There has been a lot of discussion recently about the use of AI-generated output in an academic context and the implications for academic integrity. Libraries are particularly interested in the referencing side of this and, since most areas of UTS recommend the APA 7th referencing style, we have been eagerly awaiting guidance from APA about referencing ChatGPT.
One of the issues for referencing ChatGPT and other AI-generated outputs is that they are not reproducible. An output generated by a prompt on one day might be significantly different to one generated by the same prompt on a different day. This is further complicated by the possibility of users forcing ChatGPT to override internal restrictions and produce outputs by different AI personas.
UTS Library had sought advice directly from APA, and their interim recommendation was that, because of the non-reproducibility of outputs, the ‘personal communication’ format as outlined in rule 8.9 of the APA 7th Manual was acceptable (S. Lazer, personal communication, 22 February 2023). However, it was noted that discussion within the APA community was ongoing with no expected date for formal, official advice.
In APA, personal communications are referenced only in-text, and there is no corresponding entry in the reference list. Using this format, the author would be ‘OpenAI’ (the creator of the program), and prompts and outputs could be listed in an appendix. A UTS Library news item with guidance about this (which also includes guidance for the AGLC legal referencing style) was posted on 2 March, with an accompanying Library FAQ. Other Australian university libraries have provided similar guidance; see for example University of Queensland and University of Melbourne.
As noted, however, the discussion is ongoing. An alternative viewpoint about how to reference ChatGPT output (which has been around from the start) is to treat it as software, using rule 10.10 of the APA 7th manual. The difficulty with this is the non-reproducibility of the output – for most software we normally use, a particular input will always give the same output.
The Library contacted APA more recently and received some updated advice (reproduced in an appendix, below). It seems that while the situation on referencing ChatGPT is still fluid, APA may be moving towards the software approach. However, we don’t want to cause unnecessary confusion about this – so, pending final, official recommendations from APA, UTS Library will not be changing its current referencing guidance for ChatGPT outputs. That said, people should be aware that there may be a change in the future, and can refer to the appendix below to see what that might look like.
The following is an extract of an email from Stefanie Lazer, APA Style Expert, on 8 March 2023
An author’s using ChatGPT to generate text is similar to an author’s using other online tools or software. In these cases, ChatGPT can be mentioned as a tool the author used in the Method section (as you’d mention the statistical analysis software used, software used to generate and run a survey, and other software or hardware used with participants in the course of conducting an experiment). Or, for a paper without a Method section, the author can make note of the use of ChatGPT wherever it would be appropriate to do so in the paper’s body. That is, to note that they used ChatGPT, an author may make a general statement in which the URL and the prompts used to generate the output are provided.
I generated text on February 13, 2023, using ChatGPT software (https://chat.openai.com/chat) and the prompt “Summarize the plot of A Christmas Carol in the style of H. P. Lovecraft.”
But for paraphrasing, quoting, or providing the full text response from ChatGPT, a reference is needed (following the general format of a software reference, as seen in Section 10.10 of the Publication Manual):
OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Feb 13 version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com/chat
However, because the ChatGPT output is not retrievable, this is not an entirely satisfactory option, especially because the technology is quite new, so both students and instructors are learning about this resource and how to ethically use it. Consider, then, making the ChatGPT conversation retrievable by including the text as an appendix or as online supplemental material that includes an introductory statement such as:
The following text was generated on February 13, 2023, by ChatGPT software (OpenAI, 2023) in response to the following prompt….
If you do so, then readers may also be referred to the appendix or the online supplemental material (where the ChatGPT response may be further contextualized) when the ChatGPT conversation is cited.
Watch this space
While this guidance has evolved, it still isn’t finalised. Keep an eye on the APA Style website and the APA Style Blog for future updates, plus of course the UTS Library website.