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AI and Information searching : Information searching and AI

Using artificial intelligence to search for information

This page is about artificial intelligence (AI) in higher education. The content focuses on the use of AI in information searching, but we also address here general ethical issues raised by AI. AI and its applications are evolving rapidly, so this guide is a work in progress and will be updated when needed. So, visit the page for updates and follow developments in the field around the topic. 

AI is a broad concept that refers to the ability of computer systems to perform tasks and processes that normally require human intelligence. Such tasks may include image recognition, speech recognition, problem solving and decision making. AI is already used in many areas of our daily lives: within recommendation lists provided by applications, language translation, targeting advertising, predicting house prices, etc.

Key concepts

  • Artificial intelligence - Artificial intelligence is the ability of a machine to use skills traditionally associated with human intelligence, such as reasoning, learning, designing or creating.
  • Machine learning - Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence with its roots in statistics. Machine learning methods gives computers the ability to learn without explicitly being programmed. They improve their performance on a given task as more experience or data is accumulated.
  • Large language models - A large language model (LLM) is a model based on the probability of occurrence of words and word sequences. They predict the continuation of a given text input or produce the requested text.
  • Generative AI - Generative AI combines the power of machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence. It can generate original content such as text, video, audio, code or images in response to a given request. The generative AI model is trained using data and feedback and is then able to create ever more innovative outputs. A company called OpenAI released its text-generating ChatGPT service for free use in November 2022, and in early 2023 AI became widely publicised and used.

Laurea Guidelines

Laurea University of Applied Sciences students and staff

Summary of the Laurea Guidelines:

  • The use of artificial intelligence is permitted in principle and its use must always be disclosed.
  • The use of AI should always be allowed and should be used in the thesis and in the production of the text, always using original sources (articles, books, etc.).
  • If a student uses AI in an assignment or in a thesis, for example as part of text maintenance, this must always be mentioned.
  • The source must always be cited, even if the text is produced using AI. AI cannot be used directly as an expert source, and the sources of AI-generated texts should be checked for accuracy.
  • Students are always responsible for the content of the text they return.
  • Students are expected to use AI applications responsibly and ethically, and AI should not be used in a way that is offensive or in violation of applicable laws, rules or regulations.
  • Privacy, data protection and the terms of use of the AI service must be respected. The use of AI services may sometimes require the disclosure of personal information, such as name or email address. Students and teachers should ensure that they only provide information that they are willing to share. The services should not handle confidential information, for example in relation to a work partner's business.

The guidelines will be updated and clarified!


ChatGPT is an OpenAI service that allows the use of different levels of language models, including ChatGPT (free) and GPT4 (paid), according to the user's choice. The application can be found at To use it, you need an OpenAI account.

The service is used by entering text (prompt) and responding to a text prompt provided by the user. The service can therefore be used as a kind of dialogue on a topic of the user's choice.

ChatGPT has been trained on huge amounts of text and generates responses based on a statistical model. In simple terms, it can be compared to the predictive text input of a mobile phone. It knows nothing, has no access to the internet and cannot be used as a source of information. It is also unable to judge the reliability of the text it produces and can therefore claim things that are untrue. OpenAI has not disclosed any information about the data used to train ChatGPT. It is also worth remembering that AI models are notoriously biased.

Note! Open AI updated its paid ChatGPT-4 in September 2023, it is now able to use the internet.

ChatGPT for information retrieval

Orientation to the topic

  • You can use ChatGPT as a source of inspiration when brainstorming and formulating your research question. Be aware that it may introduce biased assumptions into the discussion. Remember that it has been trained with data up to 2021, as it has no knowledge of the latest research findings.

Planning your search

  • ChatGPT can help you find good keywords for your information retrieval. It is worth asking ChatGPT to complete its list of search terms several times, rather than settling for the first answer. Please note, however, that this does not replace the need to consult glossaries and check the terms used by experts in the field.
  • ChatGPT can help you identify tools or databases that are relevant to your topic. Please note that it may not provide a comprehensive answer from the available sector-specific databases. Nor can it tell you whether our library subscribes to a particular database. For comprehensive information on sectoral and cross-sectoral data sources, please consult the Library's Databases A-Z list.
  • Please note that ChatGPT is not trained to formulate search phrases for the purpose of searching for scientific information. If you ask it to construct search phrases for you, you might probably have to edit and reformat them.

Conducting a search

  • ChatGPT cannot help you with your actual search for information. It cannot search for information in a systematic and transparent way.   
  • ChatGPT can tell you how the database works. However, we recommend that you check the manual directly with the database of your choice. The functionality may have changed since 2021 and the ChatGPT response may well be out of date.

Evaluation of search results

  • You cannot use ChatGPT to evaluate search results. Information evaluation is a human skill based on criteria that you yourself consider relevant. As a researcher or student, as a data seeker, you have to decide whether a source is relevant to your work.
  • However, you can use ChatGPT to clarify and translate difficult texts, as it is good for summarising or reformatting text. However, remember to be critical of sources, i.e. don't believe everything - ChatGPT may present biased views.

