How Can You Tell If Someone Used ChatGPT?

ChatGPT has become a popular tool for generating written content quickly. However, many educators and institutions worry about students passing off AI-created text as original work. Identifying ChatGPT content can be tricky, but there are signs to spot essays, assignments, or other writing produced by AI rather than a human. This article outlines techniques for detecting how can you tell if someone used ChatGPT.

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Look For Lack of Context and Supporting Details

One of the hallmarks of ChatGPT output is the lack of concrete details and context. Often the writing will make broad claims without the specific evidence, facts, and explanations you would expect in a well-researched and thought-out piece. Watch for vague statements without factual examples or data to back them up – a clear sign that the writer may have used ChatGPT.

  • Vague statements without factual examples or data to back them up.
  • Arguments that lack the necessary context to be properly understood and evaluated.
  • Quotes, statistics, or other specifics that aren’t attributed to credible sources.
  • Sudden jumps between topics without transition or explanation.
  • Repetition used in place of providing clarifying details.

This lack of substantive supporting evidence is a clue that ChatGPT rather than a knowledgeable human authored the content.

Look for Inconsistent Tone and Style

ChatGPT often struggles with maintaining a single coherent narrative voice. Watch for:

  • Tone that abruptly shifts from formal to informal within the same piece.
  • Sections that differ significantly in verbosity and phrasing.
  • Mismatch between style of the introduction and conclusion.
  • Disjointed flow like the writer changed their mind partway through.
  • Phrasing and vocabulary noticeably above or below the writer’s level.

Since ChatGPT generates text piecemeal, inconsistencies in voice point to its synthetic origins.

Check for Lack of Complexity and Nuance

Writing from ChatGPT tends to lack meaningful analysis and nuanced critical thinking. Be skeptical of arguments framed in simplistic “black and white” terms without nuance – this is a common indicator that the writer used ChatGPT. Be skeptical of:

  • Arguments framed in simplistic “black and white” terms without nuance.
  • Failure to acknowledge strong counterarguments.
  • Lack of original interpretation of source material.
  • Summary instead of in-depth analysis of statistics or examples.
  • Conclusions not well-supported by limited preceding arguments.
  • Missing different perspectives on complex issues.

The absence of reasoned complexity suggests formulaic AI writing focused on superficial comprehensibility.

Look for Unnatural Flow and Organization

In general, the organization of ChatGPT essays fails to match the sophisticated structure of human writing:

  • Paragraphs that don’t logically build on each other.
  • Lack of segues between introduction, body, and conclusion sections.
  • Arguments not structured for maximal impact.
  • Missing forecasting statements linking sections.
  • Paragraphs that fail to stick to a single topic or idea.
  • Conclusion introduces new information rather than summarizes.

Clean flow and elegant organizational structure take advanced writing skills that exceed most AI.

Check External Sources for Plagiarism

Many students mistakenly believe ChatGPT output is completely original. In reality, the AI recycles and rearranges text from its training data. Run passages through a plagiarism checker to uncover:

  • Sentences or sections copied verbatim from online sources without attribution.
  • Heavy paraphrasing of sources like Wikipedia at key junctures.
  • Blocks of similar text across multiple student assignments.
  • Passages awkwardly overpacked with advanced vocabulary.

Confirming plagiarized passages provides definitive evidence of AI authorship rather than student creativity.


Identifying if writing was produced by ChatGPT rather than a student or colleague comes down to looking for deficiencies in reasoning, support, structure, style, and originality. While not foolproof, watching for vagueness, lack of nuance, disjointed flow, tone inconsistencies, and plagiarism provides strong clues that the writer used ChatGPT. Combining multiple indicators makes a compelling case that ChatGPT, not human intellect, was holding the pen from how can you tell if someone used chatgpt.

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Can ChatGPT output pass plagiarism checks?

In its default mode ChatGPT commonly plagiarizes training data, so many passages will be flagged. Using the cited/paraphrase settings reduces verbatim copying, but important caveats remain about originality.

Does ChatGPT have any telltale phrasing patterns?

Not reliably, but sometimes similar uncommon verbiage appears across pieces. Training data biases also lead to unnatural word choices for the genre.

Can ChatGPT replicate human-level complexity for academic writing?

Rarely. The AI tends to rely more on persuasion tactics and flourishes rather than substantive reasoning rooted in deep knowledge.

What if ChatGPT fabricates convincing fake sources and data?

Fact check details that seem suspicious or unlikely. Manufacturing extensive credible sourcing exceeds ChatGPT’s current capabilities.