Can you get AI to write your essays for you?

Elizabeth Westphal
2 min readDec 12, 2022

I’m a graduated student and a fan of academic integrity, but will this be a new mode of cheating for students? How would an AI preform when asked to answer essay-style questions, or a short research paper with properly cited sources?

I asked an AI to write a short essay on the symbolism in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The output isn’t anything ground breaking or A+ worthy in terms of essay writing, but could a high school student use these ideas and expand on them? Totally.

But what about a more lazy approach? What if I changed the prompt a bit and asked for an essay on the green light with evidence from the text? Below is a piece of the 504 word essay response.

After some more specific instructions, this response is looking much more passable. The vocabulary is lacking a bit, and there are no page numbers next to the quotations from the text. I ask for the same essay with a more advanced vocabulary and proper citations. The response was a bit jarring. Below is a short excerpt.

The light is situated on the opposite shore, atop Daisy and Tom Buchanan’s dock and emits a mysterious and alluring glow. Nick is immediately taken by the light, which he describes as “minute and far away” (Fitzgerald 19). The isolation of the light both in location and size suggests that Gatsby’s dream of recreating the past and reuniting with Daisy will forever remain distant, his ambition overshadowed by the vastness of the sea.

Damn. All it took was asking for a more “advanced vocabulary” and now we have something that a student could actually hand in.

This raises the question: Do teachers and professors have a way of screening for assignments written by AI? TurnItIn, a popular plagiarism checking tool, even published a blog post on the matter back in 2020, long before chatGBT blew up online. Unfortunately the suggestions offered aren’t anything groundbreaking. The Company recommends talking to students about plagiarism and providing more supervised in-class time for essay writing.

Unfortunately, AI seems to be a fairly accessible way to cheat on essays, and it’s only getting better with time. This isn’t necessarily a new concept: WolframAlpha has been around for ages and can already solve math problems with step-by-step instructions that simply need to be copied down in a notebook to hand in. But where between Grammarly and an AI-generated essay do we draw the line?