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Using Generative AI for Library Research

A resource for the library workshop: Empowering Scholars: Using Generative AI for Library Research


Curious about the buzz around ChatGPT and AI's role in research? Eager to harness generative AI's power in a responsible manner that builds on your existing research skills? The resources and workshop on this page are intended to introduce you to the world of genAI, while equipping you with the vital know-how to seamlessly integrate generative AI into your current research toolkit.


Generative AI Tools

The following generative AI tools can be used to assist you in your research process. However, we urge you to use genAI tools thoughtfully and with caution, ensuring that you understand the ethical implications and potential consequences of the content they generate. Students should always consult with their instructors or advisors on the use of genAI in any assignments or course work. Refer to Artificial Intelligence at the University of Manitoba for more information and advice on use of genAI in academic settings.


Keys to building good prompts:

  1. Clarity: Be as clear and specific as possible. If you're too vague, the model may not understand exactly what you're looking for.
  2. Open-Ended vs. Direct: Depending on your needs, decide if you want an open-ended answer or a direct one. For instance, "Tell me about photosynthesis" is open-ended, while "What is photosynthesis?" is more direct.
  3. Specify the Format: If you have a specific format in mind (e.g., a list, a paragraph, or step-by-step instructions), mention it in your prompt.
  4. Anticipate Ambiguity: If there are multiple ways to interpret your question, try to anticipate and reduce ambiguity. For instance, instead of asking "How long is it?", ask "How long is the Mississippi River?"
  5. Provide Context: Sometimes, a bit of background or context helps the model generate better responses. For instance, instead of asking "What are its benefits?", you might say "What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?"
  6. Iterate and Refine: Don’t hesitate to adjust your prompt and ask again if the first response isn’t quite what you were looking for.
  7. Limit Bias: To get a more neutral and objective answer, avoid using leading or loaded questions.
  8. Engage in a Dialogue: Instead of relying on a single prompt, you can ask follow-up questions or ask for clarifications. This conversational approach can help in guiding the model to the desired answer.
  9. Check Facts and Cite Sources: If you're looking for factual information, you might include a request for sources or further reading recommendations in your prompt.
  10. Limit Length When Necessary: While it's sometimes useful to provide detailed context, overly long prompts can be counterproductive. Remember, there's a maximum token limit (the model’s internal unit of text, roughly equivalent to words), so very long prompts might truncate or limit the length of the response.
  11. Experiment: ChatGPT is flexible, and sometimes even slight changes in phrasing or question structure can produce different outcomes. Don't hesitate to try different prompt formulations to see what works best.

No model is perfect, and there will always be times when the response might not meet your expectations. Using the above strategies can, however, greatly improve the chances of getting the desired outcome.

*OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT4 (Oct 17 version) [Large language model].

AI Literacy

Video explaining GenAI

Video explaining Large Language Models

List of sources to help you understand and stay on top of artificial intelligence and how it is employed.