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Referencing & Plagiarism Awareness: 5. Referencing Artificial Intelligence Outputs

What is AI?

AI is short for Artificial Intelligence. This is a field of computer science that focuses on creating what appear to be intelligent machines that are capable of performing tasks that have usually required human intelligence. AI involves developing algorithms and systems that can learn from data, recognize patterns, and make decisions or predictions based on those algorithms or systems.

AI enables machines to understand, reason, and interact with the world in ways that simulate human cognition. Examples of AI applications that you might have come across in everyday life include chat assistants, image recognition, autonomous vehicles, and recommendation systems (for films, music or shopping). AI has the potential to revolutionize various industries, improve efficiency, and solve complex problems. However, it also raises important ethical considerations regarding privacy, bias, and the impact on jobs and society.

This Library Guide will focus on Generative AI. We will examine how students can effectively employ it to maximize their library experience. The guide will also address the limitations as well as the ethical considerations associated with its use.

Information in this guide is current as of June 2023.

What is Generative AI?

Generative AI (ChatGPT, Bard, Dall-E, etc). is a relatively new technology that focuses on creating new and original content, such as images, music, or text, using artificial intelligence.

Unlike traditional AI systems that rely on predefined rules, generative AI models learn from vast amounts of data to generate content.

Despite its name, Generative AI is not intelligent, but works more like predictive text. By understanding patterns and styles from existing examples, a system like ChatGPT can mimic and generate new content that appears remarkably realistic. 

The Limitations of AI - Key Facts

It is important to remember that there are a number of limitations to AI. These include:

  • Generative AI is not designed to produce factually accurate information
  • Generative AI may not be up to date. Tools running GPT-3.5 (such as the free version of OpenAI's ChatGPT) have been trained on materials up to the year 2021. (So if you ask it who the UK Prime Minister is, it doesn't know). Tools running GPT-4 (such as Microsoft's BingAI, and the paid-for version of ChatGPT) have much more up-to-date information.
  • Generated outputs may replicate the biases in the training material. (This might include: ageism, ableism, sexism, homophobia and racism)
  • The AI may not have access to information that is behind a paywall (for example: peer-reviewed academic journal articles).

University Guidance on Using AI

The University guidelines state that "presenting work generated by AI as if it were your own" is a form of plagiarism and therefore constitutes unacceptable  academic practice. Full details on the University's guidelines on unacceptable practice can be found here

Further information on referencing and plagiarism can be found in our Referencing and Plagiarism Awareness Library Guide

Departmental Guidance on Using AI

Student's Union Guidance on Using AI

Utilising AI: Key Facts

You must follow the latest guidance on AI supplied by your department.

If you use AI for your assessed work, be transparent and acknowledge that you have used it.

Outputs generated by AI:

  • May not be up-to-date.
  • May be inaccurate.
  • May be biased.

If you use Generative AI in any part of your assessed work, it is your responsibility to check all outputs generated by the AI to make sure that the information produced is current and correct..

Due to privacy and security concerns we would not recommend putting personal data into AI systems.

The AI landscape is developing very quickly and guidance that is current now, may be subject to change. 

In this Guide we will be examining these and other aspects of utilising AI within a library context.

Further Information on Generative AI

More information on Generative AI can be found in our Guide - Utilising AI in the Library: A Student's Guide.

Fact-Checking and Spotting Misinformation

Whilst Generative AI appears to produce often very plausible text, it is the student's responsibility to make sure that all of these outputs are current and accurate. How can you do this?

Your Library Team have put together guidance on how to begin to evaluate information that you might come across when you are online. This guidance will help you to verify the authenticity of any Generative AI outputs.   

AI, Referencing and Citations

One challenge that AI faces is accurately generating citations and references. AI models rely on statistical patterns rather than a genuine understanding of how a citation or a reference should be presented. This can lead to inaccuracies in the reference which might include:::

  • Generating a reference in the wrong referencing style.
  • Elements such as places of publication and publication dates may be incorrect or missing.
  • Incorrectly attributing authors to a work.
  • Lack of retrieval information (DOIs, URLs, etc).
  • Confusing resource types, for example, mixing up book chapters with journal articles. 
  • Mismatched or incorrect journal and issue numbers for academic articles.
  • Incorrect page numbering
  • Incorrect edition statements.

As previously stated in this guide, if you use AI for any part of your assessed work, it is your responsibility to check all outputs generated by the AI to make sure that the information produced is current and correct.

Take a look at our Referencing and Plagiarism Awareness Guide for further information about the theory and practice of this critical academic skill.

Where Can I Get Help?

It is vital that you follow all the current guidance on the use of AI provided by your department. 

If you would like to know how you can utilise AI in finding library resources then please do come and see us at:

  •   The enquiries desk on Level F of the Hugh Owen Library.
  •   The enquiries desk in the Physical Sciences Library

Or contact your subject librarian.

You can also email us at:

For more general information about the library see our Guides.