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How to Use ChatGPT To Write A Research Paper

Over the past three years, we’ve helped thousands of students write research papers with research mentors. And, since the public release of ChatGPT, we’ve been getting questions about how best to use (and not use) this new technology. In this article, we outline the best ways to use ChatGPT from our experience including the ways that ChatGPT can help out academic writing - and the ways that it can be limited. We’re researchers ourselves - our founders met at Harvard while doing a research program - so we’ll show you what we’re seeing and how you can use it for your own papers.


What is ChatGPT?


ChatGPT is an advanced language model developed by OpenAI. It is designed to generate human-like responses to any input you desire, making it a powerful tool for anyone. ChatGPT can understand social contexts, recognize patterns, and generate coherent messages. Here’s an example from our co-cofounder Stephen, when he used ChatGPT to try to recreate a paper one of his students wrote on high school employment.


As you can see from his article, ChatGPT was quite good at building a somewhat credible sounding literature review - but wasn’t as good at identifying accurate information. ChatGPT has gotten better since he wrote that piece (in December, 2022), but it still makes factual mistakes which can be dangerous for a researcher when using ChatGPT.


ChatGPT has already been used to write complex code for algorithms, transcribed new poems and stories, and


7 Ways to Use ChatGPT to Write A Research Paper


Below, we outline a few steps to use ChatGPT when writing a research paper. We begin with thinking about the structure of the paper and then moving to discuss how you can level up the existing writing you’ve done.


1. Summarize Other Research Papers


As an up-and-coming researcher, other scientific papers may be extremely dense and difficult to read. Have ChatGPT summarize the article for you.


Us: Write a paragraph summary of "Acceleration of 1I/‘Oumuamua from radiolytically produced H2 in H2O ice" by Bergner.


ChatGPT: In the paper "Acceleration of 1I/‘Oumuamua from radiolytically produced H2 in H2O ice", Bergner explores the possibility that the interstellar object 'Oumuamua could have been propelled by gas released from its surface due to the decomposition of water ice by cosmic radiation. The author presents a theoretical model and calculations to support this hypothesis and shows that the acceleration observed in 'Oumuamua's trajectory could be explained by the release of hydrogen gas from the object's surface. The study suggests that the radiolytic decomposition of water ice could be a common mechanism for the propulsion of interstellar objects and highlights the importance of further investigating the properties and behavior of such objects.


2. Edit Your Style and Grammar


ChatGPT’s ability to deeply understand English can be used as a grammar checker by inputting any text into the chat window and receiving feedback on any grammatical errors. This can already be done with other existing software, but the most exciting thing is that ChatGPT can transform any input you enter into the prompt.


If you believe that your essay sounds too informal, utilizes rudimentary vocabulary that you want to upgrade, or you want to add more technical terms, you can say just that. Copy your essay into the prompt, with your request, such as “Use fancier scientific knowledge/terminology to applicable places in my essay.” or “Edit my essay to increase the brevity of this paragraph.” or “Make this essay more at the level for 8th graders/college-level research paper.”


Outside of research papers, you could even use this to change the tone or style of any writing pieces. “Transform this essay into a long prose in the style of a limerick. “Write this paragraph about my day yesterday in the style of a Ph.D research paper.”


3. Generating an First Outline


Writing a large research paper can be extremely overwhelming, and sometimes, you may not even know where to start. An outline can be extremely helpful, and can be generated by ChatGPT. You can even specialize and customize this outline based on your needs and specialities, as each paper and style of paper will have its unique structures.


Us: Draft an outline for a biology research paper at a college level


ChatGPT:


I. Introduction

A. Background information on the topic

B. Significance of the research question

C. Research objectives and hypotheses

D. Brief overview of the structure of the paper


II. Literature review

A. Overview of the relevant literature

B. Key concepts and theories related to the topic

C. Previous research on the topic

D. Gaps in the literature and the need for further research


III. Methods

A. Description of the study design and methodology

B. Sampling strategy and sample size

C. Data collection techniques and instrumentation

D. Data analysis methods

… and it continues on until the end of the paper.


4. Build a First Draft to Your Paper


Similar to above, we can have ChatGPT generate ideas and new content based off of your outlines for any research papers. With any idea you may have, you can have ChatGPT write a couple sentences that could kickstart your thinking process or use as experimentation. For example,


Us: Write three sentences on the effect and most prevalent gut microbiota regulating the immune system


ChatGPT: The gut microbiota is known to modulate the immune system via complex interactions with immune cells, including regulatory T cells and antigen-presenting cells. Alterations in gut microbial composition, such as a decrease in beneficial bacteria like Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, and an increase in pathogenic bacteria, have been linked to several immune-mediated diseases. Therefore, maintaining a healthy balance of gut microbiota is essential for immune homeostasis and preventing autoimmune disorders.


From your outline, you can begin using this to begin bolstering your essay with actual content, utilizing this generated content as a text-filled outline to begin writing the rest of the paper. Be sure to edit, fact check anything that you may not recognize, and do not purely just copy and paste.


