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How to Resist the Temptation of AI When Writing

by Elijah
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How to Resist the Temptation of AI When Writing

Your local public library is a great source of free information, magazines, and databases (even those that typically require a subscription and include embargoed research). For example, your search should include everything from health databases (Sage magazines, Scopus, PubMed) to databases for academic sources and journalism (American periodical series online, Statistical, Academic search premiere) and databases for news, trends, market research and opinion polls (the Harris Poll, Pew Research Center, Newspaper bank, ProPublica).

Even if you find a study or article in one of these databases that you do not have access to, please consider contacting the lead author or researcher of the study. In many cases, they are happy to discuss their work and will even share the research directly with you and offer to talk about their research.

Make sure you have a good filter system

For journalist Paulette Perhach article about ADHD in The New York Times, she used Epic research to see ‘dual team studies’. That’s when two independent teams tackle the same topic or question and ideally reach the same conclusions. She recommends finding research and experts through major associations for your topic. She also likes to search via Google Scholar, but advises filtering it by studies and research from recent years to avoid the use of old data. She suggests keeping your links and research organized. “Always be prepared to be peer-reviewed yourself,” says Perhach.

When you are looking for information for a story or project, you may be tempted to search Google regularly. But keep in mind that the Internet is full of false information, and websites that look trustworthy can sometimes turn out to be companies or corporations that have a vested interest in you taking their word as objective fact, without additional research. Regardless of your writing project, unreliable or biased sources are a great way to torpedo your work—and any hope for future work.

For accuracy, go to the government

Author Bobbi Rebel did research for her book Launch of Financial Adults the habits website of the tax authorities. “I could say you can contribute a certain amount to a 401k, but it may be outdated because those numbers are always changing, and it’s important to be accurate,” she says. “AI and ChatGPT can be great for idea generation,” says Rebel, “but you have to be careful. If you use an article that quotes someone, you don’t know if they’ve been misquoted or quoted out of context.”

When you use AI and ChatGPT for sourcing, you not only risk introducing errors, but you also risk introducing plagiarism. There’s a reason OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, is being sued for download information from all those books.

Historically, the loudest is not the best

Audrey Clare Farley, who writes historical nonfiction, has used a plethora of sites for historical research, including Women also know historywhich can be used to search by expertise or field of study, and JSTOR, a digital library database that offers a number of free downloads every month. She also uses Chronicle of Americaa project of the Library of Congress that collects old newspapers to show how a historical event was reported, and Newspapers.com (which you can access through a free trial, but requires a subscription after seven days).

When it comes to finding experts, Farley cautions against choosing the loudest voices on social media platforms. “They may not necessarily be the most authoritative. I vet them by checking whether they have a history of publications on the subject and/or educational credentials.”

When vetting an expert, look for these warning signs:

  • You cannot find their work published or cited anywhere.
  • They were published in an obscure magazine.
  • Their research is funded by a company, not a university, or they are the spokesperson for the company they are doing research for. (This makes them a PR vehicle and not a suitable source for journalism.)

And finally, the best endings for virtually any article, whether it’s an essay, a research paper, an academic report, or a piece of investigative journalism, go back to the beginning of the piece and show your reader the transformation or journey that the piece is presented in perspective.

As always, your goal should be powerful writing backed by research that makes an impact without cutting corners. Only then can you explore tools that might make the job a little easier, for example generating subheadings or discovering a concept you might be missing, because then you’ll have the experience and skills to see if it’s hurting or helping your work.

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