A Chatbot as Study Aid

Below we outline how ChatGPT (and/or other chatbots) can contribute to a good learning process. Keep in mind that your instructor ultimately determines how ChatGPT can and cannot be used in your course. So tune it out and make arrangements with your instructor so you don't accidentally do something you're not supposed to.   

Much of the coverage focuses on the negative aspects of students' use of ChatGPT. This mainly involves submitting text generated by ChatGPT as if you had written it yourself. Of course, everyone understands that this is not the intention, because previously you were not allowed to submit work written by someone else either.  But you can use a chatbot as a study aid.   

How can a chatbot help you study?

An effective learning strategy is to quiz yourself on the things you need to learn (Dunlosky et al., 2013). For example, explaining to yourself a particular social-psychological theory, the geopolitical reasons for Russia to invade the Donbas, or how to calculate how much water evaporates from a river of a certain size and flow rate. For simple facts and definitions, you can use flashcards, but when things get a little more complex, you have to make up your own questions. Coming up with questions to quiz yourself on can be tricky and time-consuming. Students report that all that effort results in them ultimately not using this effective learning strategy(Hui et al., 2022). That's a shame, because such a learning strategy can benefit you a lot. A chatbot can help you come up with questions that you as a student can use to practice with the material.  

For a chatbot to generate quiz questions, it is important that you give good prompts (assignments to the chatbot). You can use the learning objectives of the subject or the book. These describe what you should be able to do at the end of the course. This way you can check with yourself which of those learning objectives you have already mastered. It is often very difficult to make an assessment of your own learning (Bjork, Dunlosky, & Kornell, 2013), but the chatbot can help you with this. Then you can start focusing more on the learning objectives, which you have not yet mastered. In this way, you can exercise more control over your learning process; in specialist jargon, we call this self-regulated learning. So by using the chatbot as a personal learning coach, you can study more effectively and efficiently!   

How can you use a chatbot for an essay?

Earlier we mentioned that of course you should not use a chatbot to have texts written entirely for you, to submit as if it is your own. That would be seen as fraud, because you didn't write the texts yourself. 

But chatbots are also often used as a search engine, like Google. So instead of 'googling', you ask questions to the chatbot. For example, you might ask the chatbot to provide examples of arguments for or against a particular proposition. You can then use those arguments as inspiration for your own written piece. Keep in mind that chatbots can make many mistakes in terms of content. So it is important that you don't just copy it, but verify the content using other sources.  

Another way to use a chatbot is when creating an outline or draft of an essay. You then work these out yourself. So here you use the chatbot's answers as an advice in the writing process, and then you work on it significantly yourself.    

The tricky thing about using a chatbot when writing an essay is that you don't know what the chatbot bases its answers on. ChatGPT contains both a data bias (because of the bias from the data used), and a trainers bias (because of the bias of the data taggers and programmers). We just don't know what exactly these biases are and will mean, which makes ChatGPT a big "black box. For scientific papers, it is important that the information is correct and that it can be traced back to the sources used in writing the text. For that, it has to be transparent. In other words, you have to be able to see exactly what information the arguments are based on and where this information came from. Chatbots can't do that well at the moment and so you will have to do that yourself. If you let ChatGPT generate sources to a text, it will often invent non-existent sources. Pay extra attention to this.  

Not a ghostwriter, but a study coach

Ultimately, you are at university to learn. By letting a chatbot do your work for you, you learn nothing and, besides, using the chatbot can be seen as fraud. You don't hire a ghostwriter to write your essays for you. What you can do is hire a study coach to teach you how to write. You can use a chatbot in a similar way: as a helpline while studying. That helpline makes you learn more effectively and efficiently, and that's what it's all about!   

In a nutshell

  • A chatbot can help you study.   

  • Let the chatbot make up questions for you to quiz yourself on the material.   

  • Let the chatbot inspire you with suggestions for the outline of your essay.   

  • Provide yourself with scientific support for the content of your essay and transparency in the sources used. 



  • Bjork, R. A., Dunlosky, J., & Kornell, N. (2013). Self-regulated learning: Beliefs, techniques, and illusions. Annual review of psychology, 64, 417-444.  

  • Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the public interest, 14, 4-58.  

  • Hui, L., de Bruin, A. B., Donkers, J., & van Merriënboer, J. J. (2022). Why students do (or do not) choose retrieval practice: Their perceptions of mental effort during task performance matter. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 36, 433-444.  


This article is developed by O&T (Onderwijsadvies en Training).