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Does ChatGPT plagiarize? Here’s what you need to know

We discuss whether ChatGPT can be detected for plagiarism

Reviewed By: Steve Hook

Last Updated on March 28, 2024
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With the rise in popularity of AI writing tools, many are starting to question whether arguably the most popular AI chatbot on the market, ChatGPT, is plagiarism-free. Plagiarism, particularly in academia, is a hot topic. And now with ChatGPT’s ability to heavily assist in writing anything from essays to dissertations on a broad range of topics, anyone using the tool should be aware of any risks. Technically the chatbot does not plagiarize, but you should still be wary. With the latest in AI detection technology, work written by ChatGPT can be identified. Let’s find out more.

Quick answer

ChatGPT uses its large dataset to create completely original text responses. This means, that in the traditional sense, ChatGPT is plagiarism-free. The chatbot cannot be detected for plagiarism but with advancements in AI detection technology, it’s use within written work can still be identified.

Does ChatGPT plagiarize?

To answer this question we first have to understand how ChatGPT retrieves data and uses it to create new content. ChatGPT is an LLM (Large language model) that uses a pre-trained neural network to create human-like responses to prompts. An LLM is a machine learning model that can generate and understand human language, it does this by retrieving information from the large pool of data it was trained on and predicting the next word in a sentence.

By understanding this and looking at it within the context of plagiarism, we can see that ChatGPT does not plagiarize in the traditional sense. ChatGPT does not copy and paste content from other sources in order to respond to user prompts and therefore is arguably a plagiarism-free platform.

This is pretty complicated stuff, so a great way to visualize ChatGPT’s process is to imagine the biggest book you’ve ever seen. It includes every word in the English language several times. Now imagine you don’t know any English at all, but you can tell from the book which words appear most commonly before and after other words. Given enough examples, you can put together an English sentence.

You don’t copy and paste anything, you simply write a word, then write the next word with the highest probability to come after the previous one. What you write may or may not exist in that book, but not as a result of copy and paste – as the innocent result of probability. Of course, a human can do the same thing, again without malintent.

Is ChatGPT plagiarism-free?

AI chatbots do not simply copy and paste chunks of text into a response. They generate new and unique text that does not necessarily even exist in their own training data. While this process could dismissively be called autocomplete, the man who created it, Geoffrey Hinton, believes that AI is more intelligent and cognisant than the layman gives it credit for.

Something else that is important to note is that ChatGPT doesn’t give everyone the same answer. It is designed to provide personalized answers that are tailored to the individual user’s preferences. This means that two people who input the same question to ChatGPT may receive different answers, depending on their respective preferences. This further demonstrates how sophisticated ChatGPT truly is. It also highlights the fact that the language model does not directly plagiarise chunks of text that could be found elsewhere. Instead, it generates its original content.

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Identifying AI-generated content

Despite the chatbot being technically plagiarism-free, there are still risks when using ChatGPT for help with essay submissions or professional work. There are AI detection tools that are becoming more sophisticated seemingly by the day, and we predict that getting away with submissions that are largely AI-generated content will become more difficult in the months to come. Turnitin, a company offering solutions to ensure originality in writing says it can detect ChatGPT content.

So, although work written with ChatGPT may not be detectable for plagiarism, it could still be identified using tools such as Turnitin. Developments in such areas shed light on the question of whether using chatbots for written work is worth the risk. For more information on this topic, check out our article on Universities being able to detect ChatGPT, where we discuss the ChatGPT detection software in more detail and the risks of using AI in your studies.

What is the best plagiarism checker?

If you are looking for a reliable plagiarism checker, we recommend Turnitin. Turnitin does not necessarily detect plagiarism but does measure how similar your work is to other sources. It is a highly advanced tool and is trusted by many universities and colleges.

If you are looking for an AI detector, we recommend GPTZero. This model can scan through any text (250 words minimum) and produce an AI likelihood score. And according to the creator, the model has 98% accuracy.

Final Thoughts

ChatGPT-generated content is not plagiarism insofar as it is not copying the work of someone else outright. However, it is somewhat questionable from an academic integrity standpoint, in the sense that if you use an answer or essay generated by the chatbot, you have not created the work yourself.

The more morally obvious conclusion to draw is that, while ChatGPT can have its uses, leveraging it for such things as school work, is not guilt-free. Especially given the fact that teachers now are finding ways of detecting when a paper has been written by ChatGPT.

Kevin is the Editor of PC Guide. He has a broad interest and enthusiasm for consumer electronics, PCs and all things consumer tech - and more than 15 years experience in tech journalism.