Students are often tasked with writing essays for various subjects. By using ChatGPT as an assistant, they can speed up the process and utilize their time more productively.
One important thing to remember is that you must use AI for work assistance and not for content creation. It’s also a good idea to disclose to your professor how you will be using ChatGPT so he doesn’t have an issue with it.
In this article, I talk about how you can use ChatGPT as an essay-writing helper to give you ideas, outlines, citations, and more.
How to Use ChatGPT to Write an Essay?
ChatGPT can be your personal AI assistant in writing flawless essays. It can help brainstorm ideas, create outlines, dive deep into topics, and surface the best materials upfront, easing the overall process and weaving words for your essay.
When writing a college essay, scrolling the web for articles or researching through journals is great, but it consumes enormous time and requires sheer focus on your laptop screen for hours.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on using ChatGPT in your helper when writing an essay.
👀 Note: Using ChatGPT in the writing process, AKA to generate essay content, isn’t a great idea. You should use it to brainstorm, outline, and research, but not for purely writing the essay.
Step 1. Topic Ideation and Clarification
ChatGPT is good at giving your essay topics from different angles and perspectives.
Coming up with topic ideas on your own can be daunting and exhausting. Fear of choosing a silly topic, getting hold of an angle, or being scared of self-expression can lead to a delayed start.
Why not use ChatGPT? This AI-powered chatbot has access to a wide range of information. With this large dataset, it helps you brainstorm topic ideas and even get clarity on them.
Moreover, ChatGPT is trained to interpret commands in natural language. Use it to feed the bot with assignment-specific instructions like essay length, theme, format, and content.
Look at the below prompt, for example. 👇
To brainstorm and refine potential essay topics that align with my personal interests and fulfill the specific requirements of my assignment.
I am currently assigned to write an essay for [subject/course name]. The essay needs to be approximately [specify word count or page length] and formatted according to [specify format: MLA, APA, Chicago, etc., if known].
The topic should ideally relate to [mention any specific themes or areas you’re interested in or that are relevant to the course].
Step 2. Outline and Planning
ChatGPT does an excellent job of generating outlines. It can help:
- Create an outline with perfectly distributed sections
- Determine and organize sections in a logical manner
- Give a brief overview of the key points that will go into each section
- Refine the outline structure for different academic levels
After you get clarity on the essay topics and finalize one, the next step is to plan an outline for the essay.
An outline provides a concrete structure to the essay. It organizes thoughts logically and ensures that your arguments flow progressively throughout the piece.
Even better, an outline divides the essay into different sections, from introduction to conclusion – in a systematic manner. Making it easily digestible and quickly scannable.
But it’s tough to organize a topic’s What, Why, and How when you have just started with it.
One more thing AI can do for you is – emphasize particular themes or areas in your essay.
For instance, I used the below prompt to generate an outline for my essay.
To create a structured outline for my essay that effectively organizes my thoughts and ensures a smooth flow from the introduction to the conclusion. Additionally, I need assistance in planning the structure of each paragraph to maintain coherence and logical progression of ideas.
The essay is on the topic of [insert your essay topic].
Based on the research and information gathered, the main themes I want to address are [list the main themes or key points you want to explore in your essay].
The essay needs to be structured in a format suitable for [mention the academic level or specific requirements, if any, like high school, undergraduate, etc.].
I am aiming for [specify the total number of paragraphs if known, including introduction and conclusion].
I would like the outline to particularly emphasize [mention any specific elements you want to highlight, like a strong argumentative approach, comparative analysis, etc.].
Step 3. Research and Information Gathering
ChatGPT is a lifesaver when it comes to grinding research tasks. The AI bot is trained on large datasets and natural language processing (NLP) models and is capable of providing summaries and explanations on a range of topics quickly.
This is especially helpful when you need to understand the basics of your essay topic.
A survey conducted by the PEW Research Center among US teens aged 13 to 17 claimed that seven in ten teens find it acceptable to use ChatGPT for research.
However – it’s important to know that ChatGPT might hallucinate and provide false explanations, so double-checking the facts AI spits out is important.
A better way to research via ChatGPT is to prompt the bot to gather essay-related data and information. Ask ChatGPT to list scholarly articles and credible sources and suggest relevant data related to your essay topic and themes.
