How AI can improve the academic writing experience

by Elizabeth Oommen George

Being published in an industry-leading journal can boost any academic’s career – bringing prestige, recognition, and validity to their work. Yet scientific writing is notoriously difficult ─ writer’s block can hinder even the most talented academic from turning their ideas into a first draft. This isn’t a small-scale problem. In a global author survey by Editage, 76% of respondents found manuscript preparation to be a difficult step in the publication process, with English-language proficiency being a big part of this challenge.1 So, how can technology help? Here Neeraj Sanghani, Business Head of Products at Paperpal, shares his thoughts on how artificial intelligence (AI) tools can support researchers while they write an academic manuscript.

The Editage survey also found that academics are so focused on getting the submission process correct, they take an average of 10 hours to submit a paper to a journal.1 But many researchers report it is the writing, rather than the submission process, that they find challenging.

In a 2020 piece published in The Ecological Society of America, Kathleen E. Grogan discusses what makes scientific writing so difficult: “What makes research exciting is the very thing that makes communicating research hard. The goal of a research publication is communicating what you have discovered, at the very limits of our collective knowledge, to those who were not with you on the journey.”2

Writing style

Peer reviewers may reject a paper on the basis that it is difficult to read or poorly written, but there is limited formal training on the subject. While many PhD students are given some guidance on how to write and get published, most academic training is focused around research methods and data collection. As a result, concerns about inadequate spelling and grammar may cause a researcher to lack confidence, feel under pressure or face the dreaded writer’s block. For those with English as a second language, the difficulty is often amplified.

Though there are many tools available to check spelling and grammar online, they are usually not specialized to the author’s scientific domain and, therefore, not suitable in an academic context. They are also unable to help with the kind of technical checks required to ensure a manuscript complies with journal-specific requirements. The alternatives are to ask a friend or colleague to proofread the manuscript or to pay a professional editor for advice. While all these options help with the final stages of the process ─ they do little to help the author as they work on the all-important first draft.

Artificial intelligence

We are now in an era where machine learning and artificial intelligence tools are able to solve many of the challenges researchers face. AI-powered assistive writing technology can offer language suggestions while a researcher writes. For example, Paperpal offers an add-in for Word that makes real-time suggestions on grammar, punctuation, style, and readability. With real-time language suggestions to polish academic writing, the technology helps speed up the overall writing process and instil a sense of confidence. Paperpal is based on a continually evolving algorithm that studies millions of pre- and post-submission academic papers, allowing it to offer precise and unbiased editorial corrections at standards that meet that of a professional editor or proofreader.

This quality is trusted by several top publishers, including Cambridge University Press, Wolters Kluwer, and the American Association for Cancer Research. Many journals now have the AI-based Paperpal Preflight service embedded on their websites, which can be used by research authors to upload and check their paper before submission. This pre-submission check can alert the researcher to missing declarations, common language issues, and mistakes in figures and tables, reducing the chance of desk rejection.

High-quality academic writing continues to be a challenge for researchers, especially those who have English as a second language, and it’s clearly time for a change. The good news is that the new age writing revolution is here! Paperpal’s AI technology can convert the often 10+ hours spent on final checks before submission into a two-minute evaluation to ensure your paper is submission ready.  

Ready to explore the smart solution to high-quality academic writing? Install Paperpal’s language tool for Word!

References

  1. Author Perspectives on Academic Publishing: Global Survey Report 2018, Editage. Available at https://campaign.editage.com/global_survey_report_2018/
  2. Grogan, K. Writing Science: What Makes Scientific Writing Hard and How to Make It Easier. The Ecological Society of America (2020). https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/bes2.1800

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