10 Best AI Research Assistant Tools For Academic Research

AI research assistant

This article goes through the 10 best AI research assistants to help you with, but not limited to:

  • Literature review
  • Research paper summarization
  • Key insights extraction
  • Citation generation
  • And paper search/recommendations

Let’s dive right in.

How we picked


Look, if you’re drowning in research papers, Afforai’s got your back. It’s like Zotero on steroids—you can chat with your documents, organize them, and even collaborate with your team.

Platform availability: Web app.

Free trial/plan?Starting Price
✔️$4.99/month for students, and $9.99/month for others

Use coupon code DHRUVIR at checkout to get a 10% discount on your first Afforai payment.

Julius AI is like that smart friend who’s always spouting facts. It’s great for data analysis and making pretty charts. Web-based, so again, any device with a browser will do.

Platform availability: Web app, Android, and iOS (iPhone and iPad).

Free trial/plan?Starting Price

Use coupon code DHRUVIR at checkout to get a 10% discount on your first Julius AI payment.

Perplexity is like Google on AI juice. It’s a search engine that actually understands what you’re asking.

Platform availability: Web app, Android, and iOS (iPhone and iPad).

Free trial/plan?Starting Price

Ever read a research paper and felt like it was in an alien language? Explainpaper is here to save your brain cells. It breaks down complex papers into bite-sized explanations.

Platform availability: Web app.

Free trial/plan?Starting Price

Elicit is like having a research assistant who never sleeps. It finds relevant papers and summarizes them for you.

Platform availability: Web app.

Free trial/plan?Starting Price

Elicit is like having a research assistant who never sleeps. It finds relevant papers and summarizes them for you.

Platform availability: Web app.

Free trial/plan?Starting Price

This one’s like Google Scholar’s cooler cousin. It’s got a massive database of scientific papers and uses AI to help you find the good stuff.

Platform availability: Web app.

Free trial/plan?Starting Price
✔️Free to use

ChatPDF does exactly what it says on the tin – it lets you chat with your PDFs. Upload a paper, ask questions, and get answers.

Platform availability: Web app.

Free trial/plan?Starting Price

Consensus is like having a team of scientists in your pocket. It searches through a ton of scientific papers and gives you the consensus view.

Platform availability: Web app.

Free trial/plan?Starting Price

System is the visual learner’s dream. It helps you understand scientific literature by showing you how different topics connect.

Platform availability: Web app.

Free trial/plan?Starting Price
✔️$12/month (or $6/month for students)

1. Afforai

AI-equipped research and reference manager with team collaboration



  • The free plan is pretty generous with 20 AI queries per day, 500 MB storage, and standard AI LLMs.
  • It’s like Zotero on steroids. You get all the usual stuff like organizing papers but with AI smarts baked in.
  • You can actually talk to your research papers. No joke. Upload them and chat away using AI.
  • Finding new research is a breeze. You can use normal human language to search through a massive database of peer-reviewed papers.
  • It’s got some serious AI muscle. We’re talking about access to the latest models like GPT-4 and Claude.
  • Teamwork is easy-peasy. You can share folders and collaborate without breaking a sweat.
  • The note-taking feature is pretty slick. You can highlight stuff, add sticky notes, and even ask AI to explain tricky parts.


  • The interface can sometimes take a while to load (depending on your internet connection).
  • Like any AI tool, it might sometimes give you wonky answers. AI isn’t perfect, you know? (always cross-check facts).
  • There’s a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of all the features.

Afforai is an academic research assistant and a reference manager with generative AI capabilities.

It’s like Zotero and Mendeley, but much better.

Afforai enables you to:

  • upload your research papers
  • organize them inside folders
  • share those folders/research papers and collaborate as a team
  • chat with them using AI
  • take notes
  • and generate citations/bibliography.

And that’s just the trailer.

Afforai enables you to find new research papers through natural language inputs with their “Semantic Scholar Mode” feature. It is a database that consists of over 200 million peer-reviewed research papers.

Afforai’s research assistant comes with three search modes:

  1. Document Retrieval Mode: Upload and chat with multiple documents simultaneously. Get answers backed by citations.
  2. Semantic Scholar Mode: Ask questions and get answers from over 200 million peer-reviewed research papers database.
  3. Google Search Mode: Acts like an AI search engine. Ask any question and get answers from relevant sources from the internet.

What’s more, you get access to the top AI models, including:

Afforai's access to SOTA LLMs
  • Azure GPT-4 Omni
  • Azure GPT-4
  • Azure GPT-3.5
  • Claude 3.5 Sonnet
  • Claude 3.5 Haiku
  • And custom models (BYOK aka Bring Your Own Key).

These models can be used both in the Afforai research assistant and Afforai Notebook.

That brings me to, well, Afforai Notebooks. This handy note-taking feature allows you to load your research paper inside Afforai’s note-taking interface.

Here, you can:

  • highlight text (various color options)
  • highlight area
  • and add a sticky note to any part of the page.

When you have questions or doubts about certain paragraphs inside the research paper, you can highlight them and ask AI to summarize/explain that specific paragraph(s).

Super useful!

Working together on your research projects has never been this easy.

To invite members to your Afforai workspace, head over to the organization and invite them with their email addresses.

