Skip to Main Content

Study Skills

Wolfson College Academic Skills: Using AI for Academic Purposes

Help with finding, managing and using information from the Wolfson Library Team.

Introducing AI for use in the research process

Technology enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI) has been present and embedded in our education practices for quite some time now. From spell checkers, text prediction in Microsoft Word, Grammarly, to Turnitin, educators and students in higher education have successfully engaged with and adapted to previous AI technologies. The appearance and growing popularity of Chat GPT in 2022 prompted wide discussions on the use of Language Learning Models (such as Chat GPT) and the multiplicity of research apps and platforms which incorporate AI for use in education. 

As a result of the queries we have received on this topic, we have decided to compile this LibGuide to provide general guidance on how AI might be ethically incorporated into the research process. In the sections below, we will draw attention to some points to consider when using AI-enhanced technology, highlight the University's position on the use of AI and academic integrity, and introduce some tools that can allow you to incorporate this new technology ethically.

Please note: This LibGuide is a work in progress, and we will update it as new developments occur. If you have any suggestions or would like to draw our attention to something we may have missed, please email the Academic Skills Librarian.

Leave us your feedback

Would you like to take part in a focus group exploring the use of generative AI in academic studies? If so, please complete this short form to share your thoughts and register interest in participating in a focus group: Do you use generative AI for your academic work? Participation is open to all students at the University of Cambridge.

Key Terms in the Discussion

Image of AI as an embodied thing.Over the years, a variety of definitions have surfaced for AI.  Below are some definitions that can help give a sense of what is meant by the term artificial intelligence:

"At its simplest form, artificial intelligence is a field, which combines computer science and robust datasets, to enable problem-solving. It also encompasses sub-fields of machine learning and deep learning, which are frequently mentioned in conjunction with artificial intelligence" (

"Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a rapidly evolving field of developing machine intelligence to replicate, and in some cases, exceed human cognitive capacities. The most prominent techniques in AI that have risen to wider attention are machine learning, large language models, and natural language processing (generative AI) which, when prompted by user input, can produce seemingly intelligent responses replicating that of human interaction" (

From these definitions it becomes clear that when we are referring to Artificial Intelligence, we are referring to a field of study that is concerned with using computer science and various forms of machine learning to problem solve and provide responses to problems in a similar manner as humans. This is the type of technology which is already present in spell checkers, predictive text in Microsoft Word, and proofreading and grammar checkers like Grammarly. 


Image created by BING Copilot in response to the prompt: Create an image of AI as an embodied thing.

Generative Artificial Intelligence is a type of machine learning that has prompted the recent discussion on the use of artificial intelligence in education. It is a type of deep-learning model which can take existing raw data, such as the entirety of Wikipedia, and learn to create new, unseen data, such as a essays or images, when it is prompted to. Generative AI learns through solving problems and receiving feedback, and if it for this reason you may often hear about the importance of creating clear, precise prompts when engaging with Chat GPT or similar applications. 





Image created by BING Copilot in response to the prompt: Create an image of generative AI as an embodied thing.

Top 5 things to be aware of

While we may already by comfortable with many forms of AI in our day to day life, below are some points to consider as Generative AI continues to create new possibilities to influence how we engage with learning and our own research. 

Number 1Be wary of false citations, even if the sources sound legitimate or you are provided with quotes from the article. Large Language Models (LLMs) like Chat GPT can often "hallucinate" or invent sources that sound convincingly real. It can make up articles from established publications and even court cases with quotes from imaginary opinions.


Number 2Reading summaries is not a replacement for critically engaging with the text. Think of AI software that provides summaries of text as your first scan of a reading; it can help you get a general sense of the reading, but you may miss out on a lot of the nuance and subtle features of the text that can be essential for using it later in your own writing.


Number 3Be aware of the possibility of bias in the information you are presented. Since generative AI learns from existing raw data, it may, at times, provide responses that take data out of context or reinforce harmful stereotypes. Though the responses provided by generative AI may give the appearance of a complex, reflective, and deeply reasoned process, remember, current platforms are heavily susceptible to the quality of prompts that are entered and lack of moral understanding of the information they provide. Having a critical approach to the information you are presented is just as necessary as if you were engaging with other resources for your research.                       

