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Paperpal: An Academic Writing Assistant

Academic english is nobody’s first language. Learning to write clearly, succinctly is often very challenging if you don’t have a good mentor/editor. Luckily Paperpal can help you with this. This AI tool has been specifically trained on edits of academic texts and is therefore well suited to edit and help writing your own publication.


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Think of Paperpal as an assistant throughout your writing journey. Firstly you can use it to improve your writing as you write the paper. Later you can use it to run over 30 submission checks and detect unintended plagiarism. Here is the full workflow:

What Problem does Paperpal solve

Paperpal is an AI that helps you write better academic text. It can paraphrase, trim or extend texts. check for plagiarism, and is actively developing new generative AI features. Think of them as a ChatGPT for you academic text integrated directly in Microsoft word. This article is a deep dive into the different features Paperpal offers.

The obvious first question is why not use Grammarly who have been around more than a decade longer than Paperpal or go directly to ChatGPT. The main reason is that Paperpal has been trained on academic texts and their edits, as one member of the technical team told me during a call recently. This is indeed a new approach as it allows the software to learn the main edits a scientific editor will want to make as opposed to optimizing intent or formality in Grammarly. In my opinion all of these tools are useful. Paperpal in particular is for editing academic text that you want to get published.

Installing the Word Add-In or using Paperpal on the web

Paperpal is available in two versions: Web and as a Microsoft Word Add-In. You can get the most recent installation instructions on the add-in for the latest word version here. In university networks the add-ins are sometimes managed by your administrator and you might need to contact them first before installing any new add-ins.

If you don’t want to install the add-in (which is recommended) or are not able to do so due to your university’s security restrictions you can copy and past text directly into paperpal. After creating an account (start with free, upgrade when needed) click on “Paperpal for Web” in the left sidebar. Copy and paste your text and wait for the AI suggestions to be generated.

Regardless if you are using the word add-in or the web version Paperpal lives in the sidebar right of your text. Before using it for the first time hit the settings button and specify whether you want to use American or British english (this depends on the journal you are aiming for). Select “Extensive” for your suggestions. The “essential” settings only makes sense if you want to save credits as a free user. Every suggestion consumes a credit and free users get 200 monthly credits.

Targeted editing and proof reading

After setting up Paperpal will analyze your document (this can take a little bit for large documents) and come up with suggestions how to improve the text, fix typos or try to improve your grammar. These suggestions will appear in the right sidebar.

Every suggestion mentions a few keywords about why this particular thing needs to be fixed. This is a feature I like in Paperpal as it allows me to see whether something is a mistake and must be fixed or whether it is a suggestion. Each suggestion can be accepted or rejected. In my experience Paperpal gives good suggestions even for jargon. One time for example I wrote “Little is known on the reasons for the death of trees” and it corrected it to “tree mortality” which is somewhat of a jargon term and is much closer to the literature. Small instances like this make me feel that Paperpal indeed has a more thorough training specifically on academic texts.

Synonyms, Translations in Paperpal

Aside from the general suggestions that include paraphrasing and grammar issues Paperpal can help you find synonyms or translations for single words. On the top right of your Paperpal sidebar you will find two more icons for synonyms and translations. Here is how it looks when asking for the synonym to “tree mortality” mentioned previously. Each synonym has a popularity score attached to it as a percentage, which helps you to choose the right word.

And here is an example of the translation feature. This is useful when you are writing in a language other than english (e.g. for a local journal or publication). Here is a an english translation of “biologische Vielfalt” which is german for biodiversity. However, it translates directly to “biological variety” which would not be correct in english. Paperpal suggests the correct english translation.

Trimming and Rewriting academic text with Paperpal Generative AI

Trimming and Paraphrasing are part of Paperpal’s rewriting features. To paraphrase something first select the rewriting tab in the dark blue sidebar, then click on paraphrase and select the text you want to edit:

Trimming works in exactly the same fashion. In my experience the Generative AI will only perform minor trims without changing the information content. If you want massive trims discarding some information ChatGPT might be a better option.

