AI in Education for Students: Acknowledging and referencing the use of AI

Acknowledging and referencing the use of AI

Do I need to acknowledge or reference the use of generative AI?

Generally speaking, if you are using generative AI for learning, you are unlikely to need to acknowledge it. If you are using it to create material for submission (for example, as part of an assessment), you will most likely need to acknowledge and/or reference it.

Most importantly, follow the guidance of your teacher. The flowchart below may help you to figure out what you need to do.

Referencing or acknowledging?

We refer to 'referencing' below as a way to bring content generated by generative AI into your work for submission, in a similar way you would reference an idea or text from a scholarly source.

We refer to 'acknowledging' below as a way to describe how you have used generative AI in the process of creating a work for submission.


Principles for referencing generative AI

Currently, there are few guidelines around the rules of referencing/citing use of Generative AI. APA 7th has guidelines around referencing generative AI. (American Psychological Association, 2023). Generally, the guidelines in acknowledging the use of generative AI in the APA 7th Style Blog is a good start.

Before you consider referencing generative AI, think about whether it is actually appropriate to do so. Generative AI is not a reliable or reproducible source of information, unlike a journal article or even webpage. Another person cannot obtain the same completion you did, even if they use the same prompt.

How to reference direct quotes taken from AI-generated text

When including a short piece of AI-generated text

In the text itself, include the AI-generated text within quotation marks and include information about how this was derived. Include an in-text citation to the 'author' of the tool (the company that made the tool). For example:

When prompted with “Is the left brain right brain divide real or a metaphor?” the ChatGPT-generated text indicated that although the two brain hemispheres are somewhat specialised, “the notation that people can be characterised as ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’ is considered to be an oversimplification and a popular myth” (OpenAI, 2023).

In your reference list, expand on the citation to include the 'author' of the tool, the year, the name of the tool, its version, and the URL. For example:

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Mar 14 version) [Large language model].


When including a longer piece of AI-generated text

When a longer response is used, this may also be included as part of an appendix. The APA style blog indicates that this should be referred to in-text if being used, as seen in the example below:

When given a follow-up prompt of “What is a more accurate representation?” the ChatGPT-generated text indicated that “different brain regions work together to support various cognitive processes” and “the functional specialisation of different regions can change in response to experience and environmental factors” (OpenAI, 2023; see Appendix A for the full transcript).

The reference in the reference list would be the same as before:

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Mar 14 version) [Large language model].


Important considerations around referencing direct quotes

  1. Include a comment that you have used a generative AI tool in text. 
  2. Specify what prompt you have used in quotation marks
  3. Indicate what the response was in quotation marks
  4. Reference the communicator (which is the company or creator of the Generative AI tool. In this case: (OpenAI, 2023) follows (communicator, year) or when written in narration, OpenAI (2023) follows communicator (year). 
  5. Be mindful of all considerations and limitations of generative AI


How to reference paraphrased information obtained from a generated text

  • There is currently no known specific guidance around this.
  • Normal referencing guidelines will apply. This includes including the communicator, year; as part of the in-text citation and reference list. 
  • If you have specifically studied through the sources provided in the output of a generative AI tool, then those sources can be referenced directly.
  • If you did not thoroughly study the sources provided, or the sources were not provided by generative AI, then the above guidelines of including the prompt used, an in-text citation of communicator, year and a reference entry is generally required. 
  • Be mindful of all limitations and considerations of using generative AI.

Using APA 7th style blog. on referencing Generative AI and referencing manual the following referencing example on a paraphrased written task may be acceptable:

Specific parts of the neural system may function cohesively to support an overarching activity (Cheung, Bartlett, Armour, Laba, Saini, 2023), however these parts can adapt to various factors that may emanate from the external influences. (OpenAI, 2023)

In the reference list for the above example:

Cheung, J. M. Y., Bartlett, D. J., Armour, C. L., Laba, T. L., & Saini, B. (2018). To drug or not to drug: A qualitative study of patients’ decision-making processes for managing insomnia. Behavioral Sleep Medicine16(1), 1-26.

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Mar 14 version) [Large language model].


For generative AI tools that have generated non-written information including digital media, code, mathematical solutions


Follow the VU Library Guide on Referencing APA Generative AI


Further Information

For any further enquiries on referencing beyond what is supported by your coordinator and the referencing manual, please refer to the VU Library APA Guide on referencing,

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