How to Write an Essay with ChatGPT | Tips & Examples

Passing off AI-generated text as your own work is widely considered plagiarism. However, when used correctly, AI tools like ChatGPT can legitimately help guide your writing process.

These tools are especially helpful in the preparation and revision stages of your essay writing.

You can use ChatGPT to:

  1. Write a research question
  2. Develop an outline
  3. Find relevant source information
  4. Summarize or paraphrase text
  5. Get feedback
Universities and other institutions are still developing their stances on how AI writing tools may be used. Always follow your institution’s guidelines over any suggestions you read online. Check out our guide to current university policies on AI writing for more information.

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Writing a research question

You can use ChatGPT to brainstorm potential research questions or to narrow down your thesis statement. Begin by inputting a description of the research topic or assigned question. Then include a prompt like “Write 3 possible research questions on this topic.”

You can make the prompt as specific as you like. For example, you can include the writing level (e.g., high school essay, college essay), perspective (e.g., first person) and the type of essay you intend to write (e.g., argumentative, descriptive, expository, or narrative).

You can also mention any facts or viewpoints you’ve gathered that should be incorporated into the output.

If the output doesn’t suit your topic, you can click “Regenerate response” to have the tool generate a new response. You can do this as many times as you like, and you can try making your prompt more specific if you struggle to get the results you want.

ChatGPT is capable of recalling previous inputs and outputs from the same conversation, so you can refer to previously mentioned topics and the tool will likely understand what you’re referring to.
Example: Using ChatGPT to write a research question
  • Generate three possible research questions for an argumentative high school essay on the following topic: “The long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
    1. To what extent has the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated existing social inequalities and what measures can be taken to address these disparities in the long term?
    2. How has the Covid-19 pandemic transformed education systems, and what are the potential long-term implications for students’ learning outcomes and educational equity?
    3. What lessons can be learned from the Covid-19 pandemic to enhance global preparedness and response to future public health crises, and how can these lessons be effectively implemented in the long term?

    These research questions provide a foundation for exploring different perspectives and constructing a compelling argument in the essay. Remember to gather evidence and conduct thorough research to support your arguments.

  • Based on the second question, develop three further research questions with a specific focus on distance learning.
    1. What are the long-term effects of widespread adoption of distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic on students’ academic performance, motivation, and overall educational outcomes?
    2. How has the shift to distance learning impacted the social and emotional well-being of students, and what strategies can be implemented to address any negative consequences in the long term?
    3. What are the key factors that contribute to the success of distance learning programs, and how can educational institutions and policymakers ensure equitable access to quality education in the long term, especially for marginalized and underserved student populations?

    These research questions specifically focus on the impact of distance learning as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Conducting research in these areas can help shed light on the effectiveness, challenges, and potential solutions related to long-term implementation of distance learning models.

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Developing an outline

Once you’ve decided on a research question, you can use ChatGPT to develop an essay outline. This can help keep you on track by giving you a clear idea of what topics you want to discuss and in what order.

Do this by prompting ChatGPT to create an outline for a specific research question, mentioning any topics or points you want to discuss. You can also mention the writing level and the intended length of your essay so that the tool generates an appropriate outline.

You can then refine this by further prompting ChatGPT or editing the outline manually until it meets your requirements.

Examples: Using ChatGPT to generate an essay outline
  • Develop an outline for an argumentative high school essay with the following research question: “What are the long-term effects of widespread adoption of distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic on students’ academic performance and overall educational outcomes?”The essay will be about 4 pages long.
    1. Introduction
      1. Background information on the Covid-19 pandemic and the shift to distance learning
      2. Thesis statement: The widespread adoption of distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic has had both positive and negative long-term effects on students’ academic performance and overall educational outcomes.
    2. Positive Effects of Distance Learning on Academic Performance
      1. Increased flexibility and personalized learning opportunities
      2. Access to a wider range of resources and educational materials
      3. Development of self-directed learning skills
      4. Critiques and limitations of previous studies
    3. Negative Effects of Distance Learning on Academic Performance
      1. Lack of face-to-face interaction and reduced social engagement
      2. Increased potential for distractions and lack of structure
      3. Technological barriers and unequal access to resources
    4. Overall Impact on Educational Outcomes
      1. Examination of studies and data on academic achievement during distance learning
      2. Analysis of long-term effects on educational attainment and future opportunities
      3. Discussion of potential implications for college admissions and career readiness
    5. Mitigating the Negative Effects and Enhancing Educational Outcomes
      1. Strategies for promoting student engagement and motivation in distance learning
      2. Importance of teacher-student communication and support
      3. Addressing technological disparities and ensuring equitable access to resources
    6. Conclusion
      1. Recap of the main points discussed
      2. Emphasize the need for further research and long-term planning to optimize distance learning experiences
      3. Restate the thesis and provide a final thought on the potential long-term effects of distance learning on students’ academic performance and overall educational outcomes

    Remember, this is just a suggested outline. You can adjust and modify it according to your specific arguments and the evidence you gather during your research.