Note that at the top of the trimmed text the number of words that the text was shortened by is displayed. Since every generative AI has a certain level of randomness to it the results will vary every time you use this feature.

Lastly there is also a “Make Academic” feature that works like trimming and paraphrasing but is intended to give the text a “face lift” in terms of jargon. Essentially all these features are different prompts that Paperpal’s generative AI is receiving along with your text and you should try out what works best for your text!

Generating text with Paperpal Templates

Generating text seemed like magic two years ago but is common place these days. If you have never used AI for academic writing, check out my upcoming webinar on literature reviews and academic writing with AI. Generating text for your paper is a slippery slope, since quite a few journals discourage doing so. In the long run, I think, it will be unavoidable. A better way is to use AI only for key but not critical elements of your writing like titles or abstracts. At the very least you will not start from zero by letting AI take over. Here is how Paperpal generates an abstract and title:

Submission Check for your Paper

Submission check is a complete solution that can be used instead of using Paperpal while writing. You can access it only in the web version of Paperpal. Log in and select “Submission check” from the left sidebar. Here you upload your finished manuscript and receive an edited version with corrections and comments about why something should be changed. Additionally Paperpal checks for about 30 different issues with the manuscript (like including the authors’ email addresses). The process takes a few minutes, here is the end result:

Plagiarism detection

Plagiarism does not mean that you willingly steal other authors’ work. Plagiarism can be accidental. Simply expressing ideas without attributing them can lead to problems. Check out the guidelines from Harvard university on the different types of plagiarism. To avoid this upload your manuscript to Paperpal’s plagiarism detection.

A premium account allows you to run a plagiarism check on a medium-large sized paper (7000 words) once a month. The result of the plagiarism check provides a detailed summary of potential sources that might be similar to your text. Additionally you receive suggestions on how to edit your text to avoid plagiarism:

Paperpal Pricing

Depending on whether you pay monthly or yearly for Paperpal the price is USD 9 – 19 a month. However, the free version if used judiciously will give you a good amount of value and will allow to decide whether it is worth it for you. The main use case for me are the language suggestions. One suggestion was generated every ~100-150 words in my example paper. This means that I can run paperpal on 2000-3000 words before hitting the paywall. This number is in the vicinity of a short scientific paper.

You can use ILYAPRIME30 at checkout for a 30% off!

Paperpal vs Grammarly

Grammarly and Paperpal both improve your language and are tight competitors. However Grammarly is optimized for optimizing tonality and intent of your writing, while Paperpal improves the publication readiness of your paper. One could see Paperpal as a very specialized form of Grammarly for academics. Personally I use both in parallel and gain a lot out of it. They are not replacements for one another.

If you are part of the university system check if your university offers free subscriptions to either of these tools sometimes it is the case. If you are a student discuss with your lab whether you could get a collective subscription. While $9 monthly is a lot for a student it is often an irrelevant amount for a lab and the amount of funding it can gather with better papers far outweighs the cost.

Paperpal vs ChatGPT

Paperpal is integrated into word and designed specifically to edit academic text. ChatGPT is a multi purpose general language tool that will not always give optimal results but in my opinion can be more creative in generating texts. Editing and generating are different use cases. Therefore ChatGPT is good for big stroke adjustments, while Paperpal fine-tunes your text to an optimal result. Check out this tutorial for more information on using ChatGPT for academic writing.

Paperpal Discount Code

Use the code ILYAPRIME30 at checkout to get 30% off any plan.

Summary

Paperpal is an AI tool that has been built to edit academic texts. In that sense it differs from ChatGPT which generates generic texts and is not great at editing. It also differs from Grammarly which edits the tonality and intent of your language but is not optimized for academic jargon. The main features of Paperpal are:

  • Language suggestions which includes grammar correction, word choice, typos etc.
  • Synonym finder and translation
  • Trimming and paraphrasing using the Paperpal’s generative AI
  • Submission check (does all of the above for an entire word document/paper)
  • Plagiarism detection
  • Generation of a first draft of your abstract, title or other parts of the manuscript

Paperpal offers some features for free, which amounts to editing a small paper once a month. The premium version allows for unlimited edits and costs US$ 9-19 month.