Jul 14, 2023

How to Cite ChatGPT Sources | APA, MLA, Chicago, Vancouver

Can I Cite ChatGPT in academic papers?

You might have to cite ChatGPT, in fact, if you used it in your writing process. The question is, rather, Is it ethical to use ChatGPT in academic writing at all? Educational institutions and style guides do not necessarily agree on this issue, and rules and policies are still in the making and continuously changing.

Most academic publishers do now agree that ChatGPT and similar tools should not be given journal authorship but accept their responsible use when they are cited correctly. “Responsible” means that their nature and limitations are taken into account and that they are used to explore ideas and polish text rather than to create content (which can be considered plagiarism) and find/cite sources (which they are really bad at—see the section below addressing this issue).

To be on the safe side, you should check your university’s current policies and/or the author guidelines of the journal you want to submit to. Some publishers do in fact ban generative AI tools unless you got explicit editorial permission (e.g., Science Journals), but most just want you to declare that you used such technologies, that you only did so to improve the language and readability of your text, and that you take full responsibility for your work (e.g., Elsevier Journals).

If you are sure that you are allowed to use ChatGPT to help you write a paper or complete an assignment, then read on to find out how to correctly credit/cite it—not all style guides have decided on new rules, but we will present you the currently recommended format for each.

How to Cite ChatGPT in APA Style

To create a ChatGPT citation in APA style, which you need to provide whenever you refer to text you generated using the tool, you simply cite “OpenAI” followed by the year of the version you used (indicated at the bottom right on the ChatGPT site). 

For an APA reference entry, list “OpenAI” as the author and “ChatGPT” (in italics) as the title, followed by the date of the version you used in parentheses. You then add “Large language model” in square brackets and provide the general URL (https://chat.openai.com/chat). Note that the direct URL to the page where you accessed the model does not work for other people (but this might differ for other tools).

APA recommends that you describe how you used the tool in your Introduction or Method section and that you provide the prompt you used, followed by part of the generated text. The full text of long responses can be provided in an appendix, as ChatGPT generates a unique response to each prompt and they are therefore not retrievable by others.

APA ChatGPT Citation Example

APA formatOpenAI. (Year). ChatGPT (Month Day version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com
APA reference list entryOpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (May 24 version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com
APA in-text citation(OpenAI, 2023)

You can also use our APA Citation Generator to check if your ChatGPT citations are in order.

How to Cite ChatGPT in MLA Style

MLA recommends you cite ChatGPT whenever you paraphrase, quote, or refer to any content created by it, that you acknowledge what you used it for (e.g., proofreading, translating a quote) in the text/a note, and that you carefully check the sources it cites. MLA is also hoping for feedback and new ideas, so if you want to share your personal experience using and citing generative AI tools, you can comment on this post about genetive AI citation.

An MLA in-text ChatGPT citation consists of a reduced version (three words) of the specific prompt you used in quotation marks within parentheses.

The Works Cited entry starts with the full title in quotation marks, then “ChatGPT” (in italics) and the version you used, “OpenAI,” the date you generated the response, and the URL.

MLA ChatGPT Citation Example

MLA format“Exact prompt you used” prompt. ChatGPT, Day Month version, OpenAI, Day Month Year, chat.openai.com.
MLA reference list entry“Are wealthier people happier than those less well off” prompt. ChatGPT, 24 May. version, OpenAI, 7 Jul. 2023, chat.openai.com.
MLA in-text citation(“Are wealthier people”)

Have a look at our MLA Citation Generator to make sure you now know how to cite ChatGPT in your paper.

How to Cite ChatGPT in Chicago Style

In Chicago style, a numbered footnote or endnote lists ChatGPT as the author of the content and then the date the text was generated. OpenAI follows as the publisher or sponsor. Adding the URL is optional. Chicago Style does not recommend including your “personal communications” with ChatGPT to your bibliography. 

If you edit your AI-generated text, you should mention this, either directly in the text or at the end of the note (e.g., “edited for style”). 

Like MLA, Chicago Style is continuously refining its rules on the use of generative AI tools in academic writing and recommends to regularly check back with them for updates.

Chicago Style ChatGPT Citation Example

If you already provided your prompt in the text, then the footnote only contains the phrase “Text generated by ChatGPT,” the date you generated it, “OpenAI,” and the general URL. 

If you cite the same ChatGPT text again, you can shorten the note to just “ChatGPT.”

Chicago long footnote1Text generated by ChatGPT, July 7, 2023, OpenAI, https://chat.openai.com.
Chicago short footnote2ChatGPT

If you haven’t mentioned your prompt in the text, then you need to add it to your footnote.

Chicago long footnote1ChatGPT, response to “Are wealthier people happier than those less well off,” July 7, 2023, https://chat.openai.com.

And if you are using author-date instead of notes, place any information that is not provided in the text in a parenthetical reference.

Chicago author-date citation(ChatGPT, July 7, 2023, edited for style)

Our Chicago Citation Generator can assist you if you are still unsure about how to cite ChatGPT in Chicago 17th style.

How to Cite ChatGPT in Vancouver Style

The Vancouver style guidelines do not offer a definite format for generative AI tools. However, as they are considered unpublished sources that cannot be linked to or recovered, it is recommended to cite them using a modified version of the “personal communication” format. Include all the necessary details in your in-text citation (such as the prompt you used), but do not create a reference entry.

Vancouver Style ChatGPT Citation Example

Vancouver formatType of Communication, Communicator, Date (DMY)
Vancouver in-text citationI used a generative AI bot to draft a list of potentially useful solutions to this problem (ChatGPT response to prompt “How can we avoid producing too much waste”, 7 July 2023).

Not sure if your ChatGPT citations are in line with Vancouver style? Let our Vancouver Style Citation Generator check before you press that “submit” button!

Should I always cite ChatGPT sources?

There is no clear consensus yet on the use of AI tools in research and scientific/academic writing. Since rules and guidelines are constantly changing, you need to make sure you know what is allowed and required before you start working on any assignment.

Suppose you are studying AI language models and discussing their abilities, limitations, or quirks in your “ChatGPT research paper.” In this case, the responses you prompted are your data, and you need to provide them—this is the only case in which you are allowed to copy-paste text from ChatGPT into your paper, but mark it as such and cite the tool as a primary source.

If you use ChatGPT to create an outline or develop research questions, it depends on your university guidelines whether you need to mention that. No direct citation is needed in this case.

What you should never do is cite ChatGPT as a source of factual information—it is infamous for “hallucinating” and confidently presenting you what it made up. Don’t forget that the data ChatGPT was trained on only extends to 2021.

Can ChatGPT cite sources or format citations?

The short answer is no. When you ask ChatGPT to cite sources for its claims, it attempts to do so and pretends it can—but chances are the sources it lists do not even exist. AI tools reproduce patterns of texts, they do not search the internet and are not “conscious” in the sense that they can reflect on the quality of their responses.

Moreover, ChatGPT seems unable to provide sources formatted correctly for a requested style, which can easily escape you because its output always looks convincing. Instead, use the WV citation generator (linked above in the respective sections), which was created for this exact purpose.

Academic Writing Resources

Wordvice offers an AI-powered online writing assistant that comprehends your text and offers suggestions for improving grammar, style, and content but does not hallucinate or make changes on its own and therefore raises no ethical questions. Our AI proofreader and AI paraphraser improve your writing and add originality to your text, while the Summarizing Tool can help you work out the main points of sources. And if you want a professional to polish your paper before submission, then request our paper editing service or professional proofreading service.

Our Academic Editing Services