Institute of Archaeology


Using generative AI and other software

Advice on the use of generative AI and writing review software

Types of software

Generative AI is software which generates content in response to prompts and is often presented to the user as a ‘chatbot’. The best known examples include ChatGPT and Google’s Bard. Based on a statistical analysis of commonly recurring patterns in the words (and other content) on webpages, social media and other online resources, generative AI produces text which mostly reads as if written by a human even though the system doesn’t understand the content.

Software for writing review (such as Grammarly) predates generative AI and its primary purpose was to assist with improving spelling, grammar and presentation.

The distinction between these types of software is already becoming very blurred, so what really matters is not which software but what it is being used for.

Is the use of generative AI and other software allowed?

The short answer is ‘possibly’, for certain purposes.

UCL has traditionally allowed language and writing review, which is defined as “having a third-party or software check areas of academic writing such as structure, fluency, presentation, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and language translation”. However, the use of software to review work would be considered academic misconduct if: i) assessing the quality of language and writing is itself the primary purpose of the assignment; or ii) the software has contributed to the substantive content of the work (e.g. helped develop an argument or suggested relevant facts).

Generative AI can be used for language and writing review, but of course what has most excited people is its ability to create content which reads like a humanly constructed argument or opinion and includes relevant facts. UCL recognises that generative AI will be transformative so has not banned it outright, but expects staff to tell students what is and is not allowed in particular assignments.

What should I do if I would like to use AI or review software to help me prepare my assessments? 

1. Check whether or not it is permitted for your assignment.  You may find this information in the course handbook, in the assignment brief, or elsewhere on Moodle, but if in doubt ask the member of staff who set the work.

2. Familiarise yourself with the risks of using software.  In particular, generative AI can produce content that is factually wrong, biased, or not up-to-date, and it can fabricate quotations and citations that don’t exist (embarrassing when attributed to your lecturer!).

3. Fully acknowledge your use of software in the relevant boxes on the Institute of Archaeology coursework coversheets and in any other way required by the person setting the assignment. Transparency and honesty are your best protection against academic misconduct.

4. If in doubt, consult the person setting the assignment.