5. Expand and Draw Conclusions From Experiments


Sometimes during research, you run into a roadblock and cannot figure out where to go further from your recent experiment. You may just need another person, or better yet, a computer to help you out.


Us: What conclusions can I draw from a western blot and what experiments should I conduct afterwards?


ChatGPT: A Western blot is a widely used technique in molecular biology to detect and quantify specific proteins in a sample. The conclusions that can be drawn from a Western blot depend on the research question being addressed, but generally, the presence or absence of a target protein in the sample can be inferred from the signal intensity of the band observed on the blot. Other conclusions, such as the size and post-translational modifications of the protein of interest, can also be deduced based on the molecular weight and mobility of the band.

After obtaining initial results from a Western blot, it is important to conduct further experiments to confirm and extend the findings. For example, one could perform additional Western blots using different antibodies to validate the specificity of the signal, or use techniques such as co-immunoprecipitation or mass spectrometry to identify interacting partners or modifications of the target protein. It may also be useful to compare the levels of the target protein across different samples or experimental conditions to gain insight into its regulation and function. Additionally, follow-up experiments could involve perturbing the expression or activity of the protein of interest to investigate its role in cellular processes or disease states.


6. Correct Misconceptions As an Encyclopedia


It can be easy to mix up pieces of information, or just accidentally mess up something. Use the internet as an encyclopedia for your convenience.


Us: Cesium fluoride has been shown to exhibit unique catalytic properties in organic reactions due to its high reactivity and low ionization potential, making it an attractive alternative to traditional catalysts.


ChatGPT: The sentence is partially true, as Cesium fluoride (CsF) is indeed known for its high reactivity and low ionization potential. However, it is not commonly used as a catalyst in organic reactions because it is a strong base and can cause unwanted side reactions. In addition, CsF is also expensive and can be difficult to handle due to its high reactivity with moisture in the air. Therefore, CsF is not a common alternative to traditional catalysts in organic reactions.


7. Use as a Writing Partner Throughout Your Process


How many times have you wished that you had someone to banter with, to run ideas through, to ask if this paragraph makes sense in the structure of your paper. While ChatGPT may be just a computer, its natural language processing origins means that it can be great to answer these questions above. ChatGPT can assess readability, make sure that a sentence fits into place with the “story” of your research, and do much of what another person “reading over” your essay can do.


How to NOT Use ChatGPT?


While being such a valuable resource, there are many, many reasons and scenarios to not use ChatGPT. ChatGPT, at its heart, can be an aid to progressing your education, but never a replacement for using critical thinking skills or purely – to learn.

1. Write Your Entire Research Paper For You Through Copy and Paste


It may be tempting to just ask all of your research questions and copy and paste what ChatGPT generates for you, but is taking the “easy” way out the best way to go? Remember that ChatGPT is trained from data and continues to be an ever-evolving model, but not perfect and never fully accurate. It can easily misdirect you with information that may seem correct, but are fully factually inaccurate. Additionally, think of all of the moral issues with submitting work that was not created by you and conclusions not synthesized by you.


2. Analyze Your Data


ChatGPT cannot synthesize new information and conclusions based on posted data, due to its limitations as a language model. ChatGPT is just an advanced version of existing language models, which can only predict the next word based off of the previous word based off of previous data it has learned from. It can be difficult, or flat out wrong, to synthesize conclusions based on what ChatGPT has analyzed.


Lumiere


If you’re looking for the opportunity to research under the guidance of a mentor that is not ChatGPT, then consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program. Last year over 2100 students applied for about 500 spots in the program. You can find the application form here.


Aaron Zheng is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Bioengineering. He is passionate about biotechnology, business development, and aiding students get to college, regardless of background. In his spare time, he looks to read, journal, and explore the world.

Image source: Stock image.

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3 Comments


Maxim Davidov
Maxim Davidov
Sep 09, 2023

Interesting and useful! I am very interested in this question. By the way, my job is such that I often turn to the services of translators. I have been using this platform for quite some time https://www.translate.com/italian-english They offer professional translation and every order goes through three stages. In this case, we can conclude that these specialists take their work responsibly and can be trusted. What do you think about it?

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Larry Malley
Larry Malley
Sep 06, 2023

Now more and more people are starting to use automation while writing texts, and this is great. Too bad it didn't happen before. Although, better than a human, a robot will not write. Do you agree? Personally, I went to https://www.fellowshippersonalstatement.com/ I'm delighted because my article was written for me from scratch, without any templates. My best qualities and achievements were emphasized. Obviously, they only used my information from the completed questionnaire. They are responsible professionals.

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A very useful article, I like it, but in my unprofessional opinion, it is too early to trust chat with such tasks, as for me, if you need help with writing, it is better to contact specialists. For example, I turned to the guys who provided me with a document editing service at a very affordable price, doing everything themselves, carefully checking everything, in short, professionals in their field, I trust them more than chat, it still needs to progress so that additional algorithms are installed. In the meantime, it cannot replace human work in the field of working with documents, texts, etc.

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