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Thinking Critically about AI

Advice to help you evaluate AI tools and the outputs they generate.

Critical thinking is a defining characteristic of university level study. It underpins everything from reading to analysing ideas and evidence, to developing your own arguments.

Critical thinking and making judgements is a key apect of AI Literacy because you will need to reflect on and analyse your academic practice to ensure you work with integrity, evaluate the AI tools you select and the material they generate. 

Reflect on your motivations for using an AI tool

Many of us started to use AI tools out of curiosity, exploring their capabilities as the technology emerged and evolved. For those of us who have continued to use them, it's often because they are convenient and save us time, or offer new and innovative ways of working.

Take some time to think about why you have chosen to use a specific AI tool in your studies. Has it enhanced your learning, supported the development of your knowledge, or enhanced your academic skills? Using AI without cuation and consideration may have unintended consequences, such as hindering critical thinking skills and your development as a student.

Research the tool you are using

While it can be fun to dive right in and experiment with new and exciting tools, take time to research and consider their capabilities and limitations. Before creating an account with a tool or using it in your studies, stop and think about who created it, why and for what purpose? What are its strengths and weaknesses, what data was used to train it, how can you get the best out of it, and will your personal information - and the information you enter into the AI via prompts - be kept safe?

The ROBOT checklist will help you evaluate different AI tools. 

Evaluating Generative AI outputs

At University you are expected to use high quality, academic information throughout your programme and you will often find these on your reading list or referred to in learning materials. Books, e-books, journal articles and conference papers are just some of the academic types of information that you will be expected to use in your assessments, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t use non-academic sources too. Among many other reasons, they may be useful for building up a background picture or leading you to current debates and cutting-edge work. 

One of the uses for Generative AI tools is as a way to quickly gather summary information on a topic. Generative AI can be a valuable assistant in providing background information or an alternative voice on a can produce plausible sounding information that is entirely incorrect. Be sure to verify any facts and figures provided by AI, and follow up on any references to ensure they were not fabricated. Where the output includes a summary of information from another source, don't rely on it - look for the original source and ensure the content has been accurately represented.  

We've put together a checklist that will help you evaluate the outputs of Generative AI by asking critical questions of what the tool has created.