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Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Generative AI, ChatGPT, etc.

What are Prompts?

Prompts are what you type into an AI tool to get specific results. A prompt can be as simple as a single question or as complex as multiple paragraphs. Your AI interactions and the quality of the information it returns depends a lot on how you word your prompts.

REMEMBER! You should review the information on this guide about trusting and evaluating the responses generated by any AI tool. 

Copilot prompt and reponse screenshot.

Copilot is the AI tool used in the example prompt and response. The text of the prompt and the response from Copilot are provided in the Real Life Example found further down on this page. Learn more about Microsoft Copilot [TechTarget Definition].

Learn About Prompts


Keep in mind that there are many videos with people claiming to have the "perfect prompt" formula. The following are just a couple, but they both include some very good advice. 

Real Life Example

Before writing the prompt in the screenshot example used on this page, I watched several videos and read a few articles on how to create a prompt. Although they all had different "formulas" they included the same basic ideas. When I got the response from Copilot I already had an idea about whether or not I could trust it's "advice" about how to show others how to write a prompt, because I had already consulted several different sources that agreed on what types of information to include in a prompt.

Prompt Formula:

My prompt is loosely based on this formula proposed in a video by Skill Leap AI:

  • [Context] + [Specific Information] + [Intent/Goal] + [Response Format (if needed)]

My Prompt:

  • I'm a librarian at a community college. I need to explain best practices to students who are new to using Copilot, how to create effective prompts. I need some example prompts that are relavent to students and a brief outline of important tips to help them be successful prompt writers.

Response Generated by Copilot:

Certainly! Here’s a brief outline with tips and example prompts that can help students become successful prompt writers for Copilot:

Tips for Writing Effective Prompts:
  • Be Specific: Clearly define what you’re asking for. The more specific the prompt, the more accurate the response.
  • Provide Context: If the prompt relates to a broader topic or requires background information, include that in the prompt.
  • Use Keywords: Incorporate relevant keywords that signal the subject or the type of task you need assistance with.
  • Keep It Structured: If you have multiple questions or requests, list them in a logical order or as bullet points.
  • Be Concise: While detail is helpful, unnecessary information can be distracting. Aim for prompts that are brief yet complete.
Example Prompts for Students:
  • For Research: “What are the key differences between qualitative and quantitative research methods?”
  • For Writing Assistance: “Can you help me rephrase this thesis statement to make it stronger? Here’s my current version: …”
  • For Study Tips: “I’m studying for a biology exam on cell structures. Can you provide a summary of the most important points?”
  • For Coding Help: “I’m writing a Python program to sort a list of numbers. Can you show me an example of how to implement a bubble sort?”
  • For Math Problems: “I’m stuck on this calculus problem: ‘Calculate the derivative of (3x^2 + 7x - 5)’. Can you walk me through the steps to solve it?”

By following these tips and using the example prompts as a guide, students can craft effective prompts that will yield helpful and precise responses from Copilot. Remember, the quality of the response often depends on the clarity and detail of the prompt given. Happy prompting!