Finding source recommendations

Once you know the scope of your essay, you can find relevant primary and secondary sources to support your argument.

However, we don’t recommend prompting ChatGPT to generate a list of sources as it occasionally makes mistakes (like listing nonexistent sources). Instead, it’s a good idea to use ChatGPT to get suggestions for the types of sources relevant to your essay and track them down using a credible research database or your institution’s library.

When you have found relevant sources, use a specialized tool like the Scribbr Citation Generator to cite them in your essay.

Example: Using ChatGPT to find sources
  • What types of sources can I use to write an essay on the following research question?”What are the long-term effects of widespread adoption of distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic on students’ academic performance and overall educational outcomes?”
  • When writing an essay on the long-term effects of widespread adoption of distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic on students’ academic performance and overall educational outcomes, you can consider using the following types of sources:
    1. Academic Journals and Research Articles: Look for scholarly articles and research studies published in peer-reviewed academic journals. These sources often provide in-depth analysis, empirical evidence, and statistical data on the long-term effects of distance learning.
    2. Educational and Government Reports: Reports published by educational institutions, government agencies, or educational organizations can offer valuable insights into the impact of distance learning on academic performance and educational outcomes. These reports may include surveys, case studies, and data analysis specific to the Covid-19 pandemic and distance learning.
    3. Official Websites and Publications: Explore the official websites of educational institutions, education ministries, or educational technology companies. They often publish articles, white papers, or research findings related to distance learning and its effects on students’ academic performance.
    4. Expert Interviews or Opinion Pieces: Seek out interviews or opinion pieces from experts in the field of education, distance learning, or pedagogy. These sources can provide valuable perspectives and insights on the long-term effects of distance learning on students’ educational outcomes.
    5. Online Databases and Digital Libraries: Utilize online databases and digital libraries such as JSTOR, Google Scholar, or academic databases provided by your educational institution. These platforms offer a wide range of scholarly articles, research papers, and publications that can support your arguments.
    6. Surveys and Studies Conducted by Educational Institutions: Some schools or universities may have conducted their own surveys or studies to evaluate the impact of distance learning on students. Check if your educational institution has published any research findings or survey results that are relevant to your topic.

    Remember to critically evaluate and cite your sources appropriately. A combination of empirical research, expert opinions, and official reports will provide a comprehensive foundation for your essay on the long-term effects of distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Summarizing/paraphrasing text

During your writing process, you can use ChatGPT as a summarizing tool to condense text to its essential ideas or as a paraphraser to rephrase text in clear, accessible language. Using ChatGPT in these ways can help you to understand complex material, express your own ideas more clearly, and avoid repetition.

Simply input the relevant text and prompt the tool to summarize or paraphrase it. Alternatively, you can use Scribbr’s free text summarizer and Scribbr’s free paraphrasing tool, which are specifically designed for these purposes.

Example: Using ChatGPT to summarize/paraphrase
  • Paraphrase the following text using clear language:”Engaging in an extensive examination of the intricate interplay between remote instructional methods and academic achievement necessitates consideration of diverse factors, including the pedagogical efficacy of virtual platforms, the socioemotional ramifications of reduced face-to-face interactions, the equitable accessibility of technological resources, and the potential long-lasting implications for students’ educational trajectories and future opportunities.”
  • To thoroughly explore the connection between remote teaching methods and academic success, it is crucial to take into account various factors. These factors include evaluating how well virtual platforms support effective teaching, understanding the impact of limited in-person interactions on students’ emotional well-being, ensuring fair access to technology resources, and recognizing the potential long-term effects on students’ educational paths and future prospects.

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Getting feedback

Once you’ve written your essay, you can prompt ChatGPT to provide feedback and recommend improvements.

