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How to use AI to summarize assigned readings: Better notes and Effective studying

How to use AI to summarize assigned readings: Better notes and Effective studying

Are you stuck with an assigned reading knowing your brain won’t retain half of what you read as you skim through the pages in search of key points?

With the help of generative AI, you’ll not only save time but it may also help with effective studying. AI can analyze the readings and generate concise summaries that capture the main points. By using AI-generated summaries, students like you can gain a clearer understanding of confusing topics. Summaries can also be adjusted based on a student’s learning preference and can be summarized in more than one way, making it easier for students of all backgrounds to learn.

There are many powerful tools out there that will help with summarization. Examples include GetGenie, Bard, ChatGPT, etc. This article will focus on ChatGPT but is applicable in similar fashions with many other generative AI tools.

Using ChatGPT for Summarization

With the rise of ChatGPT, a lot of tasks can be done in a matter of seconds. ChatGPT is an AI technology that allows you to do many things with a chatbot. The language model can answer questions and assist you with tasks, such as composing emails, essays, and code.

However, one may be unsure as to how AI can effectively summarize the many pages of reading.

One thing ChatGPT can do is help with summarization. But one doesn’t just want any generic summarization, students want something that they know can benefit their learning process.

Something to know beforehand is that you can’t instruct ChatGPT to come up with really unique ways of explaining things no matter how you phrase your questions to ChatGPT. ChatGPT will also tend toward “cliché” responses. And before we get into the guide, it is recommended that assigned readings are still read. They really do help with consolidating knowledge. This guide is to help if you are in a time crunch or are simply trying to review knowledge.

One can not just copy and paste readings into the chat box to get a good summarization. The summary generated will not only be generic but will probably contain information that may be even more confusing than the initial reading itself.

Instead of pasting the whole reading into the chatbox, you need to guide the AI to give you a satisfactory answer.

To demonstrate, this article will run through an example with a reading of World War II.

To start, this is an example of what ChatGPT writes when you just copy and paste part of a part of the reading.

The aftermath of World War I created an unsettled Europe, paving the way for Germany's resurgence. The Great Depression in 1929 further weakened democratic institutions in Germany, allowing Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party to seize power in 1933. Hitler pursued a policy of territorial expansion, aiming to establish a "master race" and gain control over Eastern Europe. He formed alliances with Mussolini's Italy and sought to exploit divisions among European powers. In the Far East, Japan desired resources but faced obstacles from colonial powers and the United States. The League of Nations failed to effectively counter Japanese aggression. In the United States, there was a prevailing sense of isolationism and reluctance to engage in international affairs. Congress passed the Neutrality Act in 1937, prohibiting trade with belligerents. The U.S. focused on continental defense, with the Navy as the primary defense force. The Army, though small, undertook some innovative thinking and preparation, particularly in amphibious warfare and technological advancements such as radio communications and artillery techniques. However, the Army was ill-prepared for the war that erupted in Europe in 1939.”

This summary doesn’t have much of a structure and it’s hard to know where and what the main points were. This makes it less effective for students to actually retain the knowledge even when sized down.

To form a better summarization, one can follow the steps given:

  1. Give background information about the reading so the AI knows what it’s about to summarize. This should be no more than a few sentences and gives ChatGPT an idea of how to form its summary for you.
  2. Start by inputting about 3-4 paragraphs into the chatbox and ask the AI to read you the text it has been given. Any length more than that and the summary may not be as concise as the user may want. Take into account the maximum word count for ChatGPT (3000 words).
  • Now if your assigned reading came from a physical textbook, you can also use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software that allows users to transcribe physical text onto a computer. There are numerous free OCR tools online and many provide the steps on how you can use it. There is a possibility of some errors when transcribing but the errors are minor and would only minimally affect the given summary. If you are worried about errors, GPT4 also has the function of allowing users to input pictures.
  1. Ask ChatGPT to give you a summary and state how you’d like it to output the summary. Do you want it to highlight the main points for you? Do you want a structured multi-paragraph summary? How detailed do you want your summary? This is all up to the user and it’s important the user specifies as it helps ChatGPT output a summary that is more geared towards the user’s preference.
  • One thing to note is that ChatGPT3 is unable to output any sort of visual display but can give you a list to which users can then form into a visual display themselves.

With these steps, you’d get a summarization looking more like this

“Certainly! Here's a structured summary highlighting the main points:

Europe's Unresolved Issues: World War I left Europe in a state of uncertainty, with questions about dominance and the collapse of democratic institutions. This set the stage for Germany's second attempt at conquest.

Rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany: The worldwide depression in 1929 weakened democratic regimes, leading to Adolf Hitler's ascent to power in Germany in 1933. The Nazi Party pursued an aggressive nationalist and anti-Semitic agenda, increasing the strength of the German armed forces.

Hitler's Expansionist Policies: Hitler sought to overturn the Versailles Treaty, regain lost German territories, and secure "living space" in Eastern Europe for the German "master race." He used diplomatic strategies and military innovations to exploit divisions among European powers.

Japanese Expansion and Global Alliances: Japan, desiring resources in China and Southeast Asia, faced opposition from European colonial powers and the United States. Germany, Italy, and Japan formed alliances, while Western democratic governments aimed to avoid war and distrusted the Soviet Union.

United States' Isolationism: After rejecting the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations, the United States remained largely indifferent to international concerns. Congress passed the Neutrality Act in 1937, prohibiting trade with belligerents. The Navy was prioritized for continental defense.

Limited Army Preparations: The U.S. Army, though small and underfunded, made some preparations for future conflicts. It explored armored vehicles, motorization, air-ground cooperation, and amphibious warfare. The Signal Corps improved radio communications, and artillery developed sophisticated techniques.

Unreadiness for War: Despite some preparations, the U.S. Army as a whole was unprepared for the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939.

This summary captures the main points of the paragraphs, providing an overview of the historical context and the state of the U.S. Army leading up to World War II.

Now this summary looks more appealing. Not only does it highlight the key points of the reading but it also goes into a bit of detail for each detail to give enough context without having to read the reading. This also helps with note taking as one lists out the key points to remember.

Like ChatGPT, LowTech AI is also a website that allows users to take advantage of all the possibilities AI has to offer. This means it can also be used to generate summarizations suited to a student’s needs.

A prompt that may help many students with summarization consists of 5 inputs. It asks for background on the topic to be discussed and asks the user to input 3 paragraphs. Limiting it to 3 paragraphs helps the AI do a better job at summarizing the key points. Lastly there’s an input box where users can tell the AI how they would like the summarization to be outputted. The user can specify if you like it in a certain tone or style depending on how they want to comprehend the information.

With that, it’s time to hit the road and incorporate AI to your learning for effective studying and greater success.

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