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Best Free Online Proofreading Tools For Research

These days, AI tools are transforming our lives in every aspect. This AI trend is felt as strongly in the field of academic writing as anywhere else. Many researchers use AI paper editors to save both time and money while writing their research papers.

There are many AI Proofreaders available on the Internet, claiming to help writers improve their writing and make content error-free.

What are AI Proofreading tools?

AI proofreading tools are software applications that use artificial intelligence to correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and style in texts, enhancing clarity and readability for various types of writing.

However, these popular online proofreading tools are geared towards bloggers and content creators. Unfortunately, this leaves many technical, academic, and scientific writers such as researchers and graduate students with generalized tools that are not as specific or useful as they could be.

For example, one pet peeve cited by many academic writers is the blanket classification of passive voice as an error identified by online proofreaders such as Grammarly, whereas it is commonly used in scientific writing.

As a result, researchers and academics are faced with a dilemma: Do they continue to use free online proofreading tools that are not specific for their purpose? Or do they abandon their usage altogether and lose the benefit of saving time?

In this article, we’ll answer the following questions and choose the three best AI proofreading software applications for writing research papers.

  • Why do researchers use online proofreading tools?
  • How is academic research writing different?
  • Are free proofreading apps practical for research writing?
  • What are the best free online proofreading tools for researchers?

Why Researchers use AI Proofreading Tools

Any academic researcher, graduate student, or professor can tell you that one of the most essential components of success (and getting published in academic journals) is the ability to write quickly, accurately, and according to academic guidelines.

Researchers and graduate students often struggle with how to write a hypothesis or research question. Not to mention, there is the entire time-consuming research proposal process, followed by drafting, incorporating an advisor’s feedback, and revisions.

This means that basic spelling errors, grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, abbreviation consistency, and formatting issues are often left until the end – when it’s too late or time is short.

In other words, not much time is spent on editing and proofreading journal articles or dissertations because the science is more important.

However, proofreading and editing are critical to preparing any academic piece of writing. Editing and proofreading accomplish different tasks as well. Proofreading is necessary to correct any errors and ensure professionalism, whereas editing aligns a writer’s purpose, focuses scope, and makes usage of terms and tone consistent.

This is especially true for graduate students and researchers writing a dissertation in a second language.

Research paper editors solve many of the above issues. They help researchers save time and put them in a position to focus on the scientific meaning, scope, and implications of their manuscript.

How Academic Research Writing is Different

One issue facing researchers is that academic writing, including dissertations and theses, is a very specific, narrow, and rigorous form of writing. They are objective, long, thesis-driven, and subject to peer review – they are reports.

In contrast, college admissions essays and personal statements are more intent-driven with a clear, achievable goal, designed to inspire and convince. In a sense, they are more marketing mediums than reports.

Structure and Format

There are also significant differences in structure and format. While the college admissions essay format is journey-driven and designed to bring the reader into a very personal narrative, academic research writing often starts with a standard checklist with the same typical sections – hypothesis, research purpose, materials & methods, results, etc.


Effective academic writing also requires understanding the audience – which will be research colleagues in the same field.

While an admissions essay may be intended for a very quick read by a counselor, an academic manuscript is different – it will be scrutinized word for word by researchers, professors, or experts in the field. After all, the peer review process is based on the replication of someone else’s research.

Thus, word choice, sentence structure, and grammatical structures should be considered in academic writing.

For example, in organic chemistry, the standard IUPAC nomenclature system is used in an academic setting. A basic science article in chemistry, biochemistry, or biology would use these terms. However, the common name "acetic acid" is systematically named "ethanoic acid". And to make things even more complicated, the public knows this chemical as common vinegar!

This very basic example demonstrates how research writing differs from common essay writing.

Are free online proofreading tools practical for research writing?

Research writing must not only be free of grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, and formatting issues; it must be aligned with particular guidelines set forth by universities and journals.

So can any free online proofreading tools accomplish this specifically for researchers? Let’s take a look.

Best Free Online Proofreading Tool for Researchers

1. Wordvice AI – proofreading tool for researchers

wordvice ai writing assistant

Wordvice AI is a free AI text editor created by Wordvice, a professional proofreading and editing service tailored explicitly towards researchers and academics.

Wordvice AI's free AI proofreading tool is unique and stands apart from other free online proofreading apps in that it was explicitly designed with researchers, business professionals, and students in mind.

Moreover, it was created by applying machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to Wordvice’s proprietary collection of past academic manuscripts, dissertations, theses, essays, and business documents.