Inviting new members to Afforai

You can choose to make them:

  • either Viewer: can view organization.
  • or Admin: can view the organization, add and remove members, and assign and unassign seats.

Finally, if you’re using something else like Zotero, it’s effortless to import your citation files into Afforai with their support for RIS, BibTex, and CFF formats.


  • Paper Management: Upload your research papers and organize them into folders.
  • AI Chat: This is the cool part. You can have a conversation with your documents using AI.
  • Smart Search Modes: Chat with multiple papers at once get answers with citations and tap into a massive database of 200 million research papers.
  • Top-notch AI Models: You get access to the big guns like GPT-4 and Claude. You can even bring your own AI if you’re feeling fancy.
  • Afforai Notebooks: This is where the magic happens for note-taking. You can load papers, highlight text, add sticky notes, and ask AI to explain stuff you don’t get.
  • Team Collaboration: Invite your research buddies to your workspace. You can make them viewers or admins, depending on how much you trust them.
  • Citation Generation: Say goodbye to the headache of manually creating bibliographies. Afforai’s got your back.


Afforai pricing

Afforai offers a forever free plan (they call it Starter).

There are three paid plan options:

  • Student: $4.99 per month ($3.99 per month if billed annually). This plan requires a student (EDU) email ID for verification.
  • Professional: $9.99 per month ($7.99 per month if billed annually).
  • and Unlimited: $19.99 per month ($16.99 per month on annual billing).

If storage is a priority to you, I recommend going with the Unlimited plan, which gives you unlimited storage.

My Experience With Afforai

Afforai is great at what it does: reference management.

But it’s also great when it comes down to research assistants, especially when you’re reading research papers.

I love how well they’ve integrated AI into their Afforai Notebook feature.

You read the research paper, highlight what you find interesting, take notes, view all your notes/highlights organized on the right sidebar, and ask questions to AI about anything inside that paper.

It’s so amazing!

Not only that but uploading your research paper to Afforai cannot get any easier!

You get three different options to upload a paper:

  1. Upload file: Allows you to upload PDF, DOCX, TXT, MDOWN, EPUB, and PPTX file formats (256 MB per file allowed).
  2. Upload URL: Upload links to research papers, articles, etc.—any web pages you want.
  3. or Upload DOI: Allows you to fetch a research paper by entering DOI, arXiv, PMID, or ISBN.

Once the file is uploaded, click on it. Additional details about that file appear on the right sidebar.

Additional info about the paper inside Afforai

And if you right-click on your file, you get a few useful options as well, including, but not limited to:

  • citation exporting
  • citation generation
  • moving it to a specific folder
  • assigning it a tag for easy discoverability
  • and using your file with the research assistant.

Afforai’s citation generator allows you to choose from 10,000 different citation styles.

Afforai's citation generator

The research assistant is Afforai’s most powerful feature.

It’s like ChatGPT which does not hallucinate, has web access, provides sources for every answer, and is specifically and extensively trained on millions of academic research papers.

Give Afforai’s free plan a try right now and see it in action:

AFFORAI COUPON CODE: Use coupon code DHRUVIR on checkout to get a flat 10% discount on your first payment.

2. Julius AI

A Conversational AI Assistant for Data Analysis and Visualization

Julius AI


  • Powerful data analysis and visualization capabilities.
  • Intuitive conversational interface, easy for non-technical users.
  • Access to the latest language models like GPT-4, Claude, LLaMA.
  • Internet access for up-to-date information.
  • Extensive academic assistance features (math, research, etc.)


  • File uploads get deleted after 1 hour (for security).
  • Advanced features are limited on the free plan.
  • Potential for biases or errors from underlying language models

Julius AI is a groundbreaking tool that brings the power of advanced data analysis and visualization to everyone, regardless of technical expertise.

It lets you interact with your data files using simple natural language, just like you would chat with an AI assistant.

With Julius AI, you can upload any type of data file—Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, CSVs, you name it—and then ask it to perform complex operations like regression modeling, projections, statistical analysis, and more.

Julius AI is also an incredibly versatile visualization tool. You can create any type of chart or graph, from basic bar plots to intricate 3D visualizations and geographic maps.

The real game-changer, though, is Julius AI’s ability to generate interactive and animated visualizations that bring your data to life.

As a researcher, it can even allow you to upload multiple research papers and summarize them.


  • Academic Assistance: Step-by-step solutions for complex math problems. Analyze research papers, create literature reviews, and plenty more.
  • Data Handling and Analysis: Upload data files (Excel, CSV, PDFs, etc.). Perform complex analytics like regression modeling, projections, and data animations.
  • Data Visualization: Create all types of charts and graphs (bar, scatter, pie, geographic, 3D, etc.). Create interactive visualizations you can edit, download, and animate chart GIFs.
  • Machine Learning: Build and train models using popular libraries (sci-kit-learn, TensorFlow, etc.). Make predictions on new data with trained models.
  • Multimedia Processing: Julius AI also helps you with image recognition and analysis, video downloading, trimming, stitching, etc.
  • Web Scraping: Simple natural language prompts to scrape any website. Get data summaries and insights from web pages.
  • AI Answer Engine: Access GPT-4, Claude, and other latest language models. Answers backed by cited sources, no hallucinations. Internet access for up-to-date information.


