What’s the Best ChatGPT Alternative for Academic Writing?

by Soundarya Durgumahanthi
ChatGPT for academic writing

Mastering academic writing takes years of dedicated practice. However, with the emergence of AI tools based on large language models like ChatGPT, navigating the initial stages of this competitive landscape feels almost effortless. ChatGPT and ChatGPT alternatives can automate the more tedious tasks in research, potentially freeing up time for more creative and intellectually stimulating activities. The resulting sense of accomplishment and focus on core academic strengths could boost self-esteem.  

However, concerns exist about academics’ over-reliance on the tool and its potential drawbacks in an academic setting. This ChatGPT review highlights the benefits and risks associated with the tool for research and academic writing and suggests a free ChatGPT alternative to ensure responsible and ethical use of AI tools in academic writing. 

Table of Contents

What is ChatGPT and How Does it Work?

Launched in November 2022 by OpenAI, ChatGPT is an AI tool that combines a chatbot and virtual assistant. Powered by large language models, it lets you guide your conversation with ChatGPT in terms of length, formality, style, and even the specific language used. 

ChatGPT is built on OpenAI’s proprietary series of generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) models and is fine-tuned to deliver naturally flowing conversations using a combination of supervised learning and reinforcement learning from real-time human feedback.1 

While its core function is to hold conversations like a human, ChatGPT’s true strength lies in its versatility. ChatGPT can generate different types of content. Its capabilities extend further to translating languages, answering your questions in an informative way, and even simulating experiences like a chatroom game. 

Why do novice researchers and PhD students rely on ChatGPT for academic writing?

Novice researchers and PhD students rely on ChatGPT or ChatGPT alternatives for several reasons: 

  1. Limited research experience: Novice researchers may struggle to write a research synopsis or article for the first time due to lack of experience in research processes. 
  1. Unclear research question: Endless literature search and defining a clear research question or hypothesis is a universal challenge.  
  1. Time management: Heavy workload and submission deadlines can make it difficult for researchers to carve out dedicated research time. 
  1. Academic writing formats: Unfamiliarity with formatting and style requirements for academic journals can lead to errors. 
  1. English language barrier: For non-native English speakers, expressing ideas clearly and concisely can be challenging. 
  1. Resource limitations: Limited access to research databases, specialized software, or adequate peer/mentor feedback can hinder research writing quality. 

Is ChatGPT Safe for Research and Academic Use: Pros and Cons of ChatGPT

ChatGPT’s ability to understand natural language and revert with coherent and relevant responses makes it an attractive option for academics. However, there are critical challenges to overcome when using ChatGPT in research: the possibility of plagiarism and academic dishonesty. Let’s explore them below. 

Pros of ChatGPT

  1. Can spark ideas and overcome writer’s block: ChatGPT can help brainstorm topics, generate outlines, formulate research questions, and suggest different ways to phrase your arguments. 
  1. Improve academic writing style, fluency and efficiency: For novice researchers and PhD students, ChatGPT can help maintain academic writing proficiency, improve flow, and make your writing more concise. 
  1. Can translate and summarize research in other languages: For non-native researchers, ChatGPT can help in expressing your ideas clearly in English as well as translate research to your preferred language.  

Get 3x more language suggestions tailored to academic writing. Start writing now! 

