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Scholarly use of AI tools

How to use generative AI 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 reading 'How to cite Text generate with A.I.' next to the image of a woman that works on a laptop.

Current status on style guidelines for citing generative AI tools (last updated: April, 2024)

As of April 2024, some of the major citation style providers (APA, Chicago, MLA) have released guidance on how to cite content created by or with the help of generative AI (GenAI) tools. But even though their guidelines are based on a few common principles (transparency, reproducability), their approaches differ considerably in detail.

This guide is offering an overview of the different style providers' rules on citing GenAI, as well as some general tips. If in doubt, we suggest to double-check with the original style guides (APA style blog, MLA Handbook, etc.). Given the rapid evolution of this topic, details of each provider's guidance might be adjusted frequently –sometimes faster than we might be able to update our guide.

To our knowledge, all major citation style providers are currently reviewing this topic and might release guidelines in regards to citing AI-generated content soon.

General guidance

Check with your instructor before using A.I. in any of your assignments. 
If your instructor allows the use of ChatGPT or other A.I. tools for class work, you should 

  • Disclose any use of A.I. technology in your work.
  • Cite any content of any kind that was generated with the help of an A.I. tool – no matter if you paraphrase it, quote it, or incorporate it into your own work.
  • Identify how you used it, and also identify the specific tool(s) you used

Please also consult UVic's resources on academic integrity for fundamental information on this general subject, as well as the Libraries' recently updated resources around citation help for an overview on that subject. 

Personal communication
In the interim, most authorities on citation styles who have not yet published concrete guidelines are recommending that we treat A.I. generated text the same way we would treat personal communications, like verbal or email conversations. Why? Because most textual content created by A.I. tools is currently non-retrievable by anyone other than the person that originally asked for the generated content, and is only accessible by the login credentials of that user. Exception: In their interim advice, APA acknowledges that there might be ways to retrieve such content, and hence offers an alternative approach to citing A.I. text. → See APA tab for more details.

Made-up facts and resources (='hallucination')
Current generative A.I. tools show a tendency to invent 'facts' and even academic-sounding resources that on first sight are indistinguishable from existing ones. They come with all relevant details, like authors, journals titles, abstracts, even DOIs or URLs - except, that they are non-existant. The A.I. tool made them up – it 'hallucinated' them (in A.I.-related terminology). Generative A.I. – no matter which tool you use – tends to 'hallucinate', because of how the technology behind it (so-called large-language models) works. You should be aware of that, even when using it outside of an academic context. To avoid citing such a 'ghost resource', you should thoroughly vet all sources an A.I. tool mentions by using credible academic resources, and give credit to them in your work, if they are real. UVic Libraries provides access to professional databases suitable for that cause, such as Web of Science or Scopus. But you could also use an open resource like or Google Scholar

Even if the guide you are using does not require it, we recommend that you reference the prompt that helped create the text you are citing. This can be considered good practice because it increases transparency about how you arrived at the text you are citing and because it can contribute to a better understanding of these rapidly evolving tools.

Current status

Official guidelines on how to reference A.I. generated or assisted text:

What is new in APA's official approach to referencing A.I. generated text?

  • The main difference from APA's unofficial interim approach, which had been expressed by APA style experts in several e-mail exchanges with educators, is the abundance of the suggestion to cite it A.I. assisted or generated text as personal communication.
  • In its official guide, APA argues that personal communication can only occur between human individuals, and that their guidelines on how to cite A.I. generated text will therefore be based on their rules on how to reference software (section 10.10 of the APA Publication Manual), which they previously had proposed only in cases where A.I. assisted or generated text was publicly retrievable.

General guidelines

Two characteristics of text generated by ChatGPT and similar A.I. tools should guide your APA style referencing:

  • Non-repeatability: ChatGPT (and other A.I. tools based on Large Language Models(LLMs)) will generate a unique response in each chat session, even if given the same prompt.
  • Non-retrievability: ChatGPT generated text is currently not directly retrievable.
    Please note: This is not a specific  characteristic of LLM-based tools, but rather a choice in software design. for ChatGPT there are third-party applications providing workarounds. And some other LLM-based tools might provide output that is directly retrievable. For example, text from, an A.I. powered search engine, is retrieavable, including under an individual, publicly accessible URL. Sample URL: 

These core elements on A.I. usage should be shared in an APA style publication:

  • General A.I. usage: The fact that you used A.I. in your scholarly work.
  • Specific application: How has an A.I. tool been used in your research, writing, etc.
  • Exact prompt: The wording with which you have prompted the A.I. tool in question.

Where to disclose these core elements in your publication:

  • In original, peer-reviewed research publications: In the method section or a smilar part of your manuscript, describe how you used the A.I. tool in question for your research.
  • Secondary scholarly publications: In the introduction of your publication of a literature review or other types of essays or response or reaction papers, describe how you used the tool.
  • For both: In your text, provide the prompt you used and then any portion of the relevant text that was generated in response.