Julius AI pricing

Julius AI has a free plan where you can send 15 messages/month.

Below are its paid plan options:

  • Basic: $20/month: 250 messages, core features, basic support.
  • Essential: $45/month: Unlimited messages, advanced data inputs, priority support.
  • Pro: $60/month: Premium support, direct CEO access.
  • Team: $70/user/month: Centralized billing, the longest data inputs.

My Experience With Julius AI

Julius AI is incredibly versatile—it’s like having a genius AI assistant that can handle any data-related task you throw at it.

From insightful visualizations to coding assistance to multimedia editing, the sheer breadth of capabilities is mind-blowing.

What I love most is how accessible it makes complex stuff like summarizing a lot of academic papers at once and providing clear insights.

The conversational interface is super intuitive too. If you can use ChatGPT, you’ll be right at home chatting with Julius.

Julius AI dashboard

That said, the inability to permanently save file uploads is a bit limiting for larger, ongoing projects.

And like any AI tool, you have to be wary of potential biases or hallucinations from the underlying language models.

If seamless data analysis minus the technical overhead appeals to you, I’d definitely recommend giving Julius AI a shot, even on the free tier.

It’s that impressive.

FURTHER READING: Julius AI Review: Turn Complex Data Into Your Best Insights

3. Perplexity AI

Best AI Search Engine With GPT-4-Powered Copilot

Perplexity AI


  • Discovers and processes vast amounts of information from diverse sources.
  • Find answers to your questions without spending extensive time searching for information manually.
  • The copilot uses GPT-4 helping you perform automatic research, saving a lot of time.


  • The accuracy of information presented on Perplexity depends on the quality and reliability of the sources it uses (which are more often than not the top-ranking pages on the SERPs).
  • The copilot feature in the free plan is limited to 5 searches, resetting every 4 hours.

Perplexity is my go-to tool for initial research. In fact, I used Perplexity to help me research for this blog post.

It is an AI-powered search engine that enables you to unlock the real power of Natural Language Processing (NLP).

Meaning, like ChatGPT, you can ask any question to Perplexity, and it will come up with a variety of responses from different sources.

Perplexity does a great job of gathering a lot of facts and/or opinions to help you make a sound decision.

With Perplexity, you can pull relevant results from:

  • All search engine web sources
  • Academic (published research papers)
  • Wolfram|Alpha
  • YouTube
  • Reddit
  • And Wikipedia

Besides being like plug and play, Perplexity AI is available on the web, as a Chrome extension, and as an app for Android and iOS, making it easy to access.


Besides a lot of other things, Perplexity’s speed is something worth considering. I have found it to be a lot faster than ChatGPT in giving results.

On top of that, here are its features:

  • Real-time search: Perplexity AI can search the web in real time and provide you with fresh information on any topic.
  • Recommendations: Whenever you search for something, after giving results, Perplexity will give you related questions you might have (think Google’s People Also Ask but better).
  • Citations: Everything that Perplexity creates/curates has some base/source(s) to back it up. This brings in at least some reliability.
  • Natural language processing: OpenAI’s GPT technology powers Perplexity AI, which allows it to understand and generate human-like text with minimal hallucinations.
  • Chatbot capability: Perplexity AI can also act as a chatbot, conversing with you in a way ChatGPT does (asking follow-up questions).


Perplexity AI pricing and plans

You can use Perplexity for free. With the free plan, you get access to unlimited searches from all places (Google, YouTube, Reddit…), and GPT-4-powered 5 copilot searches every four hours.

The pro plan costs $20/month, enabling you to access SOTA (state-of-the-art) LLMs for all answers. Additionally, you get 600 copilot searches per day and priority access to all future updates.

You can even visualize up to 50 answers/day inside Perplexity Playground AI, with image models such as DALL-E, SDXL, etc.

My Experience With Perplexity AI

Launched in August 2022, I got my hands on Perplexity when I started searching for an online tool that could help me with my capstone project.

Since December 2022, I have been using it to help me with—extracting crucial ideas from YouTube videos, extracting honest opinions from Reddit, and plenty more.

For research and brain dumps, one of the best things you can do with Perplexity is to plug in any question you have, choose academic as your focus, and hit enter.

Perplexity AI for academic paper research

Thanks to Perplexity, you don’t ever have to do a manual search for these published papers on Google Scholar, JSTOR, and whatnot.

Perplexity answer to my question

Now let’s say you are doing research on “best dog food brands in the United States” and you want to generate a decent list of brands that live up to the mark.

In this case, you can turn on Perplexity’s copilot and then ask a question like, “Help me come with a list of the best dog food brands in the United States.”

Perplexity Copilot

It will start by searching the web (or any focus source you have chosen) and consider all the relevant sources:

Copilot searching the web and coming up with relevant sources

And come up with, in this case, a list of what you were looking for:

Copilot answer

To check the answer sources, scroll beneath the answer and you will these symbols:

Sources symbol

This symbol reveals all the sources it took the answers from. This is helpful for you to double-check the authenticity of the sources.

Sources given by Perplexity AI

And as discussed earlier, at the very end, you can see all the related questions you might have, in this case, about, dog brands in the US.

