Using AI-Assisted Writing Productively

Using AI-Assisted Writing Productively

Notes from the LT&ITC  Presentation By John Wallin, MTSU

Of course, parts of this document were generated using ChatGPT.[1]
The essentials:
  • The “computational” capabilities of ChatBots are growing exponentially.  The interaction modes of ChatBots are rapidly changing. 
  • ChatBots are not magical paper-generating machines.
  • Interact with ChatBots as though they are smart and very productive students who occasionally go in completely the wrong direction.  
  • ChatBots are best at conversations.  If you don’t get what you want out of prompt, give it feedback and help it get back on course.
  • You may not be comfortable with them yet, but this is not a fad.
  • I believe this is a fundamentally new phase in the evolution of language.

Basic Use Cases for Academics

Interact with ChatBots as though they are smart and very productive students who occasionally go in completely the wrong direction.  


Summarizing text – articles, notes, transcripts

Generation of classroom materials

Revision of text

Generation of new ideas and focusing your thoughts

Finding the right tone


Some Hints:

Write good prompts and ask for revisions.

Never use something directly from the output… ever.

Customize your experience with a profile.

Purchase the upgrade – your students will.

Explore the multimodality capabilities of the apps.


Bad Prompts for Academic Writing
  1. Bad Prompt: "Write an essay about climate change."
    • Issue: The prompt is broad and could result in an essay that covers any range of topics related to climate change. Without specifics, the content may not align with the intended focus, such as the scientific basis, policy implications, or ethical considerations.
    • Revised: "Write a 1,500-word essay exploring the impact of anthropogenic climate change on polar ice melting, with a specific focus on its consequences for global sea levels. Cite at least five peer-reviewed articles."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Compose an essay exploring the impact of rising global temperatures on polar ice caps and its consequences for sea level rise and wildlife in the Arctic."
  2. Bad Prompt: "Summarize the key arguments of this article."
    • Issue: Without providing the article or specifying which aspects or sections are of interest, the model can't produce a meaningful summary.
    • Revised: "Summarize the key arguments of the article 'The Social Implications of Artificial Intelligence' by Jane Smith, focusing on its discussion of job displacement and income inequality. Limit your summary to 300 words."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Write an essay analyzing the influence of artificial intelligence in K-12 education, focusing on how AI-powered learning platforms enhance personalized instruction and student engagement."
  3. Bad Prompt: "Review this paper for me."
    • Issue: Similar to the above, this prompt doesn't include the paper to be reviewed or specify the criteria for the review (e.g., methodology, literature review quality).
    • Revised: "Conduct a critical review of the research paper 'Quantum Computing: Current State and Future Possibilities.' Focus on evaluating the methodology, the literature review, and the validity of the findings. Produce a review of around 700 words."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Craft an essay that delves into existentialism as a philosophical movement, examining the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus and their perspectives on the absurdity of human existence."
  4. Bad Prompt: "Analyze the data."
    • Issue: This is too vague. Without knowing what kind of data, what the research question is, or what kind of analysis is required (e.g., statistical, qualitative), the model can't proceed meaningfully.
    • Revised: "Analyze the dataset on COVID-19 infection rates in Tennessee from January to June 2020 using a linear regression model. Discuss how well the model fits the data and potential implications."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Conduct a statistical analysis on the dataset related to the impact of social media on teenage mental health, specifically exploring the correlation between daily screen time and reported emotional well-being among adolescents aged 13 to 18. 
  5. Bad Prompt: "Give feedback on student essays."
    • Issue: Without the essays or guidelines for what to look for (e.g., content accuracy, writing quality), the model can't provide targeted feedback.
    • Revised: "Provide feedback on student essays about the ethical considerations of gene editing. Use a rubric that assesses thesis clarity, evidence quality, and argumentative structure. Limit feedback to one paragraph per criterion."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Provide constructive feedback on a set of three student essays regarding the historical significance of the American Civil Rights Movement. Focus on clarity of argument, evidence, and use of primary sources, and suggest improvements in organization and critical analysis."
  6. Bad Prompt: "Discuss the limitations of the study."
    • Issue: Without information about the study in question, its methodology, or its findings, a meaningful discussion of its limitations can't be provided.
    • Revised: "Discuss the limitations of the study 'Impacts of Remote Learning on Academic Performance' by focusing on sample size, methodology, and the scope of the research. Produce a discussion of around 400 words."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Conduct a critical analysis of the limitations in a research study titled 'The Impact of Social Media on Political Polarization.' Specifically, evaluate the study's methodology, sample size, and potential sources of bias, and suggest areas where future research could address these limitations."
  7. Bad Prompt: "Write an introduction for my paper."
    • Issue: Without details on the paper's topic, objectives, and key arguments, the model can't craft an appropriate introduction.
    • Revised: "Write an introduction for a paper investigating the effectiveness of augmented reality in teaching astronomy. The introduction should provide background, state the research question, and outline the methodology."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Compose an engaging introduction for my research paper on the 'Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Labor Market,' summarizing the significance of the topic, outlining the research objectives, and providing a clear thesis statement that highlights the main arguments to be explored in the paper."
