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Prompt Engineering: Techniques, Applications, and Benefits | Spiceworks

  • Prompt engineering is the process of giving instructions to a generative AI to produce requested results.
  • From content generation to code generation, prompt engineering offers endless possibilities.
  • This article discusses the latest innovations in prompt engineering and how it is shaping the future of AI. Further, it discusses the key elements, techniques, and applications of prompt engineering.

In today’s digital era, technology has reached another milestone, and how we engage with it keeps evolving. One of the most recent innovations has occurred in artificial intelligence (AI), whereby machines are taught to think, learn, and even communicate like humans.

Among several developments, such as generative AI, lies a quiet trend that is emerging called prompt engineering.

Consider an instance: If you talk to a machine and ask it to create a cue or a “prompt,” it will respond with appropriate information or actions; that’s called prompt engineering.

It is about asking the right questions or giving instructions to large language models (LLMs) and other AI models, resulting in specific outputs. Prompt engineering knowledge is vital whether one is an enthusiast excited about AI trends or an expert seeking to leverage language models.

This article explains some technical details of prompt engineering and provides insights into why it matters within the broader field of AI.

What Is Prompt Engineering?

Prompt engineering is the process of giving instructions to a generative AI to help produce requested results. Although generative AI tries to copy humans, it needs precise directions to produce high-quality and relevant output. In prompt engineering, you select the correct formats, phrases, words, and signs that help AI interact more meaningfully with users. Prompt engineers apply their imagination through trial and error by creating a pool of input texts to operate an application’s generative AI effectively.

What is a prompt?

A prompt is a text in the natural language used to train the generative AI on the specific task at hand to be executed. Generative AI, which utilizes large machine learning models, creates various content, including stories, conversations, videos, images, and music.

The AI models are exceedingly multi-functional, and they serve functions such as summarizing documents, completing sentences, answering questions, and translating from one language to another based on what they have been exposed to during training. However, the models require context and better and more information to make sound and meaningful output and minimize inaccuracies.

Correspondingly, prompt engineering describes creating and refining prompts to ensure the AI generates usable and meaningful content. Upon reinterpretation, the cycle ensures that the AI models respond appropriately to a wide range of user input. Ultimately, it may help strengthen the customer experience.

Why is prompt engineering important?

Prompt engineering jobs have recently increased significantly due to AI advancements. Prompt engineers link the gap between your end users and the LLM. They identify scripts and templates your users can customize and complete to receive the best results from the language models. These engineers conduct experiments using diverse inputs to construct a prompt library that application developers can utilize in different situations.

Prompt engineering helps make AI applications more efficient and effective. Application developers typically include open-ended user input within a prompt before sending it to the AI model.

For instance, think about AI chatbots. Users might type an incomplete issue like, “Where to buy a shirt?” Internally, the application’s code incorporates an engineered prompt saying, “You function as a sales assistant for a clothing company. A user from Alabama is asking you where they can purchase a shirt. Provide the three closest store locations with a shirt in stock.” The chatbot then generates more relevant and accurate information.

See more: Top Three LLMs Compared: GPT-4 Turbo vs. Claude 3 Opus vs. Gemini 1.5 Pro

Elements of Prompt Engineering

Prompt engineering is a generative method of instructing AI systems to provide coherent and contextually relevant responses in diverse applications. Fundamentally, prompt engineering dictates the process of crafting prompts that efficiently convey the task or query to be executed by the AI model. The following are the main components of prompt engineering that work together to improve AI interactions.

1. Role

A role denotes the position where the prompt assumes an individual, which helps the AI create a response relevant to that persona.

An example could be, “Technical support specialist: A customer has inquired about how to troubleshoot software issues.”

Using the term “technical support specialist” allows the AI to create a response in a technical tone appropriate for customer support.

2. Instruction/Task

This refers to a clear outline of what specific action or response the AI is expected to generate.

For example, “Compose a product description for a new smartphone model that captures both key features and benefits”  is a prompt asking the AI to generate a product description that mainly emphasizes the features and benefits, leading the response in a marketing-oriented direction.

3. Questions

A question is a way of asking the AI to offer more information or provide answers in a particular area, keeping in mind its focus and restricting its feedback.