Related questions in Perplexity

I see myself using Perplexity for all the initial searches, for most if not all queries, generally speaking.

For me, it’s like Perplexity > Google (through Perplexity source) > To the targeted article a YouTube video, or an academic paper.

In this way, the answers I want are not only filtered but also of better quality.

Start using Perplexity for absolutely free today:

FURTHER READING: The Most Complete & Practical Perplexity AI Review: Research Tool That Doesn’t Hallucinate

4. Explainpaper

Best AI To Read Research Papers Faster



  • Allows you to highlight confusing text in a paper and get explanations on the same page.
  • You can upload and save the papers for future use.
  • The Free plan offers unlimited highlight explanations, meaning you can annotate and seek explanations for various sections of research papers without any restrictions.
  • You can ask follow-up questions, which enhances the interactive experience and enables a deeper understanding of the research papers.


  • While the Free plan provides basic functionality, certain advanced features (like summaries) are only available in paid plans.
  • Because ChatGPT powers the summaries you get, there are chances of getting hallucinated answers.

Explainpaper simplifies and explains complex concepts in research papers using an AI model, making it faster and easier for you to read and understand academic papers.

All you need to do is upload research papers as a PDF or a URL and highlight confusing text for explanation.

It will explain the highlighted section without moving back and forth between countless websites.

Explainpaper provides an interactive experience and feels like having a buddy to read the paper together.

And I am not the only one not getting enough of Explainpaper.

As of writing this, Explainpaper is available as a web app with a completely free plan to get started with.


Explainpaper dashboard

Explainpaper is minimal and easy to use with a single “Upload PDF” button to get started.

No fears, no distractions.

Here are its features:

  • Upload and highlight: You can upload academic papers and highlight any confusing text you come across.
  • AI-based explanations: Explainpaper utilizes GPT-3 davinci-002, to provide simplified explanations for complex concepts in academic papers.
  • Simplicity: Unlike many tools out there, it cannot get any easier than Explainpaper.
  • Save papers for future use: You have the option to save uploaded papers for future reference, allowing you to revisit and review the explanations.
  • Explanation customization: While getting answers for your highlighted text, you can choose the difficulty of the explanation (e.g., 5-year-old, graduate, expert, and so on).
  • Related resources: For everything you highlight and get answers to, Explainpaper provides you with related links to learn more.


Explainpaper pricing

Explainpaper offers a free plan, which grants you unlimited access to highlight explanations and ask follow-up questions.

Their Plus plan costs $12 per month. With this plan, you can generate summaries of any uploaded research papers. Furthermore, you can access and review all your highlights and explanations in one place.

For those who want to analyze many papers at once powered by GPT-4, Explainpaper has the Pro plan costing $20 per month.

My Experience With Explainpaper

Now, Explainpaper is not something I use every single day, but for all the time I played around with it, it is helpful.

Whether you are someone doing your academic capstone project or someone involved in scientific research, you can use Explainpaper to help you quickly read your research papers and make sense of them.

Once you log in, a spotless interface will prompt you to upload a PDF or a link.

Upload PDF to Explainpaper

Next, your PDF will open on the left and there will be a window on the right where you will be able to chat with your PDF.

Explainpaper interface

Now, like you would with a simple PDF, start reading until something confuses the hell out of your mind.

If that happens, highlight that part. Once you highlight a certain text, it will appear on the window on the right side.

Highlighted text

Select the level of difficulty you want your answer on and click explain. You will get your explanation with the ability to ask follow-up questions and some related sources from the web to learn further.

PDF explanations in Explainpaper

That’s it! You can now not only read long research papers faster but also understand and take notes without leaving Explainpaper’s interface.

I have found it better to read PDFs with Explainpaper than reading without it. In my experience, the free plan will be adequate for most.

5. Elicit

Best AI Research Paper Finder and Summarizer



  • Elicit can assist with various research tasks, including academic search, Q&A, literature review research matrix, and querying details of individual papers.
  • It helps automate and streamline the research process, starting with literature reviews.
  • Elicit highlights the text that is used to generate answers, making it easier for you to verify the information.
  • Besides finding relevant papers, you can upload your own PDFs to generate summaries and further insights.


  • Elicit is only as good as the papers underlying it. While researchers are generally careful and rigorous, there may be errors or biases in the literature that Elicit relies on.
  • The results of follow-up questions are not as good and accurate as tools like Explainpaper.

Elicit is a research assistant (developed by Ought) that utilizes language models like GPT-3 to automate parts of researchers’ workflows.

Its cornerstone feature is the Literature Review.

When you ask a question, Elicit presents relevant papers and provides summaries of key information about those papers in an easy-to-use table.

Elicit can find relevant papers even if they don’t directly match the keywords used in the query (thank you, NLP).

They do it by employing semantic similarity to identify papers related to your question, even if they use different terminology.

For example, it can return papers about “fitness” when the query only mentions “aerobic exercise.”

Elicit is free to use on the web as well as a desktop app.


Elicit features

I always strive to find tools and software that take the smallest time to master. The same goes for their ease of use.

Elicit is one of the few academic/scientific research apps that have done a great job of maintaining a clear interface with more than adequate whitespace.

