Should ChatGPT be considered plagiarism?

By Felicia Roehm

CHATGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that can chat in a conversational way, has been affecting academic settings and more specifically, has the ability to write essays for students. A student can ask ChatGPT to write an essay about a particular topic and request the length of the paper as well. Although this tool could be a helpful resource for collecting information, The Rider News editorial board believes that ChatGPT should be considered plagiarism if it is used to write the entirety of an essay. It is not the students own words, and defeats the purpose of learning about the subject they’re writing about. A lot of different careers require writing, and most students after graduation won’t be able to escape writing, no matter how hard they try in a university setting. 

Some students use the AI program because they don’t feel confident writing and want to get a good grade, but it devalues the intense preparation students undergo to enter into their chosen fields. ChatGPT could be used as a reference for essays in a world where information is constantly being updated. It could help students create an outline for essays or get some helpful pointers, but it shouldn’t be used to write an entire paper. It could be used to help find synonyms or ideas, but the essay should still be written by the student. Students who have used the program explain that the chatbot uses a lot of sophisticated words, and the sentences are usually very advanced; the AI continues to become smarter as more people use it. 

ChatGPT should be used as a learning tool instead of a cheating tool. If anyone has writer’s block or needs help coming up with a plan for an essay, then the AI program could be a good place to start. Using ChatGPT like Grammarly, a typing assistant which reviews grammar, spelling and punctuation, could also be a solutionfor writers. It can provide suggestions for synonyms and helps the flow of a paper. ChatGPT can give recommendations on how to make a paper stronger and advise better vocabulary; however, it won’t complete an essay for the student. ChatGPT can also be a risk to use in educational settings. Some have been caught using it, and there have also been reports of inaccuracy. Each student has their own writing style and voice, and when using ChatGPT, the essay won’t have the same writing style as the student. 

Richard Zdan, a sociology professor, agreed that ChatGPT should be considered academic dishonesty, as it is similar to any other essay written by someone else or taken off the internet. He explains that all tools can be useful if used correctly. 

“I could see something like ChatGPT being potentially useful in a composition class or in the writing center as a tool to help students improve their writing skills and to learn proper grammar and style by,” said Zdan in an email with The Rider News. 

He assigns numerous papers to his students throughout the semester and said he can tell when something is written in the students’ voice. Zdan said that he could catch when a student is plagiarizing because it won’t sound like the student, but he can’t catch every student who plagiarized. “Will I catch every student? Certainly not. But I will catch enough of them to hopefully encourage students considering cheating to think twice,” said Zdan.

Zdan encouraged students that don’t feel confident writing an essay to practice writing but not by writing more. He explains that if a student does not meet the expectations of an essay, looking at the feedback and what to improve on could be helpful for future papers. Zdan said that the feedback, “can help even weak writers develop the skills they need to become stronger, more confident writers.” 

A poll was on The Rider News Instagram on Feb. 17 asking students, “Is ChatGPT a tool that helps you as a student?” The leading answer was “No” with 60% and 40% saying “Yes.” The results show that most students who answered the poll agree that using ChatGPT isn’t actually helpful for them. Students are encouraged to always do their own work and grasp what they are learning about, as it will help them in their future careers and make them a stronger student. 

This editorial expresses the unanimous opinion of The Rider News Editorial Board. This week’s editorial was written by Opinion Editor Felicia Roehm.

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