How to get ChatGPT to write an essay [The prompts you need]

In the rapidly evolving world of technology and artificial intelligence, AI-powered writing tools like ChatGPT and other chatbots have emerged as a game-changer, not least in the realm of essay writing. 

The ability to write coherent, persuasive, and insightful essays is an indispensable skill, yet many find it challenging.

This blog post aims to demystify the process of leveraging the ChatGPT bot to craft high-quality essays.

From selecting the optimal prompts, and crafting an outline, to synthesizing information and refining drafts, we’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to use this advanced AI tool for essay writing. 

However, remember that it is only a tool, and human intelligence, creativity, and critical thinking remain crucial for crafting compelling, accurate, and insightful essays. Read on to discover how ChatGPT can be a valuable aid in your essay-writing journey.

How to Use Chat GPT to Write an Essay?

 If you’re finding yourself struggling with essay writing, Chat GPT (or other OpenAI interfacing tools) might be what you need. 

From getting over writer’s block to giving you a full first draft here are the things you need to know! 

My recommendation is to pay for ChatGPT Plus. It gives you access to the GPT4 language model and, in my opinion, is far better at generating language and essays. 

You’ll have to start by looking for the best essay prompts to use with ChatGPT. I like to first look at services like FlowGPT to find prompts that you can use. 

Somebody has already done the hard work for you and they are sharing the best prompt with you!

Once you have chosen an appropriate prompt, use Chat GPT to generate text that will form the basis of your essay. In my experience, it’s normally better to use a process of chaining prompts together so that you are in control at every stage. That is, working in stages with the AI to get the best outcomes. 

Most people get generation wrong because they expect it to generate a perfect essay with one prompt – it’ll need much more steering than that. 

One important factor to take into account is that AI will often make up facts and you must remember to check the accuracy of all of the text generated. 

1: Generating essay ideas with a chatbot

Generating ideas for your essay is typically the first place people start when they are in the early stages of writing their essay. 

Here are some simple prompts that you can use when working with ChatGPT depending on the angle and type of essay that you want to write. 

  1. Argument Sides: “What are the strongest arguments for and against [topic]?”
  2. Hypothetical Scenarios: “If [hypothetical scenario] occurred, what might be the consequences and implications?”
  3. New Perspective: “Provide a unique perspective or argument about [insert topic].”
  4. Topic Deep Dive: “What are some nuanced aspects or rarely discussed facets of [topic]?”
  5. Historical Impact: “How might history have been different if [historical event] had a different outcome?”
  6. What If?: “What if [famous person] lived in the 21st century? How might their contributions or ideas change?”
  7. Ethics: “Let’s create an ethical dilemma related to [topic]. What might be the implications and possible solutions?”
  8. Futuristic View: “Predict how [current trend or technology] might evolve in the next 50 years.”
  9. Unlikely Comparisons: “Find parallels between [topic A] and [topic B]. How are they similar or different?”
  10. Brainstorming Pros and Cons: “Generate a pros and cons list for [specific decision or controversy].”
  11. Breaking Down Complex Concepts: “Can you explain [complex concept/idea] in simple terms and describe its importance?”
  12. Character Analysis: “If [literary character] were to live in today’s world, what challenges would they face and how might they overcome them?”
  13. Problem-Solution: “What is a potential solution to the problem of [specific issue]?”
  14. Philosophical Questions: “Discuss the philosophical implications of [theory or idea].”
  15. Novel Approaches: “Propose a novel approach to addressing the issue of [insert issue].”
  16. Creative Ideas: “Generate an out-of-the-box idea related to [topic].”
  17. Inventive Scenarios: “Imagine a world where [scenario]. How might this impact society, culture, politics, etc.?”
  18. Deconstructing Arguments: “Take the argument [insert argument] and break it down. What are its weaknesses and strengths?”
  19. Role Reversal: “How would the narrative of [story/book/event] change if the roles of the main characters/participants were reversed?”
  20. Future Predictions: “What are some possible future trends in [field/industry] and their potential implications?

2: Create an outline for your essay topic

Here are some example prompts that will allow you to create an outline to build upon.

  1. “Outline an essay on the impacts of climate change on global economies.”
  2. “Generate an essay outline on the ethical implications of artificial intelligence.”
  3. “Create an essay outline exploring the importance of mental health awareness in schools.”
  4. “Please provide an essay outline discussing the evolution of social media and its effects on society.”
  5. “Construct an essay outline on the benefits and drawbacks of renewable energy sources.”
  6. “Outline an essay arguing for the importance of space exploration in the 21st century.”
  7. “Generate an essay outline examining the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global health systems.”
  8. “Provide an essay outline discussing the influence of technology on modern education.”
  9. “Create an essay outline exploring the significance of biodiversity for global ecosystems.”
  10. “Construct an essay outline about the role of women in the tech industry.”

If this doesn’t give you exactly what you want you can tell the AI where it went wrong and what it did right. That way it’ll slowly hone in on what meets your requirements on you want to include or leave out.

3: Synthesising literature to help you write persuasively

One of the most annoying parts of writing an essay is looking through previous work and trying to synthesise the content into a logical and thorough argument.

This is where AI and ChatGPT can really help you. 

