40 academic writing tools to improve your manuscript

Excellent academic writing requires clarity and precision; fortunately, there are many tools at the disposal of academic writers to achieve the gold standard. From citations to data collection, various tools and software can help improve the writing and presentation of the evidence and argument and, ultimately, improve the chances of getting published in a prestigious and high-ranking academic journal. The same goes for book manuscripts — using these academic writing tools can help improve the chances of a reputable academic press accepting your book for print.

Aiding these publishing goals, this blog post rounds up software and tools that can help with academic writing in the following areas:

Academic writing tools for citations

Citing existing literature on your research topic is an essential part of academic writing. It serves to support your argument and findings, contextualise them within a broader scientific landscape, and illustrate the contribution of your paper or book to the field. However, manually keeping track of your in-text citations, footnotes or endnotes and bibliography can be daunting and messy. This is especially relevant if the journal or press to which you are preparing to submit your text uses a different citation style than you are used to. Fortunately, citation managers such as Endnote, Jabref, Mendeley or Zotero can aid students and researchers in cutting time and ensuring consistency with the preferred citation style.


  • Compatible with Microsoft Word and Apple Pages
  • Browser plugin for Firefox, Safari and Chrome
  • Desktop app compatible with Windows and iOS
  • 7,000+ styles, including main ones like APA or Chicago, and even specific journals’ in-house styles
  • Pricing: one-time purchase licence from $212 or student licence for $116


  • Compatible with Microsoft Word, LibreOffice and LaTex
  • Browser plugin for Edge, Safari, Vivaldi and Chrome
  • Desktop app for Windows, Linux and iOS
  • It supports various citation styles through integration with LaTeX and BibTeX, including APA, Harvard and Chicago
  • Free and open-source


  • Compatible with Microsoft Word
  • Browser plugin compatible with Chrome
  • Desktop app for Windows, Linux and iOS
  • APA, MLA and Harvard citation styles included
  • Free


  • Compatible with Microsoft Word, LibreOffice and Google Docs
  • Browser plugins for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge
  • Desktop app for Windows, Linux and iOS
  • 10,000+ citation styles included
  • Free and open-source
Zotero reference library. Source: zotero.org

Academic writing tools for data analysis and collection

In academic writing, data collection is a crucial step in research. It involves gathering information from various sources and analysing them to form conclusions. However, the process can be time-consuming and complex, especially when dealing with large amounts of data. But with the help of modern technology, data collection has become more accessible and efficient. Quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods research data can now be collected and analysed using Atlas.ti, JASP, Otter and other data collection software.


ATLAS.ti is a computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software that facilitates the analysis of qualitative data for qualitative research, quantitative research and mixed-methods research. For instance, Atlas.ti can be used with interviews, focus groups, literature reviews, user research and survey data.

  • Desktop app compatible with Windows and iOS
  • Pricing: student (2 years) for $99, commercial (1 year) for $579 or multi-user licence (1 year) for $310


Data analysis in a report format in Atlas.ti. Source: atlasti.com

Dedoose is a web-based application for qualitative and mixed-methods research working with text, audio or video data. For instance, it is commonly used in psychology, sociology or anthropology.

  • Cloud-based
  • Pricing: individual for $17.95 or student for $12.95 per month

GraphPad Prism

GraphPad Prism is commonly used for statistical analysis and graphing of quantitative data. Its key features include statistical analysis, graphing and curve fitting. Furthermore, Prism is widely employed by researchers, scientists and students in various disciplines, including biology, medicine and social sciences.

  • Desktop app compatible with Windows and iOS
  • Pricing: student for $142 or academic for $230 per year


JASP is an open-source project supported by the University of Amsterdam. In recognition of Bayesian pioneer Sir Harold Jeffreys, JASP stands for Jeffreys’s Amazing Statistics Program.

  • Desktop app compatible with Windows, Linux and iOS
  • Free


NVivo is a software for qualitative data analysis; it helps qualitative researchers describe, evaluate and interpret social phenomena. For example, they can use NVivo to analyse data from interviews, surveys, field notes, web pages and journal articles and work in sectors from social science sciences such as anthropology, psychology, communication, sociology and education, healthcare, business, forensics, tourism, criminology and marketing. Furthermore, Nvivo works with text, audio, video, emails, images, spreadsheets, online surveys, web content and social media.