Trust me, you will never get lost—even if you enter alone.

Here are its features:

  • Semantic similarity search: Elicit can find relevant papers even if they don’t exactly match the keywords used in the query.
  • Rates and evaluates a paper on important metrics: Besides providing you with the abstract summary, Elicit also gives you useful metrics like the SCImago Journal Rank score to check the popularity and reliability of the paper.
  • Sort and filters: You can filter the papers based on whether they have PDFs, based on published dates, keywords, and so on.
  • Save and export: Elicit enables you to save queries with starred results for later review. You can also download CSV or .bib files to import into reference managers like Zotero.
  • Additional tasks (templates): Elicit provides other research tasks beyond Literature Review, including user-created tasks that are unique to the platform. These tasks aid in brainstorming research questions, summarizing paragraphs, and rephrasing text snippets.


Elicit's donate page

Elicit is free to use. However, if you wish to support their mission, you can donate from their official support page.

My Experience With Elicit

I did use Elicit to help me with our undergraduate capstone project on “challenges of fishing industry”. I was able to find relevant and high-quality research papers to cite.

As of now, I use Elicit whenever I need facts or statistics that I need to add to my blog posts.

Because it supports NLP and semantic search, you get a lot of opinions and statistics to choose from.

The best and the most simple way I like to use Elicit is by asking a statistical/factual question.

Here’s an example:

Asking question in Elicit

Thanks to the abstract summary, I can save time in finding what I am looking for.

Abstract summary in Elicit

The “network signal” resembling sign that you see on a research paper is the SCImago Journal Rank score of that paper.

SCImago journal rank

It helps to filter out the best from the rest and refer to only what’s the most reliable.

And for every question you put in, Elicit will also provide you with the summary of the top 4 papers on the left sidebar.

Summary of top 4 papers

And besides the abstract summary, Elicit also provides information on the following:

  • Number of participants
  • Intervention
  • And outcomes.

When you open a certain paper, you will see more details about it and the ability to ask follow-up questions about the research paper.

Follow-up question

Although the follow-up question feature requires a lot of improvement, all these features together make Elicit an efficient tool to use.

Not to mention the fact that you can also upload your own PDFs and make sense of them in seconds.

Give it a try, it’s free!

6. Iris.ai

Smart Research Automation Platform



  • Iris.ai gamifies your research process with a clean and animated interface.
  • The content-based recommendation engine allows you to explore interdisciplinary topics without being limited by traditional keyword-based searches.
  • The ability to extract key data points from text and tables and organize them into a machine-readable format is a significant time-saver.
  • You can set up the system to run searches, filters, and extractions on content, with alerts for new documents that match specific criteria.


  • Iris.ai comes with a lot of learning curve, especially if you want to learn everything it has to offer.
  • The free plan comes with limited functionality, and the paid plan is costly.

Iris.ai is a gamified AI-powered research workspace to help researchers with various research tasks, including:

  • Scientific text understanding
  • Literature reviews
  • Research data extraction
  • Post-market surveillance
  • And other tedious research-related activities.

It provides a set of smart search and filtering capabilities, reading list analysis, auto-generated summaries, and autonomous data extraction and systematizing features.

The AI engine behind Iris.ai has been trained on a large set of scientific articles, and it offers domain adaptation to increase the quality of results for specific research fields.

You can provide documents relevant to your research field, and Iris.ai’s machine-learning engine creates a vocabulary specific to that domain.

Iris.ai is versatile and can handle various types of scientific and research content, including open-access and paywalled research papers, patents, internal documents, whitepapers, technical specifications, and plenty more.


Iris.ai features
  • Context filtering: You can filter documents based on criteria that can be described in a sentence, even if they cannot be expressed in a single keyword. This enables more precise and context-based filtering.
  • Reading list analysis: Iris.ai can analyze your reading list and suggest relevant papers based on your interests.
  • Data filtering: Advanced filtering options allow users to filter documents based on specific entities, data points, or data ranges extracted from the content.
  • Data extraction and systematization: Iris.ai’s Extract tool automates the extraction of key data points from text, tables, graphs, and figures.
  • Summarization: The summarization engine quickly produces summaries of many abstracts, full-text documents, or groups of similar documents.
  • Support for any type of document: The Researcher Workspace can handle various types of research content, including research papers, patents, internal research documentation, and more.
  • Premium features: Iris.ai Premium unlocks full access to more advanced discovery and literature features such as map editing, patent inclusion, Focusing on multiple maps or problem statements querying, expanded content, edit functionalities, and relevance filters.


Iris.ai pricing

Iris.ai offers two types of subscriptions: “Premium” and “Basic.”

1. Premium Subscription:

Monthly Cost: €75 per month.

Benefits: With the Premium subscription, you get access to over 200 million open-access research papers from various sources like CORE, arXiv.org, PubMed, and the US Patent Office.

The Premium plan provides more advanced features, such as importing your datasets, improved analysis, summary generation, context filters, and much more.

SIDENOTE: You can start with a 10-day free trial to explore the Premium features.

2. Basic Subscription:

Cost: Free account with limited functionality.

Benefits: The Basic subscription allows access to open-access research papers from sources like Core.ac.uk and PubMed.


Overall, Iris.ai is a great app if you are into scientific research.

