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Scholarly use of A.I. tools

How to use generative A.I. tools like ChatGPT, Bing Search, DALL-E 2, and others in academic settings ethically and in accordance with standards of academic integrity. How to reference content created by them or with their assistance.

Banner saying Referencing A.I. generated images, and showing an android paiting in a canvas

How to reference images created with A.I.

When using images in your work, it's essential to adhere to copyright laws and uphold academic integrity. 

For A.I.-generated visual content, citation practices may vary among style guides and depend on specific requirements set by A.I. tool developers. While MLA and Chicago have provided guidance on citing A.I.-generated content, more comprehensive instructions from other style guide providers are anticipated soon. Until then, we recommend referring to the general rules of each style guide for citing images.

Please be aware, that currently several lawsuits for copyright infringement are pending against the companies behind some of the A.I. image creation tools on the market. Depending on the respective outcome, that might have an effect on advise on how to use A.I. created visual art.

Current Status
In the commentary section of their blogpost from April 7, 2023, on how to cite text generated by ChatGPT and similar tools, APA has replied to a question about how to cite visual content generated by or with the assistance of an A.I. tool.

Interim Guidelines

If you have used image- or video-generating tools, you can follow the guidelines in the post about A.I. generated text

A short summary:

  • Explain your methodology of how you used the A.I. tool in your paper.
  • To create the reference, follow the principles outlined in the post to determine the author, date, title, and source elements for the software.

Whether to include the images or videos as figures, appendices, or supplemental materials would be a decision to discuss with your instructor or editor. There may also be copyright issues to consider (see, e.g., these articles about a recent U.S. Copyright Office decision). 

Additional tip from UVic Libraries (subject to change)

Depending on the specific image generation tool you use, and its specific featueres, we advise to study sections 10.12–10.14 of the APA Publication Manual, 7th edition, specifically the guidelines on how to cite an clip art or stock images that requires an attribution. Clip art/stock images might be the visual content form featured in the APA Style guide that is closest to A.I. generated images, and said A.I.-based images do need referencing as well.

Current status

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) Online has released guidelines on how to reference visual A.I. generated art. According to CMOS Online's guidelines, it is crucial to credit the source when including an A.I.-created image in your project (see also CMOS 3.29 – CMOS 3.37). CMOS Online is referring to an article by OpenAI on how to cite an image created using their tool DALL·E 2, which is suggesting wording like "This image was created with the assistance of DALL·E 2" or "This image was generated with the assistance of AI".


The credit for that image in Chicago style might read as follows (with the prompt used to generate the image in quotation marks): 

“A pixelated image of the painter Leonardo DaVinci in the style of a point-and-click adventure video game from the 1990's.” image generated by OpenAI’s DALL·E 2, March 17, 2023.


Chicago Style has based this guideline on how OpenAI has suggested work created with their application DALL-E 2 should be creditedPlease keep in mind that other companies providing image A.I. generation tools may have different preferences on how visual art generated with the help of their technology should be cited.

Information coming soon.

Current Status
MLA has released guidelines on how to cite content generated by A.I. 

General Advice
In accordance with those guidelines it is crucial to caption an A.I.-created image as outlined in Section 1.7 of the MLA Handbook when incorporating it in your project.

MLA recommends providing a description based on the prompt, followed by the A.I. tool used, its version, its provider, the creation date, and – depending on the availability of a publishing feature for the images generated with the chosen tool – the URL of the published image. If publishing such an image, making it accessible with an individual URL, is not possible with the tool of your choice, include the general URL to that tool instead.

Fig. X. “Exact prompt used to generate the image in quotation marks”, tool's name and version, provider, creation date, URL.


A robot version of the painter Bob Ross. Watercolor painting.

The full credit for this image according to MLA style might read as follows: 

Fig. 1. “A robot version of the painter Bob Ross. Watercolor painting.” prompt, DALL-E, version 2, OpenAI, 17 Mar. 2023,

Note: The same elements (prompt, A.I. tool used, version, creation date, individual image or general tool URL) can be used for a works-cited-list entry, if you choose that over including the full citation in the caption (see MLA Handbook, sec. 1.7).

General: Retrievability of images
In accordance with MLA's approach in their official guidelines for citing A.I.-generated visual content, we explain here how to publish such content, if possible, and make it retrievable

How-to make A.I. generated images retrievable

As of April 4, 2023, some of the A.I. tools for image generation that are available to the wider public offer features to publish images generated with them, providing a platform and individual URLs to retrieve them. The image generation applications that allow for publication of content created with them are:

Tipp: Archiving published images

Since currently there is no certainty about the long-term preservation of any A.I.-generated content, you should consider preserving a snapshot of your published images by feeding it them into a web archiving service such as the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine


Pending lawsuits (as of August 15, 2023)

  • DreamUp 
  • DeviantArt
  • Midjourney 
  • Stability AI (company behind the AI image generator Stable Diffusion)

More detailed information coming soon.

A.I. images - licenses & technical details

DALLE-E 2 (OpenAI)

DALL-E 2 is an A.I. application for image generation provided by OpenAI. It was released to the wider public in September 2022. It offers a free and a paid-for plan (on a token-basis) and lets you create and edit images of various kinds (from photos to paintings to rendered images) using a text-based prompt.

In order to use and reference images created with the help of DALLE-2, it is possible to publish these images and create a unique URL for them. The provided URL after publishing such an image does not link directly to the image itself, but to a landing page, that contains the visual, but also additional information on who the human creator is as well as the text prompt, that has been used to create the image.


A humming bird hovering over a flower blossom, one-line drawing

When using such an image, for example by embedding it on a website or including it in a manuscript, this prompt can be used as the alt text to meet accesssibility standards, as it ususally describes what can be seen in the image. 

If you are the human creator of such an A.I. image you might want to save a copy of the image file and maybe even preserve a snapshot of the published image by dropping it in a web-archiving service like the Wayback Machine, since there is no certainty about the long-time preservation of such images or the landing pages created for them.

DreamUp (by DeviantArt Inc.)

DreamUp is a prompt-based image-generating tool that is offering a free as well as several paid-for plans. According to DeviantArt's terms of service,

In order to use and reference images generated with the help of DreamUp, it is possible to publish these images which creates a unique URL for them. The provided URL does not link directly to the published image, but to a landing page that contains the visual, but also additional information on the human creator as well as the text prompt that has been used to generate the image.


A unicorn standing in a library, watercolor painting.

Midjourney (by Midjourney)

Midjourney is a prompt-based image-generating tool. It is only accessible from within Discord, and there are free and paid-for plans.

The usage rights for your own creations with Midjourney depend on the plan you are using. According to the Midjourney terms of service (as of February 10, 2023) a user does not own the assets they create if they are not a paying customer. Instead, Midjourney grants a license to the content under the Creative Commons Noncommercial 4.0 Attribution International License.

Stable Diffusion (by Stability AI)

Stable Diffusion is an A.I. model for generating images provided by Stability AI. Stable Diffusion has been released under an open source license.

Pending lawsuits (as of March 22, 2023)


Resources referenced on this page

Creative Commons License
This work by The University of Victoria Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise indicated when material has been used from other sources.