  • Desktop app compatible with Windows and iOS
  • Pricing: $118–$2,038
NVivo data collection and analysis process. Source: lumivero.com/products/nvivo


Otter.ai uses AI natural language processing technology to convert human speech into text, thus eliminating the process of manual note-taking. Among other applications, Otter.ai can be used for transcribing in-depth interviews and focus groups with research participants, meetings with colleagues and much more. 

  • Mobile app for Android and iPhone
  • Pricing: Free or Pro for $10 per month (billed annually)
Lecture transcript example from Otter.ai. Source: otter.ai


SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), also known as IBM SPSS Statistics, is a software used to analyse statistical data. For instance, you can use SPSS to prepare and analyse data through an intuitive user interface without writing code using drag-and-drop. In particular, SPSS allows you to run descriptive statistics and regression analyses, view patterns of missing data and summarise variable distributions with an integrated interface.

  • Pricing: $99 per month
SPSS statistics viewer. Source: ibm.com/products/spss-statistics

Academic writing tools for illustrations and figures

Academic writing requires proper use of illustrations and figures to better communicate complex ideas. For instance, using illustrations and figures can help readers better understand the information presented in the text. Nevertheless, creating high-quality illustrations and figures can be a daunting and expensive task, especially for students and researchers unfamiliar with the relevant software tools. Fortunately, various academic writing tools are available, including BioRender, Canva, Draw.io or Mermaid.js, that can help users create professional-looking illustrations and figures with ease.


BioRender contains 50,000+ icons designed by science illustrators and 5,000+ templates in 30 fields of social sciences. Additionally, all content is reviewed for scientific accuracy.

  • Pricing: free, academic for $35 or industry for $79 for a per month (billed annually)
Kidney anatomy created in BioRender. Source: biorender.com


Canva is more suited for design and marketing use since its functionality revolves around creating visuals for social media platforms. Still, for academics, it may offer a cheaper alternative to more academic-oriented tools, like BioRender.

In addition, Canva offers 250,000+ free templates, 100+ design types (social media posts, presentations, etc.), over 1 million free photos and graphics, AI-powered design tools and cloud storage.

  • Pricing plans: Free plan or Pro for $14.99 per month


Draw.io is an online tool for diagramming. Unfortunately, it does not offer templates, but it has received positive reviews online for its intuitive and beginner-friendly interface. 

  • You can save your designs to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, GitHub, GitLab or your device
  • Free
Draw.io interface.


Mermaid is an online JavaScript-based diagramming and charting tool that allows you to create diagrams and visualisations using text and bode. Furthermore, it has extensive documentation and tutorials to support new users.

  • Browser plugin for Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Edge
  • Plugin integrations with GitHub, WordPress, Draw.io, Google Docs and several other platforms
  • Free

Academic writing tools for literature review

The literature review is a crucial part of academic writing, helping to contextualise research within a broader scientific landscape and demonstrate the contribution of a paper or book to the field. Nevertheless, conducting a literature review can be time-consuming, especially when dealing with a large amount of literature. Still, several tools and software, such as LitMaps R Discover or Scite.ai, can help academic writers streamline the literature review process, making it easier to collect, analyse and present the necessary information.


LitMaps is a catalogue of 260+ million papers. Its Seed Map function displays how your paper is situated in the broader literature and lets you start finding new papers to dive into. It provides visualisation of your literature maps and literature discovery tools. In addition, you can share the literature map to social media and export it as a link or an image in your research paper.

  • Pricing: Free or Pro for $10 per month (billed annually)
Literature map. Source: litmaps.com

R Discovery

R Discovery Database is an academic research repository with 115+ million research articles, including 40+ million open-access articles. Abstracts and summaries can be translated into your preferred language. Moreover, you can listen to abstracts and summaries. You can collaborate on reading lists with your peers and lab mates.

  • Free Google Play and App Store app
  • Pricing: Free or Prime for $99 per year


Scite.ai is a platform for discovering and evaluating scientific articles via Smart Citations. Smart Citations allow users to see how a publication has been cited by providing the context of the citation and a classification describing whether it provides supporting or contrasting evidence for the cited claim.

Importantly, Scite.ai includes 1.2 billion citation statements extracted and analysed and 187 million articles, book chapters, preprints and datasets.