If prompted correctly, ChatGPT can question your ideas with counter-stats and data, offering different perspectives on your topic.
Having an unbiased second opinion can stimulate critical thinking and help you consider various angles for your essay.
👀 Note: To show you how to carry out the process, I’ve used GPT-4 and its power to browse Bing to get results.
To conduct focused research for my essay topic, acquire scholarly articles, credible sources, and relevant data, and receive summarized key findings for efficient understanding and application in my essay.
The topic of my essay is [insert your specific essay topic here], and here’s the outline [insert the outline you got from Team-GPT in step 2].
I am looking for information that covers [mention specific aspects or questions related to the topic you want to explore].
The essay is for [subject/course name], and it requires the incorporation of [specify any particular type of sources or data required, like peer-reviewed articles, statistical data, historical records, etc.].
Step 4. Thesis Statement Development
Here’s how you develop a thesis statement using ChatGPT.
The thesis statement clearly states the topic being discussed and the purpose of your paper in a single sentence, generally after the introduction of an essay.
That statement reflects the structure and flow of your essay. It helps readers to settle in with your angle and perspective on the topic before continuing the read.
Based on the themes and information gathered in the previous Steps, ChatGPT can formulate a strong thesis statement.
All you need to do is – insert your essay topic, mention the key themes, specify the academic level – and let AI come up with a clear, concise thesis for your essay.
Moreover, if you want your thesis to reflect any specific approach, like argumentative, analytical, persuasive, or mixed, prompt the AI for the same.
For example, I asked ChatGPT to generate a thesis statement using this prompt.
To develop a strong and clear thesis statement that effectively encapsulates the main argument or perspective of my essay, providing a guiding direction for the entire piece.
My essay revolves around the topic of [insert your specific essay topic here].
Through my research, I have focused on [briefly mention the key themes or findings from your research].
The essay is intended for [mention the academic level or the audience, like college, high school, seminar, etc.].
I want the thesis to reflect an approach that is [specify any particular approach you want, like argumentative, analytical, persuasive, etc.].
Step 5. Citations and References
There’s a higher chance of you messing up the citation part of your essay than the essay as a whole. Since citations are a bit technical and require adequate formatting, ChatGPT can be a handy tool for the job.
The AI can:
- Explain different citation styles and nuances in an easy way
- Help understand how to format citations, bibliography, or work-cited pages correctly
- Guide you in formatting in-text citations and reference entries
The citation and reference system is preferred in all academic research papers and essays. In fact, it’s considered a key skill in academic writing.
However, different essays may require different citation styles. For example, the Chicago-style citation has two varieties:
- Notes and bibliography: Preferred by those working in humanities
- Author-date: Common in science and social science papers
Accurate and proper citation goes a long way toward demonstrating respect for others’ work and contributions to the scholarly conversation.
As an example, I asked ChatGPT to guide me in citing the sources used in my essay.
👀 Note: Used GPT-4 to browse Bing and create citations.
To receive guidance on properly citing the sources used in my essay according to the specified citation style and to get assistance in organizing and formatting my bibliography or works cited page.
The essay I am working on requires the use of [specify the citation style – APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.].
I have used various types of sources, including [mention the types of sources used, like books, academic journals, websites, etc.].
My essay is for [mention the course or subject, if relevant].
I need help in ensuring that all citations are accurate and formatted correctly.
Additionally, I am looking for assistance in structuring my bibliography or works cited page in alignment with the chosen citation style.
Step 6. Review and Feedback
Once you’ve completed the first draft of your essay, use ChatGPT to review and get constructive feedback.
ChatGPT has advanced writing capabilities, which allows the tool to improve overall content quality. Here are a few ways ChatGPT can help edit your content:
- Identify and correct grammatical errors and spelling mistakes
- Rephrase sentences to maintain a consistent tone and style
- Adjust the readability of your essay according to your grade
- Improve fluency by adjusting transitions between paragraphs
Additionally, you can ask ChatGPT to share feedback on the internal material, like essay depth arguments, explanations, and suggestions to improve the essay quality.
To receive constructive feedback on my essay draft, focusing on improving the strength of the argument, clarity of expression, and overall organization. Additionally, I seek assistance in proofreading the draft for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.
