Universities regulate use of AI in writing

A number of universities in China have regulated the use of generative artificial intelligence in the writing of graduation theses, as the new technology has sparked controversy about the integrity of

academic research.

Fuzhou University in Fujian province has introduced a trial system to detect AI-generated content, which will be used in undergraduate thesis review, with the results to be considered in grade evaluation.

Tianjin University of Science and Technology said that if AI-generated content in an undergraduate thesis exceeds 40 percent, the student will be warned by the college and required to make revisions.

Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said higher education institutes in China have not banned students from using AI to assist in writing their theses, but do forbid the use of AI to ghostwrite papers.

"College students can use AI during their research and writing, but they must not rely on it excessively or just copy and paste AI-generated text as their essay content," Xiong said.

More than 80 percent of college students have used AI tools to assist their assignments, according to a survey conducted by China Youth Daily in November.

Reasonable and creative use of AI can improve students' research projects and paper writing, Xiong said, but the overall argument of a thesis should be the result of the student's independent research.

"AI-generated text should not be directly copied but rather used as a reference and compared against the student's own ideas," he said.

Communication University of China in Beijing issued a notice this year on strengthening the regulation of AI use in graduation theses, with many of its departments asking students to disclose whether they have used generative AI. If the tool is used while writing their theses, they must specify details including the exact model, version and the generation process of AI-related content to ensure accuracy and respect for the intellectual property rights of other authors, the notice said.

A senior student at Communication University of China said he and most of his classmates used ChatGPT to assist in writing their graduation theses this year, but only in some sections.

"I used the tool mostly for the literature review part. As the subject of my thesis is actually related to algorithms, I asked ChatGPT to help me summarize relevant papers," said the student, who asked to be called only by his surname, Peng.

Peng said he didn't directly copy the answers from the AI tool, but polished the results based on his understanding until it met the needs of his thesis. "The entire structure, main argument and interview documents, which accounted for large portions of my thesis, were all written by myself," Peng said. He fed his final thesis into an online detection system for AI-generated content in case it failed the requirements of the school. The result showed that 2.63 percent of the content was generated by AI tools, far lower than the upper limit set by the university, he said.

A new law on academic degrees that will take effect in January requires that if a degree thesis or practical achievement is found to have involved ghostwriting, plagiarism, fabrication or other academic misconduct, the degree will not be awarded or will be revoked.

Xiong said it is essential to not only strengthen technical detection but also enhance the role of mentoring to prevent students from submitting ghostwritten papers. Thesis advisers at universities should guide students through their research and writing rather than simply assigning tasks and waiting for students to submit their papers for technical detection.