Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence in Academic Writing

Illustration by Meghrie Yaacoubian

Today, the reach of technology feels limitless. Everything is on the tip of our fingers, which can be powerful and intimidating simultaneously.

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT have significantly shifted our daily lives and can help students overcome some obstacles they face. In reality, facing those challenges head-on without help from these tools is the better choice because it can be more beneficial and meaningful than relying on AI to do the work for us. For example, many writers face “writer’s block,” and they struggle to continue a sentence or need help knowing where to begin in the first place. As a result, the convenient solution is to ask ChatGPT for help. However, using AI-powered tools has consequences because of the unreliability of the sources it uses to generate text.

Professor Steven Donatelle, an adjunct lecturer at AUA, advises students to avoid using AI for their assignments. He says, “AI doesn’t understand what it is doing; it merely calculates, [and] that is great if you are dealing with data, but data is not reality.”

Professor Donatelle asserts that people too often take AI to be a craftsman and do not realize it is just a tool. Moreover, they expect it to do the job correctly, but they do not understand what it takes to do it right or what the right end product needs to be. Consequently, this can be a misconception among students because, ultimately, AI is an instrument they can use but not rely on to produce a stellar writing piece.

However, Professor Donatelle thinks that in fields such as advertising and PR, AI can be helpful since the purpose of advertising is to sell, and it can be effective. Nonetheless, when it comes to academic works, he believes that “It is either dangerous or it devalues what scholarly work should be; scholarly work should be insightful, and it should see and present new things.” In countless fields, AI allows us to save time, be productive, and find the answers in a matter of seconds, but it is essential to filter out the generated information to have credible and insightful writing.

Senior EC student, Nanor Bchtikian shares similar views with Professor Donatelle, talking about how instructors are aware of their students using AI tools, but they should consider the extent to which they rely on it. “I was already in my second semester of junior year when the whole AI scene started to become popular among avenge users, so in a way, I am very thankful that I did not have it as a freshman because I strongly think it would’ve been more harmful than helpful,” she explains while referring to learning foundational writing lessons and techniques. Additionally, Nanor says that she usually uses AI to help her structure projects, gather ideas, and summarize long texts or topics for easier comprehension.

On the contrary, Dr. Brent Anders, an adjunct lecturer and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at AUA, thinks that we should integrate AI tools into all parts of the academic curriculum; however, he believes that “All students must still learn fundamental skills and know how to properly put together a sentence, paragraph, and essay on their own, without the use of AI, but they must also be able to create through the use of AI.” Moreover, Professor Anders states that it is challenging to distinguish between human and AI-generated content and that if the course and its assessments are structured constructively, they can help students and hold them responsible for their own learning.

Helpful steps students can take is by investigating the sources used by the AI tool to ensure the credibility of the generated text. AI can take away the creativity and originality of human-produced work, but that does not mean it cannot guide us or redirect us to shape our writing better.

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