Guidance on the Appropriate Use of Generative Artificial Intelligence in Graduate Theses
In response to the rapidly evolving landscape of generative artificial intelligence (AI) use in academic and educational settings, this preliminary guidance has been produced to address frequently asked questions (FAQ) in the context of graduate thesis work at the University of Toronto. More detailed guidance on this topic, as well as new or updated policies may be issued in future, in which case this preliminary guidance will also be updated. The FAQs below outline important considerations for graduate students, supervisors, supervisory committees, and graduate units on the use of generative AI tools (such as ChatGPT) in graduate student research and thesis writing, while upholding the core principles of academic quality, research integrity, and transparency. The FAQs cover requirements both for approval and for documentation of the use of generative AI tools in graduate thesis research and writing, as well as risks and other considerations in using generative AI in graduate thesis research and writing.
Innovative and creative uses of generative AI may support scholarly activities and help facilitate high quality research, particularly in certain disciplines. Graduate students and faculty supervisors are expected to strive for the highest standards of academic quality and research integrity in all scholarly activities, and therefore the use of generative AI tools in the process of graduate thesis research and writing must always take place with full transparency. This includes transparency between students and their supervisors, who must agree in advance how any generative AI tools will be used; as well as transparency between graduate students and the audiences of their work, who must be provided a clear and complete description and citation of any use of generative AI tools in creating the scholarly work.
Students who plan to use generative AI tools in researching or writing their graduate thesis must always seek and document in writing unambiguous approval for the planned uses in advance from their supervisor(s) and supervisory committee. Unauthorized use of generative AI tools for scholarly work at the University of Toronto may be considered an offence under the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, and research misconduct as defined in the Policy on Ethical Conduct in Research and the Framework to Address Allegations of Research Misconduct. Furthermore, careful attention must be paid in the thesis to appropriate citation and describing any use of generative AI tools that took place in the research or writing process, in line with disciplinary norms. This includes, for example, using generative AI tools in searching, designing, outlining, drafting, writing, or editing the thesis, or in producing audio or visual content for the thesis, and may include other uses of generative AI. Even when engaging in authorized generative AI use, faculty and graduate students must be aware of the risks in using such tools, some of which are discussed below.
Faculties and graduate units may have specific requirements or restrictions regarding the use of generative AI in some or all phases of the graduate research lifecycle. Individual graduate units may therefore issue additional guidance outlining field-specific appropriate uses of generative AI tools in researching and writing a doctoral thesis. This could include, for example, guidance on use in writing text, conducting analytical work, reporting results (e.g., tables or figures) or writing computer code. Graduate units issuing additional guidance should take into account the issues discussed in the FAQ below. Additional relevant guidance and further reading can be found in the FAQs and guidance on syllabi and assignments (PDF) issued by the Office of the Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education, and in the guidance on generative AI in the classroom from the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation.
 In referring to generative AI in this document, we include tools that use predictive technology to produce new text, charts, images, audio, or video. For example uses and more detail, please see the FAQs and guidance on syllabi and assignments issued by the Office of the Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education, and the guidance on generative AI in the classroom from the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Relevant Policies and Further Reading
- Generative AI Tools and Copyright Considerations
- Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters
- Policy on Ethical Conduct in Research
- Framework to Address Allegations of Research Misconduct
- Research Misconduct Framework Addendum
- Statement on Research Integrity
- SGS Doctoral Thesis Guidelines
- ChatGPT and Generative AI in the Classroom
- Generative Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom
- Graduate Centre for Academic Communication