AI Writing Detection
Is ChatGPT Writing Your Students' Homework? A New Technology Will Be Able to Detect It
AI writers like ChatGPT can often produce work that is, at least on first glance, indistinguishable from human writing. With a simple prompt like "write an expository essay on symbolism in Heart of Darkness," ChatGPT can spit out an organized, coherent, five-paragraph essay in seconds. (See results below.) And no two essays will be identical.
In some cases, help from an AI may be as acceptable as using a Google search as part of the research process. But in many cases, it will be unacceptable for classroom work.
So how do teachers deal with the growing ease with which AIs can complete student homework?
Turnitin, which is known for its technology used for plagiarism detection, has posted a technology preview that shows its software automatically detecting work written by an AI writer, even going so far as to show which parts of an essay were written by AI versus human and indicate where AI writing transitions into human writing.
In the technology demonstration, Turnitin showed the number of sentences in some sample essays that were written by an AI (24 out of 24 in one case) and highlighted text in different shades to indicate portions written by AI and portions partially written by AI.
In the demo, David Adamson, Turnitin AI scientist and former high school teacher, said, "That's what we hope to share with you in some form, not just a single magic number, but a bit of context when we're all done, so that you can have these discussions with your colleagues and with your students."
AI writing detection is not yet available in Turnitin's commercial release. But the company indicated its work is "far along in progress," and the technology will be available "in some form" in the future.
Further details of the technology can be found on Turnitin's sneak preview page. ChatGPT itself can be accessed and tested out for free at chat.openai.com. (Note that ChatGPT is often unavailable owing to heavy demand but is usually more accessible at night.)
Here's a sample essay on Heart of Darkness written entirely by ChatGPT with a simple prompt for the essay ("write an expository essay on symbolism in Heart of Darkness") and a separate prompt for the title ("write a title for this essay").
Exploring the Darkness of the Human Soul: Symbolism in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
In Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, symbolism is used to explore the theme of the darkness of the human soul and the imperialism that was taking place in Africa during the late 19th century.
One prominent symbol in the novel is the Congo River, which represents the journey into the unknown and the depths of the human psyche. The journey up the river represents the descent into the heart of darkness, both literally and metaphorically. It is also a symbol of the greed and corruption that drive imperialism, as the European characters are driven by a desire for wealth and power at the expense of the indigenous people.
Another symbol in the novel is the character of Kurtz, who represents the darkness within all human beings. He starts off as a model European colonizer, but as he delves deeper into the Congo, he becomes increasingly consumed by his own power and greed. He ultimately becomes a madman, representing the idea that the pursuit of wealth and power can lead to moral corruption and personal destruction.
The treatment of the African people by the European colonizers is also symbolic. They are depicted as subhuman and uncivilized, which represents the dehumanization that is a necessary aspect of imperialism. It also serves as a commentary on the arrogance of the European colonizers, who believed that they were superior to the people they were exploiting.
In conclusion, symbolism in Heart of Darkness is used to explore the theme of the darkness of the human soul and the corruption that is inherent in imperialism. The Congo River, Kurtz, and the African people are all symbols that help to reveal the true nature of the human condition and the consequences of greed and power.
About the Author
David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 29-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.
He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEDavidNagel (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).