I have completed a draft of my essay on the topic of [insert your essay topic here]. The essay is approximately [mention the word count or page length] and is intended for [mention the academic level or audience, like a university course, high school class, etc.].
I am particularly concerned about [mention any specific aspects you want feedback on, like the flow of arguments, clarity of thesis, coherence between paragraphs, etc.]. I aim to enhance the overall quality and readability of the essay. Here’s the draft:
[insert your written essay here].
Step 7. Formatting and Presentation
Quality formatting requires an eye for detail. However, students often lack this skill, and that’s where ChatGPT can come in.
You can use ChatGPT to streamline the finalization process, ensuring your work is professionally presented.
All you need to do is prompt ChatGPT with specific formatting guidelines from your professor; this includes details such as font style, margin spacing, and structural consistency.
To ensure my essay adheres to the specified formatting guidelines, including margins, font, and spacing, and to check for visual and structural consistency in headings, subheadings, and the overall layout.
My essay on [insert your essay topic] is nearing completion. It needs to be formatted according to [mention the specific formatting guidelines required, such as MLA, APA, Chicago, or specific instructions provided by your course or teacher].
This includes specific requirements for [list any known requirements such as font type and size, margin size, line spacing, paragraph indentation, etc.].
I am also looking for assistance in ensuring that the headings and subheadings are consistently styled and that the overall layout aligns with academic standards. The essay is for [mention the academic level or audience].
Here’s the essay:
[insert your essay here].
ChatGPT for Essay Generating vs Writing Yourself
☁️ Picture this: You’ve been assigned to write an essay. You visit ChatGPT and ask it to write a two-page essay on the topic. You wait a few seconds and get the essay red-hot delivered.
It seems simple, right?
But – ChatGPT isn’t an expert. It’s just a machine running on programmatic algorithms and trained on vast amounts of data acquired from pre-set datasets or by scraping the web. There’s no way the AI could deliver the quality of essay you’d expect from it.
That said, here are some reasons why writing an essay yourself is better than using ChatGPT.
#1. ChatGPT Lacks Human Intelligence
One of the common misconceptions among students is that AI has a degree of human intelligence, which isn’t the case.
Human intelligence is unparalleled. ChatGPT’s knowledge and responses are limited to the data it is fed.
In fact, the content AI generates cannot be coined as ‘original’ but a result of statistical analysis. That is, the AI chatbot creates content based on the patterns it sees in already existing data and published content on the web.
Therefore, AI content lacks depth and human touch. And mainly consists of surface-level information.
#2. Hallucinates without Disclaimer
A major drawback of ChatGPT is that it sucks in generating long-form content. In our case, if you ask the chatbot to write an entire essay, you will find yourself surrounded with random sentences, phrases, and even paragraphs that don’t align with the context of your essay.
To show students how AI is NOT an alternative to human-written essays, an Elon University professor gave his class a task: Ask ChatGPT to write an essay and then grade it yourself.
“Many students expressed shock and dismay upon learning the AI could fabricate bogus information,” he writes, adding that he expected some essays to contain errors, but all of them did.
Even worse, if you’re new to the topic, you’d never know when the AI starts hallucinating and generating false information. Because of this, even OpenAI asks users to double-check responses for accuracy.
#3. False Citations
It happened to me when I used GPT-4 to scrape the web for citations to some stats generated as a response.
ChatGPT can come up with random citations, even made-up ones, for the sake of answering. Although some sources were spot on, most stats were linked to an article or research paper where it never existed.
I had to carry out the process multiple times to get accurate results.
Collaborate on Team-GPT
Using ChatGPT as an assistant for essay writing is a good idea to increase your productivity as a student. Your professors won’t mind it until you use AI as a helping aid and not a replacement for yourself.
But to increase your productivity further, use Team-GPT to organize chats, share chat links with your professors and peers, and onboard your peers to chat with AI together to get the most out of it.
Sign up for Team-GPT’s free plan today and get started with your essay.
About the author
I teach data science and AI to 1.2M students on Udemy. I'm co-founder of 365 Data Science, 3veta, and Team-GPT. My work is mostly focused on helping people and organizations adopt AI.