Although the free plan is limited, it can help you find related research papers and group them by concepts (creating a beautiful map).

Iris.ai map

Additionally, the free plan also offers a “Focusing” feature that helps you narrow down a large collection of documents to find the most relevant ones. You can start with up to 20,000 documents.

Focusing feature in Iris.ai

It allows you to quickly refine the document collection down to a short reading list that covers the core, relevant information.

Irrespective of the complexity of the research papers you write, I believe Iris.ai can give you the kick-start you need.

Get started with its free plan.

7. Semantic Scholar

AI-powered Research Paper Discovery And Insight Tool

Semantic Scholar


  • Semantic Scholar utilizes artificial intelligence to provide highly relevant search results from its extensive database of scientific papers.
  • It generates recommendations based on the context of your search, helping you discover related papers and expand your knowledge.
  • Semantic Scholar offers a profound reader feature called Semantic Reader, which revolutionizes scientific reading by making it more accessible and richly contextual.


  • While Semantic Scholar has a large database, it may not index all articles from every publisher, so some articles may not be available on the platform.
  • Semantic Scholar focuses on scientific literature, so non-academic researchers might find it less useful for non-scholarly sources.

Semantic Scholar is a simplistic yet powerful AI-driven search engine to analyze research papers, extract crucial information, and generate relevant recommendations.

It offers access to a vast database containing over 207 million papers from all fields of science.

It’s very easy to use, and you can utilize its search functionality to find relevant research papers.

The search can be filtered using parameters such as journals and conferences, authors, publication types, and date ranges.

Even better? Semantic Scholar is open source and free to use.

Whether you are a student, academic researcher, or professional in any field, Semantic Scholar can be a valuable asset for your research endeavors.


Semantic Scholar features
  • Vast Paper Database: Semantic Scholar provides access to over 207 million papers from all fields of science.
  • Advanced Search: You can perform highly specific searches using filters such as journals and conferences, authors, publication types, and date ranges to find relevant research papers.
  • TLDR Summaries: To save time, Semantic Scholar offers TLDRs (Too Long; Didn’t Read) for nearly 60 million papers in computer science, biology, and medicine.
  • Highly Influential Citations: This feature uses a machine-learning model to analyze factors like the number of citations and surrounding context.
  • Personal Library: You can create a free account and manage your reading lists in a personal library. This library allows you to store and organize papers of interest, access them from anywhere, and even create customized folders.
  • AI-Powered Research Feeds: You can activate AI-powered Research Feeds for specific folders in your library. These feeds provide automated paper recommendations based on the papers in the folder.


Semantic Scholar is free to use.


I don’t use Semantic Scholar because Elicit already does a commendable job of finding papers and providing me with a summary.

But, Semantic Scholar can complement Elicit.

Because while Elicit is great at providing you with concise abstracts, Semantic Scholar’s AI-equipped recommendation engine is powerful.

In fact, they have a separate feature where you can set up recommendations based on the existing papers you select.

Semantic Scholar recommendations

All you need to do is enter your topic keyword:

Influential papers

Select three papers:

Saved papers for better recommendations in Semantic Scholar

And done! You have now set up your library of influential papers, where Semantic Scholar will provide you with recommendations.

Semantic Search Library

Get started with Semantic Scholar for free.

8. ChatPDF

ChatGPT For PDFs



  • ChatPDF provides a quick and user-friendly way to interact with PDF files without the need for sign-in.
  • It comes with a lot of use cases including, summarizing PDFs in any language, asking questions about the content, translating text, and so on.
  • ChatPDF can extract key information from PDF documents, which can be helpful for tasks such as brainstorming and summarization.


  • ChatPDF may not be able to summarize PDFs that are inaccessible or behind paywalls.
  • The free plan can only read up to 10 MB/PDF or 120 pages per PDF.

ChatPDF is a stupidly simple AI-powered web tool that allows you to interact with and extract information from PDF documents.

It leverages GPT-3.5 to help you understand research papers, academic articles, books, legal contracts, financial reports, and other types of PDF content.

It enables you to upload any PDF with text information and ask ChatPDF to summarize it, answer questions about the written text, translate it to another language, or find a specific paragraph/sentence.

The best part? Without signing up, or logging in, you can drop your PDFs and start using them.

ChatPDF has a free as well as a premium plan.


ChatPDF features
  • User-friendly interface: ChatPDF is designed to be fast, easy to use, and secure. Uploaded files are stored in a secure cloud storage system, ensuring privacy and data protection.
  • Summarizing PDFs: It can provide concise summaries of the uploaded PDFs, making it easier and faster for you to grasp the main points and key information.
  • Answering questions: You can ask specific questions about the content of the PDF, and ChatPDF will attempt to provide relevant and accurate answers.
  • Language support: The service works with PDFs in any language and is capable of processing and responding in many languages.
  • Cited sources: Answers generated by ChatPDF contain references to the original PDF document, making it easy for you to verify the information and find the source within the document.
  • Simultaneous chats: ChatPDF’s interface is created in such a way that you can upload and chat with many PDFs at a time.
  • Sharing and exporting: You can share your PDF chats with a given link. You can also export the chats.


