Five Questions Professors Will Ask You If You Are Suspected of AI Use

AI, Writing

5th December 2023

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In our previous posts, we recommended using AI to help rather than replace your writing. This ensures that AI is used correctly and that you will not get in trouble with your professors. Yet, as mentioned earlier, AI detectors can flag your work incorrectly. To help you out, we prepared five questions professors might ask if they think you used AI too much. Knowing how to answer them will help you prove you did nothing wrong.

1. How did you plan and structure the paper?

If you wrote your paper and used AI merely as an aid, you should be able to describe the thought process behind your writing. At least this is what your professors will assume. One thing they might ask you is to outline how you went about planning and structuring it. If you can locate some notes you jotted before writing, that would be a great aid. If you do not have any notes, try to remember how you organised your initial ideas and decided what will go in the introduction, main body, and concluding sections.

3. How did you come up with the main arguments?

Professors might also explore your thought process by questioning how you formulated the main arguments in your paper. This question can be answered only if you spend considerable time contemplating it. You might have developed the main argument by consulting lecture notes, picking up on something that personally interests you, or synthesising information from specific sources. Be sure to communicate all you can remember as this will signal your genuine effort in writing the work.

3. Can you identify specific sources you consulted?

If you were the mastermind behind your paper, you should be able to identify and describe those sources. These could be scholarly articles, books, or websites that you read and remember clearly. If you cannot recall the sources’ publishing details, don’t worry. Professors will be more interested in the content of the sources than in who wrote them, when, and where.

4. Did you use AI and, if yes, how?

If your professors inquire into your AI use directly, don’t panic and be honest. Feel free to explain that AI helped you locate relevant information, find academic terms, finish sentences, paraphrase, and/or re-format references. Using AI for these purposes is acceptable and you will not be penalised for it. Just clearly state you have used AI as a tool to improve your writing and that you have not directly copied any AI-generated text.

5. Could you provide examples of sentences or paragraphs where you used AI?

After establishing that you used AI as an aid, your professors may want to know how used it exactly. Go through your paper and try to locate some sentences or paragraphs that were paraphrased, started, or finished by AI. Explain clearly what went wrong with your original writing and why you needed AI assistance. For example, you may note that you struggled with a specific paragraph because you had difficulty expressing a complex concept concisely, and AI provided alternative phrasing that improved clarity and coherence. This will be sufficient to demonstrate your responsible AI use.

A key message

If you are well-prepared to defend the originality of your work, nothing can go wrong. Professors understand that AI detectors can make mistakes, and if you are honest about your writing process, you will not get into trouble. Clarifying how you thought about your paper and used AI as a tool will clear any doubts and keep you from facing issues.