AI prompts

Artificial intelligence operates through prompts. It’s not a mind reader, so to produce desired results, you must carefully describe your request. Skillful design and construction of prompts (prompt engineering) are essential for successful AI use. This tip describes the basics of creating prompts. 

Good Prompt Includes: 

Task Definition: First, define a clear task for the AI. What do you want it to produce? Ask the AI to answer a question, summarize, translate text, create a survey, or identify parts of the text. Break down complex tasks into smaller parts. 

  • “Create a summary…”
  • “Create five questions…”
  • “Translate the following text into English…”
  • “Write a fictional story…”
  • “Create three examples of use cases…”

Topic: Defining the topic or questions guides you to the right content. If you’re looking for ideas on a topic, giving a simple and broad topic may be justified. However, describing the topic as precisely as possible often yields a higher quality response. You can provide themes or subheadings to be discussed in the text. 

  • “What are the key themes in the course where the topic is the educational use of artificial intelligence…”
  • “Create the contents of PowerPoint slides for a presentation on the educational use of artificial intelligence. The subtitles of the presentation are 1. Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, 2. Prompting, 3. Use Cases in Education…”

Target Audience and Role: In the prompt, specify the intended audience and reader. This helps the AI form text at an appropriate level. The same topic can be written very differently depending on whether it’s for children or conference attendees, for example. You can also ask the AI to act in a certain role while writing, setting a desired perspective for the text. 

  • “…The target group is exchange students studying Finnish. Write the text in easy Finnish.”
  • “Write an introduction to the course on the topic, suitable for university students at the master’s level.”
  • “…Write an advertisement for this event, which is aimed at university teachers.”
  • “You are the teacher of the course. Create a table of assessment criteria for this task…”

Context: You can also guide the content more precisely. What do you hope the answer will include? For brainstorming, the topic can be broader, but if you need help with a specific issue, you can guide the topic with bullet points or questions. You can also provide background information about the situation you’re seeking an answer for, thus directing the response in the right direction. After receiving the first version of the response, you can provide more detailed information. The prompt can also include restrictions, such as related to text length. You can also exclude certain themes or topics. 

  • “The themes of the course are as follows… Create an introduction that mentions these themes.”
  • “Suggest what themes could be discussed in a training course on the topic of artificial intelligence in education. The participants are university teachers. The training includes three two-hour meetings, and in between, a task related to each topic should be done.”
  • “Do not use negative expressions.”

Style and Format: What form do you want the response in? Is it a factual text, narrative, introduction, list, or table? The target audience guides the style of the text, but you can also give more specific definitions of the style. Is it a formal or funny text? Many AI applications have visible buttons to guide the text style (e.g., in Copilot: “More creative”, “More balanced”, “More precise”). 

AI is also a good translator, so you can request the response in your desired language or even multiple language versions of the same text. 

  • “Write a fun and attractive invitation to an event where the aim is to share best practices for the educational use of artificial intelligence. Mention the following things…”
  • “Translate the following text into English and Swedish.”
  • ““Write an introduction to a web page that deals with the educational use of artificial intelligence. The page is aimed at university teachers. The page includes the higher education community’s recommendation for the use of artificial intelligence, a checklist, instructions, and things to consider. Write five sentences in the introduction. The style should be formal.”

Keep in mind:

  • Even if the prompt is formulated as well as possible, AI may end up with an answer that is not sufficient or suitable for your purposes. You can always improve the prompt and guide the formation of the next version in the right direction with additional prompts. The first answer is not always perfect, so refine your prompt. You can ask follow-up questions or provide more detailed information about the context.
  • Do not share confidential information with AI.
    Use the new topic button if you want to start the prompt on a new topic. In this case, AI does not remember your previous prompt or its answer.
  • Failed response: A completely open prompt often fails. With the “Tell about AI” prompt, AI cannot know whether you want a fictional story on the topic, a scientific article, or an advertisement. AI cannot know whether it is discussing with an expert on the subject or perhaps you are a child with a new thing. It is good to remember that the use of AI is most reliable when you know the subject yourself and can assess the truthfulness of the answer. Especially source criticism is necessary. Use search engines if necessary to search for information. AI is not search engine.
Prompts in creating images

For image production, in addition to very precise prompting, a very open task can produce the desired result. This is the case if you’re looking for an illustration related to a topic but want to leave the instructions for the visual implementation as open as possible. 

If you’re looking for a precisely defined image, then a clear description is necessary. For example, you can specify the following attributes for the image: 

  • Topic: What should be found in the picture. Describe not only the subject, but also the details, such as the emotional state, age, or other characteristics of the person in the picture.
  • Technique or style: How do you want the picture to be made? Define the technique (e.g., drawing, watercolor…) and style (e.g., abstract, realistic…)
  • Colors and composition: You can request a picture of a certain color or even a black-and-white picture. Also describe your desired composition, such as what is seen in the foreground, how the picture is lit.

Like with text, you can further modify the image prompt and request new versions of the image. 

Documents and web pages:

Instead of copying, you can ask the AI to process a page or document that is open in the browser. This is possible, for example, with Copilot. However, you must allow the AI to examine the content of the open page. 

Regarding prompts, it’s important to mention right at the start what content you want the AI to handle when providing a response. You can ask a few preliminary questions related to the page content to ensure that the AI is addressing that specific content. You can also start by asking the AI what page is currently open in the browser. 

Refer to the open page with prompts like: 

  • “From the open page:…”
  • “From the open document:…”
  • “Make a summary of the content of the open page…”

Sources: Microsoft’s instructions 

 image: Bing powered by DALL-E 3