Generative AI & Writing

Clients are encouraged to bring questions about writing with Generative AI (e.g. Chat GPT) to the WRC. Our tutors can have helpful conversations with you about the benefits and pitfalls of using AI tools throughout the writing process. This technology and research about it are evolving, and we will update this page accordingly.

We encourage you to see gen AI as a tool to supplement your writing process, not as a replacement for your unique writing style and voice. Below, we provide suggestions for how you might engage gen AI throughout your writing process. Please note: check your instructor’s course policies before using Gen AI tools in your writing process.

  • Getting started. Gen AI tools can help spark ideas the beginning of a writing task. You can use gen AI to help you generate potential topics related to a writing assignments. You can use keywords related to a topic to help you narrow your scope or develop research questions.
  • Understanding the genre. When tasked with writing in a new or unfamiliar genre (e.g. report, literature review, abstract, personal statement), you could consider asking gen AI to generate an example of that type of writing. You might also ask gen AI to explain what that genre typically looks like in practice.
  • Pre-search. Researchers do pre-serach at the beginning of their research process when they are narrowing down a topic and gathering background information. If you have a general topic in mind for a research project, AI tools might help give you a sense of the research that exists in that area and help you narrow down your topic. Please note: Atkins subject librarians can provide expert help with pre-search, and we strongly encourage you to reach out to them.
  • Reverse outlining. In the revision process, it can be helpful to create a reverse outline of your completed work in order to evaluate your organization. You can input your paper (as long as you’re okay with sharing it widely) into ChatGPT and ask it to create a reverse outline. Then, you can determine if you’re organization system works. You could then bringing a reverse outline to an appointment with a WRC tutor and evaluate your organization together.
  • Language learning. Students learning a language might use gen AI to translate texts into difference languages or ask questions about texts written in other languages. Like other translation tools (e.g. Google Translate), gen AI is not “fluent” and makes mistakes.

“AI is a really good tool to help students gain an understanding of how others format a paper. In my experience, simplifying a prompt to put into Chat GPT has pointed me in directions I needed to take and brought up discussion points I would have never thought of. Using AI as a kickstart to your own research and composition is not only useful when an assignment seems overwhelming but should be encouraged if it works for you and your writing habits.” – Daniel, Marketing Major

“I personally use Generative AI a lot (whether it be for my classes or otherwise). Although AI spits out a lot of garbage, I use it as a starting point for my ideas. For example, if I need to write a scholarship essay, I would ask ChatGPT ‘what are some reasons I should receive xyz scholarship” and it spits out general ideas and themes that I use and fill in with my own personal experiences (it will typically answer with a list of general reasons I could have also found on Google).” -Sophia, Double Major in Computer Engineering and Computer Science

“Personally, I use Grammarly as an AI correctional tool. Grammarly can catch small grammatical errors I would otherwise overlook, such as commas and misspellings. However, I have noticed that Grammarly might suggest a different word or a grammatical move that is technically correct but takes away from my distinct writing style. Overall, AI is helpful for little corrections but can take away from one’s unique writing style.” -Mary, Writing, Rhetoric & Digital Studies Major

WRC Tutors

Generative AI tools are just that: tools. We encourage you to avoid using ChatGPT to directly do your writing–and, importantly, your thinking–for you. Below we provide information on the potential pitfalls of Generative AI tools as well as some advice from our tutors.

  • Energy usage. When talking about Generative AI, we must consider the amount of energy needed to power these tools and the ethics of increasing the use of a technology without infrastructure to support it. Read more here.
  • Biased information. Generative AI tools are trained on human-generated texts, and humans have biases. These tools do not check the accuracy of the information they use to generate texts. Studies have shown that Gen AI tools generate texts, images, and information that exhibit gender and racial biases (Gichoya et al., 2023; Ferrara et al., Zhou et al. 2023)
  • Use of your personal information. Whatever you input into a Gen AI tool is then used by the systems. Do not input anything you do not wish to share widely.
  • Academic integrity violations. Depending on your course instructor’s policies, using Gen AI tools could be a violation of UNC Charlotte’s Honor Code. Always check with your instructor before using Gen AI.
  • Incorrect information. Generative AI tools are trained up to a certain date, so do not always have to most up-to-date information. We all know that not everything we read on the internet is accurate; this understanding applies to Gen AI. Importantly, incorrect information may be difficult to detect when generated by AI: read more here.
  • Made up or incorrect references. Generative AI tools sometimes create nonexistent references and attribute information to references incorrectly. A reference generated by AI may look legitimate, but always check! Read more here.
  • Formulaic writing. Writing generated by AI tools can have a template-like, generic feel that lacks human quality. This writing may seem “good,” but can actually be shallow and boring for a reader. Chat GPT does not have the rhetorical intelligence, human experience, agency for stylistic choices, and critical thinking that make writing interesting and readable.
  • Negative impact on your learning. Overuse of Gen AI might have a negative impact on your learning and critical thinking skills. The act of writing is not just about producing a flawless text; it is about sifting through and organizing your thoughts, learning by writing about new topics, thinking critically on paper, and honing your communication skills.

“I love generative AI, but I also am very aware of its potential ethical implications, its reliance on algorithms to create content, and the very unreliable nature of it. Knowing the bad and good that can occur with AI use, it is a lot easier for me to separate the good and bad AI content and critically think about what I need from that content. I fear that others who are ignorant to the dangers of AI and rely wholeheartedly on AI to generate content and ideas are doing themselves a disservice and reducing their ability to think critically.” – Sophia, Double Major in Computer Engineering and computer Science

“At least for now, the best ChatGPT can do is imitate writing and language; it does not seem to actually understand language from a linguistic perspective. Because of this, anything it generates will always be derivative of whatever writing it chooses to pull from.” – Luke, Psychology Major

“Writing is thinking. Being able to meaningfully articulate your thoughts is a skill that impacts more than just academics. Practicing writing encourages better communication skills and critical thinking.” – Trevor, Writing, Rhetoric & Digital Studies Major

“For me writing is one of the best ways to not only connect with myself, but also engage with people in the field. The topics I have researched and wrote about in essays, are the ones that have stayed with me the longest. I strongly believe that writing is one of the best tools to gain knowledge, even for people who do not feel that they are good writers. After all, the only way to get good at something is by continuously practicing it.” – Emanuela, M.A. English Grad Student

WRC tutors