Number 4Don't let generative AI do your work for you. Relying on generative AI to substitute the work needed to develop a skill or practice is not only a detriment to your own learning experience, but it offloads, as Marc Watkins notes, "the entire moral, ethical, and responsible thinking we expect from a human being."


Number 5Last but not least, while generative AI can help you work through various stages of the research process, remember you are ultimately responsible for knowing what is needed at each stage of your research and for the information you submit for evaluation. 

University of Cambridge Statement on the use of AI

As of February 2024, the University of Cambridge has issued the following regarding the use of AI:

"Students are permitted to make appropriate use of artificial intelligence tools to support their personal study, research and formative work. Where doing so, it is recommended that you discuss this with your supervisor or lecturer to understand how best to engage with these tools whilst still benefiting from the educational experience as intended.

A student using any unacknowledged content generated by artificial intelligence within a summative assessment as though it is their own work constitutes academic misconduct, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the assessment brief.

We encourage staff to clearly communicate their expectations to students and encourage use of available guidance where relevant and useful. If you have any concerns regarding the potential use of artificial intelligence, please discuss this with your supervisor or lecturer to ensure you have the most relevant and up to date information."

For further information, please visit the University's Artificial Intelligence section on the Academic Misconduct and Plagiarism page.

Privacy and Copyright Concerns

Most generative AI tools will, by default, collect the data you enter in your prompts to help train and develop the AI tool further. In many cases you will have the ability to option to opt out of allowing the company to use your data this way, but you may need to actively select this option. 

If you are entering research that you are not ready to share publicly, please be aware that unless you are able to opt out of allowing your information to be used for training, it may reappear in the responses the AI tool provides to other similar prompts. 

Transcribing Interviews and Participant Data

If you are using a generative AI tool to help transcribe interviews or analyze participant data, you will need to be aware of how it stores and manages your data. Improper use of generative AI for these types of tasks may constitute a violation of ethics for your research project. 

Under Construction

Using AI Ethically

AI in the style of Rodin's "The Thinker"As the capabilities of  generative AI continue to evolve, it will be important to have a sense of each tools limitations and how you can use it  without breaching the guidelines of academic integrity. Below are some ways you can use various platforms to assist you in your study without participating in academic misconduct:

  1. To brainstorm initial ideas when writing a prompt. 
  2. To provide alternative search terms to help you find further resources in your library catalogue.
  3. To generate practice questions to a quiz or an exam.
  4. To help provide feedback on a sample of your writing.
  5. To create a summary of a topic or reading

If you use generative AI to assist your study, remember that it should not be the only method used to study. You will have greater success if you incorporate its usage alongside other study techniques where you can develop your subject knowledge and critical thinking skills.  




Image created using DreamStudio in response to the prompt: Create an image of AI in the style of Rodin's "The Thinker".

Creating Prompts for AI

The first step to using generative AI platforms effectively is to create clear, precise prompts that will allow the platform enough information to produce the best answer for your query.  Below are some top tips from Monash University on creating better prompts:

Top Tips for Crafting a strong prompt: precision is key, prompting is part of a cycle, topic expertise is imporant so analyse the results, you need to think critically and change your prompt as you go

Sometimes it can be helpful to have a framework to help guide you as you create prompts. Leo S. Lo provides 5 principles to follow in the CLEAR framework for prompt engineering:

  • C - Be concise in crafting prompts. Remove superfluous language and allow the software to focus on the more important aspects of the task. Using clear instructions will also help you get the desired response. 
  • L - Be logical in your prompt instructions. Logically structured prompts enable AI models to better comprehend the context and relationships between various concepts, resulting in more accurate and coherent outputs.
  • E -  Be explicit in your prompt instructions. Explicit prompts provide precise instructions regarding the desired output format, content, or scope, thereby reducing the likelihood of receiving unanticipated or irrelevant responses from the AI model.
  • A - Be adaptive in your approach to crafting prompts. Adaptability entails experimenting with various prompt formulations, phrasings, and temperature settings in order to establish a balance between creativity and concentration.
  • R - Be reflective in how you approach crafting prompts. Adopting a reflective perspective enables users to evaluate the performance of their AI model based on user feedback and their own assessments, identifying areas for improvement and adjusting their approach accordingly.