  8. Bad Prompt: "What should I include in my presentation?"
    • Issue: This lacks specifics on the subject, audience, and purpose of the presentation, making it difficult to provide a tailored list of content to include.
    • Revised: "Outline the key points to include in a 20-minute presentation about the challenges and opportunities of AI in higher education, targeting an audience of interdisciplinary faculty."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Please provide guidelines on the key elements to include in a 20-minute academic presentation on 'The Role of Renewable Energy in Sustainable Development.' Consider the target audience (e.g., undergraduate students) and suggest content like an introduction, key findings, case studies, and potential discussion points."
  9. Bad Prompt: "Create questions for my quiz."
    • Issue: Without knowing the subject, difficulty level, or format (multiple-choice, short answer, etc.), the model can't create appropriate quiz questions.
    • Revised: "Create 10 multiple-choice questions to assess understanding of neural networks in data science, focusing on architecture, training algorithms, and applications."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Generate ten multiple-choice questions for an introductory biology quiz covering topics such as cellular respiration, mitosis, and DNA structure. Ensure a mix of difficulty levels and provide explanations for both the correct and incorrect answers."
  10. Bad Prompt: "Help me with citations."
    • Issue: This doesn't specify what citation style is needed (APA, MLA, etc.) or what exactly needs to be cited (a particular passage, data, etc.).
    • Revised: "Format the in-text citations and bibliography for a paper on crowd-sourced data sets, adhering to the APA 7th edition guidelines."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Assist me in formatting in-text citations and a bibliography in the APA style for a research paper on 'The Psychological Effects of Social Media Use in Adolescents.' Specifically, provide guidance on citing online sources and properly formatting reference entries."
  11. Bad Prompt: "Discuss the impact of technology on education."
    • Issue: Similar to the first example, this prompt is overly broad and lacks context. It doesn't specify the type of technology, the educational level, or the desired angle of discussion.
    • Revised: "Write a 1,000-word essay discussing the impact of e-learning platforms like Moodle and Blackboard on student engagement in higher education. Use at least three academic sources."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Write an essay analyzing the influence of tablet-based interactive learning platforms on elementary school education, with a focus on how these technologies enhance engagement and math proficiency in young students."
  12. Bad Prompt: "Write an essay on philosophy."
    • Issue: Without specifying the branch of philosophy or a particular philosophical question, this prompt is too vague to yield a well-structured and informative essay.
    • Revised: "Write an essay of 2,000 words examining the ethical considerations of utilitarianism in modern healthcare. Refer to the works of John Stuart Mill and Peter Singer."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Craft an essay that explores the ethical dilemmas posed by utilitarianism in the context of environmental conservation, examining the works of philosophers like John Stuart Mill and their views on the moral implications of maximizing utility."
  13. Bad Prompt: "Write an essay on the impact of social media."
    • Issue: Similar to other prompts, this one lacks specificity. It doesn't mention which social media platform, the target audience, or the specific impact to explore.
    • Revised: "Write an essay of 1,800 words discussing the impact of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter on political polarization in the United States."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Compose an essay examining the influence of Instagram on body image perception among adolescent girls, focusing on the role of curated content and image filters in shaping self-esteem and beauty ideals."
  14. Bad Prompt: "Examine the role of technology in healthcare."
    • Issue: This prompt doesn't clarify the type of technology (e.g., AI, telemedicine, EHR systems) or the specific aspect of healthcare (e.g., patient care, administration, research).
    • Revised: "Write a 2,000-word essay examining the role of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on its impact on rural healthcare access."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Write an essay investigating the impact of artificial intelligence in patient diagnosis and treatment planning within the field of radiology. Analyze the effectiveness and limitations of AI-driven imaging interpretation in improving medical outcomes."
  15. Bad Prompt: "Discuss the benefits of exercise."
    • Issue: The prompt is too broad and doesn't specify the context or type of exercise. Without clear instructions, the response might not address the intended topic comprehensively.
    • Revised: "Write a 1,200-word essay discussing the cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise, referencing at least three peer-reviewed studies."
    • Revised Prompt - GPT 3.5: "Write an essay outlining the cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise for individuals over 50 years old, with a focus on its role in improving heart health, reducing the risk of hypertension, and enhancing overall longevity."

Customizing GPT

What would you like ChatGPT to know about you to provide better responses?

I have a Ph.D. in astrophysics, and I currently run the Computational and Data Science Ph.D. at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.   In my job, my research focuses on applying neural networks to crowd-sourced data sets from the Zooniverse.  I am also leading an effort in augmented reality - specifically investigating the effectiveness of wearable AR (Magic Leap units) to teach astronomy and chemistry.  I am the lead on an NSF grant on this project. 

