It's official — millions of students are using AI to write their papers

Student uses Laptop, Writes Notes for the Paper
(Image credit: Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock)

Millions of students are using generative AI to write their papers, new research from online essay submission platform and plagiarism detector Turnitin has revealed.

Of the 200 million papers submitted on the platform, Turnitin's AI detector tool, launched in April 2023, found that more than 22 million papers had included at least 20% AI-generated content, meaning that around 11% of the students were guilty.

An estimated six million papers, equalling approximately 3%, had been found containing at least 80% AI-generated content, highlighting the potential scale of the problem.

An alarming number of students are using AI

Turnitin CPO Annie Chechitelli emphasized the importance of independent work in the academic landscape, noting that institutes must uphold their integrity: 

“Everyone in education is looking for resources to enable them to perform at their best, and technologies, including our AI writing detection feature, help advance learning without sacrificing academic integrity.”

Turnitin’s report affirms that the continued presence of AI-generated content across the academic landscape presents a “complex, ever-evolving puzzle,” calling for a more rounded approach over simply calling out AI-generated work.

The company suggests that open discussions with students regarding the acceptable use of AI writing, reviewing existing academic policies, and revising essay prompts could tackle the problem.

Though the proportion of students submitting computer-generated copy is relatively low, Turnitin cites a separate study by Tyton Partners declaring that nearly half of students use GenAI, like ChatGPT, on a regular basis, with three-quarters of those expressing intent to continue using such tools despite the threat of bans by educational institutes.

As for teachers and lecturers, the same study currently states that academic integrity becomes a cause for concern when a paper includes more than 30% AI-generated content.

It’s clear that the widespread use of AI presents numerous challenges to the education sector, but the solution is less evident. Turnitin’s award-winning AI detector serves as a powerful tool to identify and quantify the extent of the challenge, but as the standards shift, a more multifaceted approach between the education sector, leaders, and students is in order.

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Craig Hale

With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!