1. Using AI to plan and prepare

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a buzzword, and for good reason. It has the potential to revolutionise the way we approach study and research. However, before diving into the world of AI, it is important to have a clear understanding of what you hope to achieve from using these AI tools plus the benefits and risks involved.

This chapter will guide you through the process of using AI in the planning stage of your study. We will explore the rationale for using AI, its purpose, and the benefits, risks and limitations. Finally, we will delve into the ethical considerations of using AI. Learning to use these tools effectively and with integrity is an important part of becoming a digitally fluent citizen.

Key Point

Before deciding to use an AI tool (for example, ChatGPT), check with your subject coordinator or lecturer or supervisor to make sure that it’s permissible in your subject, and that your intended use won’t breach the University’s academic integrity policy (refer to Your guide to generative AI for Charles Sturt University’s policies and rules regarding use of Generative AI tools at university).

Why use AI when planning your study?

When embarking on your first assessment or researching a major project the first step involves assimilating and integrating the enormous amount of literature that already exists. This can take time and is a key area where AI tools can help. There are several ways you can use many different AI tools in this planning phase. Using AI responsibly at this initial stage will improve your efficiency and productivity plus promote critical thinking.

Mouse iconSee our AI tools chapter for links and information on some of the AI tools we describe below.

Ways you can use AI tools when planning your study

Key Point

When using AI tools to plan your research, keep accurate records about the sources of those AI generated notes or summaries, so you can reference appropriately and find original sources later. Consider using our documenting tool in the chapter’s Creating content by building better prompts and Evaluate and analyse content created.

Brainstorm and generate ideas

Using AI tools to generate ideas can be a good starting point in researching for an assessment or project. Ask a Generative AI (GenAI) tool (such as ChatGPT, Copilot or Gemini) to brainstorm ideas or use a more specific AI research tool such as SciSpace to search for key concepts or ask a research question. SciSpace will then show questions related to your initial search and insights from top papers.

Understand difficult concepts

If you’re struggling to understand a concept, GenAI tools can provide concise summaries using language that is easy to understand. Keep in mind that AI-produced summaries may not be completely accurate or contain all necessary information. Use GenAI tools such as ChatGPT for summaries, but consider the question (or prompt) you ask the tool so that you receive a useful answer. Crafting good prompts is discussed further in the section Building better prompts.

Scope the literature

Locating relevant articles with AI tools can help you start looking for literature. You can use GenAI tools such as ChatGPT, but there are also more specific AI tools such as Research Rabbit, Keenious and Semantic Scholar (see our chapter on AI tools for further suggestions). You may need to sign up for an account and always look for the free ones.

Assist with reading

When researching for an assessment or trying to better understand a topic, GenAI tools can help you identify which readings, authors or key concepts to focus on.

Keep in mind that GenAI tools tend to reflect existing social biases, so if you ask for key readings or key authors you may get a list that skews towards social groups who have traditionally had more power and privilege. Being aware of this bias is important and using multiple tools to source information (such as the library databases), not just AI, when investigating will help.

Specific AI research tools can summarise academic papers. Look for TLDRs (Too Long; Didn’t Read – super short summaries of the main objective and results) found in Semantic Scholar and SciSpace. Other tools such as ChatPDF can summarise and answer questions about PDF documents users upload onto the site. GenAI tools can also create summaries when you use the right prompts.

Tips on using programs and software

Ask GenAI tools for advice on how to use applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel, or generate some code. Leveraging AI tools for coding can significantly enhance productivity and accuracy.


Start using an AI tools now! Go to an AI tool (see our lists in AI tools) and sign up. Then try to:

  • Brainstorm a question
  • Ask for clarification of a concept

How did you go? Experiment with different tools and don’t forget to tweak your prompt if the content provided isn’t what you are after (see Building better prompts for ideas).


Using AI – Risks, Limitations and Ethics

Remember that these AI tools results are affected by their limitations which include:

Limitations Producing inaccurate or false information Data set being used Data bias and misrepresentation
What does it mean? These tools can produce misinformation and what is known as hallucinations meaning the references produced may be fabricated. Where is this information coming from and how old is it? For example ChatGPT 3.5 had its last knowledge update in January 2022. Outputs may not be neutral and the content may reflect the biases inherent in the data and the algorithms used.
How to avoid? Always investigate the sources and check any references. Put your critical thinking hat on and question the output then verify by checking other reliable resources (such as library databases). Look for a description of the data set being used to train the tool (often in the “About” or “Help” sections) to give you an understanding of the data being drawn on to create the content. Recognising that bias exists is a good first step, the ensure you evaluate the sources and use other resources to gain a different picture.

As with all sources used in your assessments, you should evaluate them for their quality and biases. Learn how to evaluate key information sources, like AI tools, on our Evaluating information webpage and in our Evaluating websites, news and media guide. We talk more about the ethical use of AI in the chapter on Presenting outputs created with AI.

See our Digital Skills module on Using AI tools in your studies for other uses and risks to consider.

Learn more

Want to learn more about hallucinations? Watch this video on Why Large Language Models Hallucinate.


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1. Using AI to plan and prepare 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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