Using AI Tools: Statement of the Institute of English and American Studies

University employees and students alike are currently faced with a novel situation that will likely affect our daily lives and be in flux for the foreseeable future: AI tools. Recent years have taught us that communicating with each other is one of the key factors for achieving academic excellence. It is in this spirit that we approach this new situation, and encourage our students to approach us in cases of uncertainty, so that we may successfully navigate the ways in which these interrelated technical, educational, and social developments impact our field, English and American Studies.

In adherence to the guidelines for safeguarding good research practice (guidelines of the University Bamberg und guidelines of the German Research Foundation, both last accessed on October 04, 2023), the members of the Institute of English and American Studies advocate highest standards of academic rigor and integrity while at the same time fostering digital competence (including AI literacy) among our students and staff.

What do we want to achieve?

We encourage our students to use AI tools in a responsible way. While AI tools can seem to increase the efficiency of certain parts of the educational process (e.g. finding relevant literature, testing first ideas, getting feedback on grammar and style), their uninformed use may easily violate the rules of good research practice (e.g. through AI’s distribution of invented and unverified sources, theft of intellectual property, and spreading of misinformation and biases).

For our institute, this means that we aim to

  • promote AI literacy  by ensuring that students and staff develop a comprehensive understanding of the capabilities and limitations of AI tools (e.g. related to the accuracy of information, potential biases, correct referencing of intellectual property and sources)
  • support effective AI usage  by providing guidelines for the use of AI tools for seminars at university and assistance in the process of reading and writing academic texts. This encompasses, for instance, AI tools for literature searches, answering specific questions, structuring a paper, and improving the use of language in written products (seminar papers, final theses)
  • incorporate AI use in our teaching and assessment  by developing ideas that enhance students’ learning experiences through AI while improving their critical reasoning skills
  • uphold academic rigor and integrity  by establishing clear academic conduct policies, encouraging responsible practices, and ensuring an appropriate use of AI tools consistent with high standards of learning and teaching – while cultivating an open environment in which students can openly discuss their use of AI tools
  • foster collaboration and sharing of good practices  by collaborating with different disciplines at university as well as AI experts, schools, and other universities.

(based on the Russell Group statement; last accessed October 04, 2023)

What does this mean in practice?

Consequently, we address the use of AI tools in our teaching (see below – coming soon!), encourage a critical engagement with the output of AI tools, and showcase how AI tools can be integrated in a scientific workflow.

At the same time, we condemn any breach of good research practice or scholarly misconduct. Furthermore, we condemn the undeclared use of AI-produced texts to replace personal effort in exams of any form (e.g. term papers, portfolios, presentations, handouts). Finally, we treat invented and unverified sources in academic work as an inadmissible violation of good academic practice.