Cons of ChatGPT

  1. AI trained on a generic database: ChatGPT is trained on a generic database, so it often fails to provide support tailored to academic context.  
  1. Risk of misinformation: If you’re relying on ChatGPT for literature review, the tool might suggest articles from predatory journals, without proper verification. Unlike academic databases, ChatGPT doesn’t check for source quality or credibility. It might recommend fabricated, biased, outdated, or poorly researched articles. 
  1. Prompt writing hassles: Large language models like ChatGPT rely heavily on how you instruct them. Crafting clear prompts with specific context is crucial (prompt engineering). This helps ensure the generated content aligns with your needs. The downside? For research, poorly phrased prompts in ChatGPT can lead to unreliable, incomplete, or even misleading information.  
  1. Informal language and nuances: Academic writing requires precise wording to express subtle distinctions. You need a formal tone that establishes your credibility and conveys complex ideas clearly. ChatGPT might use simpler terms that miss the mark, leading to a superficial understanding of the topic. 
  1. AI hallucination: If you ask ChatGPT to find and cite sources for you, it will do so, but they could be inaccurate or even made up. It can also generate factually incorrect information, which can lead to serious repercussions in academia. OpenAI even has a warning on its home screen, saying that ‘ChatGPT may produce inaccurate information about people, places, or facts.’1 
  1. Data privacy concerns: ChatGPT uses your data to train its models. If your research notes include sensitive data, you no longer have control over the information once it is in the chatbot library, unless you opt-out.2 
  1. Ethical ambiguity around plagiarism: While ChatGPT doesn’t directly copy, it can unintentionally rephrase and reuse ideas from existing sources without proper citation. ChatGPT cannot distinguish between original sources and can weave information from various sources without acknowledging them. This can be flagged as plagiarism even if it’s not a deliberate attempt. 

ChatGPT Pricing Plans

ChatGPT offers both free and paid subscription plans for individuals and teams. Here’s what you get with each:  

  1. Free Plan – This plan allows users to access ChatGPT using the GPT-3.5 model without any cost. It’s a great option for new users who want to explore the capabilities of ChatGPT without financial commitment. However, this model is only trained on data till September 2021, so may not be able to provide more updated support.  
  1. ChatGPT Plus ($20/month): This plan avoids wait times and provides users with faster responses even during peak hours. It also unlocks features like image generation, interactive tables and charts, and priority access to OpenAI’s latest functionalities as they’re released. 
  1. ChatGPT Team ($25/month): This plan includes ChatGPT Plus with the ability to create and share custom GPTs within a workspace; it also comes with an admin console for workspace management. 
  1. ChatGPT Enterprise (Customized Pricing): Tailored for large organizations, this plan offers everything included in ChatGPT Team with unlimited high-speed access to GPT-4 and other tools, expanded context windows, and enhanced security and administrative controls. 

Looking for a ChatGPT alternative for academic writing? Try Paperpal 

What is the best free alternative to ChatGPT for academic writing?

Paperpal, a comprehensive AI academic writing assistant is the preferred free alternative to ChatGPT for more than 1Mn+ academics. Trained on millions of scholarly articles and leveraging over 22 years of STM expertise, Paperpal understands and preserves academic context. This ensures that its language suggestions and AI-generated text not only meets stringent linguistic standards but also aligns with academic writing conventions.  

Paperpal as a free ChatGPT alternative provides you with an effortless writing experience with:  

  • In-depth Language Checks: Tailored for academic text, Paperpal provides 200+ language suggestions based on scientific contexts, while retaining domain-specific terminology, scientific jargon, and non-English words.   
  • Search and Cite: Get science-backed answers with verified citations to your questions from over 250 million research articles across all key disciplines. Paperpal’s AI ranks these papers based on their relevance to your query, and generates a concise, fact-based response summarizing the insights from the top 10 articles. You can also save relevant articles to your Citation Library, which helps you to research, write and cite on-the go. 