An example is “What are the risks of a high-sodium diet?”

In this case, the question implies that the AI is supposed to inform the user about the health dangers caused by consuming too much salt.

4. Context

Adding further contextual information helps adapt the AI-generated response to the relevant scenario, enhancing the material’s relevance and accuracy.

By way of illustration, when given a prompt such as “With the patient’s medical history provided below, outline potential treatment approaches for this condition,” the AI can respond with suggestions specific to the actual patient’s health based on the medical history as context.

5. Example

An effective learning strategy can be adding examples to the prompts, which further attracts the AI’s attention and sets clear expectations for the type of information required.

For instance, the prompt the author offers is, “Given the beginning and ending of a story, fill in the narrative with plot details and character development.”

The AI is provided with a readymade story structure that needs to be filled out and is likely to offer the sequence that aligns the most with the writing pattern offered.

Integrating these elements into prompts enables prompt engineers to accurately convey the intended task or query to AI models. Eventually, this results in more accurate, relevant, and contextually fitting responses, thus improving the usability and effectiveness of AI text generation systems in different applications and domains.

See more: New Aberdeen Research: AI & The Future Workplace

Prompt Engineering Techniques

The field of prompt engineering is at the intersection of linguistic skills and creativity in refining prompts intended for use with generative AI tools. However, prompt engineers also use certain techniques to “manage” the natural-language processing capability of AI models. Here are a few of them.

1. Chain-of-thought-prompting

Chain-of-thought prompting is an AI technique that allows complex questions or problems to be broken down into smaller parts. This technique is based on how humans approach a problem—they analyze it, with each part investigated one at a time. When the question is broken into smaller segments, the artificial intelligence model can analyze the problem more thoroughly and give a more accurate answer.

For example, given a question: “How does climate change affect biodiversity?” Instead of directly providing an answer, an AI model that uses chain-of-thought prompting would break the question into three components or subproblems. The subproblems might include:

  • Effect of climate change on temperature
  • Effect of temperature on habitat and
  • Destruction of habitat

Then, the model starts analyzing and investigating how the changed climate affects temperature, how temperature change affects habitat, and how the destruction of a habitat affects biodiversity.

This approach allows the model to address each part of the issue and give a more detailed answer to the initial question of the influence of climate change on biodiversity.

2. Tree-of-thought prompting

Tree-of-thought prompting builds upon chain-of-thought prompting. It expands on it by asking the model to generate possible next steps and elaborate on each using a tree search method. For instance, if asked, “What are the effects of climate change?” the model would generate possible next steps like listing environmental and social effects and further elaborating on each.

3. Maieutic prompting

Maieutic prompting is a technique used to make models explain how they came to give a particular response, reason, or answer. In this case, one first prompts the model, asking why they gave a particular answer before subsequently asking them to talk more about the first answer. The essence of repetitive questioning is to ensure that the model provides better responses to complex reasoning questions through enhanced understanding.

For instance, consider the question, “Why is renewable energy important?” With maieutic prompting, the AI model would simply say renewable energy is important because it reduces greenhouse gases. The subsequent prompt would then promote the model to talk more about given aspects of the response. For instance, the prompt might direct the model to talk more about how wind and solar power will replace fossil fuels and rid the world of climate change. As a result, the AI model develops a better understanding and provides better future findings and responses on the importance of renewable energy.

4. Complexity-based prompting

This method involves performing chain-of-thought rollouts and selecting the rollouts with the most extended chains of thought. For instance, in solving a complex math problem, the model would consider rollouts with the most calculation steps to reach a common conclusion.

5. Generated knowledge prompting

This method advises the model to source the explicit information required before creating the content. This implies the content developed is knowledgeable and of higher quality. For example, if a user would like to create a presentation covering the topic of renewable sources, they could prompt the model by implying, “Make a presentation about renewable sources.” The following two explicit facts should be noted: “Solar power frees us from throwaway fossil fuels” and “Solar power lowers the demand for mostly coal-fired power plants that produce our electricity.” Finally, the model could make up an argument for how beneficial it would be for humanity to switch to renewable sources.

