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One of the biggest complaints about ChatGPT is that it provides information, but the accuracy of that information is uncertain. Those complaints exist because ChatGPT doesn’t provide sources, footnotes, or links to where it derived information used in its answers.
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But that’s not entirely true — and ChatGPT can do more.
How to make ChatGPT provide sources and citations
If you know how to properly prompt ChatGPT, it will give you sources. Here’s how. To start, you need to ask ChatGPT something that needs sources or citations. I’ve found it’s better to ask a question with a longer answer, so there’s more “meat” for ChatGPT to chew on.
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Keep in mind that ChatGPT can’t provide any information after 2021 and that requests for information pre-internet (say, for a paper on Ronald Reagan’s presidency) will have far fewer available sources.
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For example, I asked for sources on a backgrounder for the phrase “trust but verify”, generally popularized by US President Ronald Reagan. I got a lot of sources back, but most didn’t actually exist. I got some back that correctly took me to active pages on the Reagan Presidential Library site, but the page topic had nothing to do with the phrase in question.
How (and why) to subscribe to ChatGPT Plus
WebPilot gives ChatGPT the ability to search the web. This effectively eliminates the 2021 cutoff point for the ChatGPT knowledge base. It also allows ChatGPT to access the web to find more current sources and citations. This has the advantage of reducing the link rot symptoms that come from using a 2021 database in 2023 and beyond.
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Do be aware, however, that even with current web access, ChatGPT can still hallucinate. In other words, the AI will still make stuff up, including valid-seeming sources that don’t exist and have never existed. Continue to double-check everything.
How do you put sources in APA format?
APA style is a citation style that’s often required in academic programs. APA stands for American Psychological Association, and I’ve often thought that they invented these style rules in order to get more customers. But, seriously, the definitive starting point for APA style is the Purdue OWL. It provides a wide range of style guidelines.
Be careful: Online style formatters might not do a complete job, and you may get your work returned by your professor. It pays to do the work yourself — and use care doing it.
How can I make ChatGPT provide more reliable sources for its responses?
This is a good question. I have found that sometimes — sometimes — if you ask ChatGPT to give you more sources, or re-ask for sources, it will give you new listings. If you tell ChatGPT that the sources it provided were erroneous, it will sometimes give you better ones. It may also just apologize and give excuses. Another approach is to re-ask your original question with a different focus or direction, and then ask for sources for the new answer.
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