AI expert Thomas Winters' essential thesis tips

'If you haven't gotten on board yet, definitely give it a shot!'

KU Leuven continues to update its generative artificial intelligence guidelines. While these guidelines offer tips, concerns, and guiding principles, the most effective approach to crafting good papers remains somewhat unclear. AI expert Thomas Winters comes to the rescue.

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1. Look beyond ChatGPT

While ChatGPT currently stands out as the most well-known artificial intelligence platform, numerous other useful AI tools are available to help you write your papers. Thomas Winters, AI researcher at KU Leuven, quotes tools such as 'AI Platforms' 'Connected Papers', and 'Perplexity'.

'Connected Papers is particularly useful for literature reviews', says Winters. While bibliographies typically show which studies an author has cited, the tool also displays research papers that cited the paper you're interested in. 'This allows you to quickly filter which works are relevant to your study', explains Winters.

'We need to make sure we don’t start sounding like ChatGPT ourselves.'

Perplexity on the other hand, provides researchers with answers to specific questions. 'This AI is more akin to ChatGPT and, like ChatGPT, you have to keep in mind that not everything the AI generates is reliable', Winters explains. However, Perplexity is a good starting point for your research. 'When you're unsure where to begin or what has or hasn't been researched yet, you can simply ask the tool.' Winters also recommends, which can perform similar functions to Perplexity.

2. Be in control of the context 

You can also use AI to your advantage by having ChatGPT generate a section of your paper or thesis. 'You usually have a rough idea of which elements you want to include in each section of your paper', says Winters. 'So, when you pass those along to ChatGPT, for example in bullet points, you can draw inspiration from the generated text.'

'That way, students keep control over their research context, but don't fall back on similar wordings as much', Winters explains. 'A rather natural tendency when you’re writing a thousand-word thesis.'

3. Don't become an AI monster

Ensure you only draw inspiration from AI tools and refrain from copying entire texts. 'Otherwise, you will quickly find yourself plagiarising without realising it', says Winters. 'ChatGPT does not always invent everything itself and might contain copied parts of existing online texts, giving you the chance to copy other people's writing without noticing.'

'In addition, it’s becoming increasingly apparent when a text has been generated by artificial intelligence', Winters points out. For example, there has been an increase in the last year of certain words appearing in texts. 'So, we need to make sure we don’t start sounding like ChatGPT ourselves.'

4. Beware of confident bullshitting

'A piece of familiar advice: do not trust everything you find on the internet. ChatGPT is no exception, as it's based on internet data', explains Winters.

ChatGPT has learned a lot from the internet, but it also makes up a lot of the things it generates. 'That way, it creates hallucinations (generating something that doesn't exist, ed.)', Winters warns. 'As such, ChatGPT might cite a paper that is entirely self-produced. It’s just a very self-confident bullshitter.'

5. Dare to make the jump

 At times, technology, and particularly artificial intelligence, seems to be progressing too rapidly, making some people feel left behind.

 'If you haven't already jumped on the AI train, I recommend playing around a bit', says Winters. 'But if you're already using ChatGPT, especially ChatGPT 4 (the paid version), then you're already up-to-date with the most modern form of AI.'

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