See more: Prioritizing Profitability and Sustainability in Manufacturing with AI

6. Least-to-most prompting

Using the least-to-most prompting technique, the model will list the subproblems involved in solving a given task. Then, the model solves the subproblems in a sequence to ensure that every subsequent step uses the solutions to the previous ones. For example, a user may prompt the model using the following cooking-themed least-to-most example: a user says to the model, “Bake a cake for me.” Hence, the model’s first output would include the subproblems “preheat the oven” and “mix the ingredients.” The model would need to ensure that the cake is baked.

7. Self-refine prompting

Self-refine or self-consistent prompting involves listing subproblems of a problem and solving them in sequence related to the top-up. It consists of solving a problem, criticizing it, and solving the criticized solution by considering the problem and the critique. When asked to write an essay, it writes before criticizing that it has no prevalence of explicit examples and thus writes.

8. Directional-stimulus prompting

Directional-stimulus prompting includes directing what the models should write. For example, if I ask the model to write a poem about love, I will suggest including “heart,” “passion,” and “eternal.” These provisions help the model produce favorable outputs from various tasks and domains.

9. Zero-shot prompting

Zero-shot prompting represents a game-changer for natural language processing (NLP) as it allows AI models to create answers without training based on the data or a set of examples. At that, zero-shot prompting does stand out from the traditional ways to address this issue, as the system can draw from existing knowledge and relationships based on data it already has, being encoded in its parameters.

A classic example includes a large language model trained on various uploaded texts to the internet but with no specific preparation on medical topics. When the model is prompted with the phrase “What are the symptoms of COVID-19?” through zero-shot prompting, it recognizes the structure and context of the issue. It retrieves a question based on its understanding of related subjects it has seen while training.

While the system was never explicitly told about the disease, it accurately lists its symptoms, such as fever, cough, and loss of taste and smell, due to the method showcasing the model’s generalizing and adaptable nature. Zero-shot prompting is a cutting-edge breakthrough in NLP that can drive machine capabilities to efficiently and effectively solve language tasks regardless of task or data.

10. Active prompt

Active prompt represents a novel prompt engineering approach that allows dynamically modulating prompts based on responsive feedback or user interaction. Unlike previous prompt styles, which were static, the active prompt allows AI models to adjust and modify their responses throughout the interaction procedure. Active prompt, for example, could power a chatbot to help customers troubleshoot sophisticated technical problems.

For example, the chatbot will check in real time if a particular prompt generated a valuable answer based on the consumer’s following reply. If this prompt inexplicably confuses or aggravates the user, the chatbot can adapt the ask-it-this-way strategy in dynamic real time to add more explanation, for example, or propose another solution. As a result, the chatbot can learn to identify which kinds of prompts do not perform well solely on insights from individual users.

Active prompting illustrates the flexible character of prompt engineering, where prompts must change and improve on the fly to match consumers’ current experiences. As AI continues to improve, active prompting could also be a future principle.

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Application of prompt Engineering

Prompt engineering serves as a pivotal tool in guiding AI systems to generate coherent and contextually relevant responses across a wide range of applications. Here are some diverse applications where prompt engineering plays a transformative role.

1. Content generation

Prompt engineering is extensively employed in content generation tasks, including writing articles, generating product descriptions, and composing social media posts. By crafting tailored prompts, content creators can guide AI models to produce engaging and informative content that resonates with the target audience.

2. Language translation

Prompt engineering is a valuable tool for accurate and contextually relevant language translation between different languages. Translators can direct AI models to produce translations that capture the finer points and intricacies of the original text, leading to excellent-quality translations by giving specific instructions.

3. Text summarization

Prompt engineering is instrumental in text summarization tasks, where lengthy documents or articles must be condensed into concise and informative summaries. By crafting prompts that specify the desired summary length and key points, prompt engineers can guide AI models to generate summaries that capture the essence of the original text.

4. Dialogue systems

Dialogue systems like chatbots and virtual assistants rely on prompt engineering to facilitate natural and engaging user interactions. By designing prompts that anticipate user queries and preferences, prompt engineers can guide AI models to generate relevant, coherent, and contextually appropriate responses, enhancing the overall user experience.