Fig 1: Finding existing literature on a research topic using Paperpal Research

Fig 2: Finding existing literature on a research topic using ChatGPT
  • Predictive Writing: If you’re struggling to convey ideas into written content, simply add a starting sentence of over 10 words, and Paperpal’s Write will predict 3 possible suggestions for a follow-up sentence based on context, writing requirements, or custom instructions. With Paperpal Write, you can expand existing content, write a counterargument, or get custom outputs based on prompts. 
  • Plagiarism Checker: Paperpal checks your paper for similarity against Turnitin’s extensive database of 100 billion online webpages and provides you with a free similarity score. You can also choose the detailed plagiarism report with color-coded results and side-by-side comparisons to help you address actionable items, cite overlooked sources, and avoid accidental plagiarism.   
  • Contextual Synonyms: Struggling with academic vocabulary? Just highlight a word and Paperpal instantly dives into a vast database of high-impact research, analyzing how similar words have been used in published papers. It then presents you with a list of relevant academic vocabulary alternatives, ranked by their usage and context, so you’re always using the right words.     
  • Academic Translation: Translating academic text with ChatGPT often introduces avoidable distractions and unnecessary context-switching, leading to miscommunication. On the other hand, Paperpal leverages DeepL to provide accurate academic translation from 28 languages to English without changing the context or meaning.    
  • Academic Consistency Checks: Paperpal’s consistency checks ensure style uniformity in the presentation of p-values, symbols, and statistics. With consistency checks, this ChatGPT alternative saves a lot of proofreading time for researchers and students.  
  • Generative AI Writing Templates: Paperpal’s generative AI writing features allow users to generate outlines and titles, create abstracts, summaries, study highlights, or craft powerful emails to journals in a click – and without the need of writing extensive prompts.   
  • Rewrite: Paperpal also provides accurate paraphrasing and instant word reduction to help you meet prescribed word counts. Unlike other ChatGPT alternatives, Paperpal also ensures a formal academic tone and retains the meaning of your work in the output.  
  • Submission Readiness – Paperpal knows that academics need to check several elements to ensure their work is submission ready, which is why it offers 30+ language and technical compliance pre-submission checks to boost your manuscript’s chance of acceptance.    

Paperpal’s Pricing Plans

Free Plan:  

Compared to ChatGPT’s free version, Paperpal offers a wider variety of features that are tailored to enhance academic writing. You get access to the following features:  

  1. Language suggestions – 200/month  
  2. 5 Uses/day of generative AI features  
    1. Rewrite (Paraphrase, Trim, and more) 
    2. Research (Search and Cite)  
    3. Templates to kickstart writing   
    4. Predictive Writing 
    5. Translate   
  3. Free plagiarism report  
  4. Free submission readiness report   

You also get to experience the free version of Editage All Access Pack – a subscription-based platform that unifies the best AI tools and services designed to speed up, simplify, and streamline every step of a researcher’s journey.  

Paperpal Prime:  

Paperpal’s Prime plan unlocks unlimited access to all the free features, plus consistency checks and 7,000 words/month of plagiarism checks at just US$19/month, US$39/quarter or US$119 per year.   

Paperpal also offers Teams plans for larger groups with exclusive discounts on annual plans.  

Tired of juggling ChatGPT alternatives? Paperpal is the all-in-one research and writing assistant 

Paperpal vs. ChatGPT: Which is the Best AI Tool for Academic Writing?

Here’s a feature comparison of ChatGPT alternative Paperpal and ChatGPT focused on academic writing and research usage.

Feature Paperpal ChatGPT (Plus) 
Generative AI Writing No specialized prompt writing required Prompt writing expertise needed 
Language Suggestions Corrections more precisely tailored to scholarly writing Primarly paraphrases text with flowery suggestions unsuited to academic writing 
Language Translation Accurate academic translations for 28 languages General purpose translation 
Literature search  Provides science-backed answers from 250 MN+ research articles. Save relevant ones in the citation library for citing later.  No integration with academic databases, increasing the risk of hallucinated articles and misinformation. 
Plagiarism Check Scans 100 billion sources to give a free similarity score with option to get a more detailed plagiarism report  N/A 
Predictive Writing Suggests up to 3 possible follow-up sentences based on your previous text  N/A 
AI Rewriting Paraphrase and shorten text by up to 20%, while preserving context, meaning, and academic tone Cuts short sentences losing out on the context, can introduce informal phrasing 
Academic Synonyms  Provides accurate academic synonyms N/A 
Image Generation  N/A Uses Dall-E to generate AI images  
Voice Chat N/A Available 
Access during peak times Unlimited access, irrespective of free and paid plans Only available with ChatGPT plus 
Data Privacy Has strict security policies; Paperpal will never use your data to train its AI models  ChatGPT may use your data to train its models, unless you opt-out 
Pricing Monthly plan – $19 Quarterly plan – $39 Yearly plan – $119 Monthly plan – $20 

ChatGPT excels in generating various text formats, translating languages, and answering queries informatively. However, it has significant limitations when it comes to academic writing and research. The major reasons why academics prefer better ChatGPT alternatives include unintentional plagiarism, lack of academic expertise, source reliability, language precision, and AI hallucination. 

