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Faculty & Staff: Purchasing Books in the Age of AI

Identifying AI-Generated Content

image of a robot looking at computer screen

Identifying AI-generated content can be difficult because unless the author identifies ChatGPT or another AI as their co-author, there is no outward indication.  But there are some clues to find, if you look closer.

  • Look for repetitive language.  Usually, pages selling these books will offer a “Look inside” preview.  Take advantage of that feature and read as much as you can.  AI was trained on large amounts of data and uses algorithms to write content so it may reuse similar phrases or sentences repetitively.
  • Look for unnatural language.  AI-generated content may use unnatural language because it is more focused on producing content that matches input data, not sounding natural or human-like.
  • Check for errors AI-generated content can be high quality, but it also suffers from serious drawbacks including difficulty with numbers and “hallucinations.”  A hallucination can be everything from off-topic answers to completely nonsensical or even bizarre answers.  Results can even contain errors like spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
  • Research the author.  If the author has only one book, or has put out too many books in a short span of time, that author might be using AI.  When in doubt, do a deeper search for the author on the Internet.  If the author claims to have an expertise in an area, try to find them in a second location online.  If you can't, that name may be a pseudonym for a non-expert using AI.
  • Check Reviews Reviews can be AI-generated, too!  Look for reviews that include "Verified Purchase."  If a reviewer or someone asking a question has a user ID that is a string of numbers or letters, that could be an indication that the content was AI generated and should be taken with guarded value.
  • Play with ChatGPT yourself.  Ask the AI to create original characters and original stories.  Ask it to write you a poem on any subject.  Ask it to write an essay on a topic you know well.  You may be surprised at how well it can cover almost any topic.  But then ask it to write references for that essay.  ChatGPT will return very legitimate sounding references complete with doi.  But check each one.  They probably won't exist.  Authors may be working in that field of study.  Journals cited may actually exist.  Article titles will sound convincing.  And links provided will go to real websites.  But the articles themselves will be fictitious.  The more you use an AI, the more you will pick up on its style and patterns, and the more you will be able to identify that style and pattern when you see it in the seller's "Look inside" previews.*

It's important to note that none of these methods are foolproof, and there is always the possibility that human authors may also produce repetitive or error-prone content. Therefore, it's always a good idea to read multiple reviews, descriptions or Q&A before making a purchasing decision.**

*Needle, Flori. "AI Detection: How to Pinpoint AI Generated Text and Imagery [+ Detection Tools]." HubSpot, 23 June 2023, Accessed 21 June 2023.

**Wiggers, Kyle. "Most Sites Claiming to Catch AI-Written Text Fail Spectacularly." TechCrunch, 16 Feb. 2023, Accessed 21 June 2023.