What Is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is a service rated 3.9 stars based on 98 reviews on review sites, which indicates that customers are not always satisfied. Users mention frequent technical glitches, uneven performance, and poor-quality outputs. ChatGPT is ranked 21st among essay writing sites, with a score of 3.9 out of 5.0 in our research.
Built on GPT-3.5 (free access) and GPT-4 (paid Plus access), ChatGPT can generate human-like text based on any prompt. But does ChatGPT have what it takes to replace academic writing experts altogether? We’ve set out to answer this question by testing the chatbot ourselves.
For the purposes of this Chat GPT review, we asked ChatGPT to generate a 1,250-word expository essay on the main principles of nihilism. We also tinkered with its editing capabilities, checked the generated text for plagiarism, and looked into pricing options.
How Did ChatGPT Fare?
Let’s start with our findings. After some hours of doing our research and testing ChatGPT ourselves, we can’t advise you to turn to it instead of hiring a professional writer.
Yes, ChatGPT can generate any plagiarism-free paper in a minute – and you don’t have to pay a dime for it. But, on the other hand, our ChatGPT-generated expository essay on nihilism lacked proper citations and a reference list and was structured in a bizarre way that goes against established conventions. On top of it, the use of ChatGPT can be easily detected with tools like GPTZero.
Our biggest frustration with ChatGPT involved its attitude toward the prompt. It seemed like ChatGPT either misunderstood our precise instructions – or simply wasn’t programmed to follow them. Plus, ChatGPT is an unreliable narrator – you have to fact-check every sentence to make sure the algorithm hasn’t hallucinated anything.
Overall, ChatGPT is still far from rivaling professional academic writing services. It can’t match experts’ ability to follow instructions, build on others’ works, or follow established paper conventions.
ChatGPT-Generated Essays: How Good Are They, Really?
For this ChatGPT review, we created a free OpenAI account and did what a student would do. We asked ChatGPT to “generate a 1,250-word expository essay on the main principles of nihilism.”
The result left much to be desired. While the text was generated within around a minute, it failed to reach the word count. The generated essay was only 728 words long! Furthermore, it contained no citations or references and came with subheadings announcing the introduction, several main body sections, and the conclusion.
The principles themselves were presented as a numbered list, a weird choice for an expository essay. ChatGPT also decided to add the implications of nihilism, although it wasn’t in the scope of the topic. Plus, the introduction was underwhelming: ChatGPT began the essay with the literal definition of nihilism!
That said, the text itself wasn’t outright awful. ChatGPT presented a comprehensive enough overview of the key principles of nihilism, and its conclusion was on par with what an average student could write. ChatGPT also generated a quite compelling essay title, “The Main Principles of Nihilism: A Deconstruction of Meaning and Morality.”
ChatGPT’s Features Beyond Text Generation
While you may know ChatGPT primarily as a chatbot that can generate human-sounding text, its features have expanded since its launch in November 2022. However, most of the innovative features are available to ChatGPT Plus users only. And for some of them, like Browse with Bing, ChatGPT reviews are mixed.
If you download OpenAI’s iOS or Android mobile app for ChatGPT Plus, you can relay your prompts by saying them out loud instead of typing. ChatGPT can also now recognize objects in images that you can upload to the chatbot. Plus, you can generate images with DALL·E 3, another OpenAI’s creation, without leaving ChatGPT.
ChatGPT’s functionality has also been extended to other tools with the help of plugins. Slack, Kayak, Zapier, Wolfram, Speak, and others have taken advantage of this opportunity.
As for using ChatGPT to browse the web, Browse with Bing (ChatGPT Plus only) is still in beta. So, you may encounter plenty of error messages and weird answers. Microsoft’s Bing rolled out its version of ChatGPT, Bing Chat, for free, but the results are also mixed. Most criticisms refer to inaccuracies and errors, too.
Is ChatGPT a Reliable Narrator?
One common problem with all large language models is hallucination. It means ChatGPT can produce nonsensical facts but make them seem correct with seemingly knowledgeable phrasing.
Since ChatGPT isn’t connected to the internet, it can’t verify even simple facts like dates or names. And even if ChatGPT can search the internet (e.g., Bing Chat), it doesn’t have the notions of right and wrong. So, if an incorrect statement is repeated enough times online – like the claim that climate change isn’t real – ChatGPT can parrot it back to users.
Another problem is its limited knowledge of the world and events after a specific date. To illustrate this point, we asked the chatbot to generate an “essay on the United States’ role in the Russia-Ukraine war” for this Chat GPT review. Of course, the generated text failed to mention any events of the 2023 escalation.