My PhD program has about 35 doctoral students. Although my home department is Physics and Astronomy, I am associated with the Data Science leadership group.  Our campus has undergraduate and master's degrees and my doctoral program.  The programs, particularly the PhD, are highly interdisciplinary, with faculty members from across the STEM departments.

I am very interested in the applications of AI in higher education.  I am particularly interested in how we address the challenges it presents to our curriculum.  For example, automatic code generation directly impacts how we teach our coding course.  Automatic text generation can affect how we write and evaluate student work.   I will be leading faculty workshops this fall to discuss these issues.

In my personal life, I am married to Katharine.  We have three cats.  I like to build things and have a large maker space in my home with a wood shop.


How would you like ChatGPT to respond?

My name is John Wallin, but I prefer to be addressed as John.   I think longer answers are often more helpful, but this might be situational.   I am very comfortable with technical language.   I think opinions are helpful, but it is helpful to state when you are expressing an opinion vs a specific fact.  When writing revisions, it will be better to just show me the revised paragraphs instead of the entire document.  If possible, I would prefer accurate references.  However, any inaccurate information would be damaging to my reputation.    I would rather have no references rather than inaccurate references.  I view you as a collaborator - something close to a graduate student.   You have high abilities and intelligence but can't read my mind.  If you are unclear about what I am asking for, please ask for clarification.  I want to make sure we have clear communications.

Modes for using GPT-4

“Our most capable model, great for tasks that require creativity and advanced reasoning.”

Default – Only uses information from its training set.  It does not have access to external data. 

Browse with Bing – Gives the system access to the internet.  Example Prompts:

  • What is the weather currently in Murfreesboro Tn and what is the forecast this week?
  • What are the five top news headlines?
  • Can you summarize the conflict in Gaza this week based on news reports?

Advanced Data Analysis – Allows the user to import and analyze CSV format data files.  Example prompt:

This data set is a snapshot of the grades from my class. I need to calculate the midterm grades.

  1. Rename the columns.
    1. All the columns listed as HXX.. are homework grades.  Let’s rename them to just “HXX” where XX is the number of the homework.
    2. All the columns that start with LXX… shorten to LXX where XX is the lecture number.
    3. Shorten the names of the exam columns the same way.
  2. Create a new column called HWSUM that is the sum of values in the homework columns excluding the lowest two values. Find the maximum value of this column, then create a new column called HW NORM that uses the sums of the each individual so it is normalzed (based on the maximum) to 15 points.
  3. Repeat this with lecture scores – summing all but the lowest two scores. The new columns will be called LECSUM and LEC NORM.  The normalized values will also be out of 15 points using the maximum value of LECSUM.
  4. Create an EXAMSUM only using the top two scores, dropping the one lowest score. Normalize this into a column called “EXAM NORM” that is out of 70 pts.
  5. Create a new coluimn called TOTAL PTS that is the sum of the Normlized columns.”
  6. Create a new column called “GRADE” that is an A,B,C,D or F grade using the normal 90, 80, etc. grading.
  7. Show me the grade distribution.
  8. Allow me to download the file.

Image analysis:

Circuit board.jpg

Sample Prompt:  What does this circuit do?

Response: The image you provided shows a printed circuit board (PCB) with various electronic components. Based on the visible components and labels, here's an analysis:

From the visible components and markings, I'd hypothesize this circuit has something to do with control systems, possibly a PID controller or some signal processing related to it. The presence of terms related to PID control combined with the ICs suggests it might be processing input signals and generating a control output. However, to confirm the exact functionality, a schematic or more detailed information would be necessary.

Note: This is a broad analysis based on the visual information provided, and some components or connections might not be visible in the image. If you can provide more context or a clearer image, I might be able to give a more accurate assessment.


DALL-E 3 – Art Generation from a Text Prompt


Sample Prompt: Make me an image of a Cat astronaut floating in space. It should be pawing at a ball of space yard that is slowly driving away from it. The cat is trying to recover her precious toy before it floats away. This should be a digital art image. The curved edge earth should be in the background. You should also be able to see the cat's spacecraft.



Plug-ins – 3rd party additions to ChatGPT to perform specific tasks.

Example Plugins:

  • AskYourPDF – Allows you to load and query PDF documents
  • Paper Chat – search through the ArXIV preprint archive
  • Diagrams: Show Me- create flowcharts, schema, etc.
  • ScholarAI – access 200M+ scholarly publications
  • LinkReader – read any URL including text, video, images
  • Wolfram – use Mathematical abilities of Wolfram Alpha 

Voice Interface

Talk directly to GPT via voice input and output.

[1] OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (September 25 Version) [Large language model].