You can indicate how the tool should provide feedback (e.g., “Act like a university professor examining papers”) and include the specific points you want to receive feedback on (e.g., consistency of tone, clarity of argument, appropriateness of evidence).

While this is not an adequate substitute for an experienced academic supervisor, it can help you with quick preliminary feedback.

You can also use ChatGPT to check grammar mistakes. However, ChatGPT sometimes misses errors and on rare occasions may even introduce new grammatical mistakes. We suggest using a tool like Scribbr’s free grammar checker, which is designed specifically for this purpose. Or, for more in-depth feedback, try Scribbr’s proofreading and editing service.

Example: Using ChatGPT for feedback
  • Feedback the above text with regard to consistency of tone, clarity of argument, appropriateness of evidence, and coherence of structure.
  • The text maintains a consistent and formal tone throughout, which is appropriate for the topic. The argument is clear and effectively explores the link between online learning and academic performance, highlighting the importance of considering various factors. The evidence provided supports the main points made, discussing the proficiency of virtual platforms, the impact of reduced face-to-face interaction, the need for equitable access to technology, and the potential repercussions of distance learning. The structure of the text is coherent, with each paragraph addressing a specific aspect of the topic and progressing logically.Constructive suggestions:
    1. Clarity of Argument: The argument could be further clarified by explicitly connecting the discussed factors to their impact on academic performance. For example, explicitly stating how the proficiency of virtual platforms and equitable access to technology affect academic performance would strengthen the clarity of the argument.
    2. Appropriateness of Evidence: The evidence provided is generally appropriate and relevant. To enhance the strength of the evidence, consider incorporating specific examples, research studies, or statistics that directly support the discussed factors and their impact on academic performance. This would provide stronger evidence for the claims made.
    3. Coherence of Structure: The structure of the text is coherent, with a clear introduction, body paragraphs addressing different factors, and a conclusion. To improve coherence, consider adding transitional phrases or sentences at the beginning or end of paragraphs to facilitate the smooth flow of ideas between paragraphs. This would enhance the overall structure and make it easier for the reader to follow the argument.

    Overall, the text demonstrates a consistent tone, a clear argument, appropriate evidence, and a coherent structure. Clarifying the argument by explicitly connecting the factors to their impact, incorporating stronger evidence, and adding transitional phrases for better coherence would further enhance the text’s effectiveness.

    Passing off AI-generated text as your own work is generally considered plagiarism (or at least academic dishonesty) and may result in an automatic fail and other negative consequences. An AI detector may be used to detect this offense.

    We strongly recommend against using AI tools as a substitute for your own writing. Instead, we suggest using AI-generated outputs as a source of inspiration and to guide your writing process in the ways outlined above.

    Other interesting articles

    If you want more tips on using AI tools, understanding plagiarism, and citing sources, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations, examples, and formats.

    Frequently asked questions

    Can ChatGPT summarize text?

    Yes, you can use ChatGPT to summarize text. This can help you understand complex information more easily, summarize the central argument of your own paper, or clarify your research question.

    You can also use Scribbr’s free text summarizer, which is designed specifically for this purpose.

    Can ChatGPT paraphrase text?

    Yes, you can use ChatGPT to paraphrase text to help you express your ideas more clearly, explore different ways of phrasing your arguments, and avoid repetition.

    However, it’s not specifically designed for this purpose. We recommend using a specialized tool like Scribbr’s free paraphrasing tool, which will provide a smoother user experience.

    Can I have ChatGPT write my paper?

    No, it’s not a good idea to do so in general—first, because it’s normally considered plagiarism or academic dishonesty to represent someone else’s work as your own (even if that “someone” is an AI language model). Even if you cite ChatGPT, you’ll still be penalized unless this is specifically allowed by your university. Institutions may use AI detectors to enforce these rules.

    Second, ChatGPT can recombine existing texts, but it cannot really generate new knowledge. And it lacks specialist knowledge of academic topics. Therefore, it is not possible to obtain original research results, and the text produced may contain factual errors.

    However, you can usually still use ChatGPT for assignments in other ways, as a source of inspiration and feedback.

    Cite this Scribbr article

    If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

    Driessen, K. (2023, November 16). How to Write an Essay with ChatGPT | Tips & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved January 8, 2024, from

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    Koen Driessen

    Koen has written multiple theses and founded, together with Bas and Richard, the thesis editing company Scribbr in 2012.

    1 comment

    Koen Driessen
    Koen Driessen (Scribbr Team)
    June 22, 2023 at 5:51 PM

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