Using ChatGPT and Other Text-Generating Artificial Intelligence (GenAI)

AI and the Writing Process – Revising and Editing

An Important Note on Academic Integrity

Academic and professional integrity are critical elements of student and professional conduct. Always be sure that the use of AI as a tool for your work is allowed and that you are clear about the parameters you need to follow and your responsibilities when you use it. Always document and cite your use of AI.  

Without the explicit permission or instruction of your instructor, you should never submit work produced by ChatGPT or other AI. Doing so is an academic offense. From University of Waterloo guidelines: “Using ChatGPT (or similar tools that generate text, code, or visual images) for content generation and submitting it as one’s own original work is a violation of the University of Waterloo’s Policy 71 (Student Discipline).” 

In the following examples, the 💬 symbol indicates the prompt entry into ChatGPT-3.5.

All Resources in this Series

1. Overview

2. AI and the Writing Process 

   a. Getting Started 

   b. Drafting  

   c. Revising and editing ✓

   d. Documenting and Citing 


Revising and editing are part of the drafting process, so you may switch between the previous resource and this one. When you have a draft that you’re ready to revise, we always recommend that you look at the big picture elements first (structure, flow, and clarity) before looking at grammar or mechanics (verb agreement, spelling, punctuation).  

1. Getting Revision Feedback for Organization and Flow 

When drafting a written assignment or an outline or script for a spoken assignment, it helps to get feedback from someone else about how they are reading it. Some examples of useful feedback are whether the work is organized in a way that makes sense and if the main arguments are clear. Asking someone to pick out your thesis or identify your main arguments and supporting evidence can tell you if these elements are clear to your reader.  

This kind of feedback is called descriptive feedback. It can come from a friend or classmate, a WCC advisor or tutor, or from GenAI like ChatGPT.  

🚩 IMPORTANT NOTE: By sharing your work with GenAI like Chat GPT, you are entering your writing and intellectual work into a system that is the private property of a corporation. Once you share your work, you may be relinquishing control of how it gets used from that point forward. We recommend reading the terms and conditions of the software you use to understand the risks of inputting your work into any AI system.   

Is an argument or element clearly defined?

You have finished most of your lab report and now you are writing the introduction. You want to check if your hypothesis is clearly defined for your reader. 

💬 “Below is my introduction to my 4th year university biology lab report. Identify my hypothesis.  

[Paste introduction text]” 

From this prompt, ChatGPT will identify the specific sentence that contains your hypothesis and present it back to you in new wording, which will help you see how clear your writing is and revise as needed. 

Is my writing clear? Have I said what I wanted to say?

You want to make sure that what you have written is clear and makes sense. One option is to ask ChatGPT to summarize it or re-word it for you to check over. You can ask for either a paragraph or a point-form output. 

💬 “Re-word the following sentence/section from my university biology lab report so I can ensure it makes sense: 

[Insert text]” 

💬 “Create a point-form summary of the following section from my university biology lab report so I can ensure it makes sense. 

[Insert text]” 

After you get the response from ChatGPT, check it over. If it isn’t clear, identify where the mismatch happened, then re-word your original text and try again. 

Is my work organized logically? Does it flow?

You have finished a draft of your essay, and you want to check the logic and flow of your argument. One strategy is to compete a reverse outline. By outlining the main arguments and sub-points of your essay, you can analyze its overall structure to make sure it makes sense. This is a perfect opportunity to use a platform like ChatGPT, which will be objective in its descriptions of your work. 

💬 “Below is my essay for my 1st year university communication course. Create a reverse outline from it that lists my central thesis and the main argument and sub-points of each paragraph. 

[Paste essay text]” 

ChatGPT will list your main thesis and then summarize each of your paragraphs in point form. Read through them carefully and compare them with your essay.  Here are some questions to consider: 

  • Has ChatGPT accurately summarized your arguments?  
  • Does its summary of your paragraphs match what you intended to communicate?  
  • Does the structure make sense?  
  • Are your claims supported by evidence from your research?  
  • Does each paragraph logically connect to the one before it and build your argument? 
  • Does your draft contain multiple paragraphs that make the same claim?  
  • Do any paragraphs make claims that don’t help persuade your reader of your thesis? 

2. Getting Feedback for Improvement 

In the previous examples, we have avoided asking ChatGPT for suggestions for improvement. 

While you can ask ChatGPT how you can improve your work and it will provide some helpful advice, proceed with caution. It often offers generic “one-size-fits-all” recommendations. Sometimes it doesn’t have an accurate understanding of the conventions of your discipline, and it lists suggestions that may not be appropriate for your work.  

Always consider GenAI advice with a critical lens. Compare with examples from your course or field. Or check with a Writing and Communication Centre advisor or tutor.  

3. Getting Editing Feedback 

GenAI editors are now integrated into most of the software we write with. Editors are embedded in Microsoft, Google, and other products. If you have used these features, they can be helpful, but they can be wrong and create errors. Many recommendations are stylistic and can affect your writing voice, or they can reduce an emphasis you need or a nuance you want to be careful about. 

When in doubt, confirm what embedded GenAI editors suggest: Use judgement, critical thinking, and external sources for confirmation whenever you use GenAI editors to help with grammar and mechanics. We also encourage you to be confident in your word and style choices and ignore the suggestions if they don’t fit your purpose. You can check suggested changes by getting feedback from ChatGPT as outlined below. 

Benefits to using ChatGPT for grammar questions and advice

  • You can request more in-depth and less technical explanations and examples when you have questions about grammar or mechanics.  
  • You can ask it to expand on any advice it gives or ask it to give usage examples. 
  • You can ask it to highlight specific parts of your sentences for you to check on your own, e.g. prepositions, articles, verbs 
  • You can implement some suggestions to re-word your original text, then ask if it is an improvement. 

Risks to using ChatGPT for grammar questions or advice

  • It does not limit its suggestions to grammar or mechanics. Even when you only ask for feedback on errors, it will suggest revisions for clarity and flow.  
  • It responds with a revised version of your text unless you instruct it not to. You must also ask it to list the changes it makes so that you can identify and check them carefully. 
  • It does not distinguish between your text and any quoted text in your paragraph. Even when instructed to exclude quoted text, it will sometimes include it. Any text you quote from an external source must match the original exactly, so you should never re-word it or make changes to its punctuation, capitalization, etc.  
  • It can miss errors entirely. In our tests, it sometimes missed single errors. It also missed errors related to specific types of documents. For example, it did not identify that a lab report used the wrong verb tenses within sections, even when asked to check for this specifically. 
  • It is inconsistent and will provide different results based on your prompt. For example, asking it to check for grammar errors versus punctuation errors will yield different results. If you regularly have trouble with something (e.g. subject-verb agreement or which articles to use), ask it to check for that issue specifically. 
  • It will sometimes tell you that it has made a change when it has not, for example, that it has added a comma when the comma was in your original text.  

Sample prompts for editing feedback

When writing prompts for ChatGPT to give editing feedback, you must add limitations to prevent it from generating more than what you want or need. Be as clear and specific as you can in your prompts. 

💬 “Check for grammar errors only in the following paragraph of my university-level civil engineering report. Do not generate a revised paragraph, but only itemize a list of grammatical errors. Do not give improvements for clarity and flow.” 

💬 “Check my punctuation [or subject-verb agreement, etc.] in the following section of my university-level essay. Explain your corrections.” 

💬 “Explain what you mean by an unnecessary comma.” 

💬 “Describe and give more examples for when commas are optional between coordinating conjunctions.” 

💬 “Highlight all prepositions in the following paragraph.”