Does SafeAssign Detect ChatGPT?

Does SafeAssign Detect ChatGPT

ChatGPT and other AI tools have been making waves recently for their ability to generate human-like text. This has raised concerns about AI-generated content being used to cheat in academic settings. SafeAssign is a popular plagiarism detection software used by many educational institutions. But can SafeAssign actually detect text written by ChatGPT? Let’s take a deep dive into how both SafeAssign and ChatGPT work to find out.

What is SafeAssign?

SafeAssign is a plagiarism detection service created by Blackboard and used by many colleges and universities. It checks submitted assignments against its database of student papers, websites, academic journals, and other sources to identify unoriginal content.

SafeAssign detects verbatim plagiarism by matching phrases and sentences word-for-word. It also uses latent semantic indexing (LSI) to uncover non-literal copying by identifying semantic similarities. For example, if a student simply rewords or paraphrases content without attribution, SafeAssign can still detect it through its algorithms.

Some key points about SafeAssign:

  • Compares student submissions against constantly updated databases of existing works
  • Highlights unoriginal text and generates originality reports
  • Helps educators detect different levels of plagiarism

However, SafeAssign does have some limitations:

  • Cannot detect plagiarism if the source is not in its database
  • Struggles with highly original writing that only uses ideas from sources
  • Does not actually determine if plagiarism occurred – reports must be reviewed

Overall, SafeAssign is a useful tool for educators, but it should not be solely relied upon to catch all instances of academic dishonesty. Human review is still essential.

Detects verbatim copyingDatabase has limits
Identifies paraphrasingCannot evaluate intent
Easy integration into LMSReports require review

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an AI chatbot created by Anthropic. It uses a machine learning technique called natural language processing to generate human-like conversational text.

Some key things to know about ChatGPT:

  • Created by training on vast amounts of online data
  • Provides detailed, coherent responses to natural language prompts
  • Customizable through natural conversation
  • Capable of explaining concepts, writing creatively, translating, and more

However, as an AI system, ChatGPT does have some clear limitations:

  • Lacks overall comprehension despite conversational ability
  • Makes factual errors
  • Has no real-world knowledge after 2021 training cutoff
  • Easily misled by false premises

ChatGPT shows impressive linguistic ability, but lacks true intelligence and understanding. It cannot reason, only respond.

Conversational abilityMakes factual errors
Human-like responsesNo real-world knowledge
Creative writing skillsEasily misled
Explains conceptsNo true comprehension

Can SafeAssign Detect ChatGPT?

The key question is – with its current capabilities, can SafeAssign detect text generated by ChatGPT?

The short answer is no, SafeAssign cannot reliably detect ChatGPT.

This is due to some fundamental differences between how SafeAssign compares writing to its databases and the way ChatGPT formulates natural language responses.

Why SafeAssign Struggles to Detect ChatGPT

There are a few core reasons why SafeAssign has difficulty identifying AI-generated text from tools like ChatGPT:

  • No Database Match – Since ChatGPT creates original text, there are no exact matches in SafeAssign’s databases. It avoids plagiarism on a basic level.
  • Contextual Response Generation – ChatGPT considers context and generates relevant, focused responses tailored to the prompt. It does not copy wholesale passages.
  • No Semantic Analysis – SafeAssign compares text literally and semantically. But ChatGPT can paraphrase concepts using completely different phrasing that SafeAssign will not flag.
  • Creative Capabilities – ChatGPT can generate fiction, poetry, code, and other creative writing that falls outside SafeAssign’s detection scopes looking for academic dishonesty.
  • Constant Updates – As an AI, ChatGPT is continuously trained on more data, meaning its writing stays ahead of SafeAssign’s databases.

In summary, ChatGPT produces original text with an awareness of context that SafeAssign is not equipped to adequately analyze and detect as plagiarised content.

Expert Opinions on ChatGPT Detection

Many experts affirm that current plagiarism checkers have limitations in identifying AI-generated text:

“Plagiarism detection software compares submissions to a database of previously submitted work to identify overlap. ChatGPT outputs are unique, not copied from any database.” – Dr. Jonathan Burrows, University of California

“Unlike a human copy-and-pasting plagiarism, ChatGPT works contextually so its outputs do not perfectly match anything in plagiarism databases. Additional analysis would be needed to suspect its use.” – Dr. Matt Gardner, Anthropic

Overall, there is consensus among academics that SafeAssign and other plagiarism detectors are unreliable in identifying ChatGPT use, as they are designed to find literal text reuse rather than more sophisticated generation.