Finding the literature:

ChatGPT is not very good at finding literature to work with. I’ve tried it a lot and it often makes up literature or sends you to a different paper altogether. There are the services I would use to find literature using AI:

  1. Elicit –
  2. Semantic Scholar:
  3. Connected Papers –
  4. Research rabbit –
  5. Litmaps –
  6. Scite –

Getting ChatGPT to read PDFs

It can be hard to get ChatGPT to work with data and files.

That is why I use HeyGPT to access and read pdf files. as the interface of ChatGPT.

Once the files are uploaded to ChatGPT (via the HeyGPT interface) you can then start asking questions about the data and text you have just uploaded. 

The other option is to use a prompt spitter like ChatGPT PROMPTs Splitter to manually copy and paste large amounts of text straight into ChatGPT. 

4: Creating a first draft

Now that you have the data in ChatGPT you are ready to ask it to write essays for you – remember that this is all about using it as a scaffold and not as a final draft for submission. 

Here are some examples for you that have worked well:

  1. Exploring Innovations: “Draft a 1000-word essay exploring the impact of artificial intelligence on healthcare. Discuss its current applications, potential future developments, and ethical considerations.”
  2. Literary Analysis: “Write a 1000-word essay analyzing the character development of [insert character] in [insert novel]. How does this development reflect the book’s underlying themes?”
  3. Climate Change: “Craft a 1000-word essay discussing the effects of climate change on biodiversity. Provide examples of endangered species and suggest measures to mitigate these effects.”
  4. Social Media and Society: “Compose a 1000-word essay on the impact of social media on interpersonal communication. Discuss both its positive and negative implications and suggest ways to optimize its use.”
  5. Ethical Dilemmas in Science: “Develop a 1000-word essay on the ethical dilemmas involved in genetic engineering. Discuss the potential benefits and risks, and propose guidelines for its ethical use.”
  6. Globalization: “Write a 1000-word essay on the pros and cons of globalization. Discuss its impact on economic growth, cultural exchange, and inequality.”
  7. Mental Health: “Craft a 1000-word essay on the importance of mental health awareness in schools. Discuss the current state of mental health education and propose improvements.”
  8. Feminism: “Compose a 1000-word essay exploring the evolution of feminism through the ages. Discuss its various waves and the main objectives and achievements of each.”
  9. Art and Culture: “Create a 1000-word essay discussing the influence of [cultural movement] on [specific artist or artwork]. How did this movement shape the artist’s work and philosophy?”
  10. Personal Growth: “Write a 1000-word reflective essay about a personal challenge that you’ve faced, how you overcame it, and what you learned from the experience.”

I recommend working in sections or paragraphs. Feed in the relevant information and then ask it to generate a response for that particular subheading. 

These prompts cover a wide range of topics and can be adjusted based on the specific focus of your essay. Note that while ChatGPT can help you generate ideas and content, it’s always a good idea to review and edit the content to ensure it meets your requirements.

5: Improving your essays with a grader

Lastly, once you have an essay that you are happy with you should ask ChatGPT to grade your paper for you and provide you with a list of potential ACTIONABLE changes you can make to improve the grade. 

I do this in two steps:

  1. Feed in the marking criteria or rubric you are using
  2. Then ask the ai chatbot to give you a grade and improvements. For example: Acting as a teacher with 20 years of experience, take this essay and marking criteria and grade the paper, and provide a list of actionable steps that I can take to make this paper a top-grade paper. 

Following this advice will help you spot your mistakes and where the essay can be significantly improved. 

Can ChatGPT Write College-Level Essays?

While it may be able to write an essay, it is questionable if it can produce a college-level one.

There’s no doubt that it could create pretty good highschool level papers – it cannot do as good a job when you have to work with literature and more field specific information. 

Its AI capabilities only stretch as far as its programming, which may not include the nuances and complexities expected in a college essay.

Additionally, there is also the concern of plagiarism, as ChatGPT may source information from other online texts without proper citation or citation at all.

It is important to note that while AI has advanced significantly in recent years, it is not comparable to human intelligence and reasoning.

It is better to rely on academic sources, research, and one’s own critical thinking skills when writing college-level essays and deciding what to include. Use ChatGPT as a tool only for making the process of your essay writing easier. 

Can professors tell if you use ChatGPT? Can they detect Plagiarism?

Professors may be able to detect if a student has used ChatGPT to write an essay, but it largely depends on their ability to recognize plagiarism.

There are a number of tools available for detecting ai written content, however, getting an accurate detection is hard and there are many false positives that are generated by these tools. 

As a professor, I have found that I am able to detect AI writing just by being familiar with the types of standard responses that AI tools generate. 

Also if a student’s usual writing style drastically differs from the language and tone of an essay using ChatGPT, it may raise suspicion.

However, with the increasing use of AI and technological advancements in writing software, it may become more challenging to tell if a student is using ChatGPT or any other language-generating software in their writing. 

Wrapping up – Using chatGPT to write essays 

While ChatGPT serves as an exciting tool to aid your writing, it’s crucial to remember that it complements, rather than replaces, human intelligence and creativity.

From generating ideas and crafting outlines to synthesizing literature and refining drafts, using ChatGPT can simplify the complex art of essay writing.

Yet, be vigilant about accuracy and potential plagiarism.

With the right balance between AI technology and your own critical thinking, you can unlock the full potential of tools like ChatGPT to enhance your essay-writing capabilities.

As we continue to witness the fascinating interplay of AI in the realm of writing, let’s strive to harness it mindfully, ethically, and productively.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.