Imagine you are an academic or writer with a U.S. security clearance. You have access to classified information that gives you a unique perspective on a topic of public interest. You want to share your insights and findings with the academic or media community and respect your ethical and legal obligations. How do you research and write an unclassified article without compromising your clearance or national security?

How to Use AI Ethically for Research and Writing

One possible solution is to use artificial intelligence (AI) to help you with your research and writing process. AI can offer many benefits, such as finding relevant sources, summarizing information, generating outlines, and checking grammar and style. However, using AI also comes with ethical challenges, especially with classified knowledge. How do you use AI ethically to help you research and write unclassified articles for academia or media?

Here are some guidelines to follow.

1. Begin by clarifying your goals and intentions.

What are you seeking from AI? Defining your purpose sets the course for ethical success. For example, are you using AI to explore a new topic, to deepen your understanding of an existing one, or to communicate your findings to a broader audience? Depending on your goal, you may need different AI tools and methods. You should also be clear about the scope and limitations of your research and writing. What are the boundaries of your unclassified inquiry? How do you ensure you do not inadvertently reveal classified information or compromise national security?

2. Be vigilant about the output.

AI may work wonders, but it’s not infallible. Continuously analyze and verify the results with your expert eye. AI can help you find and synthesize information but cannot replace your critical thinking and judgment. You should always check AI’s sources and data’s accuracy, reliability, and relevance. You should also be aware of the potential biases and errors that AI may introduce, such as plagiarism, misinformation, or distortion. You should use multiple sources and methods to cross-check and validate your findings.

3. AI is a compass, not the captain.

It’s a tool for the learned. Your expertise shapes the results; AI merely refines them. You should not rely on AI to research and write for you but rather to assist you in your intellectual endeavors. You should use your knowledge, skills, and creativity to guide and direct the AI. You should also be transparent and honest about how you use AI and its role in your research and writing. You should not claim AI-generated content as your own but acknowledge its contribution and limitations.

Refrain from using AI to bypass academic rigor. It’s not a shortcut but a guiding star in your scholarly constellation. You should not use AI to avoid the hard work and discipline that research and writing require. You should not use AI to cut corners, skip steps, or produce superficial or misleading results. You should use AI to enhance your academic rigor, not undermine it. You should use AI to help you ask better questions, find deeper insights, and create more impactful and original contributions.

4. Acknowledge AI’s role in your research.

Cite its assistance just as you would with human collaborators. You should not hide or obscure the fact that you use AI in your research and writing. You should give proper credit and attribution to your AI tools and methods. You should also cite the sources and data that AI provides or generates. You should follow your field’s and discipline’s ethical and professional standards when using and citing AI. You should also respect the intellectual property rights and privacy of the AI developers and users.

 AI can be a valuable tool – if you use it wisely and responsibly.

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Shane McNeil has a diverse career in the US Intelligence Community, serving in various roles in the military, as a contractor, and as a government civilian. His background includes several combat deployments and service in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), where he applied his skills in assignments such as Counterintelligence Agent, Analyst, and a senior instructor for the Joint Counterintelligence Training Activity. He is a Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholar and has a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from the University of North Dakota. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in National Security Policy at Liberty University, studying the transformative impacts of ubiquitous technology on national defense. All articles written by Mr. McNeil are done in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Department of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or the United States government.