unique to each user, so you can’t provide a URL for others to access your chats).

APA personal communication citations don’t require a reference entry. Instead, they’re mentioned in parentheses in the text wherever you quoted or paraphrased the source.

Example: APA ChatGPT citation
(ChatGPT, personal communication, February 16, 2023)

How to cite ChatGPT in MLA style

We haven’t seen any specific discussion of ChatGPT from MLA yet, but an earlier post from their blog provides a format for citing chatbots in general. It’s similar to an MLA website citation.

For the in-text citation, just write “OpenAI” in parentheses. In the Works Cited entry, list OpenAI as the author, followed by “ChatGPT” in italics as the website name, and then the URL. We recommend including an access date, since the tool is updated frequently.

Example: MLA ChatGPT citation
MLA Works Cited entry OpenAI. ChatGPT. Accessed 16 Feb. 2023.
MLA in-text citation (OpenAI)

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How to cite ChatGPT in Chicago style

Chicago style also doesn’t provide specific guidance on citing ChatGPT yet, but it makes sense to follow the principle that non-retrievable sources should be cited in Chicago footnotes as personal communications (like unpublished interviews). Therefore, you shouldn’t include it in your Chicago bibliography.

Write a description of the tool (including the name “ChatGPT” and the name of the developers, “OpenAI”) and what the content you’re citing is. Add the date on which you used the tool. If you cite it again, you can shorten the description to something like “ChatGPT response.”

Example: Chicago ChatGPT citation
1 OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI language model, response to a question from the author, February 14, 2023.

2 ChatGPT response, February 16, 2023.

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.

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. We don’t recommend using ChatGPT in this way.

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.

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, February 17). ChatGPT Citations | Formats & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from


APA Style [@APA_Style]. (2023, January 10). Good question. Is the text retrievable by others? If so, create a webpage reference (see template in Section 10.16 of [Tweet]. Twitter.

MLA. (2021, April 1). How do I cite an artificial intelligence? MLA Style Center.

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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)
February 17, 2023 at 10:18 PM

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