  • Zotero integration
  • Browser plugin for Chrome
  • Pricing: €15.2 per month or €114.6 per year

Literature search is a crucial part of academic writing that involves finding and evaluating relevant scholarly articles, books and other publications on a particular topic. Conducting a comprehensive literature search requires a thorough understanding of the databases and search engines used in the field and the ability to critically evaluate the relevance and quality of the sources found. Nowadays, various academic writing tools are available to help researchers and students streamline the literature search process and ensure they are using high-quality sources, such as Research Rabbit, Elicit, Google Scholar or PubMed.

Research Rabbit

Research Rabbit is an online citation-based literature mapping tool. It allows you to create collections of papers, visualise networks of papers and co-authorships and connect your research interests to related articles and authors.

  • Zotero integration
  • Free
Visualisation of networks of papers and co-authorships in the academic writing tool called Research Rabbit
Visualisation of networks of papers and co-authorships in Research Rabbit. Source: researchrabbit.ai


Elicit is an AI research assistant that automates time-consuming research tasks like summarising papers, extracting data and synthesising your findings. 

  • Pricing: Basic (free) or Plus for $10 per month (billed annually)
Search for scientific papers using Elicit. Source: Elicit.com

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines.

  • Free


PubMed is a resource supporting the search and retrieval of biomedical and life sciences literature with the aim of improving health.

The PubMed database contains more than 36 million citations and abstracts of biomedical literature. However, it does not include full-text journal articles.

  • Free

Academic writing tools for plagiarism check

Plagiarism is a serious offence in academic writing and can have severe consequences for students and researchers. It involves using someone else’s work without proper attribution and can result in a lower grade, rejection of the paper or even legal action. To avoid such issues, writers must ensure that their work is original and properly cited. Fortunately, there are a variety of academic writing tools, such as Grammarly, Crossref Similarity Check or QuillBot’s plagiarism checker, that can help users check their work for plagiarism and ensure that they have properly cited all sources.


Grammarly’s plagiarism checker detects plagiarism in your text and checks for other writing issues. It compares your text to billions of web pages and academic papers stored in ProQuest’s databases.

  • Free

Crossref Similarity Check

Similarity Check provided by Crossref and iThenticate editors with a user-friendly tool to help detect plagiarism.

  • Pricing: an annual service fee and a per-document checking fee
Similarity Check process. Source: crossref.org


QuillBot’s plagiarism checker is included in its premium plan ($99.95 per year). It analyses whether any section of your text did not properly attribute authorship to content already published on the web or in books, research papers, academic papers or news sources. Moreover, it searches texts written in 100+ languages.

Academic writing tools for creating publication portfolio

A publication portfolio is a crucial element in the academic world that showcases a researcher’s academic and professional achievements. It includes a list of publications, conference presentations and other scholarly activities and may serve as a basis for academic advancement, grants and other opportunities. However, creating and maintaining a publication portfolio can be time-consuming and challenging, especially for researchers with numerous publications to keep track of. Fortunately, various academic writing tools are available to help users create and manage their publication portfolio with ease, for instance, ResearchGate, Google Scholar Profiles or ORCID.

Google Scholar Profiles

If you are looking for a simple way to showcase your academic publications for free, Google Scholar Profiles can help.

  • Free
Google Scholar profile example. Source: scholar.google.com


Open Researcher and Contributor IDentifier (ORCID) provides a digital identifier (an ORCID iD) that you own and control for free. You can connect your iD with your professional information — affiliations, grants, publications, peer review and more. Furthermore, you can use your iD to share your information with other systems, ensuring you get recognition for all your contributions, saving you time and hassle and reducing the risk of errors.

  • Free


ResearchGate is a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions and find collaborators. As of 2023, it associates 20 million researchers in over 190 countries.

  • Free
A ResearchGate profile example. Source: researchgate.net

Academic writing tools for following a style guide

Style guides are collections of conventions and rules guiding every language decision concerning the text, from punctuation and spelling word choice to format gathered into one database. In a nutshell, their primary purpose is to ensure that all documents in a given environment present a consistent look and use of language. Style guides offer different guidelines for specific areas, such as:

  • citations
  • punctuation
  • capitalisation of heading
  • compound words
  • abbreviations and acronyms.