ChatPDF pricing

ChatPDF offers a free plan where you can work with up to 120 pages of PDF documents per month, and each PDF should not exceed 10 MB in size.

You are limited to processing up to 3 PDFs per day and asking up to 50 questions per day.

On the other hand, there is the Plus plan, which costs $5 per month. You can work with up to 2,000 pages of PDF documents per month, and each PDF can be up to 32 MB in size.

This plan allows you to process up to 50 PDFs per day and ask up to 1000 questions per day.


If you’re also wondering, “How are Explainpaper and ChatPDF any different?”

The only difference between the two is the paper summary and the highlight feature.

While the free plan of ChatPDF generates a summary, you need a paid plan of Explainpaper to do the same.

ChatPDF summary

Next, and this is a big one: Explainpaper quickly explains all the doubts you have by selecting them.

ChatPDF does not have that feature yet. You need to ask follow-up questions manually.

It also does not recommend related sources to learn more, like Explainpaper.

In summary, Explainpaper offers more robust summarization and explanation capabilities, especially for free users.

The highlight and explain feature and recommendations for further learning are unique advantages not currently found in ChatPDF.

Pro Tip: Use any one of them and you’re good to go.

If you liked what you saw, give ChatPDF a try for free.

9. Consensus

AI-powered Academic Search Engine



  • Consensus provides scientifically verified results from peer-reviewed, published sources.
  • It uses AI to extract and distill findings directly from scientific research papers.
  • Consensus automates parts of the research process, making finding rigorous answers simple and easy. It can help you save time, improve your work, and make faster progress.


  • I could not find anything critically wrong with Consensus 🙂

Consensus is an AI-powered beautiful search engine to assist researchers, students, doctors, professionals, and evidence-conscious consumers in conducting effective research.

Consensus is specifically designed to help you find insights in research papers.

It allows you to ask research questions and provides relevant results based on peer-reviewed scientific literature.

One of the best things about Consensus is its vast database of over 200 million scientific papers.

You can search through this extensive collection without needing to rely on specific keyword matches, making it easier to access relevant information.

With a free plan offering unlimited searches, there is no reason not to try Consensus.


Consensus features
  • Results you can trust: All results provided by Consensus are tied to actual studies. The platform cites its sources, ensuring transparency and reliability.
  • Instant analysis: Consensus incorporates proprietary and purpose-built features that utilize advanced AI technologies like GPT-4 and other Language Model-based Learning (LLMs) to summarize research results quickly and efficiently.
  • Wide user application: The platform caters to various user groups, including researchers, students, clinicians, analysts, content creators, and health and fitness enthusiasts, addressing their specific research needs.
  • User-friendly interface: Consensus offers a user-friendly interface that facilitates easy navigation and efficient searching.
  • Synthesize: There is a feature called Synthesize that, when toggled on, analyzes the top 6 papers and gives you an overall summary.
  • Sharing: You get a shareable link for all the AI-generated answers for a particular question.
  • Consensus Meter: This is a metric that it uses to identify relevant findings based on how they would answer your question.


Consensus pricing

Consensus offers two different plans for its users: Free and Premium.

With the free plan, you get unlimited searches and access to research quality indicators, such as Study Types and Journal Metrics. You can also enjoy three summaries and three Consensus Meters per month.

Premium plan costs $9.99 per month. With Premium, you get everything included in the Free plan, plus some great extras. You’ll have access to unlimited GPT-4 Summaries and Consensus Meters, which can be useful for your research needs.

SIDENOTE: If you happen to be a student, you can claim a 40% student discount on the paid plan.


Consensus is interesting and if you’re into scientific research, it can be very useful and time-saving.

While Consensus does not allow you to ask follow-up questions like Elicit, its synthesize feature (summary) and consensus meter are pretty cool.

Consensus meter

You can give Consensus’s free plan a try:

10. System

Visual Scientific Literature Synthesizer



  • Synthesis and contextualization of information help you understand scientific articles.
  • Organizational capabilities allow you to create collections of relevant papers.
  • Time-saving, eliminates the need for manual searching and sorting through vast amounts of information.


  • While System aims to simplify research, you may still need to learn how to navigate its features effectively, especially if you are accustomed to using other search engines like Google Scholar or PubMed.

System is an AI-powered research assistant tool to enhance the process of scientific literature search, synthesis, and contextualization, particularly in the fields of health and life sciences.

Based on your search queries, System generates fast, accurate, and up-to-date overviews of relevant research.

Furthermore, it provides clear citations of all the sources used in the synthesis. On average, a synthesis of System cites 36 studies, ensuring transparency and traceability of information.

System is refreshed daily with the latest research from sources like PubMed, ensuring you have access to the most current and relevant studies.

The best part?

System recommends and visualizes topics that are part of the broader system within which your search falls.

Graph view in System

This helps contextualize the search and uncover new connections and insights.


System features
  • Synthesis of research: Based on your search, System provides a fast, accurate, and up-to-date overview of the relevant research.
  • Transparent citations: All syntheses on System are cited, with transparent information about the sources used.
  • Up-to-date information: It is refreshed daily with the latest research from reliable sources.
  • Systemic approach: The search engine recommends and visualizes topics that are part of the broader system related to your search.
  • Reliability and accuracy: The system uses models that meet high standards of accuracy, and performance is continuously monitored.
  • User experience: For any query you enter, you get the study title, author, summary, number of citations, and publish date—all on the same page.


