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8 Ways to Ethically Use ChatGPT as a Student

  • Sean 

ChatGPT has absolutely exploded in popularity recently. There are a ton of use cases and I have been experimenting like crazy on how you can best use this tool as a student, in an ethical way.

This article is really about rounding up the best ethical use cases for students of ChatGPT. These range from small applications like using ChatGPT to email a professor to generating exam preparation questions.

As you will see, I have other articles on many of these topics. This is just a broad overview.

With that out of the way let’s get into the 8 best ethical uses of ChatGPT for students.

This article doesn’t include any techniques where you actually submit work completed by ChatGPT. Obviously, this goes without saying, don’t submit work generated by ChatGPT. Just use it for learning and studying purposes.

1. Note-taking

Note book, latte, and laptop on table

The note-taking potential for ChatGPT ranges from using it to create a simple outline or paragraph-style notes to a note-taking assistant that helps you categorize information or even take notes in layers of increasing detail while incorporating active recall along the way.

I’ll paint the broad strokes here but I have a whole article that explains in depth how you can take notes with ChatGPT, including examples.

Here are the basics of what I have found with ChatGPT’s note-taking potential. This breaks down into 2 main approaches.

The simple approach

Most people take long-form notes left to right down the page. There is evidence that taking these kinds of notes isn’t very effective, compared to alternative methods. However, having a resource to refer back to can still be helpful.

Think that using ChatGPT to take these notes for you in a fraction of the time while giving you this resource to refer back to definitely has some value.

Sidenote: To make sure your notes are actually on point with what you need to know, paste in the material you are reading (your textbook etc.). Don’t just give it the topic that you are learning. You will have to go section by section with this, since the limit for ChatGPT is about 2000 words give or take.

While this is useful, I have been searching for ways to use ChatGPT for high-level learning and there is a lot more potential than simple outlines or paragraph-style notes.

High-level approach

For instance, you can use ChatGPT to find the core ideas in a piece of text that you paste in and then elaborate on these core ideas yourself using active recall. You can elaborate on these core ideas from memory in either a traditional note-taking or mind map format. You can then ask ChatGPT to elaborate on its core ideas and compare your answers.

This allows you to expand in ever-increasing detail by using active recall to add layer after layer of detail to your notes in either more bullet points or concepts in your mind map.

2. Plan Mind Maps

Mind map template displaying a central idea in the center with several sub ideas branching off in different directions, visually demonstrating organization and hierarchy of thoughts

Mindmaps are a form of non-linear note-taking that can significantly improve retention and understanding because of how many encoding principles are followed by using this technique properly.

However, arguably the most challenging aspect of creating a mindmap is figuring out how to categorize the information and lay it out.

Now, this is important, I’m not advocating that you use ChatGPT to fully plan out the mindmap for you because the real learning benefit of mindmaps is actually doing this categorization and planning yourself with your brain.

What I’m saying is that you can get ideas for how to categorize the information in your mind map using ChatGPT. For instance, you could categorize a topic like a biology by its history, medical application, major evolutions, etc.

ChatGPT just gives you ideas for different ways to draw a mind map, you still get the benefit of actually doing it yourself.

3. Essay Ideas and Inspiration

A light bulb on a black background with a chalk outline of a thought bubble surrounding it, symbolizing inspiration and creativity

While you can use ChatGPT to write your essays I strongly advise that you don’t do this for the obvious reasons I outlined at the beginning of this article.

Even if you did choose to write an essay this way (which would constitute academic dishonesty, so don’t), you would still be very much at risk for plagiarism because there is software that can detect ChatGPT content and its paraphrases of material are not very original.

I wrote an article where I tested ChatGPT’s originality when it comes to paraphrases and essay writing in general if you want a more in-depth look at this topic.

However, there is a way to use ChatGPT without actually using it to write your content.

The short of it is that you can use ChatGPT as a way to find ideas and plan your essay. This is essentially getting you away from staring at a blank page and actually writing. It can produce that initial structure in the form of an outline to get you going.

But you should also move beyond this initial structure that ChatGPT gives you. Firstly, as you research more you will find that the outline is probably pretty terrible (this is certainly the case in my testing).

However, starting from a bad essay plan gives you ideas on how it could be improved and worked into something worth reading. This way both the structure and content of your end result will be completely original.

That’s how ChatGPT can help you with essay writing in an ethical way.

4. Edit or Revise Essays

Another ethical application of ChatGPT for writing essays is by using it to give feedback on what you have written. You can do this by feeding ChatGPT a prompt that asks it for specific feedback on grammar, spelling, citation formal, etc.

This is actually a pretty useful alternative to something like a premium Grammarly account.

Long story short, there are quite a few parameters that ChatGPT can help you get feedback on.

That’s why I wrote an article on how to edit an essay with ChatGPT (including a prompt) that asks ChatGPT for the main things you might want feedback on for an essay. All you need to do is copy and paste the prompt and then follow it up with your essay for instant feedback.

5. Generate Active Recall Materials

A close-up photograph of a person holding a pencil and appearing focused while taking a test or exam

The next few tips in this article really apply to ways that you can use ChatGPT to study for an exam. One of the best ways to prepare for an exam is by doing active recall. ChatGPT does not disappoint in this department.

ChatGPT can generate all sorts of active recall materials including practice questions, multiple-choice quizzes, and flashcards. For a detailed explanation and examples check out my article on how to use ChatGPT to study and learn new information.

But if you want to really benefit from these practice materials, try asking for feedback on these materials from ChatGPT after you complete them. This way ChatGPT will tell you what you forgot and other ways you could have answered the practice question.

Once you have this feedback, answer the questions again, then ask for feedback again. Rinse and repeat.

This allows you to actually continue to answer the same questions from different angles in different ways rather than just answering a single question in one way over and over again to memorize it.

However, there are other ways to use ChatGPT to study apart from just using active recall.

6. Generate Creative Mnemonics

A top-down view of multiple rainbow-colored gears, signifying the creation of new ideas

ChatGPT is creative. It can come up with intuitive associations and unique memory cues. This brings me to using ChatGPT for memorization tactics and mnemonics.

For instance, ChatGPT can generate Acrynyms, rhymes, stories, and many more creative and highly memorable mnemonics.

I have an entire article that outlines my 7 favorite mnemonic techniques to use with ChatGPT if you want an in-depth look with examples and prompts for this topic.

7. Act as Your Personal Tutor

A black and white photograph showing a human hand and a robot hand reaching out towards each other, symbolizing collaboration and interaction between humans and technology

ChatGPT is actually not a bad free alternative to a real tutor.

ChatGPT is a great learning tool because you can use it to advise you on math, science, coding, summarizing readings, etc.

Basically, if you are stuck with the material you are trying to learn you can field your questions to ChatGPT to try and get some clarity.

I wrote an entire article on using ChatGPT as a tutor with lots of examples of its potential for teaching.

But the short of it is, paste in information you are stuck on and ask it for advice.

8. Email Professors

This last use case is small but very handy.

Some professors really care that you address them correctly and politely. This is why ChatGPT can be handy for emailing professors. It can help you with etiquette and striking the right tone. It also just saves time.

Here’s an example. I just asked ChatGPT to email a professor and tell them that I’m sick and can’t come to class.

A screenshot of a text conversation showing an email to a professor, informing them that the sender is unable to attend class due to illness

I have an entire article on how you can use ChatGPT for composing and replying to emails with some prompts I designed as well if you are interested more in this topic.

The Takeaway

ChatGPT has a lot of potential to be used in an ethical way by students. This is because it can naturally help with so many tasks that are purely related to privately studying and learning material on your own.