Citing content created by generative AI

by Thomas Mejtoft

This guide is an ongoing attempt to discuss the use of generative AI in publication. Changes will continuously be made to this guide. Please send suggestion of changes of pages that could be used to develop this page.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke*

This guide should not be regarded as a policy on whether generative AI is allowed to be used as a tool within a certain course or program. Please refer to your university teacher for more information on that issue.

Generative AI technologies (e.g., ChatGPT for text and DALL·E for images) is a fairly new technology and the use has many purposes. However, the use should be done with caution and it is important to understand that it is you as an author of a original piece that is responsible for what the AI produces if it is used. Many of the big publishers, e.g., ACM has clearly declared that a generative AI cannot be a co-author on a paper. Nevertheless, the use of these tools are in some cases permitted but should be fully disclosed.

Never mislead your readers about the use and involvement of AI!

It is important to understand that the copyright issues and the legal consequences of the use of AI generated content is still blurry and unclear. As an example, in the US, content created by generative AI cannot be considered for copyright. However, this is still a disputed question and might depend on the degree of human input (2023-08-18).

It is always the responsibility of the author (e.g., the student) of a paper/report/thesis to ensure that all information is correct and no copyright violations has been included by an generative AI before the paper/report/thesis is published or submitted for examination.

Hope you find this material useful!
If you are looking for other resources around writing to use, here is a page with resources and material. If you are looking for how to use and cite figures, screenshots, code etc. please refer to the following documents: How to use and cite figures from other sources, How to cite screenshots, References to secondary sources and review articles, Writing references to personal communication, Writing references to programming code, and Citing content created by generative AI. Regarding quotes and visualizing data, please read the following documents: Master quotes in writing and How to visualize your data in an understandable way.

How to cite AI generated text and images

These guidelines are loosely based on the following sources:

ACM Policy on Authorship by ACM
How to cite ChatGPT by Timothy AcAdoo (APA Style Blog)
Educator considerations for ChatGPT by OpenAI
Citation, Documentation of Sources by The Chicago Manual of Style
How should I credit DALL·E in my work? by OpenAI
Who Ultimately Owns Content Generated By ChatGPT And Other AI Platforms? by Joe McKendrick (Forbes)

Using generative AI tools as references. The gerneal rule for having someting as a post in the reference list is that it is possible to retrieve or reproduce. Hence, e.g., published papers and litterature are acceptable sources in the reference list, while personal communication is not. Personal communication is cited in-text but not included in the reference list. Output of generative AI cannot be regarded as personal communication but rather the use of sharing the output of an algoritm and should therefore be included in the reference list much like the use of programming code or an algoritm. Consequently, the credit as author should be to the creator (individual or company) of the algoritm in the post in the reference list and an in-text citation should be done.

OpenAI. (2023, August 16). ChatGPT (August 3 version) [large language model]. Available at

Since these systems are updated on a regular basis, it is of great importance to keep track of when certain information is generated and what version of the tool that is used. This information should be included in the reference. In e.g., ChatGPT this is stated at the bottom of the page.

OpenAI recommend the following use of BibTeX entry when refereeing to e.g., ChatGPT:


Using generative AI tool as a general co-author. Many of the big publishers have stated that generative AI tools do not meet the criteria for being a co-author of a paper, e.g., Nature and ACM. Mostly based on its inability to take responsibility for the work. Nevertheless, the use of these tools might in some cases be permitted if it is fully disclosed in the paper. In a ACM publication the use should be stated in the Acknowledge section as follows:

ChatGPT was utilized to generate sections of this work, including text, tables, graphs, code, data, citations, etc.

If there are uncertainties about the use and whether an acknowledge should be included or not, go with caution and include a disclosure.

Using text, images of other original content created by generative AI tools. When using work created by generative AI is is important to disclose where this work come from. If a text is directly taken from the tool and it is important for the reader to understand where this text comes from, an in-text reference and a post in the reference list should be used. Likewise, if a image is generated by a tool an in-text reference and a post in the reference list should be used. In the case of images, e.g., OpenAI recommend that it is stated which tool that is used. For example: “This image was created with the assistance of DALL·E 2”. However, the most important thing is not to mislead mislead your readers about the use and involvement of AI. Furthermore, OpenAI stated that “You may remove the DALL·E signature/watermark in the bottom right corner if you wish, but you may not mislead others about the nature of the work. For example, you may not tell people that the work was entirely human generated or that the work is an unaltered photograph of a real event”.

Example with text:
Asking the question "What is the best structure of a design project?", text generated by ChatGPT indicate that a successful process is to "define goals, research user needs, brainstorm concepts, create designs, iterate based on feedback, collaborate with developers, test, finalize, document, evaluate" (OpenAI, 2023).

OpenAI. (2023, August 16). ChatGPT (August 3 version) [large language model]. Available at
Example with image:
Figure 1: Befriend technology (OpenAI, 2023).
Figure 1: Befriend technology (image generated with the assistance of DALL·E 2, OpenAI, 2023).
Figure 1: Befriend technology (“A painting of a robot holding hands with a girl in the style of Andy Warhol” image generated with the assistance of DALL·E 2, OpenAI, 2023).

Above are a couple of different examples of good ways of writing figure text to an AI generated image.

OpenAI. (2023, August 16). DALL·E (version 2) [large language model]. Available at

Even though there are some cases where it is stated that no credit is needed for the use of a generative AI tool, a note acknowledging the use of the tool should always be made to avoid misleading the audience and to give credit to the creators of the tool. In other words, always use one of the examples above.

Using generative AI from a methodological point-of-view

From the standpoint of describing the method used in a paper, it is important to give a complete picture of the approach. Hence, if generative AI has been used in a paper for e.g., creative work, brainstorming etc., it is important that questions asked to the generative AI is clearly stated in the method. Furthermore, it might also be necessary to provide printouts of “conversations” with the generative AI.

*Clarke’s Third Law, quoted from the essay Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination in Profiles of the Future (Clarke, 1973, p. 21).
Clarke, A. C. (1973). Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible, Revised Edition. Harper & Row Publishers.

Licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Creative Commons license.

(First published by Thomas Mejtoft: 2023-08-16; Last updated: 2024-03-25)