Best Academic Writing Software: 10 Top Options (2023)

In this article, you’ll discover the best academic writing software options based on their features, prices, and usability. 

I remember spending countless hours in my University’s library, desperately trying to format my thesis correctly, surrounded by half-empty takeaway coffee cups. If only I had known that the right academic writing software could have helped me save time and improve the quality of my work. 

Whether you’re a university student struggling to finish your thesis like I was or a researcher with deadlines looming, you can rest assured that the right academic writing software will take an enormous weight off your shoulders. 

Academic writing requires meticulous attention to detail which is why we’ve scoured the web looking for software that will support you in the following areas:

  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Plagiarism
  • Concise sentences
  • Readability improvements
  • Chapter, footnotes, and bibliography automation

The academic software options in this article will help you unlock your true potential as an academic writer by improving your grammar, structure, style, and planning.

1. Grammarly

Pricing: Free version available, Premium $12/month, Business $15/month
Use for: For plagiarism and grammar checks of academic writing

Grammarly is the most popular writing software on the market, and it’s being used by all types of writers, from high-school students to academic writers in top institutions and universities.

I personally never submit work to my clients without running it through Grammarly first, and I’ve even shelled out for the yearly premium subscription to get access to the plagiarism checker. To find out more, read our Grammarly review.

Some new students also wonder if it’s ok to use this tool to edit their essays and papers. It’s fine to use but if you need more context, in this article, our writer answers the question, is using Grammarly cheating

  • Grammarly is user-friendly, allowing you to either copy and paste your work directly into the application or have it check your documents while you type
  • Makes Suggestions to improve sentence structure and explains why the change has been suggested
  • Picks up on adjectives that could lead to exaggeration
  • Encourages you to write in the action instead of the passive voice
  • Works for British English, American English, and Australian English
  • Plagiarism checker is only available to premium customers
  • Plagiarism checker doesn’t cover academic papers
  • Live checker is not available for Microsoft Word
Best Grammar Checker

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2. ProWritingAid

Pricing: Free version, $20/month, $79/year, $300/lifetime
Use for: As an alternative for grammar and plagiarism checkers of academic writing

ProWritingAid is an affordable grammar checker that leverages artificial intelligence and a personal support system to help you improve your writing by pointing out specific areas of weakness. 

ProWritingAid presents suggestions similarly to Grammarly through bold pop-up boxes that are easy to navigate. However, this software targets professionals looking to make fundamental changes to their writing style. To find out more, read our ProWritingAid review.

  • Reasonable prices, especially with the lifetime option
  • Compatible with Microsoft Word
  • Includes a digital writing coach
  • Style score gives you a guide regarding the quality of your work
  • Plagiarism is not included in the free version
  • PLagiarism checker less accurate than Grammarly
Best Grammarly Alternative
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3. Scrivener

Price: 30-day free trial, student/academics discount $50, IOS $19.99, Standard macOS and windows $58.99
Use for: For managing large academic papers, organizing research, and references

Scrivener may not be as well known as the last two software options, but it has much to offer academic writers. For example, the platform will help you get your references in order, and it will help you integrate large chunks of text into one, which is useful when you’re moving big paragraphs.

Although bloggers and journalists overlook Scrivener, if you’re someone who is dealing with long research papers, this could be the ideal software choice. To find out more, read our Scrivener review.

  • Great formatting tools for academic writers
  • Affordable prices, especially with the academic discount
  • Helps organize your reference 
  • Keep all your files, including PDFs and web pages, inside your Scrivener account
  • Take a snapshot of your work and return to early versions if you want to make retrospective changes
  • No plagiarism checker
  • No live checker for editing on external platforms such as Google Docs and Word
  • A learning curve

4. Google Docs

Price: Free
Use for: General writing, collaborative writing, and editing

Google Docs is probably the most well-known writing software, and it’s used by professional writers, bloggers, and academics worldwide. I’m personally using Docs to write this post, as its sharing feature makes sending your work to an editor a breeze. 

Docs offers many valuable features for academic writers, including headers and footers, collaborative comments, citations, and the new document comparison tool. 

This platform is useful when combined with Grammarly, its spell checker and writing tips are highlighted clearly in google docs, and you can accept and reject suggestions with one click. 

  • Easy to use, familiar software
  • Collaboration made easy
  • Easy to format text with citations, headers/footers, and Headings 
  • Grammarly compatible
  • Export in PDF
  • Document comparison does not make up for the lack of a plagiarism checker
  • Native spell checker is a little unreliable, but adding Grammarly makes up for this

5. LaTeX

Price: Free
Use for: For writing scientific papers

LaTex is a writing software designed to help people improve the structure of their academic papers.  It’s worth noting that LaTeX doesn’t offer a spell-checking service, so you’ll want to use it in combination with Grammarly or ProWritingAid. 

The software interface may not boast a high-quality-looking interface, but the underlying features are impressive, especially considering the software is free to use. 

  • Automatic indexing and bibliography generator 
  • Free
  • Automatic chapter and paragraph macros
  • Math typesetting
  • No spelling and grammar checker 
  • Not as user-friendly as some competitors

6. Papers

Price: 30-day free trial, $3/per month for students, $5/month for academics, $10/month for business
Use for: To manage, read, annotate and share your research references

Papers helps you gather your research materials across multiple devices, making your books, articles, and journals easy to access and organize. 

