April 1, 2023

From Gerald R. Lucas

CompFAQ Writing with ChatGPT

Well, call me impressed. I just spent a few hours—some time yesterday afternoon and most of the morning—collaborating with ChatGPT on my Composition FAQ. I wrote a rudimentary FAQ for new composition students about twenty years ago as part of a Title III grant project. The original project was published on a web site that disappeared not long after it was posted. I thought I might port it over here, but it’s not that great, really. A few years back, I got as far as posting the index and a couple of the better entries, then gave up.

I recently discovered the languishing index page, and I had the idea to use ChatGPT as a co-writer to try to revive and revise the FAQ. I think it could be a valuable resource and potentially save students some money. So, trying my hand at some skillful prompts, I wrote three dozen or so entries, with ChatGPT doing much of the heavy lifting.


And I tell you what: I am impressed with what I was able to do in such a short time. I came up with succinct answers, examples, more detail, and even some exercises so students can test their understanding of the material. Seriously, I think with just a little more time, I could have complete textbooks for 1101 and 1102 that rival any of those published on dead trees. Not only was it easier than coming up with content from scratch, it was fun tweaking prompts to get even better, more focused and detailed answers. Once I got ChatGTP to give me pretty good answers, I just needed to edit and revise about 10% of each answer. And since the FAQ is meant as an overview or an introduction to terms and concepts, I don’t have to nuance them too much. But I could! I could also add support and research from published resources, but why bother, really? Aren’t I an expert by now?

This is the rub. I’ve used ChatGPT to help me with some writing recently, and I’ve felt guilty, as if I’m cheating. However, the material I’ve been using it for, I have expertise in. Therefore, I am able to vet the AI’s responses and edit them for any errors or inconsistencies. That said, I found few if any with this material. Truly, ChatGPT is like having a discussion with Wikipedia in this sense, and it is a powerful tool. But like any other tool, the key is learning how to use it effectively and being able to critically evaluate its output. Therefore, since I’m having it write content that I know, it’s like stepping up to a word processor from a typewriter. Or, a better simile might be using a calculator for long division rather than a paper and pencil. I think the crucial element here is that you need to know how to use paper and pencil for division before you use the calculator. Otherwise it could be considered cutting corners or cheating.

And isn’t technology supposed to make our lives easier? And maybe even more fun?

I think I may try more ambitious content next, after I’m happy with the CompFAQ—which I can probably get to version 1 in a few days—i.e., good enough to use as my textbook for 1101 and 1102. I’ve been wanting to develop a textbook for advanced digital writing that teaches the composition skills for screen content—like I taught in WritDM and my graduate course Writing and Publishing in Digital Environments. While I’ve not taught either in a couple of years, that doesn’t mean that those skills can’t be used in other classes—especially lit courses where I assign, say, a Wikipedia project. I even started this project already: Writing.Digital.

This is all pretty exciting for my discipline. I could see courses that use ChatGPT as in integral component, like AI for Digital Writing[1] or something sexier, like AI for Content Creation that not only uses ChatGPT but also other generative AI systems, like Midjourney. This is what the Digital Humanities should excel at. I’m here for it.


  1. AI for Digital Writing is an advanced course that explores the intersection of generative artificial intelligence and writing. The course introduces students to various AI applications and tools, including natural language processing, machine learning, and deep learning, and how they can be used to enhance and streamline digital writing practices. Through hands-on projects, students will learn how to use AI to generate and analyze written content, such as news articles, social media posts, and marketing copy. The course also considers the ethical, social, and cultural implications of AI on digital writing, including issues of bias, accuracy, and creativity. Students will gain practical skills and theoretical knowledge that can be applied to a range of fields, including journalism, marketing, and creative writing.