AI Writing Tools | Definition, Uses & Implications

AI writing tools are artificial intelligence (AI) software applications like ChatGPT that help to automate or assist the writing process. These tools use machine learning algorithms to generate human-sounding text in response to users’ text-based prompts.

Other AI tools, such as grammar checkers, paraphrasers and summarizers serve more specific functions, like identifying grammar and spelling mistakes or rephrasing text.

Universities and other institutions are still developing their stances on how AI writing 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.

You can also learn more about how to use AI tools responsibly on our AI writing resources page.

How do AI writing tools work?

AI writing tools (chatbots, grammar checkers, etc.) use natural language processing (NLP) algorithms, machine learning, and large language models (LLMs) to generate or improve written text. These tools are trained to identify patterns in vast amounts of data. The tools then use these patterns to analyze human inputs (or prompts) and generate natural-sounding outputs (similar to how predictive text works).

Different AI tools may be programmed in different ways. For example, ChatGPT, the popular chatbot developed by OpenAI and released in November 2022, uses generative pre-trained transformers (GPTs) and was trained using reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF), meaning that the tool was given feedback from humans to help guide it towards the most helpful responses.

What can AI writing tools be used for?

AI writing tools have a number of helpful applications. Some of these applications are discussed below.

Interactive learning and feedback

Generative AI tools can be helpful resources for conversational learning. By inputting questions, users can engage in interactive learning at any time.

You can also prompt these tools to provide feedback on your work to improve the clarity or consistency of your writing. However, it’s important not to upload sensitive information, as user inputs are generally saved by the tool for the purposes of training future models.

Below is an example of how ChatGPT can be used for interactive learning.

Example: Using ChatGPT for interactive learning
  • Tell me three facts about Carthaginian culture
  • Sure, here are three facts about Carthaginian culture:
    1. Carthaginians were known for their maritime trade and commerce, and their navy was one of the strongest in the ancient Mediterranean world. They established colonies and trading posts throughout the Mediterranean, including in Sicily, Sardinia, and North Africa.
    2. Carthaginians had a polytheistic religion, and their chief deity was Baal Hammon, the god of fertility, agriculture, and the sky. They also worshiped a number of other gods and goddesses, including Tanit, the goddess of love, fertility, and war.
    3. Carthaginians were skilled metalworkers and produced a variety of metal goods, including weapons, armor, jewelry, and household objects. They were particularly famous for their bronze work, which was highly prized in the ancient world. Carthaginian bronze was so valued that it was used by the Romans to make their famous statues and other works of art.
  • Tell me three more facts about the Carthaginian navy
  • Certainly, here are three more facts about the Carthaginian navy:
    1. The Carthaginian navy was one of the most advanced and powerful navies of the ancient world. It was instrumental in establishing Carthage as a dominant power in the Mediterranean region.
    2. The Carthaginians were known for their skill in shipbuilding and developed a variety of ship types for different purposes, including warships, transport ships, and cargo ships. One of their most famous ship types was the quinquereme, a large warship with five rows of oars.
    3. The Carthaginian navy was led by a commander called the “admiral.” The admiral was responsible for overseeing the fleet and making strategic decisions about naval warfare. One of the most famous Carthaginian admirals was Hannibal Barca, who led the Carthaginian fleet during the First Punic War against Rome.

Generating research questions and outlines

AI writing tools can be used to generate potential research questions or research paper outlines. You can then refine the tool’s responses by further prompting it or directly editing the output yourself to ensure the result makes sense and fits your requirements.

Below is an example of how ChatGPT can be used to generate potential reseach questions and research method ideas.

Example: Using ChatGPT to generate research questions and methods
  • Develop three possible research questions on the following topic: “The influence of technology on second language acquisition.”
    1. What is the impact of technology-assisted language learning (TALL) on the acquisition of a second language?
    2. How do different types of technology, such as mobile applications, virtual reality, and online platforms, affect second language acquisition outcomes?
    3. How do individual learner characteristics, such as age, proficiency level, and motivation, interact with the use of technology in second language acquisition?
  • Suggest three quantitative research methods appropriate to the second question.
  • Sure, here are three quantitative research methods that could be appropriate for the second research question, “How do different types of technology, such as mobile applications, virtual reality, and online platforms, affect second language acquisition outcomes?”
    1. Experimental research: This research method involves manipulating an independent variable (in this case, the type of technology used) to observe its effect on a dependent variable (second language acquisition outcomes). Participants would be randomly assigned to different groups using different types of technology to learn a second language, and then their language acquisition outcomes would be measured and compared.
    2. Survey research: This research method involves using questionnaires to gather data from a large group of participants. In this case, a survey could be designed to gather information on participants’ use of different types of technology to learn a second language, as well as their language acquisition outcomes. This would allow for a large-scale investigation of how different types of technology are being used, and what their impact might be.
    3. Correlational research: This research method involves examining the relationship between two or more variables. In this case, a correlational study could be conducted to investigate whether there is a relationship between the type of technology used and language acquisition outcomes. Data could be collected from participants using different types of technology to learn a second language, and then the correlation between the type of technology and language acquisition outcomes could be calculated.

