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ChatGPT 101: Master the Platform and Unlock Your Potential in Graduate School

As you work toward your master’s degree, ChatGPT can be a powerful resource for research and learning. Use our guide so you can learn how to take advantage of all this platform has to offer and start transcending your academic potential.

Author: Angela Myers

Editor: Staff Editor

A woman wearing glasses is smiling while looking at a tablet, her chin resting thoughtfully on her hand, in a bright office setting.

ChatGPT has taken the world by storm. It seems every day there’s a new use for this free AI tool from helping write content to analyze data sets. As a master’s student, you may wonder where ChatGPT fits into your studies and life or if it even plays a role.

If you use ChatGPT ethically, it can be a powerful tool in your corner. AI can help you generate essay topics and research ideas faster, provide clarity on how to study, and help edit papers for specific citation styles. Ethically is the keyword, though. When used unethically, ChatGPT can harm your grades and put you at risk for academic misconduct. Luckily, there are three easy steps you can take to use ChatGPT responsibly. Whether you use it regularly or have never tried it before, these tips will show you how to use ChatGPT to bring ease into your studies and life.

Three Major Steps to Unlock the Power of ChatGPT

Even though ChatGPT has some great capabilities, there is a right way to use it to unlock its full power. Make sure you’re using ChatGPT ethically and getting the best results by familiarizing yourself with the platform first to clarify what you can and can’t use it for. Before heading to ChatGPT and implementing these three steps, learn how to take full advantage of the platform and discover prompts and action items to make each step easier.

Step One – Familiarize Yourself with its Capabilities and Limitations

ChatGPT can do a lot, but it can’t replace your critical thinking skills and creativity. Before using AI in your studies, make sure you’re familiar with what it can and can’t do.

Capabilities

Access to Unlimited Information and Data

One of the main benefits of ChatGPT is that it can provide the information and data you need in a matter of seconds. Think of it like Siri or Alexa on steroids. Simply type your question into the chat box, and ChatGPT scans the internet and provides you with answers. When asking ChatGPT a research-based question, explain what you’re doing to ChatGPT so it can brainstorm ideas or sources that are appropriate for the context of your assignment.

Example Prompt: I’m working on a research paper about the impact of digital marketing on consumer behavior. Can you provide me with the latest data and statistics on digital marketing trends, consumer preferences, and the effectiveness of different marketing channels? Additionally, could you suggest some reputable sources and recent articles that I can use to further explore this topic?

Assistance with Language-Related Tasks

Sometimes it’s hard to know if your paper is free of grammatical errors or written in the style your professor wants. With ChatGPT, you can copy and paste your paper and any style guidelines for the assignment in the chat box, and it will help you make any needed corrections. You can also tell ChatGPT to check the paper for a formal research style such as APA or Chicago. No matter what you ask it to look for, ChatGPT is another set of eyes on your work, making the editing phase of your papers and assignments easier.

Example Prompt: I’ve just finished writing a draft of my marketing plan assignment, and I want to make sure it’s well-structured and free of grammatical errors. Could you help me review the document and suggest improvements to make my writing clearer and more concise?

Feedback and Suggestions for Improvement

Editing plays a huge role in the writing process, and it’s much easier if you get feedback on your work. However, sometimes you’re in a time crunch or can’t find a friend to review your work. When this happens, ChatGPT is there to provide feedback. To get the best suggestions from ChatGPT, copy and paste a draft of your assignment and explain the context of the work in the prompt. Without the context, ChatGPT can’t provide you with appropriate suggestions.

Example Prompt: I just finished a draft of my presentation on the benefits and challenges of implementing artificial intelligence in supply chain management. Could you please review the main points and structure of my presentation and provide feedback on how I can improve the content, organization, and clarity of my ideas? I’m also looking for suggestions on any additional points or examples that would strengthen my argument.

Generation of Written Content

If you want to take ChatGPT to the next level, ask it to generate content for you. ChatGPT can create content ranging from love poems to formal essays. However, using ChatGPT to generate thoughtful writing requires some practice. You need to provide prompts that get you the right type of content. Asking ChatGPT to generate 1,000 words about dog toys, for instance, gives you a different result than asking it to generate an engaging blog post about the best dog toys.

Example Prompt: I’m working on a group project about the future of sustainable business practices. We need to create an engaging blog post that outlines the importance of sustainability in business and highlights some innovative examples from various industries. Could you help us generate a 1000-word blog post on this topic, including an introduction, key points, and a conclusion?

