Does ChatGPT Make Up Sources And References? Behind the AI Curtain

Have you ever been in conversation with ChatGPT, engaged with the output generated from your prompts, but then all of a sudden the responses aren’t what you were expecting? You are not alone!

This is because ChatGPT is known to do something that has been dubbed as ‘hallucinating’, which means that the generated output may not be… exactly… reliable. Sometimes it’s really crazy.

So, does ChatGPT make up sources and references? The simple answer is, yes, chatGPT will make up sources and references if you’re not careful.

How can you prevent or avoid that happening? Read on to find out…

Does ChatGPT Make Up Sources And References?

ChatGPT itself didn’t have direct access to external sources or references during its large language model training process. So it can only generate responses that are based on the patterns and information that it learned from the data it was trained on. 

That is why when asking the question: does ChatGPT make up sources and references? you may not be happy with the answer. This is down to the fact that ChatGPT doesn’t have real-time access to the internet without plugins or hacks, so it can’t provide information that is up to date. This results in the possibility that your generated responses are incorrect, outdated, or even biased.

Therefore, it’s important to understand that ChatGPT cannot be relied upon to independently verify or fact check information. And there’s always the possibility that it will generate text that is incorrect and/or inaccurate, which is known as ‘hallucinating’.

The famous story of an attorney submitting a brief generated by ChatGPT illustrates the problem: the attorney didn’t realize that ChatGPT may make up information, and his career may hang in the balance due to the mistake.

How To Avoid ChatGPT From Making Up Sources And References

In order to prevent ChatGPT from making up sources, references, or simply generating misinformation, there are a few things that you can do to help — or at least do your best to avoid this situation:

1. Don’t forget to check

It is always crucial that you verify the information that is generated by ChatGPT, especially if you need to use the content for a report, data analysis, or business task.

Make sure you double-check and compare the facts by cross-referencing with multiple reliable sources, including reputable reference materials, such as scientific journals and publications. Never share any critical or important information generated by ChatGPT before checking to ensure it is completely accurate.

2. Use GPT-4 For Important Tasks

ChatGPT-3.5 is an amazing tool that often provides excellent information. But it’s certainly more likely to hallucinate than GPT-4 is. If you want to use GPT-4, you’ll need to log onto ChatGPT and sign up for GPT-Plus. This will provide access to the more accurate (but still not 100% accurate!) GPT-4 model.

3. Exercise your critical thinking muscles

Always question the information presented to you by ChatGPT, and evaluate it with a critical mind. This means that you should consider the context and credibility of the output, and watch for potential biases.

If possible, it would be a good idea to consult a professional in the specific field of your text to have a read of the output generated by ChatGPT. They will be able to give you insights, as well as validate the information before you present it to your intended audience.

4. Provide the right context

When you provide specific contextual statements to your prompts, it can help guide ChatGPT to give you the best response. By giving the AI chatbot more specific instructions, or even adding the references of known sources, you will hopefully steer ChatGPT towards giving you more accurate and reliable responses.

For example, in your prompt you can ask it to only provide solid facts and information, and to not generate any fictitious information. There’s no guarantee that the prompt engineering will work, but it will likely help reduce the hallucinations.

5. Give the bot your feedback

If you come across a response that is in any way incorrect or misleading, you can report your feedback to the platform you’re using ChatGPT on, or the developer, OpenAI. User feedback plays a big part in helping improve the AI model, and will help to reduce the chance of ChatGPT making up sources and references from happening in the future.

Remember, verifying the information you get from ChatGPT will probably be the most important step of your process. It’s best to confirm your generated text via multiple sources, and use your judgment when assessing its accuracy

Relying on multiple sources, as well as conducting your own independent research, will definitely be a crucial part of making sure that you have reliable information, which you can then share with confidence. Overall, AI is an emerging and amazing modern tech tool, not a reliable source.

Final Thoughts

Although ChatGPT has been programmed to provide accurate and reliable information, based on the data it was trained on, it’s not guaranteed that all the information it generates is up to date or even accurate. 

The possibility that your generated responses are incorrect, outdated, or biased can be high, depending on the subject matter, and the specific nature of your prompts.

Does ChatGPT make up sources and references? It certainly can, so make sure to follow the steps we outlined above to avoid this from happening as much as possible.