Five Questions Professors Will Ask If You Are Suspected of AI Use

AI, Proofreading

5th December 2023

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In our previous posts, we recommended using AI to polish rather than substitute your writing. This ensures that AI is used correctly and that you will not get in trouble with your professors. Yet, as mentioned earlier, AI detectors can flag your work incorrectly. To help you out, we prepared five questions professors might ask if they think you used AI too much. Knowing how to answer them will help you prove you did nothing wrong.

1. How did you plan and structure the essay?

If you wrote your essay yourself and used AI merely to proofread it, you should be able to describe the thought process behind your writing. At least this is what your professors will assume. One thing they might ask you is to outline how you went about planning and structuring your essay. If you can locate some artefacts of your writing and proofreading process, that would be a great aid. If you do not have any drafts, revisions, or notes, try to remember how you organised your initial ideas and decided what will go in the introduction, main body, and concluding sections.

2. How did you come up with the main arguments of the essay?

Professors might also explore your thought process by questioning how you formulated the main arguments in your essay. This question can be answered only if you spend considerable time contemplating the essay. You might have developed the main argument by consulting lecture notes, picking up on something that personally interests you, or synthesising information from specific sources. Be sure to communicate all you can remember as this will signal your genuine effort in writing the work.

3. Can you identify specific sources you consulted when writing the essay?

An essay is crafted by consulting reputable sources and extracting relevant information from them. If you were the mastermind behind your essay, you should be able to identify and describe those sources. These could be scholarly articles, books, or websites that you read and remember clearly. If you cannot recall the sources’ publishing details, don’t worry. Professors will be more interested in the content of the sources than in who wrote them, when, and where.

4. Did you use AI and, if yes, how?

If your professors inquire into your AI use directly, don’t panic and be honest. Feel free to explain that AI helped you improve clarity, check grammar, find academic terms, paraphrase, and/or re-format references. Using AI for these purposes is acceptable and you will not be penalised for it. Just clearly state you have used AI as a tool to proofread your essay and that you have not directly copied any AI-generated text.

5. Could you provide examples of sentences or paragraphs where you used AI?

After establishing that you used AI as an aid, your professors may want to know how used it exactly. Go through your essay and try to locate some sentences or paragraphs that were proofread and changed by AI. Explain clearly what went wrong with your original writing and why you needed AI assistance. For example, you may note that you struggled with a specific paragraph because your spelling and grammar were all wrong, and AI provided alternative wording that improved clarity and coherence. This will be sufficient to demonstrate your responsible AI use.

A key message

If you are well-prepared to defend the originality of your essay, nothing can go wrong. Professors understand that AI detectors can make mistakes, and if you are honest about your writing and proofreading process, you will not get into trouble. Clarifying how you thought about your essay and used AI as a proofreading tool will clear any doubts and keep you from facing penalties.