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Have You Been Falsely Accused Of Using ChatGPT? Here's What You Need To Do

Academic integrity has been an important topic in the realm of AI tools like ChatGPT. Students have been getting accused of cheating based on metrics that aren't definitive. If you're accused, how should you go about it to prove your innocence?
Updated October 18, 2023
student sitting at desk as digital art in alone classroom 4k colorful
student sitting at desk as digital art in alone classroom 4k colorful

It feels like yesterday when ChatGPT basically broke the internet.

People in all fields, especially education, have been both fascinated and concerned about its capabilities. While AI tools like ChatGPT can be immensely helpful for students in their studies, they have also raised concerns about academic integrity.

Professors across the world have already expressed their concern about TurnItIn's AI detection system. These tools were rushed to market, are not able to be proved (aka not accurate), and have resulted in tons of false accusations about students allegedly cheating using ChatGPT.

False positives are far more frequent than people tend to imagine, which is pretty dangerous for a university student who gets accused of something they truly didn't do.

A recent research paper conducted by PHD students at the University of Maryland concluded that Large Language Models (LLMs) can be an excellent tool for tasks like completing documents and answering questions, but they can also be used by bad actors for practices such as plagiarism, fake news, and spam.

Some people have tried to create ways to detect if writing was made by these AI models, but this very paper shows those methods aren't very reliable in real-world situations. The authors found that changing the text a little bit can trick the detectors, and even if the model is really good, the best detector can only do slightly better than guessing.

The increasing use of AI detection tools to catch potential cheating incidents has left some students finding themselves being falsely accused of using ChatGPT or similar tools to complete assignments. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, here's what you can do to clear your name:

Remain Calm

It's natural to feel a range of emotions such as anger, frustration, or even fear. It is essential to manage these emotions and maintain a composed demeanor when addressing the issue. If you want to hear good news before reading anything else, there is no 100%, mathematically accurate way of proving something was written with ChatGPT.

We'll get into this soon. For now, take deep breaths, keep things in perspective, and focus on the facts — you’ll need them soon enough.

Gather Evidence

To effectively defend yourself against false accusations, it is crucial to provide solid evidence proving that you completed the assignment without using AI tools like ChatGPT. Here's how you can gather relevant information:

  • Compile drafts and outlines: Save all drafts and outlines of your work as they show the evolution of your ideas and demonstrate that you put time and effort into the assignment.
  • Organize research materials: Collect any sources or materials you used while working on the assignment. This includes textbooks, articles, lecture notes, or any other relevant resources.
  • Document collaboration efforts: If the assignment involved group work or discussions with classmates or teachers, keep a record of those interactions (emails, messages, meeting notes) to show how ideas were developed collaboratively.
  • Create a timeline: Prepare a chronological account detailing when you started working on the assignment, significant milestones in its completion, and any consultations with professors or peers. It might sound irrational, but the more evidence you have the higher the chance you break through the accusations. Regardless it still sucks, especially if you know you didn't cheat.

Communicate With Your Professor

Open dialogue is key when addressing false accusations of cheating (especially with something as new and unknown as ChatGPT). Follow these steps for effective communication with your professor:

  1. Initiate contact: Reach out to your professor or instructor via email or through the appropriate communication channel provided by your institution. Make sure to use a polite and respectful tone. Don't harass or expect an immediate resolution. It's likely you've been flagged as cheating for some reason, so things aren't going to clear up overnight anyways.
  2. Explain your situation: Describe the nature of the accusation and express your concern regarding the matter. Clearly state that you did not use ChatGPT or any other AI tool to complete the assignment.
  3. Present your evidence: Share the evidence you have gathered, such as drafts, research materials, and records of collaboration. Explain how this evidence demonstrates that you completed the assignment independently without relying on AI assistance.
  4. Be open to questions: Encourage your professor to ask any questions they may have about your work or the process you followed in completing the assignment. Answer these questions honestly and thoroughly to alleviate their concerns.

