Embracing AI Without Losing Control

Dear Moxie,

I am currently a PhD student. I am taking six weeks out from my study to investigate AI products. It’s quite confusing as many products have a vast array of functionality.  So, the planned six weeks might morph into two months or more.

Can I ask a burning question? It seems that by adopting one or more AI-driven products, the thesis is being written by a “third party.”  AI is just too good!!  

As I am looking to adopt AI, I feel that I will lose control of my PhD in preference to an easy, quick way out.  

Where is all the sweat and tears, the rollercoaster of emotions which in the past accompanied a PhD?  Where is the depth of assessment of a topic and the crafting of a final thesis?  I feel I will succumb to the joys of AI as I find answers to questions and issues quickly.  I would welcome your thoughts or perhaps a reference to one of your blog posts.

Signed,

Concerned


Dear Concerned,

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter. Your concern is warranted in a world where easy fixes are often touted as one-size-fits-all solutions. It is also refreshing because it begs the question, “What is a doctorate?” 

What does it even mean to have a doctorate if the process for getting one is stripped away of any hardship?

To put a finer point on it, what weight does a doctorate hold if the pinnacle of its evaluation, original research, is neither original nor research? I am speaking here of the dissertation thesis, of course. I agree with you wholeheartedly that writing a dissertation should not be an endeavor that is entirely free of struggle.

To dissertate Is to discuss a subject fully and learnedly. This definition aligns perfectly with the idea that, as the one who designs, conducts, and reports on your research, you are becoming the expert in the room on your research topic. 

Your question is really about whether or not adopting AI will sully the process is an important one. The answer is . . . it depends. 

Before generative AI’s introduction, bad actors who offer to write dissertations for students have been peddling their wares. It is no surprise that snake oil AI products promising to do the same thing are now on the scene. At Moxie, we have pretty strong opinions about those products and those who create them. We denounce their use even if they could write a good dissertation (and they can’t). 

But it seems like your question is more about whether or not you might inadvertently lose control of your thesis to AI. I don’t think that is likely to happen. Here’s why. 

First of all, a little research into various tools will quickly uncover which tools will attempt to do too much of the mental hefting for you. We are big on AI literacy here at Moxie. The reason for this focus on literacy is that the more you understand the fundamentals of AI use, the more likely you are to avoid blind spots. 

Second, as we keep in mind that we are working with tools here, consider a few ways that you may want to incorporate them into your dissertation workflows. 

  • As a thought-partner. AI is a wonderful collaborator with whom you can ideate to your heart’s content. Using AI to focus a topic, understand the finer points of research design, and simplify complex concepts are all wonderful ways to thought- partner with AI. I use the word thought-partner because it implies you are free to disagree with, reject, or ask your partner to reconsider their position. 

  • As a giver of feedback. AI doesn’t know you from a hole in a wall. But AI is great at pattern recognition. That’s kinda its whole shtick, right? AI predicts. This power can be put to very good use as AI can be prompted to recognize the features of a form (e.g., literature review) and provide you with feedback about your thesis. This feedback function of AI is what makes us cheer-lead for its use as doctoral writers need (and often fail to receive) real-time, in-process feedback on their manuscripts. 

If you are wondering if using AI for feedback is particularly beneficial, the figure below can help!

If you are particularly concerned about AI taking over the reins of your work, you can tell it not to. It’s that simple. If AI starts to write something for you, correct it. Then, sit back and smile as it steps all over itself, apologizing and correcting the error. 

Of course, many of the issues you are concerned about can be addressed on the front end, such as prompting. This is what we have done at Moxie. Because we believe in academic integrity, dissertation writing challenges the researcher. In access to doctoral-level writing help that won’t break the bank, all of our tools have been meticulously prompted to collaborate with you. 

There will be plenty of sweat, tears, and roller coaster emotions involved in writing your thesis, even with AI. It will still be hard because you will still need to grapple with designing, implementing, and writing up your research.

Moxie’s tools augment, not replace, your work. 

You asked for some blog post recommendations, so here they are. Check out this post about fostering AI literacy and this one about how to plan a use case

And, of course, come to our Wednesday group sessions and events with questions!

Yours in Owning your Thesis,

Moxie

Elevate Your Research with AI

Dive into a curated collection of AI tools specifically designed to enhance and streamline your academic journey.