This guidance explains how you can appropriately use a variety of digital tools (including generative AI) to assist you in the completion of your assessments. It also details inappropriate uses that you must avoid.
Published November 2023
This guidance should be used in conjunction with the Policy on Acceptable Assistance with Assessment.
At the University of York, we value digital literacy as an important skill, both in Higher Education and in the workplace. We believe that translation tools and generative AI, when used appropriately, can be valuable resources for students. On the other hand, there are limitations, risks and ethical issues which users need to be aware of. We will support you in developing your understanding and application of such tools, but importantly, it is crucial that your use of AI, translation, or proofreading services to generate or improve your work does not lead to ‘false authorship’ of the formative or summative work that you submit. False authorship is considered an academic misconduct offence under University policy and is treated very seriously.
‘False authorship’ refers to creating or modifying academic work, either fully or partially, using unauthorised or undisclosed help from people (eg family, proofreaders, essay mills) or technology (eg generative AI, software, machine translation) without approval or acknowledgment and to such an extent that you can no longer be considered the author of the work.
Certain tools and services certainly have the potential to help learning and development in many ways, including broadening your knowledge and understanding and improving the quality of your writing. If, however, the use of such tools and services means you are effectively no longer the author of the work you submit for assessment, then you could be committing academic misconduct.
Generative artificial intelligence (AI)
Generative AI (eg ChatGPT) is rapidly becoming an integral part of our daily lives. Similarly to other tools and services discussed, when used responsibly and judiciously, generative AI can facilitate understanding, develop your learning, and support academic progress. Likewise, generative AI can help teachers and educators better communicate knowledge and engage students. However, it is crucial to recognise the limitations, biases, and ethical concerns associated with AI use, which we are all continuously learning about and addressing.
For some assignments, you may be allowed to use generative AI, but for many of your assessments (and unless otherwise stated), there will be a strict expectation that any use of generative AI in the production of work you submit will adhere to University policy regarding false authorship. The use of AI undoubtedly has the potential to hinder your learning, misrepresent your genuine academic ability (both positively and negatively!), and lead to misconduct cases that will be treated very seriously. As always, check your assessment briefs and guidelines carefully, and if you are not sure about acceptable use, ask your teacher or coordinator.
University of York policy and guidance aligns and agrees with the Russell Group principles on the use of generative AI tools in education, and with the QAA advice on maintaining quality and standards in an AI-enabled world.
- Learning enhancement: utilising generative AI to deepen understanding, explore complex concepts, and reinforce learning in the preparation stages of assessments.
- Clarification: using AI to clarify doubts, seek explanations, or understand complex vocabulary or sentence structures, but not as a substitute for deeper analysis and comprehension when producing assessed work.
- Further reading and research: seeking suggestions for additional resources or references related to the topic.
- Generate ideas - but not generate assessed work: AI can be used to assist you in generating ideas, but again, this should not be a shortcut for critical thinking, deeper analysis and academic writing, all of which should be your own and you should be able to explain if asked.
- Enhancement beyond expectations: we expect the work you produce to reflect what we know of you from classroom participation, VLE engagement, oral tasks, homework submissions, and day-to-day interactions. Depending on the student, the production of work which is consistently grammatically flawless and highly cohesive may suggest false authorship, particularly when similar work cannot be produced under conditions where you do not have such tools available to you.
- Requesting direct answers or responses: asking generative AI your assessment questions or titles, and then using the generated response in assessed work without approval or attribution.
- Submitting chunks of unedited text generated by AI: submitting academic work that is partly or entirely generated using AI, without any personal review, understanding, or modification, will be deemed false authorship.
- Over-reliance: if your assessment submission has indicators of generative AI you may be found to have committed false authorship. Depending on AI can hinder your learning and misrepresent your genuine academic ability.
- Uncritical acceptance: accepting suggestions without critical evaluation, careful review, or consideration of accuracy, context or appropriateness will likely not only lead to a case of misconduct but also increase your chances of receiving a low grade.
Translation tools or services (human or digital)
When used appropriately and judiciously, translation services or tools (eg Google Translate, Youdao Translate, Baidu Translate) can facilitate understanding, enhance language skills, and support academic progress. However, it is crucial to highlight that section 4.1 of the Policy on Assessment, Examiners, Marking and Feedback specifies that English is the language of assessment on university programmes, unless another language of assessment is clearly stated. Therefore, over reliance on machine translation to the extent that it diminishes your active involvement and understanding, and results in false authorship, is strictly prohibited. Please also note that some assessments will prohibit translation entirely, and/or you will be unable to access translation tools (such as in closed exams or oral assessments).
- Clarification: for example, checking assessment instructions and guidelines.
- As a dictionary: translating a word, collocation or phrasal level when writing and reading text.
- As a language learning aid: to support language learning and improve proficiency by comparing translations with the original text, identifying vocabulary, checking pronunciation, and grasping grammatical structures.
- Articulation check: when using translated text, ask yourself: do you truly comprehend the meaning of the translated text? Can you articulate it effectively if asked to explain? Translation should serve as a comprehension aid rather than a replacement for understanding.