Implications for an APA style publication:

  • Appendices or supplements: APA suggests to put the full text of any long responses in an appendix or in online supplemental materials to your publication, so readers have access to the exact text that was generated.

Application of APA guidelines


Author. (Date). Title (Version Number) [Additional Descriptions]. Source

How to use this template

The author of the model (tool)

The date is the year of the version you used. Following the template in Section 10.10, you need to include only the year, not the exact date. The → Version Number provides the specific date information a reader might need. 

The name of the model (tool). 

Version Number
The version number of the model/tool is included after the title in parentheses. 

Additional Descriptions
Additional descriptions are used in references as bracketed text, for when they are needed to help a reader understand what’s being cited.  References for a number of common sources, such as journal articles and books, do not include bracketed descriptions, but things outside of the typical peer-reviewed system often do. In the case of a reference for ChatGPT, provide the descriptor “Large language model” in square brackets. OpenAI describes ChatGPT-4 as a “large multimodal model,” so that description may be provided instead if you are using ChatGPT-4. Later versions and software or models from other companies may need different descriptions, based on how the publishers describe the model. The goal of the bracketed text is to briefly describe the kind of model to your reader.


When the publisher name and the author name are the same, do not repeat the publisher name in the source element of the reference, and move directly to the URL. This is the case for ChatGPT. The URL for ChatGPT is For other models or products for which you may create a reference, use the URL that links as directly as possible to the source (i.e., the page where you can access the model, not the publisher’s homepage).



Current status

  • As of March 7, 2023, Chicago Manual of Style's (CMOS) does provide some advice on how to cite A.I.-based text.
  • It can currently be found in the Q&A section of the CMOS Online. 
  • The recommendations can be summarized as follows (includes links to CMOS Online, only accessible to users affiliated with institutions subscribing to this resource):

General guidelines

  • It is mandatory to credit an A.I. chatbot like ChatGPT whenever text generated by those tools is used in one's work.
  • A 'conversation' with an A.I. chatbot is being treated as a form of personal communication (see CMOS 14.214 and 15.53), due to the unretrievable character of such output.
  • Output from A.I. tools like ChatGPT should not be included in a bibliography or reference list.
  • If the A.I.-generated text was edited, it should be made clear (e.g., "edited for style and content")
    • It is not necessary to disclose layout changes (like switching the font, etc.). Those can be imposed silently (see CMOS 13.7 and 13.8)

Application of CMOS guidelines


For a formal citation of A.I. generated text in a note, CMOS Online provides the following template:

1. Text generated by ______ (A.I. tool's name), Date, Publisher, General URL

How to use this template:

The A.I. tool (in our example ChatGPT) is the author of the content

The date the text was generated

The organization that provides the A.I. tool in question is listed as the publisher or sponsor of the content (in our example, OpenAI is listed, because it is the company that created ChatGPT).

Provide the general URL where the tool may be found (not an individual URL for a conversation, as mentioned above)

If the prompt (= the text input on the tool's command-line that defines the query to the ChatBot, usually in natural language) has not been included in the manuscript, it can be included in the note.


1.  Using a note

1. ChatGPT, response to "Explain how to make pizza dough from common household ingredients," March 7, 2023, OpenAI,

2. Alternative: Using author-date

If instead of a note, author-date is being used, any information not in the text would be placed in a parenthetical text reference.

“(ChatGPT, March 7, 2023).”


Current status

There is no official authority behind Harvard Style that maintains and develops this citation style; instead, there are numerous local variations and local applications of the basic rules. Thus, there is no official guideline for citing an A.I. tool such as ChatGPT, Bing Search, etc. at this time (March 21, 2023). Our current recommendation is to cite A.I. text content like personal communication. We are monitoring the librarian and academic discussions on this topic and will adjust our recommendations accordingly as consensus emerges on how to address this issue.

General guidelines

  • Cite text generated with the help of an A.I. tool like personal communication. 
  • The details of that communication can be provided paraphased in running text or in parentheses. 
  • Cite personal communications in-text only. You do not need to create an entry in the reference list.
  • It can be seen as good practice in any style, to reference the prompt, that helped generate the text you are citing. 

Application of interim guidelines for Harvard style


Your citation should include the following elements and format:

Communicator, Medium of communication, The most accurate date possible


OpenAI's "ChatGPT", personal communication with a chatbot, March 7, 2023

Current status 

  • As of March 29, 2023, IEEE has not yet released any official guideline on how to cite an A.I. tool like ChatGPT, Bing Search, etc. 