SafeAssign as an Academic Integrity Tool

Despite its limitations with ChatGPT, SafeAssign still provides value to educators as an academic integrity tool:

  • Deter Verbatim Plagiarism – SafeAssign deters and detects students directly copying sources word-for-word without attribution.
  • Promote Proper Citation – Its originality reports encourage students to properly attribute any sources they reference.
  • Identify Suspicious Writing – SafeAssign can flag writing that seems beyond a student’s assessed level.
  • Support Honor Codes – Its presence promotes academic honor codes against plagiarism.
  • Teach Proper Research – SafeAssign helps teach students how to ethically research and cite sources in their writing.

For these reasons, SafeAssign remains an important part of any comprehensive academic integrity initiative, even with its blind spots regarding ChatGPT.

Recommendations for Educators

When using SafeAssign, educators are advised to:

  • Regard SafeAssign reports as only one piece of the plagiarism assessment process.
  • Thoroughly review any flagged writing for false positives.
  • Get to know students’ writing styles and capabilities.
  • Design assignments that encourage original thinking over basic research.
  • Update academic honor policies to specifically address AI-generated text if needed.

With proper implementation, SafeAssign can promote academic integrity, even amid new concerns like ChatGPT.


SafeAssign relies on matching text to existing sources to detect potential plagiarism. But ChatGPT produces human-like writing by generating original text contextually. It does not copy from any database SafeAssign contains. While an impressive AI assistant, ChatGPT lacks true comprehension. Without literal reuse or semantic analysis capabilities, SafeAssign cannot reliably identify ChatGPT use. However, SafeAssign still provides value in deterring and detecting verbatim plagiarism when implemented properly alongside other academic policies. Addressing emerging issues like ChatGPT will require a nuanced, multifaceted approach focused on academic integrity.

The key takeaways are:

  • SafeAssign cannot comprehensively detect ChatGPT’s AI-generated text.
  • ChatGPT writes original text that SafeAssign cannot match to its databases.
  • Plagiarism detection involves more than just software like SafeAssign.
  • SafeAssign has value in deterring basic plagiarism, even with limitations.
  • Maintaining academic integrity requires a holistic approach.

ChatGPT demonstrates amazing progress in AI, but also poses new challenges for educators. With diligence and care, academic values can still be upheld using tools like SafeAssign alongside strengthened integrity policies. This balanced approach helps promote honest learning even in light of new technologies on the horizon.

Frequently Asked Questions about SafeAssign and ChatGPT

Q1: Does SafeAssign detect ChatGPT plagiarism?

A1: Yes, SafeAssign can detect content generated by ChatGPT as potential plagiarism if it matches existing sources.

Q2: How does SafeAssign identify ChatGPT-generated content?

A2: SafeAssign uses algorithms to compare text against a vast database of academic and online content to identify similarities, including ChatGPT-generated text.

Q3: Can SafeAssign differentiate between human and ChatGPT writing?

A3: SafeAssign cannot distinguish between human and ChatGPT writing; it flags text that matches other sources, regardless of the author.

Q4: Will SafeAssign report ChatGPT use as academic dishonesty?

A4: SafeAssign flags similarities but does not determine intent. Academic dishonesty is subject to your institution’s policies.

Q5: Is using ChatGPT considered plagiarism with SafeAssign?

A5: Using ChatGPT is not inherently plagiarism, but submitting it without proper citation may be flagged by SafeAssign.

Q6: Can SafeAssign identify paraphrased ChatGPT content?

A6: Yes, SafeAssign can detect paraphrased ChatGPT content if it closely resembles existing sources.

Q7: What if I cite ChatGPT in my work? Will SafeAssign flag it?

A7: Citing ChatGPT properly should not trigger SafeAssign plagiarism detection, but ensure accurate citation practices.

Q8: Is it against the rules to use ChatGPT with SafeAssign?

A8: Using ChatGPT is generally allowed, but institutions may have specific policies regarding its use in assignments.

Q9: Can I get in trouble for using ChatGPT and SafeAssign together?

A9: Trouble depends on your institution’s policies; using ChatGPT with SafeAssign is not inherently problematic if used ethically.

Q10: How can I avoid SafeAssign flagging my ChatGPT content?

A10: Properly cite ChatGPT-generated content and use it ethically, ensuring it aligns with your institution’s guidelines.

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