In academic writing, any work that is not of your own original creation must have its source cited. While AI-generated content isn’t attributable to an individual, the fact that it is not something you came up with requires documentation. Fortunately, the major style guides such as the American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), and the Modern Language Association (MLA) have already crafted standards for how to cite content that was generated by tools like ChatGPT, Jasper, Claude, and other machine learning/AI models.
Exactly how to document AI content is an on-going subject of debate and will continue to be refined over time. The APA succinctly spelled out some of the challenges of citing AI-generated content when they said:
Unfortunately, the results of a ChatGPT “chat” are not retrievable by other readers, and although nonretrievable data or quotations in APA Style papers are usually cited as personal communications, with ChatGPT-generated text there is no person communicating. Quoting ChatGPT’s text from a chat session is therefore more like sharing an algorithm’s output; thus, credit the author of the algorithm with a reference list entry and the corresponding in-text citation.
This guide will continue to be updated as new best practices for how to properly cite AI-generated content are agreed upon.
The APA has created an extensive blog post that covers how to cite AI-generated content and answers some FAQs. Put simply, an APA citation of AI content should include four components: Author, Date, Title, and Source. Each component is separated by a period.
Author: this is the company that provides the AI tool. For ChatGPT, that would be OpenAI. For Claude, that would be Anthropic. Etc.
Date: use the year (not the full date) of the AI model being used.
Title: put the name of the AI model in italics, without referencing its version. For example, use ChatGPT and not ChatGPT-4. After that include the version number in parentheses. Finally, explain what type of technology is being used inside brackets. For example, [Large language model].
Source: link to where the model is accessed.
Put into practice, you will have a full citation that looks like this:
OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (August 3 version) [Large language model].
To refer to the citation in the text:
- Parenthetical citation: (OpenAI, 2023)
- Narrative citation: OpenAI (2023)
As spelled out in an FAQ blog post, citing AI-generated content in CMS is rather straightforward. They suggest simply acknowledging the use of the tool in the text itself. For example, “The following dialogue was created by Jasper.”
If a formal citation is required, the following information is required: Author, Publisher, Date, Source.
Author: the author is the name of the model, such as ChatGPT.
Publisher: is the name of the company that provides the model, such as OpenAI.
Date: is the date the content was generated.
Source: this is the URL that is used to access the tool. However, this field is considered optional since each time you access the tool it will generate a unique response. Thus there is no way to actually access the source directly.
Additionally, it might be helpful to include the prompt that was used. This can be done as a note between the Author and Publisher in the citation.
Text generated by ChatGPT, OpenAI, September 17, 2023, https://chat.openai.com/chat.
With Prompt as Note
ChatGPT, response to “Create a list of vacation destinations in Europe,” OpenAI, September 17, 2023.
In text citation
(ChatGPT, September 17, 2023.)
As spelled out in this blog post, MLA has taken a flexible approach to citation for the time being. Thus there is some variability on how to cite AI tools. They have provided the following guidance about the core aspects of the citation:
Author: Do not treat the AI tool as an author.
Title of Source: Describe what was generated by the AI tool. This may involve including information about the prompt in the Title of Source element if you have not done so in the text.
Title of Container: Use the Title of Container element to name the AI tool (e.g., ChatGPT).
Version: Name the version of the AI tool as specifically as possible.
Publisher: Name the company that made the tool.
Date: Give the date the content was generated.
Location: Give the general URL for the tool.
MLA has left the exact formatting of citations to be flexible depending on factors such as whether the text references the creation by AI tools and what type of content it is generating. The blog post contains many specific examples that can be consulted for some guidance.