2. Building better prompts

This chapter delves into the concept of prompts, explaining the meaning of “building a prompt” and how to go about creating one. We’ve included hints and tips on prompt creation and provide suggestions and resources for additional training and information on this topic.

What does building a prompt mean?

Building a good prompt is like finding the right keywords in a search and can help achieve your desired outcome. Your prompt can take the form of a question, text, information or coding.  Essentially anything that communicates to the AI tool what response you are looking for. You could think of a prompt as a seed or a conversation starter.  You can start with simple prompts and gradually build the capabilities of the AI; this process is known as building.

How do I build a prompt?

Considerations when building a prompt:


Tone is the attitude or mood that you want the AI tool to deliver.  Authors often use tone when they want to convey a particular mood or style.  For example, academics often use a formal tone when writing for peer reviewed journals.

How do you choose your tone?

Consider the purpose of your output.  Is it a fun email to a friend? Is it a simplified version of a concept that you want to better understand?


Think about your intended audience, as this will affect your output. Are you creating prompts to start a discussion for your subject? Are you looking at creating marketing content? Are you going to write a social post promoting your work?

Audience Exercise

Go to your favourite Gen AI tool and add in prompts for a topic of interest, to:

  • Suggest subject discussion points for your study group.
  • Promote your topic through a social media post.

Did you see a difference when writing for different audiences?


Be very clear when writing your prompt.  AI tools are not intuitive, you will need to be very specific when asking for outputs. For example; if you ask for a response to a question, think about if you want the answer to be a long response or a concise response.

Role play

Play acting or role play is a way of putting yourself into a situation to better understand it.  You can do this with AI tools by getting them to “act as though…”.  This provides very clear directions for what sort of output you want from the tool.  A really good example of this can be seen in a blog post by Harvard University Getting started with prompts for text-based Generative AI tools.

Role Play Exercise

Go to your favourite Gen AI tool:

  • Ask it to give a summary of a topic of interest.
  • Now ask it to act as though it is a university lecturer and give a summary of the same topic.

Can you see a difference?

Type of output

What type of output do you want your Generative AI tool to give you?  There are many outputs that can be generated by Gen AI tools.  Some of these include:

  • computer code
  • text
  • images
  • video
  • music
  • speech
  • product designs

Different tools are built for different uses. If you are using Research Rabbit for example, it will give you a list of references that you can use when searching. Check the specifics of your tool, and use the next chapter, Evaluate & Analyse to assess the tool.

Building a prompt for a specific purpose

See Using AI to plan & prepare for more information around building prompts for brainstorming, understanding concepts and finding research on a topic.

Different tools will help you create different prompts so consider intended use. Explore specific tools listed in our AI tools chapter.

Hints and tips for prompt building

Boolean operators for AI

Just as you use AND, OR, NOT to refine a search, there are words you can use in your AI prompt that will assist you in including the information you do want and excluding the information that you don’t want. Use DO to include information in your prompt.


Write a short question for a survey to Librarians regarding the use of Universal Design for Learning, do include School Librarians.

You can see in the example above that we have specifically included “School Librarians” in our prompt. If we wanted to exclude School Librarians and only focus on University Librarians we could write it like this:


Write a short question for a survey to Librarians regarding the use of Universal Design for Learning, don’t include school librarians.

Your turn:


Try inputting the above examples into a text-based AI tool and take note of differences in the results.

Use examples

By providing examples in your prompt, you supply the AI tool with specific information necessary to generate the desired outcomes. You can see a great example of this in a blog post by the Thesis Whisperer Using ChatGPT (ChattieG) to write good.

Be careful with this one – remember copyright and don’t upload existing paragraphs and ask tools to infringe on copyright by rewriting them.



PROMPT: The cat in the hat sat on the mat. Write a short sentence similar to this one for the cat in a wig

RESPONSE: the cat in the wig danced on a twig.

Build on previous prompts

As you do with searching, start with broad or basic questions and build on those to find more information. This allows the AI Tool to understand what you are looking for and allows you to refine your prompt to ensure you are getting your best results.

Try changing the wording, tone or add more context and specifics to guide the AI.

Make corrections

By working with the AI, providing feedback and corrections, you build on the knowledge available. It is important to remember that AI is a tool. You need to review the outputs and correct mistakes or ask for clarifications if needed. You still need to have a good working knowledge of your topic to ensure the information is correct and useful.

Document your prompts

Documenting your prompts helps you to evaluate the effectiveness of the results and may be required as evidence of use.

Use the exercise below to create a document to help you keep track of the changes you are making to your prompt and why.


AI prompt generators

Prompt generation can be complicated. There are generative tools specifically designed to create prompts. You can use the tips and tricks listed above, but you can also use these tools and we have listed a few below.

Remember to use the evaluation tips in Evaluate & Analyse to see if this tool is useful for you.

Title of Tool Description
Taskade Although there are some subscription services you can start with the free version.  Remember to use the evaluation tips in the following chapters to see if this tool is useful for you.
Freedough This prompt generator will give you prompts for ChatGPT, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion.
AI Tools This is specifically for text to image. There is a free builder on this site, but you can subscribe and have access to the more advanced version.
Coefficient This is a free prompt generator that can help you build prompts for text as well as formulas in spreadsheets.

You can find many more tools by going to your favourite search engine and searching for “AI prompt generator”.

More information

There are also many courses about prompts. LinkedIn Learning has a broad collection including both beginner and advanced. Once you are logged in to LinkedIn Learning, search for “AI prompt engineering” to see the options.


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2. Building better prompts Copyright © 2024 by Charles Sturt University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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