APA style

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) style guide comprises a set of standards to make scientific writing easier to understand, including grammar, spelling, punctuation and usage guidelines. Moreover, it developed its signature in-text citation style, ethical standards for publishing research and guidelines on how to format an academic paper. Academic social, medical and natural sciences and humanities commonly follow the APA style guide.

In-text citation(Anderson, 1983)
BibliographyAnderson, B. (1983). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. Verso.
An in-text citation example in the American Psychological Association (APA).
  • Pricing (7th edition): ebook for $18.93, paperback for $31.99, spiral-bound for $44.99 or hardcover for $54.99

The Bluebook

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is the style guide for legal citation originating in 1926. It explains how to cite court cases, constitutions, statutes, legal codes, reports, periodicals, government documents and many other types of texts that serve as sources in legal writing.

However, the Bluebook does not function as an independent style guide or provide guidance on abbreviations, punctuation or capitalisation in general.

  • Pricing: online subscription for $39 per year or $46 for a print version


Developed by the Chicago University Press in 1906 and updated seventeen times since, Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) offers standards for writing in commercial and academic publishing and is one of the most widely used style guides. For instance, it includes detailed recommendations for grammar, spelling, punctuation and usage, manuscript formatting and two variations of source citation: 

  • notes and bibliography
  • author-date (with in-text citations similar to APA).
Date-author system
In-text citation(Anderson 1983, 12)
BibliographyAnderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso.
Notes and bibliography style
Footnote/endnoteFirst mention: 1 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1983), 26.
Following mentions: 2 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 98–100.
BibliographyAnderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso, 1983.
Date-author system and notes and bibliography style examples in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS).
  • Pricing (17th edition): online subscription for $44 per year or a print version for $70

IEEE style

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Editorial Style Manual for Authors contains a formal set of editorial guidelines for IEEE journals and other publications, including:

  • punctuation
  • capitalisation
  • abbreviations
  • section headings
  • numbers and equations
  • footnotes and bibliographies.

The IEEE style guide is available free of charge.

Similarly to the Bluebook, the IEEE style guide is not an independent and comprehensive style guide. It uses the Merriam-Webster spelling, and for guidance on grammar and usage not included in the IEEE Editorial Style Manual, it recommends the CMOS guidelines.

In-text citation[1]
Bibliography[1] B. Anderson, Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. New York: Verso, 1983.
An in-text citation example in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) style.

MLA style

Modern Language Association of America (MLA) Handbook primarily established guidelines for citation and formatting in academic papers in humanities, particularly literature and language research. This style focuses on source citations and provides limited guidance on writing mechanics and no recommendations for language usage. Since 1977, MLA has published nine editions of the Handbook.

In-text citation(Anderson 66)
BibliographyAnderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso, 1983.
An in-text citation example in the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) style.
  • Pricing (9th edition): ebook for $25, paperback for $36 or $48 for hardcover

Academic writing tools for systematic reviews

Systematic reviews are an essential part of academic research, and they require considerable time and effort to complete. One of the critical aspects of producing a high-quality systematic review is the writing process. To this end, academic writing tools such as Covidence, Rayyan or RevMan can help researchers organise their work, stay on track and produce well-written, comprehensive reviews.


Covidence streamlines evidence synthesis with a process for creating systematic reviews. For instance, it allows you to collaborate with the whole review team in various sectors, including health, education and social science.

  • Integration with EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley
  • Pricing: Single for $289 or Package for $635 per year


Rayyan allows you to work remotely and collaborate with a distributed research team. Students, librarians and researchers from 180 countries and across industry sectors and disciplines use Rayyan for systematic reviews.

  • Integration with Mendeley
  • Online, offline and mobile app access
  • Pricing: free, professional for $8.25 or student for $4 per month (billed annually)
Review example in Rayyan. Source: rayyan.ai


ReviewManager (RevMan) facilitates the preparation of protocols and full reviews, including text, characteristics of studies, comparison tables and study data. Furthermore, it can perform a meta-analysis of the data entered and present the results graphically.

  • Pricing: standard for £99, academic £80 or student £60 per year
Systematic review process by RevMan. Source: revman.cochrane.org

Academic writing assistants

Academic writing assistants are essential tools for students and researchers. These programs help users refine their writing skills, improve the quality of their work and save time by automating repetitive tasks. With the rise of digital technology, academic writing assistants have become increasingly sophisticated, offering features such as grammar and spell-checking, plagiarism detection, citation management and more.