References and citations

  • ChatGPT is unable to provide real sources for the texts it writes. It can provide a list of sources on request, but usually the sources are incorrect or completely fictitious.
  • ChatGPT is also unable to create bibliographies using certains citation styles. Reference management software, like Zotero and others, support a myriad of citation styles and are good tools for this purpose.

When using AI applications, always consider how they handle the data you enter. As a general rule, all data input to AI services is stored outside the EU/EEA and cannot be deleted from there. For example, no personal data, business secrets, confidential information or sensitive information may be entered into the services.

Instructions on how to restrict the use of your input for AI training in ChatGPT.

References to artificial intelligence

Should I refer to ChatGPT?

Yes, if you have used ChatGPT in your work, you must mention all its use. Check out the instructions:

How do you make a citation to ChatGPT according to a specific citation style? See instructions e.g. :

  • For example, an APA-style citation: 
    OpenAI. (Year). ChatGPT (Month Day version) [Large language model].

Writing your own texts (answers to assignments, essays, etc.) on ChatGPT is considered plagiarism or dishonesty in most institutions, even if you cite the source. Using ChatGPT in this way is not recommended.

Checklist for students

  • Discuss with your course teacher or seminar tutor well in advance whether (and which) AI applications are allowed for information searching for your work.
  • Familiarise yourself with AI applications beforehand: what they can and cannot do to support your search, compare the results.
  • Consider what you can and cannot use an AI application for, when searching for information.
  • Learn about the AI application you are using: who is running it and why; is it fee-based or restricted, does this affect the results?
  • Source criticism is still your responsibility. Be critical of the results: do comparative sampling of different sources of information and check, for example, the references provided by the AI and the citations they get from databases.
  • Cite AI as instructed if you use it.

Language models combined with search engine

Linking the language model to the internet and a search engine allows the language model to provide answers based on internet searches. For example, ChatGPT+plugins, Microsoft Bing Copilot, Gemini, and

Operating principle:

  • The language model interprets the user's question and possibly rephrases it.
  • According to the understanding of the model, suitable search words are entered into the search engine through the software interface. The language model interprets the user's query and possibly reformulates it.
  • The search engine returns the best results for the language model.
  • The language model answers the question based on the sources it receives.

Even in this case, the language model may be hallucinating or misinterpreting sources. So, remember to be critical of the sources. Most tools require registration.

Laurea staff can use Microsoft Bing Copilot in a protected mode with Microsoft Edge on their Laurea workstations. Open Bing Copilot in Edge and you'll see Protected icon in top right corner. This means that the information that you type to Copilot is not used for training the language model.

Ethical and evaluative use

Generative AI is a tool that can help us in our daily lives, at work or in our studies. As with any other tool, ethical, evaluative and appropriate use is the key point.

  • Copyright

    • In some cases, AI tools can use online material without the permission of the authors.

    • Copyright compliance is part of academic good scientific practice, which is why it is very important to be critical of the use of such tools in academic work.

    • In principle, the input of non-authored material into AI tools is prohibited unless explicitly allowed by the terms of use of the material. The terms of use for databases licensed to Laurea can be found in the library's database catalogue via the copyright icon.

  • Mis- and disinformation:
    • Misinformation is incomplete or incorrect information, is given inadvertently and is not intended to mislead.

    • Disinformation is the deliberate distribution of false information, which can be motivated by, among other things, political and social influence, financial gain and malicious intent.

  • Information literacy
    • AI tools do not necessarily report the original sources they use, nor do they necessarily use sources that meet the requirements of scientific writing. In some cases, these sources have proven to be non-existent or inaccurate. If you use a tool that produces some elements of your work, the person reviewing the work needs to know what parts are yours and what is from elsewhere.
    • AI-powered search tools may seem to make scientific research easy and fast. However, from the student's perspective, this can mean that the student is not learning important skills, such as the basic skills of scientific research like information retrieval, critical evaluation and problem solving.
  • Protection of privacy
    • For example, to use ChatGPT, you have to create an account, which allows for data collection. This is a privacy issue. AI tools may require you to provide a phone number or other personal information. Users should be careful about what information they share when creating an account on the web.
    • Please read the program's privacy policy and terms of use carefully. Remember that when you use the tools, your conversations are typically stored by the tool and used for that tool's purposes.
  • Authors' copyrights
    • In some cases, AI tools can use online material without the permission of the authors. Respecting copyright is a part of academic good scientific practice, which is why it is very important to be critical of the use of such tools in academic work.

What is AI?

What is AI? A video by Museum of Science, Boston (4,38)

Guides and guidelines from other libraries

Read more

Rudolph, J., Tan, S. & Tan, S. 2023. ChatGPT: Bullshit spewer or the end of traditional assessments in higher education? Journal of Applied Learning & Teaching. 6(1). 

Teel, Z., Wang, T., & Lund, B. 2023. ChatGPT conundrums: Probing plagiarism and parroting problems in higher education practices. College & Research Libraries News, 84(6), 205. 

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This work is licensed  teos on lisensioitu under Creative Commons Attribute 4.0 International -license. The guide is based on the information provided by the University of Tampere Library in the information search guide.


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