OpenAI is transparent about this issue: the official ChatGPT FAQ confirms the model has “limited knowledge” of events after 2021. At the same time, another help center post states that OpenAI “can’t say definitively what it does and does not know,” which is… not reassuring.
Is ChatGPT Really Free? Pricing & Features Overview
As we mentioned at the beginning, there are two versions of ChatGPT. One is indeed free, while the other one – ChatGPT Plus – costs $20/month. Here’s what the paid version includes:
- Access to GPT-4 – the more advanced version of the underlying large language model;
- Priority access to ChatGPT during peak visitation times;
- Priority access to new features;
- Faster response times;
- Access to DALL·E 3 AI image generator;
- Voice recognition (iOS and Android apps only) and image recognition (all platforms);
- Ability to prompt ChatGPT to search the internet (only via Browse with Bing feature).
While some premium features can incline you to subscribe to ChatGPT Plus, like priority access to OpenAI’s servers during peak load times, it only makes sense to pay for it if you use ChatGPT beyond academic help. Besides, ChatGPT reviews have been mixed for some premium features like Browse with Bing.
Then, there’s the question of price vs. quality. While yes, you can get an essay generated within a minute, it’ll be lacking in quality – as our experience detailed above proved.
Can ChatGPT Be Your Editing Buddy?
While ChatGPT doesn’t seem to be a solid alternative to academic writing services, is ChatGPT good at rewriting and editing? We decided to test it out by feeding it our human-written essay with the title, “Appearances Are Deceptive.” Our first prompt was, “Proofread and edit this draft for conciseness and readability.”
Without an explicit direction to do so, ChatGPT came up with a title for our short draft. Despite our expectations, the chatbot rewrote most of the draft instead of proofreading and tweaking it a bit. Albeit ChatGPT made the draft easier to read, the tone of voice shifted to a more informal one, which can cause issues with some instructors. Plus, the first in-text reference was changed too much for our liking.
When we tweaked the prompt to specify only proofreading would be necessary… ChatGPT still edited the draft, rewriting it to the point where whole sentences disappeared from the text.
To be a great editing-slash-proofreading tool, ChatGPT should be able to follow your prompts precisely. And this is where it fails.
ChatGPT & Citations
Now, as for citations, ChatGPT is incapable of adding them to the text. As it’s not connected to the internet, it can’t directly or indirectly quote others’ works. You can try to explicitly prompt it to – but you’ll get a soup of stand-in words for authors, publishers, publishing years, and titles for works that may not really exist.
For example, we asked ChatGPT to “generate a list of sources for the essay on nihilism above.” ChatGPT listed “Claudie, Smith. "Nihilism in American Culture." Indiana University Press, 2008” among its sources. But we couldn’t find a work from this author under this title. What’s more, we couldn’t even find a book titled "Nihilism in American Culture"!
This inability to cite sources is a common concern appearing in Chat GPT reviews. And since relying on others’ works is a vital part of academic writing, ChatGPT can’t exactly rival the work of an expert human writer yet.
ChatGPT & Plagiarism
Does ChatGPT generate plagiarism-free texts? We ran a check on the expository essay we generated for this Chat GPT review, and it showed only a 3% plagiarism rate. However, keep in mind that ChatGPT may return texts full of common turns of phrases that can be falsely flagged as plagiarism.
Don’t forget that if your instructor has any doubt regarding the origin of your submitted assignment, they can use one of the many tools to check the text for AI involvement. We ran our draft through GPTZero. The check showed that 39/39 sentences were likely AI-generated!
So, if you turn to ChatGPT for help and your instructor gets suspicious enough to run an AI check, you may get into trouble. Bans on using ChatGPT are popping up around the world, from Sciences Po in Paris to the University of Michigan Law School (for application essays only, for now).
To Sum Up: ChatGPT’s Pros & Cons for Academic Help
So, how good is ChatGPT at academic writing? Not really. While it can be a somewhat good editing buddy (provided you don’t expect it to follow your prompt to the T), it can’t cite sources and doesn’t always stick to the conventional paper structure. Although AI-generated text is usually plagiarism-free, AI involvement can still be detected using other tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is ChatGPT text plagiarism-free?
Can you get into trouble for using ChatGPT?
Can ChatGPT cite sources?
What kind of a tool is ChatGPT?
Is ChatGPT a good option for academic help?
Is ChatGPT worth using?
But how good is ChatGPT at academic writing? Not that great.