Request a Meeting

In most cases, discussing the false accusation via email or messages will probably not be enough to fully address the issue. Requesting an in-person or virtual meeting with your professor and/or academic integrity advisor can be beneficial in clearing your name. Here's how to approach this step:

  • Be proactive: If your initial communication with your professor does not resolve the situation, suggest a meeting where you can discuss the matter further.
  • Prepare an agenda: Before the meeting, outline key points you want to address and questions you may have for your professor or academic advisor. This will help keep the conversation focused and productive.
  • Practice active listening: During the meeting, listen carefully to any concerns or questions raised by your professor or advisor. Respond thoughtfully and respectfully, making sure that both sides are heard.

Be Honest

Transparency is crucial when defending yourself against false accusations. Accept what you did (if anything) but also stand your ground to dispute what isn't true. Here are some tips on maintaining honesty throughout the process:

  • Own up to any mistakes: If there were instances where you used ChatGPT for research purposes (but not directly for completing assignments), acknowledge it openly but emphasize that it didn't contribute to the final submission.
  • Share struggles or challenges: If you faced difficulties while working on the assignment, let your professor know about them. This will provide context and demonstrate your commitment to learning from those challenges rather than relying on AI assistance.
  • Avoid exaggeration: When presenting evidence or explaining your work process, stick to facts and avoid overemphasizing certain aspects of your work just to make a point.

Offer Alternative Solutions

If doubts still persist after presenting evidence and discussing the situation, suggest additional methods by which your professor can verify that your work is original. Some possible alternatives include:

  • Submitting additional drafts: If you have more drafts of your work that were not initially submitted as evidence, offer them to your professor for review. These can further demonstrate the evolution of your ideas and the authenticity of your work.
  • Offer to retake the assignment: Show willingness to replicate or surpass your initial submission in front of your academic advisers to show you’ve been honest every step of the way.
  • Oral examinations or presentations: Propose an oral examination or presentation where you can discuss key aspects of your assignment in depth, demonstrating your understanding and mastery of the subject matter.
  • Plagiarism detection tools: Although AI detection tools may be the source of the false accusation, plagiarism detection tools like Content at Scale and Originality can help confirm the originality of your work. These should be used to prove innocence over guilt, as you can't definitively use them to claim work has been AI-produced.

Contact Your Institution's Administration

If your professor remains unconvinced of your innocence despite presenting evidence and discussing the situation, consider reaching out to higher authorities within your institution for further assistance. Here's how:

  • Familiarize yourself with the proper channels: Research the appropriate administrative department or individual responsible for handling student grievances or academic integrity concerns.
  • Prepare a formal letter or email: Compose a detailed letter or email outlining the false accusation, steps taken to address it thus far, and any supporting evidence. Be concise, professional, and respectful in your communication.
  • Request intervention or mediation: Ask the administration to intervene in the matter or mediate between you and your professor if necessary.

Know Your Rights

Understanding your rights within your school's policies regarding academic integrity and appeals processes is crucial when defending yourself against false accusations effectively. To familiarize yourself:

  • Review official documents: Consult student handbooks, course syllabi, or online resources provided by your institution for information on academic integrity policies and procedures.
  • Understand consequences and appeals processes: Be aware of potential consequences for violating academic integrity policies as well as options for appealing decisions related to these violations.
  • Take note of deadlines and requirements: Pay attention to any deadlines associated with submitting appeals or requesting reviews of decisions, and ensure you meet any necessary requirements.

Final Thoughts

There's a lot coming. People don't even realize what is going on in the AI world yet, so how could we expect them to navigate the detection world properly?

It's essential to emphasize that AI detection tools are prediction-based and can not be used as definitive proof of cheating.

If you genuinely didn't use AI assistance in your assignments, stand firm in asserting that these tools cannot provide explicit evidence of wrongdoing. They cannot.

By focusing on the originality of your work and offering alternative methods for verifying its authenticity, you can demonstrate your commitment to academic integrity despite the predictions made by AI detection tools. Hope this helped 🙂 Good luck!

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Written by Justin Gluska
Justin is the founder of Gold Penguin, a business technology blog that helps people start, grow, and scale their business using AI. The world is changing and he believes it's best to make use of the new technology that is starting to change the world. If it can help you make more money or save you time, he'll write about it!
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