General guidelines

  • Current advise is, to treat A.I. generated text as private communication.
  • You do not need to include an entry in the reference list.
  • For details, see IEEE reference guide, section II.Q.: "Unpublished". IEEE, 2020, updated 12 August 2022

Application of interim guidelines for IEEE style


In-text format: Author's name (Format: Initial(s), Surname), private communication, Abbrev. Month, year.


"Apple blossom season in BC typically starts mid-April. (OpenAI's ChatGPT, private communication, Mar. 2023)."

Current status

General guidelines

  • Cite content of any kind that was generated with the help of an A.I. tool – no matter if you paraphrase it, quote it, or incorporate it into your own work.
  • Additionally, disclose any operational applications of such an A.I. tool, such as editing your writing or translating words, through a note, within your text, or at another appropriate location. 
  • Carefully examine any sources referenced by AI tools and give credit to them in your work. This is crucial as these tools can sometimes provide inaccurate information, and due to their operational mechanisms, they may generate ('hallucinate') false but plausible-sounding information and even sources.

Application of MLA guidelines


How to apply MLA's template to citing generative A.I.:

Avoid treating the AI tool as an author, in line with policies from various publishers, including MLA's journal PMLA.

Title of Source
Describe the AI-generated content, possibly mentioning the prompt in the Title of Source element if not already done in the text.

Title of Container
Name the AI tool in the Title of Container element (e.g., ChatGPT).

Specify the A.I. tool's version as accurately as possible. Note that ChatGPT and GPT-3.5 are distinct entities; GPT-3.5 refers to the underlying large language model, not a version of ChatGPT.

Provide the date when the content was generated.

Identify the company that created the tool.

Supply the general URL for the tool.


Paraphrasing Text: Works-Cited-List Entry "Describe the symbolism of the green light in the book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald" prompt. ChatGPT, Feb. 13 version, 8 Mar. 2023, OpenAI,
Quoting Text: Works-Cited-List Entry "In 200 words, describe the symbolism of the green light in The Great Gatsby" follow-up prompt to list sources. ChatGPT, Feb. 13 version, 9 Mar. 2023, OpenAI,
Quoting Creative Textual Works: Works-Cited-List Entry "The Sunflower" villanelle about a sunflower. ChatGPT, Feb. 13 version, 8 Mar. 2023, OpenAI,

MLA-specific note: Use of external tools to make conversations with A.I. tools accessible

  • As of March 29, 2023, MLA is currently the only style provider that officially suggests considering workarounds to make A.I. created text - specifically for ChatGPT - retrievable.
  • As of March 2023, ChatGPT lacks an integrated function for generating a distinct URL for a specific conversation.
  • Nevertheless, external utilities like the Chrome add-on ShareGPT can create this type of link.
  • When utilizing a tool like this, make sure to incorporate the exclusive URL produced by the utility rather than the generic URL.
  • Please find more detailed information – also on the retrievability of text generated by tools other than ChatGPT – in the tab about → Retrievability

Current status

  • Vancouver has not yet released any official guideline on how to cite an A.I. tool like ChatGPT, Bing Search, etc.

General Guidelines

  • Current advise is, to treat A.I. generated text as personal communication.
  • Your document should include the following elements and format:
    • Type of communication
    • Communicator
    • Date in the following format: (Day Month Year)

Application of interim guidelines


"In an online conversation with the A.I. chatbot "ChatGPT" by OpenAI (7 February 2023) ..."

Citation guidelines for A.I.-generated text that is retrievable
In accordance with the approaches taken in the official MLA guidelines and the APA guidelines for citing AI-generated text, we explain here how to retrieve such content. 

Current status: Retrievability of A.I. generated text

  • A number of the text-based generative A.I. tools on the market provide their output in a retrievable way (as of August 11, 2023):
    •, a search engine based on a large language model, allows the creation of custom URLs for its answers.
      • These are publicly available once they have been created. Example.
    • ChatGPTOpenAI's chatbot, offers its users a feature to share their interactions.
      • Individual URLs for each conversation thread can be created. Example.
      • Several options allow users to customize how a conversation is shared, including the ability to keep it private or even delete it. More information about these functionalities can be found here.
      • OpenAI also allows for a workaround by using third-party apps (usually browser extensions).
    • Bing Chat, Microsoft's combination of the Bing search engine and OpenAI's large language model GPT-4, offers an export of its search results and dialogs with it.
      • Content generated by Bing can be exported as MS Word, PDF or unformated text files.
    • Google Bard, Google's chatbot, allows for the export of generated content into Google Docs or as a GMail draft.
      • As of August 11, 2023 is not yet accessible in Canada

Tipp: Archiving website-based text that is retrievable

Since there is no certainty about the long-term preservation of the web pages generated by the aforementioned third-party tools that make the AI-generated text accessible, you should consider preserving a snapshot of each of these web pages by feeding it into a web archiving service such as the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

Further Reading on how to cite A.I. text

Resources and further reading

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.