- Submitting lengthy chunks of translated work: translated text which is at sentence level or beyond risks submitting work of false authorship.
- Uncritical acceptance: accepting machine-translated text without critical evaluation, careful review, or consideration of accuracy or appropriateness.
- Over reliance and lack of engagement: over using machine translation to the extent that it replaces active engagement and understanding of the academic material, resulting in a loss of personal authorship and critical input.
- Translating work into the language of assessment: submitting academic work that is entirely generated using machine translation or a human translator, without any personal review, understanding, or modification.
Language-enhancement applications and proofreading services
Language-enhancement applications (LEAs) such as Grammarly and ProWritingAid are online tools which highlight issues and offer suggestions for improvements in various areas of writing, eg with grammatical errors, alternative vocabulary, and sentence rephrasing. Proofreaders, on the other hand, are professional individuals who review written material to identify and in some cases correct errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax, and formatting (see Policy on Acceptable Assistance with Assessment).
Such tools and services are intended to assist and support you with your writing, but not to produce work which is not your own. If used in an appropriate way, and if permitted in your assignments, the use of online LEAs is not considered academic misconduct and can be beneficial during degree programme. It is important to distinguish online LEAs from other methods used to improve your writing. Using automated paraphrasing tools, for example, can result in work of false authorship being submitted (as well as often poor paraphrasing!) and means you are not applying the skills that you are here to learn.
- Vocabulary enrichment: using LEAs in a considered way to expand and enrich your vocabulary, aiding in the selection of appropriate and precise words for academic expression.
- Grammar and language improvement: utilising LEAs to improve grammar, syntax, punctuation, and overall language structure to enhance the clarity and coherence of your academic writing.
- Identify problems: point out and automatically correct typographical errors, and point out but not automatically correct poor grammar and phrases.
- Enhance - not mislead: LEAs should be used in a manner that still preserves and reflects your natural ability and competency in English. Enhancements should maintain your voice and style.
- Uncritical acceptance: accepting suggestions without critical evaluation, careful review, or consideration of accuracy, context or appropriateness.
- Excessive dependency: if your assessment submission has substitutions which appear to be that of a third party and not your own work, it will be deemed false authorship. Excessively depending on LEAs can hinder your active engagement in learning and ability to independently craft well-written academic work.
- Enhancement far beyond unsupported ability: we expect the work you produce to reflect the fact that you are a student, and that you are learning from your mistakes. Depending on the student, producing work which is consistently grammatically flawless and highly cohesive may suggest false authorship, particularly when similar work cannot be produced under conditions where you do not have LEAs or other tools available to you.
It is very important to note the following regarding the use of any of the tools discussed above:
- Standard of work and academic misconduct: be aware that misuse and over reliance on the tools and services discussed could result in a) a lower grade in comparison to the original draft; and b) being referred for academic misconduct as the submission may be considered false authorship.
- Assistance which hinders learning: it is important to realise that some assessments will be held under closed exam conditions, where you will not be able to use any of the tools or services discussed. Therefore, you should take every opportunity to learn from corrections, suggestions, explanations and misinterpretations provided via these applications in addition to your teachers’ feedback.
- Equity and fairness: much of the supportive functionality of the tools discussed above is often only available in ‘premium’ editions which must be paid for. Therefore, tutors can advise on and support students with some applications but such guidance will be limited so as not to disadvantage students who may not have access to the functionality available in the premium, paid-for editions.
- Data security, intellectual property and ethics: providing your own work to an individual or software has a degree of risk. Once you have shared your work, you cannot guarantee how that will then be used. The emergence of generative AI, for example, has raised serious concerns about how data is processed and used by the companies and software.
Recommendations for students
1. Follow policy and guidelines
Pay close attention to this guidance, your assessment specifications and use it in conjunction with the Policy on Acceptable Assistance with Assessment.
2. Keep records of your draft work and notes
It is advisable to keep records of the work you have done and to save different copies of your work rather than overwriting the same file all the time. Keep copies of the research notes you used, the calculations you made, etc. An academic misconduct panel may ask for copies of a student’s work where there is a suspicion of generative AI use.
3. Be ready to explain your answer and how you produced it
If there is a suspicion of academic misconduct through generative AI use, you may be requested to attend a panel hearing on the case and asked to explain how you produced your work.
4. Make sure you understand what is appropriate for each assessment you take
If you are not sure whether it is acceptable to use generative AI content tools, you should discuss this with your programme leaders, module leaders or supervisors as soon as possible.
5. If you have concerns about other students
We hope that you share our aim of ensuring that everyone is assessed fairly and appropriately and we welcome your help in encouraging each other to adopt appropriate academic practices in your studies. If you have concerns about other students, speak to your supervisor, programme leader or module leader first. See AM2.1.7 Reporting of Academic Misconduct by third parties in our Academic Misconduct Policy for our formal process but please speak to your department first so that we can be sure that there is no misunderstanding and accusations are not made inappropriately.