Paraphrasing text

AI tools like ChatGPT and Scribbr’s free paraphrasing tool can help you paraphrase text to express your ideas more clearly, avoid repetition, and maintain a consistent tone throughout your writing.

They can also help you incorporate scholarly sources in your writing in a more concise and fluent way, without the need for direct quotations. However, it’s important to correctly cite all sources to avoid accidental plagiarism.

Scribbr paraphraser

Summarizing text

AI writing tools can help condense a text to its most important and relevant ideas. This can help you understand complex information more easily. You can also use summarizer tools on your own work to summarize your central argument, clarify your research question, and form conclusions.

You can do this using generative AI tools or more specialized tools like Scribbr’s free text-summarizer.

Scribbr summarizer

Proofreading text

AI writing tools can be used to identify spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes and suggest corrections. These tools can help to improve the clarity of your writing and avoid common mistakes.

While AI tools like ChatGPT offer useful suggestions, they can also potentially miss some mistakes or even introduce new grammatical errors into your writing.

We advise using Scribbr’s proofreading and editing service or a tool like Scribbr’s free grammar checker, which is designed specifically for this purpose.

Scribbr grammar checker

Translating text

AI translation tools like Google Translate can be used to translate text from a source language into various target languages. While the quality of these tools tend to vary depending on the languages used, they’re constantly developing and are increasingly accurate.

Google Translate

Implications of AI writing tools

While there are many benefits to using AI writing tools, some commentators have emphasized the limitations of AI tools and the potential disadvantages of using them. These drawbacks are discussed below.

Impact on learning

One of the potential pitfalls of using AI writing tools is the effect they might have on a student’s learning and skill set. Using AI tools to generate a paper, thesis, or dissertation, for example, may impact a student’s research, critical thinking, and writing skills.

However, other commentators argue that AI tools can be used to promote critical thinking (e.g., by having a student evaluate a tool’s output and refine it).

Consistency and accuracy

Generative AI tools (such as ChatGPT) are not always trustworthy and sometimes produce results that are inaccurate or factually incorrect. Although these tools are programmed to answer questions, they can’t judge the accuracy of the information they provide and may generate incorrect answers or contradict themselves.

It’s important to verify AI-generated information against a credible source.

Grammatical mistakes

While generative AI tools can produce written text, they don’t actually understand what they’re saying and sometimes produce grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes.

You can combine the use of generative AI tools with Scribbr’s grammar checker, which is designed to catch these mistakes.

Ethics and plagiarism

As AI writing tools are trained on large sets of data, they may produce content that is similar to existing content (which they usually cannot cite correctly), which can be considered plagiarism.

Furthermore, passing off AI-generated text as your own work is usually considered a form of plagiarism and is likely to be prohibited by your university. This offense may be recognized by your university’s plagiarism checker or AI detector.

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 about AI writing tools

How can I use AI writing tools?

AI writing tools can be used to perform a variety of tasks.

Generative AI writing tools (like ChatGPT) generate text based on human inputs and can be used for interactive learning, to provide feedback, or to generate research questions or outlines.

These tools can also be used to paraphrase or summarize text or to identify grammar and punctuation mistakes. You can also use Scribbr’s free paraphrasing tool, summarizing tool, and grammar checker, which are designed specifically for these purposes.

Can I use AI tools to write my essay?

Using AI writing tools (like ChatGPT) to write your essay is usually considered plagiarism and may result in penalization, unless it is allowed by your university. Text generated by AI tools is based on existing texts and therefore cannot provide unique insights. Furthermore, these outputs sometimes contain factual inaccuracies or grammar mistakes.

However, AI writing tools can be used effectively as a source of feedback and inspiration for your writing (e.g., to generate research questions). Other AI tools, like grammar checkers, can help identify and eliminate grammar and punctuation mistakes to enhance your writing.

How do I access ChatGPT?

You can access ChatGPT by signing up for a free account:

  1. Follow this link to the ChatGPT website.
  2. Click on “Sign up” and fill in the necessary details (or use your Google account). It’s free to sign up and use the tool.
  3. Type a prompt into the chat box to get started!

A ChatGPT app is also available for iOS, and an Android app is planned for the future. The app works similarly to the website, and you log in with the same account for both.

Is ChatGPT free?

Yes, ChatGPT is currently available for free. You have to sign up for a free account to use the tool, and you should be aware that your data may be collected to train future versions of the model.

To sign up and use the tool for free, go to this page and click “Sign up.” You can do so with your email or with a Google account.

A premium version of the tool called ChatGPT Plus is available as a monthly subscription. It currently costs $20 and gets you access to features like GPT-4 (a more advanced version of the language model). But it’s optional: you can use the tool completely free if you’re not interested in the extra features.

When was ChatGPT released?

ChatGPT was publicly released on November 30, 2022. At the time of its release, it was described as a “research preview,” but it is still available now, and no plans have been announced so far to take it offline or charge for access.

ChatGPT continues to receive updates adding more features and fixing bugs. The most recent update at the time of writing was on May 24, 2023.

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