Online Proofreading for Academics

wordvice ai writing assistant screenshot


Best features Limitations
✅ Academic & Research: Real-time suggestions specifically tailored to academic readability and writing level ❌ No browser extension – only accessible via web app and Microsoft Word
✅ Integration with Wordvice AI: Use AI Paraphraser, Plagiarism Checker together for improved research paper writing.
✅ Integration with Wordvice: Can easily download proofread manuscripts and then upload for professional editing
✅ Reduce Word count: Use Concise mode to shorten word count
✅ Choose Free or Premium Plan
✅ Microsoft Word Add-in: Easily use proofreading tools in MS Word


Basic Plan Premium Plan Team Plan
Free $9.95 - 19.95 / Month
(Annual - Monthly)
$9.95 / Month

2. Grammarly – great for coursework and writing essays

Grammarly example

Grammarly is currently the largest and one of the most popular AI-driven online proofreading apps. It is centered on student writing, essays, and education. It has both free and paid plans.

Grammarly comes with a plagiarism checker, one of its most used features, especially among students.

Almost everyone who does any type of writing for a living will have a Grammarly subscription. At this point, it’s like having a library card or access to the Internet itself. However, just having access to the library doesn’t guarantee you will find the book you’re looking for.

There are significant concerns among the academic community regarding the appropriateness and effectiveness of Grammarly for academic research writing, proofreading, and editing.


One issue is the notion of privacy among researchers and common users alike. Grammarly has a robust privacy policy but raises some concerns about how invasive its extension is.

Grammarly app screenshot

A Lifehacker article detailed issues such as its copious usage of browser resources.

This doesn’t change how powerful, functional, and accessible Grammarly is for millions of students, bloggers, and writers. It’s simply a question of one’s comfort level and its usefulness for research.


Best features Limitations
✅ Most popular grammar checker tool – and will remain so! ❌ Not specific for researchers or academic writing – fails to understand academic writing despite having a “formal” tone button
✅ Broad usage audience – students, bloggers, communications, etc. ❌ Controversial privacy issues
✅ Accessible: browser extensions, desktop app, phone app, browser app
✅ Dependable: As the industry leader, they’ll likely stick around


Basic Plan Premium Business
Free $12 / Month $15 / Month

3. Readable – adjust your readability level

Readable app screenshot

Readable is one of the newer online proofreading tools on the market. Instead of focusing on grammatical mistakes or checking, their entire model is based on the concept of readability – which is a measure of how easy your content is to read for your target audience.

Readability is an important metric for research writing because amateur academics often struggle with repetitive phrasing, repeated sentence structures, and run-on sentences.

Readable gives various readability metrics such as grade level, score, statistics, and language issues. However, the UI/UX is not modern looking or very pleasurable to interact with or look at.

Lastly, Readable seemed to lack any type of research-related advice regarding readability, which is their supposed main feature. For example, they score an entire list of readability indices – SMOG index, Rix, Raygor, Coleman-Liau – and many others.

While it is certainly nice to receive readability scores, their usefulness remains in question for not just a research writer but any writer looking to make substantial changes. The tool feels more for pure scoring as an exercise than for creating an actionable piece of writing.

For example, the Coleman-Liau index is education-focused only.

Coleman-Liau Index

Meanwhile, the Raygor index is based on middle-school readability.

It stands to question how appropriate or valuable it is for middle-schoolers (or teachers of middle schoolers) to focus on readability over things like meaning or content.

Raygor Readability

The only readability index remotely related to academic or research writing was the SMOG index.

SMOG Index


Best features Limitations
✅ Provides clear metrics and scores for readability ❌ Insufficient grammar checking
✅ Perfect for educators or anyone with a younger audience ❌ Not useful for researchers; overly specific to grade or middle school students
❌ No continuous free plan


ContentPro CommercePro AgencyPro
$4 / Month $24 / Month $69 / Month

Proofreading Apps FAQs

Are online proofreaders accurate?

Automatic proofreaders use AI, machine learning, and often 3rd party algorithms to suggest improvements related to grammar mistakes, readability, and sentence structure.

They are mostly accurate but sometimes give false suggestions that are inappropriate or overzealous. They seldom miss an outright grammar mistake.

Wordvice AI is unique because it was developed and trained on tens of thousands of privately edited research and academic manuscripts, making it the best and most professional free research paper editor.

What is the difference between free and paid online proofreading tools?

These days, the degree of accuracy of most proofreading tools is fairly similar. Free online proofreading tools will still be precise – the difference is how much access you have to premium features and more advanced suggestions.

For example, free versions may not suggest improvements for academic-related issues such as passive versus active voice. Wordvice AI is entirely free to use with a Basic plan, but also has a Premium plan that allows you to access all of the tool’s features.

Can I only use a free online proofreader instead of an editor?

Online proofreading tools are just tools. They operate by making suggestions, not mandatory changes.

Beyond their field of study, a researcher or PhD student must also know the English language, writing and grammar language rules, and how to edit/proofread – online proofreaders cannot make those decisions for you.

Wordvice is a professional editing and proofreading service that offers academic editing, manuscript editing, and admissions editing for students.