Below, you will find a list of tools incorporating AI for academic purposes. We have divided them based on each tool's emphasis and placed them in the relevant stage of the research process. Where possible, we have also linked to videos introducing the tool and providing guidance on using it. This is by no means an exhaustive list of what is available, so if we have missed an important tool, or you would like to let us know of one that you use and you have found helpful, please feel free to let us know using the email link at the top of the page.

How to


is an academic search engine that uses AI algorithms to search a document and recommend relevant research papers. You can upload papers through its website or you can add it as a plug-in for Microsoft Word or Google Docs.


is an academic search engine that can help you build a network of papers from citations using its algorithms to find similar papers and it offers a Literature Connector that is meant to help you bridge 


is an AI research assistant that can find specific research articles that cover a general topic or answer a specific question. You can also read summaries of the abstracts your search brings up and search forward and backwards using the citation graph. 


Create an interactive literature map using collections of articles you input and articles it discovers by searching academic databases. You can use Litmaps by creating a free account, and you have the option to upgrade to a paid version.. 

Research Rabbit

Creates citation maps and networks of recommended articles based on articles you have provided. You can set up alerts for new literature related to your research, integrate your collections with Zotero, and collaborate with others to curate your collection. 


promises to help you absorb and retain course readings and brings more structure to your study. You can create summary cards to help you engage with the reading, begin your pre-writing or even begin structuring your revision notes. Scholarcy offer a free and paid version of their service.


allows you to upload papers and ask questions to its AI Copilot to explain difficult passages. SciSpace also has a Google Chrome extension so you can use its Copilot on webpages and articles you have access to through your institution.

allows you to upload PDFs where you can read, organise, find and share your research. It allows you to create "Concepts" in your workspace similar to a synthesis matrix and suggests future papers based on your uploads.


is note making and productivity software that offers a variety of organizational tools to assist in time management, organizing your notes, and project management. It provides free templates and allows you collaborate with others. 


is free software that links your ideas and makes visualisations to help you naviagate between them. It is also extensible so that you can tailor it to fit your purposes. It lives in a local folder and not the cloud, so you can keep control of your notes. It will take a bit of getting used to as it uses Markdown format of plain text files but this is to make your notes futureproof so you can move your notes to another editor.


Get language feedback, explore the writing patterns of journal articles, browse academic phrases to use, automatically paraphrase text, and auto-generate your title.


Offers support in checking grammar and writing style. In addition, Grmmarly has also started to use generative AI to help the user write, rewrite, ideate, and reply with simple prompts. You will need to subscribe to a plan with Grammarly to get a monthly allowance of prompts to begin writing with generative AI assistance. 

Think Machine

Think Machine is a mind mapping programme with built in AI to help you visualize your mind maps in 2D and 3D. You can also use this programme to help you brainstorm ideas and see connections between your ideas.


uses AI to generate working presentations, documents, or webpages that users can customize and refine. Gamma also has a library of templates to help kickstart your creativity.

DreamStudio AI

Powered by Stable Diffusion, a generative AI model that can create realistic images, art and animation from text and image prompts.


The latest version of Open AI's DALL-E text-to-image generation model, this version is only available with a subscription to Chat GPT Plus. In the video tutorial below you can learn how you can access DALL-E 3's features on Microsoft Bing's Copilot and some of the difference between DALL-E 3 in Chat GPT Plus and the version available in Copilot.

Find out more


Unless otherwise stated, this work is licenced under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence by Wolfson College Cambridge.

CC licence logo Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

© Cambridge University Libraries | Accessibility | Privacy policy | Log into LibApps