Chain-of-Thought Prompting, A Practical Guide for Problem-Solving with ChatGPT

Saturday, July 01, 2023

This essay presents a practical exploration of Chain-of-Thought Prompting, a technique that leverages chatGPT to enhance cognitive processes by breaking down complex problems into manageable steps. While it doesn't delve into all aspects emphasized in the original research paper, it provides a practical framework for individuals to use chain-of-thought prompting in their daily tasks.

We begin by establishing a problem statement, which serves as the foundation for structured thinking. We then dissect the problem into smaller, manageable parts, and finally, we connect these parts to form a coherent whole enriched with new insights and understanding.

Note: The outputs may differ slightly between ChatGPT 3.5 and 4.0 due to variations in their training data, algorithms, and overall model architecture. While I prefer 4.0 for most cases, 3.5 is also suitable for many applications.

The limitations of this practical approach, compared to the original research paper, will be acknowledged in the final section of this article. Despite these limitations, the presented methodology is valuable for problem-solving and complex reasoning tasks.

I. Defining the Objective

The initial step in Chain-of-Thought Prompting involves defining our objectives. This includes creating a clear and precise problem statement outlining the issue. We consider the factors or variables influencing the problem and its potential solutions during this stage. We identify our current information and determine what additional data we need. The ultimate goal is to establish a problem statement that is a robust foundation for the rest of the process.

Example: Article Writing with ChatGPT

Let's assume we've written an article on prompting, but we're still determining if the intended recipient will understand it due to the technical jargon used. After providing chatGPT with our article, we could frame our problem statement as follows:

  • How can we translate the technical jargon in the article into more accessible language for readers unfamiliar with the subject matter?

ChatGPT begins by considering the factors or variables mentioned within the problem statement. In this case, these variables include 

  • the complexity of the original article's technical jargon
  • the intended audience's existing knowledge base
  • and the need for accuracy and clarity in the translated content.

ChatGPT will attempt to provide a solution that addresses the challenge defined in the problem statement. The ultimate goal of this step is to generate a version of the article that maintains the original meaning while using more accessible language, making the content more comprehensible for readers unfamiliar with the subject matter.

II. Gathering Relevant Data and Information

The second stage involves gathering the necessary data and information. This requires identifying the sources that can provide this data and considering potential limitations or biases. The goal at this stage is to collect all the data needed for the subsequent analysis.

To illustrate this stage, let's add complexity to our example:

  • we need to fully understand the nuances of the jargon ourselves

Given this added complexity, we will need to gather more extensive information. Here, chatGPT can serve as a valuable tool in the data collection process. It could be asked to:

  • help define or explain terms,
  • summarize other resources
  • provide a general understanding of the topic
  • assist with translation
  • provide information on cultural context.

III. Analyzing the Data and Information

The next step involves analyzing the collected data. The methods used for this analysis can vary based on the nature of your data, ranging from mathematical models and statistical techniques to qualitative evaluations. Regardless of the method, it's important to understand any assumptions or limitations these techniques might have. The ultimate aim at this stage is to extract valuable insights that can guide the decision-making process.

In the case of our ongoing example—making a technical article more accessible—the analysis might focus on understanding the technical jargon in the article. We could ask chatGPT to 

  • analyze the technical terms or jargon from the perspectives of a novice reader
  • an intermediate reader
  • and a moderately experienced reader.

An analysis like this provides a more nuanced understanding of the jargon's potential interpretations. This can aid us in the next stage of the Chain-of-Thought Prompting process—developing a solution to make the article more accessible.

Example: Fine-tuning

I have asked chatGPT to analyze the term 'fine-tuning' from the perspective of a novice reader, an intermediate reader, and a moderately experienced reader. I have asked for examples and pros and cons for each level of understanding. This kind of analysis will provide you with a better understanding of the term's potential interpretations, which will help us in the next stage of the Chain-of-Thought Prompting process—developing a solution to make the article more accessible.

Note: This is unedited text from chatGPT.

Novice reader: "Fine-tuning" is a term often used to describe making small adjustments to something to improve its performance or effectiveness. Imagine you're tuning a guitar: you're adjusting each string just a little bit to make sure the sound is just right—that's fine-tuning.

Pros: This explanation is simple and easy to understand, especially with the guitar analogy. It provides a basic understanding of the concept without going into technical details.

Cons: While it simplifies the concept, it might oversimplify it for some contexts. In some technical or scientific fields, "fine-tuning" might have a more specific or different meaning.

