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How AI Writing Tools Can Assist with Research and Essay Writing

Author: Bad TeacherTime: 2024-02-04 13:00:01

Table of Contents

Using AI to Streamline Background Research

AI writing assistants like ChatGPT and Bing AI can greatly streamline the background research process for essays and other writing projects. Instead of spending hours searching the internet for relevant sources, you can have an AI tool provide you with targeted overviews, key facts, and suggested sources on your topic within minutes.

These AI tools allow you to quickly get up to speed on unfamiliar topics by generating digestible background information summaries. You can also use them to help narrow down your focus and specific questions you want to pursue within a broader research area.

Asking Specific Questions to Narrow Your Focus

When you first start researching a topic, it's important to narrow down your focus and specify the particular issues you want to address. AI writing assistants are great for this early phase of the research process. You can have a conversation with the AI, asking increasingly specific questions to clarify and refine your research direction. The AI will provide brief answers and suggested sources to help you zero in on the most relevant aspects of your topic.

Generating Digestible Background Information

Once you've narrowed down your research focus, you can prompt the AI to give you a high-level overview summarizing the key background details about your specific topic. For example, you might ask it to 'summarize what historians know about Britain's motivations for engaging in the Crimean War in 1000 words'. The AI will generate a readable background summary you can quickly review to familiarize yourself with the basics. It will hit the highlights, oriented around your particular focus area, saving you the effort of combing through multiple sources just to get up to speed.

Fact-Checking Content for Accuracy

While AI writing tools provide helpful background information, the content they generate isn't always 100% accurate. It's important to verify any key claims, figures, events, etc. mentioned in the AI-generated text. You can copy sections of the text and paste them into the chat box, prompting the AI assistant to fact-check that content. This allows you to efficiently identify any erroneous or questionable information in the summaries they provide.

Crafting an Effective Prompt for AI Essay Writing

If you want an AI writing assistant to draft full sections or even entire essay drafts for you, properly structuring your prompts is key to getting quality output.

The prompts need to clearly specify the precise writing task or argument you want the AI to generate. Vague, open-ended prompts often result in generic or repetitive content from these AI systems.

Choosing the Right Action Verb

Your prompt for the AI should start with a strong action verb that clarifies the type of written response you are requesting. For instance, 'summarize', 'analyze', 'compare and contrast', etc. This sets the tone and style for the full piece the AI will generate.

Making the Prompt as Specific as Possible

In addition to using an action verb, you'll want to provide as much relevant context and detail as possible around what you're asking the AI to write. The more specific the prompt, the better quality the output will be. For example, instead of simply telling the AI to 'write an essay about Britain's role in the Crimean War', phrase it as: 'Analyze Britain's strategic motivations for participating in the Crimean War in a 2000 word essay, with a focus on how the British press and public opinion factored into the government's decision-making'.

Incorporating and Checking Sources

While AI tools can generate passages, sections, or full essay drafts on a topic, the content often lacks properly cited research sources. It also may contain factual inaccuracies or dubious claims.

By carefully incorporating and checking sources, you can utilize these tools to accelerate your writing while still ensuring academic integrity and accuracy.

Generating an Outline with Source Suggestions

Rather than asking an AI tool to draft a full essay right away, first ask it to provide a detailed outline. The outline should overview the main points and arguments for your essay along with suggestions for relevant sources to support each key claim or analysis. Review the suggested sources and outline structure. Then you can begin drafting the essay section-by-section, integrating and citing credible sources.

Going Section by Section to Add Relevant Sources

With an outline in hand covering the key points, prompt the AI to generate passages expanding on each main idea in sequence. For example, have it write a thorough paragraph analyzing the British media's portrayal of the war, a paragraph examining political pressures influencing Britain's involvement, etc. The AI will provide an initial paragraph draft for each section. You can then incorporate properly cited quotes, statistics, examples etc. from credible sources to strengthen the analysis and support for claims in that paragraph before moving on to address the next main idea.

Following Leads to Verify Accuracy of Sources

Even when explicitly instructed to cite sources, AI tools frequently include fictional sources or mishandle citations for included quotes and data. Whenever the AI essay draft cites a specific resource, it is crucial you make the effort to actually look up that source and confirm its legitimacy, credibility, and relevance. If fabricated sources slip through, identify stronger alternate sources making similar supporting points. By diligently checking and verifying the sources used to reinforce key claims and arguments, you can utilize AI to make rapid progress in developing a well-grounded essay draft while still upholding academic standards for quality research and analysis.

The Benefits of Using AI Writing Tools for Research

When applied judiciously, today's AI writing tools offer students dramatic time-savings through the research and initial drafting process. But care must be taken to take ownership of the final product by diligently checking accuracy and integrating reliable supporting sources.

The key benefit is that AI tools handle much of the routine busy-work of gathering background information and producing initial draft passages, allowing you to focus energy on more value-adding tasks like strategic outline development, incorporating impactful sources, refining analysis, and crafting original arguments.


Q: Can AI write a complete essay for me?
A: Yes, AI tools like ChatGPT and Bing AI can generate complete essays. However, the content may not be fully accurate or properly cited, so additional checking is required.

Q: How do I make sure my AI-generated essay has good sources?
A: You should verify any sources the AI provides, and go through the essay section-by-section to add relevant quotes, facts, and citations from reliable sources you have checked.

Q: What are the main benefits of using AI for writing and research?
A: AI can save time generating background information, suggesting sources, structuring essays, and providing writing feedback. This leaves more time for reading and accurately citing the best sources.