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Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A guide to Artificial Intelligence and academic integrity for students.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Note to Students

Before using Copilot, ChatGPT, or other generative Artificial Intelligence (gen AI) tools, always make sure to check with your professor for each course to find out if you can use AI, and if so, what exactly is permitted for a specific assignment.

If you are permitted to use gen AI tools, be sure to:

  • evaluate the content/output carefully and critically. Content produced may contain incorrect or biased and therefore unreliable information. These tools may also infringe on your privacy (e.g., collecting data about you and sharing it), so use them with caution. Consider using more authoritative, reliable, and secure sources instead.
  • make sure to cite the information you use in the text and in the reference list. We also recommend adding an acknowledgement that you used AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to machines that can perform tasks with human-like intelligence. AI-enabled technologies that can perform specific tasks have been around for a long time. They are used in many fields from manufacturing to medicine to entertainment. If you've ever spoken to Siri or Alexa, you've used natural language processing AI, which can understand human speech. Other common examples include autocorrect and photo apps that identify the same individual in different pictures.

Generative AI is a kind of AI that can create (or generate) new content, including text, images, or even music, without direct human input. AI Chatbots like ChatGPT function like conversational partners. They analyze enormous amounts of text from various sources to understand language patterns, contexts, and nuances.

Language Models, particularly Large Language Models (LLMs), are the “brains” behind these AI Chatbots. They piece together words and phrases based on the patterns and rules they've learned from the text they've analyzed instead of following scripts. They learn from examples to create new, contextually-relevant content, making interactions feel remarkably human. Despite that, gen AI models don’t think and understand like we do. Their understanding is more like prediction based on pattern recognition and statistical correlation. They process information based on what they observed in the training data without true comprehension or awareness of concepts.*

*Some of this text is based on ChatGPT-3.5 responses to "[Draft] a brief overview of what generative AI is, with a specific focus on chatbots and how LLMs work. Don’t go into too much technical detail. You can use a metaphor to facilitate understanding. Please respond in 200 words or fewer.” and “Do AI models like you think and understand the way people do? How does it differ?” OpenAI, December 2023, Final version reviewed and revised for clarity, length, format, and accuracy by a VSCS Librarian, and integrated with human-drafted text.

Frequently Asked Questions


This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). It is adapted from "Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Students" by Brenda Smith, shared under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

AI Use Disclosure

Some text on this guide has been edited with the help of AI Chatbots. Final versions were reviewed and revised for clarity, length, format, and accuracy by a VSCS Librarian.