Idea Generation for Creative Projects

When you’re coming up with ideas, the more brains working together, the better. ChatGPT is another mind thrown into the mix. Since ChatGPT has access to all knowledge on the internet, you can ask it for ideas on a certain topic, like new health technology ideas, and it will show you the information currently available and suggest ideas for your project. Like every capability, though, the success of ChatGPT idea generation depends on your ability to feed it the right prompts and your best judgment when shifting through the ideas it generates.

Example Prompt: Our entrepreneurship class requires us to come up with an innovative business idea for the green technology sector. We’re having trouble brainstorming unique concepts. Can you help us generate a list of 10 creative business ideas in this field, along with brief descriptions and potential target markets for each?

Pattern Recognition and Data Analysis

Excel and Google spreadsheets have functions that can help with data analysis, but entering your data set into ChatGPT and asking for certain stats or patterns from the data can take that analysis to the next level. When asking ChatGPT to analyze data, explain what the data set is and make a specific request for what you want ChatGPT to do. Asking it to find the highest-generating product last week leads to a better result than asking it what the most popular product was.

Example Prompt: I’ve collected data on customer satisfaction levels and sales performance for our company’s new product line over the past six months. The dataset includes information on customer demographics, purchase frequency, and feedback scores. Could you help me identify any patterns or correlations in the data that might reveal insights into which customer segments are the most satisfied and which factors contribute to higher sales?

Personalized Interactions

ChatGPT isn’t just a whiz at assignments; it can also help you deal with more personal issues such as finding work-life balance or deciding how to structure your schedule for next semester. To use ChatGPT in a more personalized way, ask specific questions related to your schedule, mental health, and whatever else you need help with. You can also ask it to generate a strategy or ideas and then talk back and forth to refine those ideas or strategies.

Example Prompt: I’m struggling to manage my time effectively between my coursework, part-time job, and networking events. I tend to procrastinate and sometimes feel overwhelmed. Can you help me develop a personalized time management strategy, including tips on setting priorities, staying organized, and overcoming procrastination? Also, if you have any advice for balancing my work, studies, and personal life, that would be really helpful.

Summarization and Key Point Extraction

One of the most effective uses of ChatGPT and competitors like Notion AI is that they can create concise summaries of larger papers, writings, and reports. You can even ask it to generate a bulleted list of important points. For example, if you’re working on a research project about new ice cream flavors and need an executive summary, copy and paste the paper into ChatGPT and ask it to summarize the work in three paragraphs for a group of ice cream executives who are highly familiar with the field.

Example Prompt: I have a 50-page report on the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on a company’s financial performance and brand image. I don’t have the time to read the entire report, but I need to understand the key findings and recommendations. Could you provide a concise summary of the report, focusing on the most important points and conclusions that I should be aware of?

Translation of Multiple Languages

ChatGPT is fluent in basically every language in the world. If you have a foreign language class or need to translate a report for an international business class, ask ChatGPT to translate your work for you. Just remember that if you’re trying to learn a foreign language, this won’t help you meet that goal. In that case, try writing your paper in the target language and ask ChatGPT to edit it in the same language.

Example Prompt: I’m working on a project that centers around German and Chinese markets, and I need to create marketing materials that will resonate with the local audience. I have written a product description in English, and I’d like you to help me translate it into both German and Simplified Chinese. Additionally, please let me know if there are any cultural nuances or adjustments that should be considered for each translation.

Limitations

Dependence on Pre-Existing Data

ChatGPT only has access to data up until 2021. If you’re writing a paper on a more current topic, it might not be the best tool to generate sources. Also note that ChatGPT pulls from the internet, and not everything written online is true. It’s up to you to fact-check any data ChatGPT provides, similar to how you’d verify anything from Wikipedia with another source.

Inability to Interpret Human Context

While writing better prompts helps ChatGPT provide you with results for the right context, it’s not a perfect match to the real-life context you’re dealing with. Read over anything ChatGPT generates and make sure it fits the actual context. For example, if you tell ChatGPT to generate an email to your professor asking for an extension on a project, it will be written for a general professor and not yours specifically.

Inability to Reason Beyond Programmed Algorithms

While impressive, ChatGPT is a series of algorithms. It can generate ideas and content as well as edit, but it can only do so within the parameters of its programming. This means it won’t be as good at thinking outside the box as an actual human. At the end of the day, ChatGPT is a tool, not a substitute for your creativity and original thoughts.