Intermediate reader: In many fields, "fine-tuning" refers to the process of making small but precise adjustments to a system or model to optimize its performance. For example, in machine learning, fine-tuning a model means adjusting the parameters of an already trained model to improve its performance on a new task.

Pros: This explanation provides more context and details, particularly about the use of fine-tuning in specific fields like machine learning.

Cons: This explanation assumes some prior knowledge. Readers unfamiliar with concepts like machine learning or model parameters might find this explanation more difficult to follow.

Moderately experienced reader: "Fine-tuning" often refers to the process of making precise adjustments to a system, model, or theory to optimize its performance or accuracy. In scientific contexts, such as in physics or cosmology, "fine-tuning" can refer to the idea that certain fundamental parameters of the universe appear to be precisely set to allow for the existence of life—a concept known as the "fine-tuning" of the universe.

Pros: This explanation gives a more comprehensive understanding of the term, including its use in scientific and philosophical debates.

Cons: This explanation requires a fairly high level of prior knowledge and understanding. It might be too complex or confusing for readers who are not already somewhat familiar with these concepts. The above is unedited. 

As you can see, this is a wonderful method that allows you to consider different interpretations and help you think through the problem.

IV. Constructing a Solution

The fourth stage involves formulating a solution based on the insights derived from our data analysis. This stage entails proposing a resolution or making a decision that effectively addresses the original problem statement. Here, we evaluate the potential impacts of various solutions and any necessary compromises. The ultimate goal is to construct a solution or decision grounded in evidence.

In our example, we might adopt a tiered approach to information presentation. We could start with a simplified explanation for beginner readers, then progressively more detailed explanations for intermediate and experienced readers. Alternatively, we could create three distinct articles tailored to a specific audience. The Chain-of-Thought Prompting methodology assists in identifying these potential paths, enabling us to craft content that is both engaging and accessible to a broad spectrum of readers.

V. Selecting and Executing the Solution

The fifth stage involves selecting which solution works best based on what we have seen and then executing it. Now, depending on what you are using this method for, it could include additional planning or considering resources, timelines, and procedures for successful implementation. Whatever your goals are, the aim is to ensure that the solution is effectively implemented and that all individuals involved are adequately informed and actively engaged.

In our example, accessible article writing, we must decide on whether to pursue a tiered approach to presenting information or create separate pieces for different audiences. We must plan the writing, editing, and publishing processes in both cases. The Chain-of-Thought Prompting methodology makes these steps clearer and more manageable, ensuring that the final solution is theoretically sound and practically achievable.

VI. Evaluating the Solution

The final stage involves evaluating the effectiveness of the solution. This involves continuous assessment and monitoring to ensure the solution achieves its desired outcome. During this stage, we determine what metrics or indicators can be used to measure success and how often the evaluation should be conducted. The goal is to ensure that the solution remains effective and to make adjustments if necessary.

In our example, the metric can be as simple as writing an article and publishing or posting it. Alternatively, we could write a few articles for the different audiences we identified, and then assess the effectiveness of our articles by monitoring reader engagement metrics such as time spent on the page, bounce rate, or reader feedback. If readers consistently skip over certain sections or express confusion about certain terms, we may need to adjust our approach -- assuming you have the means to do this. 

The beauty of the Chain-of-Thought Prompting approach is that it encourages this kind of iterative, adaptive problem-solving, ensuring that our solutions are as effective in practice as they are in theory.

VII. Acknowledging Limitations and Future Directions

While this article provides a practical guide to using Chain-of-Thought Prompting in everyday problem-solving, it's important to acknowledge that it doesn't fully delve into certain aspects emphasized in the original research paper.

The original research paper highlights the role of model size in enabling chain-of-thought reasoning, uses multiple demonstrations as exemplars in prompting, shows performance improvements across various reasoning tasks, and discusses certain limitations of the method.

However, this article focuses on providing a practical framework for individuals to start using chain-of-thought prompting in their day-to-day tasks. While it doesn't extensively cover each point emphasized in the research paper, it offers a starting point for understanding and applying the concept of chain-of-thought prompting.

I'll likely create future articles that delve deeper into these aspects, providing a more robust exploration of this methodology.

Citation: Wei, Jason, Xuezhi Wang, Dale Schuurmans, Maarten Bosma, Fei Xia, Ed Chi, Quoc V. Le, and Denny Zhou. "Chain-of-thought prompting elicits reasoning in large language models." _Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems_35 (2022): 24824-24837.

Source: Chain-of-thought prompting elicits reasoning in large language models