5. Information retrieval

In the information retrieval domain, prompt engineering enhances search engines’ capabilities to retrieve relevant and accurate information from vast data repositories. By crafting prompts that specify the desired information and criteria, prompt engineers can guide AI models to generate search results that effectively meet the user’s information needs.

6. Code generation

Prompt engineering is increasingly applied in code generation tasks, where AI models are prompted to generate code snippets, functions, or even entire programs. Prompt engineers can guide AI models to generate code that fulfills the desired functionality by providing clear and specific prompts, thus streamlining software development and automation processes.

7. Educational tools

Prompt engineering is employed in educational tools and platforms to provide personalized learning experiences for students. By designing prompts that cater to individual learning objectives and proficiency levels, prompt engineers can guide AI models to generate educational content, exercises, and assessments tailored to the needs of each student.

8. Creative writing assistance

In creative writing, prompt engineering aids writers in overcoming creative blocks and generating new ideas. By crafting prompts that stimulate imagination and creativity, prompt engineers can guide AI models to generate prompts, story starters, and plot ideas that inspire writers and fuel their creative process.

See more: Getting Real About Gen AI: What You Need to Know

Benefits and Limitations of Prompt Engineering

While prompt engineering significantly contributes to improving responses from AI models, it also has a few drawbacks. Here are a few benefits and limitations of prompt engineering.


1. Enhanced control

Prompt engineering fosters user control over AI more than ever by allowing users to control the AI models themselves with prompts. This, in turn, ensures that the most generated content closely matches the user’s needs and expectations. As stated earlier, the same mechanism could be employed with different writing services, including, but not limited to, content generation summarization and translation.

2. Improved relevance

It ensures that churned-out outputs have context and are intended accordingly. This increases the level of practicality and excellence of implemented AI-based text products in different spheres.

3. Increased efficiency

Effective prompts help develop an AI targeted in its approach to text generation through proper direction on specific tasks or topics. This automation is beneficial as it increases efficiency and reduces the need for manual involvement. Hence, time and resources are saved by optimizing the process downstream.

4. Versatility

Prompt engineering approaches can be used across various text generation tasks and domains, making them essential for content generation, language translation, summary, and other broad range of applications.

5. Customization

Prompt engineering is all about creating a suitable basis for the design of AI-driven products, taking into account a customer’s needs, tastes, and targeted group. That is the good side of flexibility, as it facilitates modifying content to fit the person’s particular goals and targets.


1. Prompt quality reliance

The output quality heavily depends on the prompts’ quality and precision. Poorly designed prompts may lead to inaccurate or irrelevant AI-generated outputs, thus diminishing the overall quality of results.

2. Domain specificity

Optimal results in prompt engineering may require domain-specific understanding and expertise. Due to insufficient domain know-how, a person may need help producing effective AI model guiding questions, limiting applicability in some domains.

3. Potential bias

Biased prompts or training data can introduce bias into AI-generated outputs, leading to inaccurate or unfair results. To ensure such outcomes are addressed, prompt engineering efforts should be made when designing prompts and choosing data sets.

4. Complexity and iteration

Developing effective prompts involves trial and error, with successive improvements toward the intended goals. This iterative process can take time and resources, especially for complex text generation tasks.

5. Limited scope of control

Prompt engineering allows more control over AI-generated outputs but still does not guarantee 100% avoidance of unwanted consequences.

See more: Separating Fact from Fiction: Generative AI Misconceptions


Prompt engineering presents a revolutionary approach to enhancing the quality of AI text generation. The structured method of prompt development offers a way to develop queries that help the models generate outputs that are more likely to be high-quality and contextually relevant.

Despite present limitations in prompt quality and domain-specificity, current and future research and development endeavors show promise for addressing these limitations and enhancing the effectiveness of prompt engineering methods. Semantic precision and context are predicted to play critical roles in the revolution of artificially intelligent text generation as prompt engineering continues to advance in various applications and fields.

Discoveries from researchers and developers are anticipated to advance AI to the next level. Bias-free and perfectly designed prompts are expected to enhance the nature and quality of the text produced, thus strengthening the researcher’s relationship with language. Prompt engineering, therefore, appears to pave the way for a new kind of communication between people and language.

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