Lack of Emotional Intelligence

ChatGPT has problems empathizing, which can lead to content that lacks a considerate tone. For example, when asked to generate a show similar to ‘Seinfeld’, ChatGPT created a transphobic script that put the show makers in trouble. When using any AI tools, read over whatever it gives you and ask if it expresses ideas in a way that is nuanced and considerate to all.

Limited Ability to Understand Complex Nuances

AI still doesn’t understand all the nuances of writing. For example, if you ask it to write a concise summary of a larger paper, the result might be longer than you would like because it cannot decide what is and isn’t important. It also might have more issues understanding human nuances like vulnerability and humor that we appreciate when consuming content.

Limited Creativity and Imagination

Since ChatGPT can only work off pre-existing data, it cannot be as creative as humans who can generate new ideas. When using ChatGPT, remember that it is regurgitating what is already out there, not coming up with new ideas. Sometimes it doesn’t even come up with new ways to express these ideas, as recent AI plagiarism concerns have shown.

Tendency to Reinforce Biases in Data

AI has been called into question because it reinforces societal biases. Some AI-generated content has a sexist, racist, or ableist perspective, including some works by ChatGPT. When using any AI tools, keep this in mind and consider if the generated data, ideas, or content is inclusive and respectful to all.

Vulnerability to Misinformation and Manipulation

ChatGPT only pulls information from the internet; it doesn’t check to see if it’s true. CNET, a finance media outlet that tried to use ChatGPT to write articles, found this out when readers discovered they published false financial advice provided by ChatGPT. When using ChatGPT, fact-check any claims it makes. Not everything you read on the internet is true, and that includes what AI generates.

Step 2 – Recognize How to Use it in Your Personal Studies

After you’ve familiarized yourself with what ChatGPT can do, it’s time to clarify what it can do for you specifically. To do this, make a list of your tasks and experiment with how ChatGPT performs each of those tasks.

Make a List of Your Tasks

Before using ChatGPT for your coursework, first decide what it can and can’t do. To start, write a list of the tasks you do as part of your program. These can range from writing original research papers to coming up with a study plan for the final exam.

Do Some Testing and Experimenting

Once you’ve generated your list of tasks, it’s time to see how well ChatGPT does at each. For each task, come up with a prompt for ChatGPT. Be critical of the results and only use them when it adds to your work.

5 Master's Specialties That Can Uniquely Benefit from ChatGPT

Some fields benefit from ChatGPT more than others. Here are some degree-specific ideas for industries that are well-positioned to utilize AI tools.

Writing and English

Master’s students in English fields can use ChatGPT at any stage of the writing process, from idea generation to editing their final paper. Perhaps one of the best uses is to compare a draft against your professor’s style guidelines to make sure the tone, grammar, and citation style are correct.

Data Science and Analytics

Data science graduate students can use ChatGPT to analyze data and provide a different perspective. For example, they could enter a data set into ChatGPT and ask it to help identify patterns.

Business

Business students can use ChatGPT to better communicate their big ideas. Once they have an idea for a project, they can ask ChatGPT to edit their first draft or provide feedback on their ideas.

Engineering

Unlike other fields, engineering master’s students most likely don’t have to write many papers. They do take a lot of exams, though, and ChatGPT can help by creating a study plan that is customized to each engineering course.

Social Sciences

In the social sciences, master’s students usually write a lot of research papers. While ChatGPT might not be the best at generating peer-reviewed articles to cite, it can help students organize their ideas into an outline or edit drafts.

Step 3 – Use it Responsibly

With great (AI) power comes great responsibility. While ChatGPT is a great tool, students should use it ethically. Careless use of AI can lead to plagiarism and academic misconduct.

Familiarize Yourself with Plagiarism

Before using ChatGPT, know what plagiarism is and when AI is generating plagiarized content. In short, plagiarism is copying others’ work and pretending that it’s your own, though that definition only scratches the surface. To learn more, check out this plagiarism guide.

Use it as a Research Tool, not a Substitute for Original Work

ChatGPT is a great resource for brainstorming and generating ideas. It’s not so great at replacing you as the writer. When working on assignments, be careful not to copy and paste AI-generated content. Instead, put it in your own words and add a bit of creativity and empathy before turning the assignment in.

Cite Your Sources Properly

Anything you pull from ChatGPT should be cited properly. After ChatGPT generates data or a fact that needs cited, ask it to provide a citation. Remember to check that the cited source exists on the web and is from a credible source. You should also compare the citation’s format to your professor’s preferred citation style, even if you told ChatGPT to write it in that style.