If you’re writing a long research paper, manually collating all your references into one library would be extremely time-consuming. Papers automates the process, letting you focus on writing, 

Although Papers isn’t a stand-alone academic writing software due to the lack of most expected features, it will be handy for academic writers struggling to organize their references and sources.

  • Low price for academics and students
  • Import references to your library from multiple platforms
  • Access all your research sources in one place
  • Collaborative annotation of notes and sources
  • $10/month is a little expensive, considering you don’t get plagiarism or a spell checker

7. Zettlr

Price: Free
Use for: As a markdown editor and for organizing academic notes

Zettlr is an open-source markdown editor software that lets you focus on your writing without worrying about making it HTML compatible manually. Zettlr is excellent for academic writers looking to include citations or export their work in multiple formats. 

  • Free.
  • Export in multiple formats
  • Citation system.
  • Tags to help you organize information
  • Writing goals tracker
  • Preview documents without opening them
  • You may need some CSS coding knowledge to get the best out of the software.
  • No plagiarism checker.

8. Ulysses

Price: $5.99/month or $39.99/year
Use for: Writing on IOS devices

Ulysses is a writing software designed for use on Mac, iPad, and iPhone, so if you aren’t an Apple user, then this one isn’t for you.

Although academic papers are usually full of data, graphs, and charts, you sometimes need to focus on your text, which is where Ulysses can help. Ulysses is minimalist in design with a clutter-free interface, so if you’re someone that quickly gets distracted from writing, it could be a great option. It supports Markdown. You can also use it to prepare an academic paper for publication. To find out more, read our Ulysses review.

  • iCloud synchronization
  • One payment plan for three devices
  • Minimalistic design.
  • Set and track writing goals.
  • Lacks academic writing features such as a bibliography, references, and chapter organization
  • No option for collaborative writing
  • Not available for Windows
  • No plagiarism checker

9. Obsidian

Price: Free, but you can make a one-time payment of $25 for special developer features and a yearly $50 for commercial use rights
Use for: Note taking and organizing

Obsidian is a note-taking and personal knowledge management tool for improving how research writers organize ideas and notes. 

Academic writing often involves developing complex ideas and presenting them clearly. Obsidian can help you develop your theories by organizing your ideas and notes into mindmaps and information stacks. 

Obsidian won’t be the standalone app you use as an academic writer, but it can help you develop ideas and connections within your papers. To find out more, read our Obsidian review.

  • Unique mind mapping system
  • Many plugins offer features such as voice recording, formatting, and writing templates
  • If you have some knowledge of coding HTML or Java, you can customize parts of the software for your specific needs
  • It will take some time to get to grips with all the features
  • Lack of specific academic writing needs such as a plagiarism checker

10. Joplin

Price: Free
Use for: Organize your notes across various platforms

Joplin is an open-source note-taking software that operates across various devices and has a thriving community developing free tools to improve the platform. You can share your notes from Joplin across different platforms, and it runs on Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. 

For academic writers, Joplin offers a space to collect web clippings and notes from online sources and access them from multiple devices. 

  • Free
  • Accessible on all major operating systems
  • Web clipping system is excellent for researchers gathering notes
  • The community is constantly developing new features
  • No collaborative feature
  • No free storage/cloud
  • Like other note-taking apps, it doesn’t check for plagiarism or spelling

Best Academic Writing Software: The Final Word

If you need a good grammar checker, Grammarly is our top choice due to its accuracy and speed. Scrivener excels at managing long-form papers, but Ulysses is easier to use. Obsidian is great for managing research as it Papers.

Why Should You Trust Me? 

My work as a journalist has been published in major news outlets such as The Daily Mirror, Newsweek, Zenger, and Yahoo. In a hectic newsroom, there’s no time to waste, and mistakes are rarely forgiven, so I’ve spent hundreds of hours using writing software to guarantee accuracy and clarity in my copy. 

In my opinion, you can make the best use of academic writing software by combining different options based on their individual strengths. I recommend using Google Docs if you collaborate with a team combined with Grammarly or ProWritingAid for spelling and plagiarism and then adding something like Papers to help organize your sources. 

Our Testing Criteria

We update this roundup of the best academic writing tools regularly. We test key features by checking MS Word documents, blog posts, essays, articles and even book chapters. 

These writing samples range from several hundred to several thousand words. Typically, we use the web, desktop and browser apps and plugins, factoring in price, ease of use and functionality. We’ve reviewed many of these tools individually and included links to those reviews.

FAQs About The Best Academic Writing Software

Is Grammarly good for academic writing?

Grammarly is useful for checking academic writing for grammar and spelling mistakes. It can also help academic writers improve the readability of their reports or papers. However, Grammarly isn’t meant to function as a tool for planning and writing academic papers. For that use, a traditional word processor or a dedicated academic writing app.

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  • Peter is an experienced journalist and tech-lover who has spent years hunting for the best writing software. He firmly believes that we all need a helping hand crossing our Ts and dotting our Is and takes great pride in sharing his opinions on the best writing software out there.