Grammarly is a writing assistant that ensures your text is written without mistakes and meets your goals, including the intended audience, formality, domain and intent of the text. In addition, it has an AI assistant (called GrammarlyGO) to generate text based on your prompts.

  • Compatible with Microsoft Word and Google Docs
  • Browser plugins for Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari
  • Desktop app for Windows and iOS
  • Mobile app for Android and iPhone
  • APA, CMOS and MLA citation styles included
  • Language localisation: Australian, Canadian, Indian, US and UK English
  • Pricing: Free and Premium for €12 per month (billed annually)
Document checking in Grammarly. Source: grammarly.com


Jenni is an advanced AI writing assistant that helps you produce content faster, including essays and research papers. Its features include Autocomplete, Paraphrase and Rewrite, Outline Builder and Custom Styles and Tones.

  • APA, MLA, IEEE and Harvard citation styles included
  • Pricing: Free or Unlimited for $20 per month
Citation suggestions by Jenni.ai. Source: jenni.ai


A writing assistant, Paperpal’s AI understands academic context, flags complex language and grammar errors and suggests improvements to help you polish your writing. Furthermore, it can help you broaden your academic vocabulary and make your writing more dynamic with the Rewrite feature, which rephrases your text into clear, engaging academic prose using alternative expressions. 

  • Text editor compatibility with Microsoft Word and online editor
  • An academic translation tool powered by DeepL can detect content written in 25+ foreign languages and translate it to English
  • Mobile app compatible with Android and iPhone
  • APA, CMOS and MLA citation styles included
  • Language localisation: Australian, Canadian, Indian, US and UK English
  • Pricing: Free or Premium for €119 per year


QuillBot is a paraphrasing and summarising tool that claims to help students and professionals cut their writing time by more than half using AI to rewrite any sentence, paragraph or article.

  • Other features include a translator, grammar and plagiarism checker and co-writer
  • Compatible with Microsoft Word
  • Language localisation: Australian, Canadian, US and UK English
  • Browser plugins for Chrome
  • Desktop app for iOS
  • APA and MLA citation styles included
  • Mobile app compatible with Android and iPhone
  • Pricing: Free or Premium for $99.95 per year
QuillBot summariser tool. Source: quillbot.com

Additional academic writing resources

Aside from the online tools and software, professional editing services can help improve the quality of academic texts. Professional editing services can provide a fresh perspective and a critical eye to ensure the text is polished, clear and ready for publication, whether it is a book, a book chapter or a journal article. Below are some of the types of professional editing services that can benefit academic writers: 

  • Proofreading: This type of editing service focuses on correcting spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting errors. Proofreading is the final stage of the editing process, ensuring that the text is free of errors before publication.
  • Copyediting: Copyediting goes beyond proofreading and focuses on improving the overall quality of the text. Copyeditors will check for consistency, clarity and coherence, and they may also suggest rewording or restructuring sentences to improve flow.
  • Line editing: This type of editing focuses on sentence-level improvements. Line editors will look for ways to make the prose more concise, clear and engaging.
  • Developmental editing: Developmental editing is a more in-depth type of editing that focuses on improving the overall structure and content of the text. Developmental editors will provide feedback on the organisation, argumentation, and coherence of the text.
  • Indexing: Indexing is the process of creating an index for the text, which helps readers locate specific topics or concepts within the text. Professional indexing services can ensure that the index is accurate, comprehensive, and user-friendly. 

Final thoughts

In summary, academic writing is a highly specialised area of writing that requires precision, clarity and accuracy. However, with the help of modern tools and software, academic writers can improve their writing and presentation of evidence and arguments. 

This blog post explored a range of academic writing tools that can aid in citations, data analysis, data collection, literature review, literature search, plagiarism check, publication portfolio, style guides, systematic reviews, and writing. With these tools, academic writers can increase their chances of getting published in a prestigious and high-ranking academic journal or having their book accepted by a reputable academic press. Therefore, academic writers must stay up-to-date with the latest tools and software to improve their writing and achieve their publishing goals. They may also need the help of an editor to prepare their texts for publication.

As an editor and indexer, I routinely work with academic writers, preparing their texts for publication in academic journals and presses. If your academic manuscript needs a second pair of eyes, you can also ask me for a free sample edit (and remember to use my early bird discount).

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I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors.