How to Write a Prompt to Engage with Generative AI

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AI generated photo of Jonathan Carrigan

Written by

Jonathan Carrigan

Professor, Faculty of Business

How faculty and students engage with AI matters. Understanding the concepts of prompts and prompt engineering is crucial for effectively harnessing the power of generative AI in teaching and learning.

What is a Prompt

  • A prompt is a specific input given to a generative AI model to initiate its response.
  • It typically consists of a contextualized question or request.

What is Prompt Engineering

  • Prompt engineering shapes AI model outputs through refined prompts.
  • Crafting instructions, framing context, and tuning parameters ensure relevant and coherent AI responses.

Tips for Effective Prompt Writing


The following prompt formula is an effective way to generate high-quality outputs:
[Context] + [Specific Information] + [Intent/Goal] + [Response Format (if needed)]

  • Be Specific: If you ask a vague question, you may get a vague answer. The more details you provide, the better the response the model will be able to provide.
  • State Your Intent: If there's a specific purpose for your question, state it in the prompt.
  • Direct the Output Format: If you want the answer in a specific format, state it in your prompt. Do you want a multiple-choice question? A paragraph? A step-by-step process?
  • Ask Follow-Up Questions: If the response wasn't what you expected, or if you need more information, ask follow-up questions to clarify and get to what you need.
  • Experiment with Different Phrasings: If you're not getting the response you want, try asking the question in a different way. The model might understand one phrasing better than another.
  • Prompt for Fact-Checking: If you're looking for reliable information, you can ask the model to provide sources or to fact-check information.
Technique Description Formula Example
Clear Intent Clearly state the desired output or question. "Generate a output that [condition]." Generate a summary that captures the main ideas.
Specificity Be specific about the required content or format. "Generate a [output] that includes [specific content]." Generate a poem that rhymes and has 10 lines.
Constraints Set limitations to guide the response. "Generate a [output] within [specified constraints]." Generate a story using only 100 words.
Personas Assign a persona or role to define tone or expertise. "Acting as [role], write a [output] about [topic]." Acting as an expert journalist, write a creative title for this article.
Evaluation Specify criteria for assessing the response quality. "Review the [output] against [criteria] and suggest ways to improve. Review the essay against the rubric and suggest edits.
Style Specify the desired tone or writing style. "Generate a [output] in a [specific style]." Generate a persuasive essay using formal language.

Al-Driven Teaching: Revolutionize Your Classroom with Bing and ChatGPT. Prepared by Jonathan Carrigan, Spring 2023