System Pro Pricing

System has a completely free plan that is all about using it as a semantic keyword-finding tool (through connected graphs) in the world of scientific literature.

System free plan

System Pro offers a 10-day free trial and then costs $12/month unlocking all the advanced features.

SIDENOTE: If you are a student, System Pro costs you $6/month (half the original price).


I haven’t used System or System Pro for any serious work.

It is an advanced tool and not for everyone.

But if you want to learn about something in-depth, then System is a phenomenal companion.

All you need to do is enter a topic, and it will come up with all the studies conducted around and/or related to it in the world.

System Pro capabilities

Give the System Pro plan a free try and use it without any restrictions (10-day free trial).

That was it.

Now, it’s your turn.

Which AI research assistants do you find yourself using the most?

Is it Afforai?

Is it Elicit?

Or maybe it is some other tool not mentioned here!

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

DISCLOSURE: Some links in this blog post may be affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase or sign up for a service through these links, I may earn a small commission. However, I want to assure you that this does not affect the price you pay. I only recommend products and services that I genuinely believe in. Learn more.

Dhruvir Zala

Meet your guide
Dhruvir Zala

I started this blog to provide brutally honest reviews of various Text-To-Speech tools and software. My only objective is to help you pick the best ones.

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  1. Hey Dhruvir, that was a really nice read. Very clearly laid out and great detail on each of the tools. Thank you for putting this together. It’s so useful I’ve bookmarked the page so I can come back here to try them all when I start my next project. 🙂

    1. Hi Jack,

      I feel really good when my readers find value in what I write. The goal with this guide was to help college/university students arm up with the tools that make their academic life easy and give them an edge.

      Keep revisiting! I will, very soon, update this guide by adding a few more useful AI research assistants that I discovered.

  2. Great article, well laid out and very helpful. Do you know of an AI tool that I can use that will limit it’s answers to ONLY the sets of papers in in my archive. And also that can use my Roam Research (wiki style notes, ith tons of cross references) as a primary source? th!

    1. Hi Jon,

      While I am not familiar with Roam Research, I did some research.

      Here’s what I found out:

      Roam Research has an extension called Roam AI. It allows you to integrate AI capabilities directly within Roam. It uses OpenAI’s GPT-3 language model to provide features like text completion, idea generation, and playing “devil’s advocate” to help with tasks like writing. Since it works within Roam, it should be able to access and use your Roam notes and references.

      Additionally, I am aware of an AI tool that can help. Humata AI is an AI research assistant that can summarize papers, answer questions, and extract key information. While it cannot access a Roam database, being able to upload and target specific research papers is possible.

      Let me know if any of these work for you.

      1. thanks I appreciate you looking into it. I tried RoamAI – didn’t help much. wonder if the new copilot + PCs would help as while it may not snnake through the full Roam db, it tracks all of your actifity as you create the db and thus should “known” everything that you’ve entered/learned (on your PC)

  3. Hi Dhruvir,
    You did an extraordinary job here. Thank you for the insights on complexity around various AI tools. As an early career scientific researcher this is going to be extremely useful for me. Kudos for your efforts.

  4. Have you checked out Afforai? They are growing a lot in popularity and actually are also one of the top ranked search results on Google when you search AI research assistant.

    1. Hi Peter,

      I was introduced to Afforai by my close friend. While I didn’t check it out yet, it’s definitely on my radar. I will review and write about it soon enough.

      From what I know, it looks like a reference manager (like Zotero) with AI-powered capabilities.

      What about you? Did you try it?

  5. Following up on the Afforai thread:

    As an academic, my research department use several tools but nothing really integrated with AI. We work with all the existing separate tools: Zotero, Endnote, ChatGPT (and Consensus), Perplexity and Claude etc… but no single tool to get faster in bringing information together.

    Finally, Afforai offers an AIO solution that seems designed by academics for academics (not only, of course, but I speak for my use case).

    It perfectly does the job; we can go faster, be even more precise by working on your own text and books (epub is really a good option), and focus on our own research, which is what we want. It’s also amazingly useful for building courses or student book chapters.

    It’s kind of a no-question for our job to pay for Afforai, well done ! It certainly does not do our job, but it really improves it and let us concentrate on what is important.

    It would be really perfect if we could definitly get rid of Zotero and similar tools by having a real bibliography tool (finding duplicates, etc.) and, of course, having a Word and/or Google Docs plugin, that is quite mandatory.

    1. Hi Beth!

      Wow, thank you so much for this awesome conversation. I had no idea Afforai was such a game-changer for academics. An all-in-one tool that actually works?

      It’s super cool to hear how it’s speeding up your research process. And the fact that it works with epubs? That’s huge. That would be a lifesaver for building courses and book chapters.

      You’ve definitely got me curious now.

      I’m thinking I need to dive deeper into Afforai and maybe even write practical guides on the same.

      Oh, and that idea about a Word or Google Docs plugin? Genius. Have you mentioned that to the Afforai team? If not, you totally should.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share all this, Beth. It’s comments like yours that make blogging worth it. You rock!