One of the most preferred ChatGPT alternatives, Paperpal, excels in academic writing, with features designed to meet the stringent linguistic and formatting standards required for scholarly publication. Given the comprehensive AI academic writing toolkit’s capabilities, Paperpal’s pricing plans are also a tad bit lower than ChatGPT.   

Who Should Use ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is suitable for users who need a versatile tool for generating creative text formats, translating languages, and engaging in informative conversations. The Plus plan is ideal for those requiring faster response times and access to the latest AI functionalities. 

Who Should Use Paperpal?

  1. Researchers and PhD Students – Paperpal is a highly recommended free ChatGPT alternative due to its focus on academic writing and robust features designed to aid in research and manuscript preparation. The language checks, paraphrasing, in-built writing prompts, search and cite options, predictive writing capabilities, and plagiarism checker prove especially invaluable. 
  1. Non-Native English Speakers – Paperpal is the preferred choice for those with English as a second language due to its accurate academic translations, writing support, and extensive language correction, which helps in expressing ideas clearly and concisely in English. 
  1. Users looking for Comprehensive Academic Writing Support – Paperpal provides a more tailored and advanced set of tools for academic writing compared to other ChatGPT alternatives, including contextual synonyms, academic consistency checks, and AI writing templates, making it the better choice for academics seeking a reliable writing assistant. 
  1. Users Concerned About Data Privacy –  Paperpal promises to keep your data private and confidential; unlike ChatGPT, it does not train its models with user data. Moreover, the copyright for all text generated or enhanced on Paperpal will always remain with you.  

Try Paperpal, the best ChatGPT alternative for free and get an all-in-one academic writing toolkit to excel in academia. Sign up for free! 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is ChatGPT safe for academic writing? 

ChatGPT might not be safe for academic writing. Here’s why: 

Inaccuracy: ChatGPT excels at generating human-like text, but it can be factually incorrect. Double-checking information and citing credible sources remains crucial. 
Lack of Originality: Plagiarism through direct use of ChatGPT outputs is a serious concern. It’s a tool to aid, not replace, your own thinking and analysis. 
Academic Integrity: Universities have strict plagiarism policies. Using ChatGPT to generate content you present as your own is a violation. 
Instead, try using ChatGPT alternatives like Paperpal, which is tailored to academic writing, to get real-time, subject-specific suggestions and write better, faster.    

2. Can I use ChatGPT for research? 

Yes, you can use ChatGPT or any other ChatGPT alternative for research, but with caution. Here’s how it can be helpful: 

Brainstorming: Stuck on a research topic or thesis statement? ChatGPT can help generate ideas and explore different angles. 
Literature Review: It can help you identify relevant keywords and search for existing research on your topic. Remember, you still need to critically evaluate the sources it suggests. 
Outlining: Need a structure for your research proposal? ChatGPT can create a basic outline to get you started. 

3. How to use ChatGPT for a research proposal?  

Here’s how you can use ChatGPT for your research proposal –
Provide Context: Clearly explain your research topic and goals to ChatGPT. 
Refine Outputs: Don’t accept everything it generates at face value. Fact-check, critically analyze, and edit the information it provides. 
Focus on the “Why”: Use ChatGPT to brainstorm ideas but focus on understanding the “why” behind your research question. 

4. Is ChatGPT reliable for research? 

No. While it can be a helpful tool, it shouldn’t be your primary source of information. Always rely on credible academic sources and conduct your own thorough research. 
Critical thinking is essential  
Verification of the scientific accuracy of sources is paramount 
Responsible AI use upholds academic integrity 
Check with your university’s policies on AI use in academic writing. Consider using ChatGPT alongside other academic writing tools like Paperpal to get the best output. 


  1. OpenAI. (2023). Introducing ChatGPT. https://openai.com/index/chatgpt/
  2. OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT pricing, capabilities, and limitations. https://openai.com/chatgpt/pricing/

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