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Best Free Online Proofreading Tool For Researchers

There are many free online proofreading tools available on the Internet. Some of these tools are paid while some are free. However, these popular online proofreading tools are geared towards bloggers, content creators, and essay writers.

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 by online proofreaders such as Grammarly, whereas it is commonly used in scientific writing.

👉Using Passive or Active Voice in a Research Paper

As a result, researchers and academics are faced with a problem: Do they continue to use 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’re going to talk about the best free online proofreading tool for researchers. To get there, we’ll answer the following questions:

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

Why Researchers use Online 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 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 who speak and write English as a second language.

Online proofreading tools 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.

Audience

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 software tool accomplish this specifically for researchers? Let’s take a look.

Best Free Online Proofreading Tool for Researchers

Grammarly – Great for Students and Essays

Grammarly is by far the largest and most popular AI-driven online proofreading app. It is centered on student writing, essays, and education. It has both free and paid plans:

list of grammarly pricing

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.

Privacy

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.

list of grammarly extensions

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.

Overview

✅ Most popular grammar checker tool – and will remain so!

✅ Broad usage audience – students, bloggers, communications, etc.

✅ Accessible: browser extensions, desktop app, phone app, browser app

✅ Dependable: As the industry leader, they’ll stick around

❌ Not specific for researchers or academic writing – fails to understand academic writing despite having a “formal” tone button

❌ Controversial privacy issues

Readable – Adjust Your Readability Level

Readable is a relatively new online proofreading tool 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 by your target audience.

readable pricing list

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

example of edit by readable

In trying out the tool, Readable gives various readability metrics such as grade level, score, statistics, and language issues. However, the UI/UX was 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 have scores, their usefulness remains in question for not just a research writer but any writer looking to make substantial changes. It felt the tool was more for pure scoring as an exercise than 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 index

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

SMOG index

Overview

✅ Provides clear metrics and scores for readability

✅ Perfect for educators or anyone with a younger audience

❌ Insufficient grammar checking

❌ Not useful for researchers; overly specific to grade or middle school students

❌ No continuous free plan

Wordvice.ai – Proofreading Tool for Researchers

Wordvice.ai is a free online grammar checker and proofreader. The tool was created by Wordvice, a professional proofreading and editing service tailored explicitly towards researchers and academics.

wordvice.ai main page screenshot

This tool is unique and stands apart from other free online proofreader tools in that it was explicitly designed to improve research writing, not blog posts.

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

In contrast, many AI-powered proofreaders or suggestion tools are powered by a generalized algorithm known as GPT-3, purchased from an exclusive 3rd party called OpenAI (not designed for a specific target demographic) and is simply re-marketed as a unique tool.

Online Proofreading for Academics

wordvice ai proofreading example

Overview

✅ Academic & Research: Real-time suggestions specifically tailored to the academic readability and writing level

✅ Integration with Wordvice: Can easily download proofread manuscript and then upload for professional editing

✅ Word count: Stay under the word limit

✅ Completely Free

❌ No browser extension – only accessible via web app

FAQs

Are online proofreaders accurate?

Online 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 machine-learned on tens of thousands of privately edited research and academic manuscripts.

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

The degree of how accurate grammar checkers are does not matter. A free online proofreader 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 no paid plan – you have complete access to the entire tool.

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 general academic, manuscript editing, and premium editing for researchers.