Use Multiple Sources of Information

ChatGPT is not an expert and shouldn’t be used as such. Instead, it’s one tool of many. Along with using this tool, you also should fact-check any research it gives and use other tools, like Google Scholar or Grammarly, as well.

Follow your Institution's Academic Integrity Policies

Many universities are creating their own guidelines around ethical AI use or if graduate students can use AI for coursework at all. Always default to your school’s policies. If you’re unsure if a specific use of AI follows your institution’s academic integrity policies, always err on the side of caution.

Unique Uses of ChatGPT for Master’s Students

While there are some obvious uses of ChatGPT for master’s students, there are probably some possibilities you haven’t thought of. The three uses below are some of our favorite ways to make graduate life easier with some AI aid.

Craft Personalized Study Plans

ChatGPT can not only brainstorm assignment ideas, but it can also generate schedules and study plans. To make these as effective as possible, explain how you study best, when you want to study, and what you are studying in the prompt.

Example Prompt: I’m taking courses in finance, marketing, and operations management this semester, and I’m finding it difficult to balance my time between these subjects. Could you help me create a personalized study plan that allocates my study time effectively, considers my strengths and weaknesses, and suggests strategies to improve my understanding and retention of the course materials?

‘Explain Like I’m 5 . . . 15 . . . 25’

Confused about a concept in class? ChatGPT can be your tutor. You can ask it to explain complex concepts as if you were a certain age. By feeding it this prompt, you’re telling the program to break down the complex concept into simple terms. This is especially useful when you’re reviewing a study guide before a big exam or don’t understand a new idea after a lecture.

Example Prompt: I’m trying to understand the concept of supply chain management, but I’m finding it a bit complex. Can you explain SCM to me like I’m a 5-year-old, using simple terms and examples to help me grasp the basic idea?

Finding and Applying to Grad School

ChatGPT can also generate a list of grad schools you should apply to. To get the best results, be as specific as possible. Finding the best online MBA programs in Ohio gives better results than asking it to find the best MBA programs worldwide. You can also use it to edit application materials or generate ideas for your graduate school personal statements.

Example Prompt: I want to get my MBA, but I’m having trouble narrowing down which schools I should look into. Could you give me a list of universities with an online MBA that don’t require a bachelor’s in a business field?

Chatting With a ChatGPT Expert

Amira R Martin

Amira R Martin, LCSW-R, is a communication expert, a psychotherapist, and a wellness professional. She is the owner of Amira for Her, a group private practice, and an adjunct professor at Columbia University School of Social Work. Amira is dedicated to creating safe and supportive therapy spaces.

Q1: How have graduate schools adapted their teaching methods and evaluation criteria in response to the widespread use of ChatGPT?

A1: As an adjunct professor at Columbia University School of Social Work, I have seen graduate schools adapt their teaching methods and evaluation criteria in response to the widespread use of ChatGPT. For example, some schools are incorporating guidelines on how to appropriately use AI tools like ChatGPT into their syllabi and assignments, while others are providing workshops and training on how to use these tools effectively.

Q2- In what ways can students effectively use ChatGPT to enhance their learning experience without becoming overly reliant on it?

A2: Students can effectively use ChatGPT to enhance their learning experience by using it as a tool to generate ideas and get started on assignments, but they should not rely solely on AI tools like ChatGPT to complete their work. It is important for students to critically evaluate the information generated by ChatGPT and use it as a supplement to their own knowledge and research.

Q3: How do graduate schools address the potential issue of academic integrity and plagiarism with the use of ChatGPT?

A3: Graduate schools address the potential issue of academic integrity and plagiarism with the use of ChatGPT by providing clear guidelines and expectations for using AI tools in academic work. Students are encouraged to properly cite any sources generated by ChatGPT and to avoid using the tool to generate entire papers or assignments.

Q4: In what ways are graduate schools incorporating AI into their curricula to better prepare students for a world increasingly influenced by these technologies?

A4: Graduate schools are incorporating AI into their curricula to better prepare students for a world increasingly influenced by these technologies by offering courses and workshops that focus on the ethics and implications of AI as well as providing opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience working with AI tools and technologies.

Q5: How do you envision the role of AI tools like ChatGPT in graduate education evolving in the coming years?

A5: I envision the role of AI tools like ChatGPT in graduate education evolving in the coming years to become more integrated and streamlined into the learning process. As AI tools continue to develop and improve, they may become more sophisticated and capable of generating more complex and nuanced ideas, leading to increased use in graduate education. However, it is important for educators and students to remain mindful of the potential limitations and pitfalls of AI tools and to continue to critically evaluate their use in academic work.