Best Academic Writing Software: 21 Top Options (2024)

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. What is academic writing? Read our guide to find out!

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 no issues found logo
Grammarly has become the go-to writing software for many writers across various levels of education and expertise

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

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Plagiarism checker is only available to premium customers
  • Plagiarism checker doesn’t cover academic papers
  • Live checker is not available for Microsoft Word
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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 website logo
ProWritingAid’s advanced AI technology helps to identify and correct any weaknesses or errors in your 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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Plagiarism is not included in the free version
  • PLagiarism checker less accurate than Grammarly
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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

Webpage of Scrivener are seen on a laptop computer
Scrivener is a lesser-known but powerful tool for academic writers

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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • 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 a free Web-based application in which documents and spreadsheets can be created
Google Docs is a widely used writing software, favored by professionals and academics

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. 

Pros
  • Easy to use, familiar software
  • Collaboration made easy
  • Easy to format text with citations, headers/footers, and Headings 
  • Grammarly compatible
  • Export in PDF
Cons
  • 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

The LaTeX Project logo
LaTeX is the ultimate academic writing software

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. 

Pros
  • Automatic indexing and bibliography generator 
  • Free
  • Automatic chapter and paragraph macros
  • Math typesetting
Cons
  • 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

ReadCube Papers
Papers simplify research by gathering all your materials from multiple devices effortlessly

Papers help 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 automate 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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • $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 review
Zettlr is an open-source markdown editor that simplifies document formatting and allows to focus on content creation

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. 

Pros
  • Free.
  • Export in multiple formats
  • Citation system.
  • Tags to help you organize information
  • Writing goals tracker
  • Preview documents without opening them
Cons
  • 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 Writing App
Ulysses is the perfect writing software for Apple users

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.

Pros
  • iCloud synchronization
  • One payment plan for three devices
  • Minimalistic design.
  • Set and track writing goals.
Cons
  • 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 powerful Markdown app
Obsidian is a game-changing tool for research writers

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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • 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 website Review
Joplin is a fantastic open-source note-taking software that allows to take notes across various devices

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. 

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

11. Microsoft Word

Price: $6.99/Month
Use for: General writing, editing, and note-taking

Laptop computer displaying logo of Microsoft Word, a word processor developed by Microsoft
Microsoft Word is a familiar and easy-to-use writing and editing tool

Microsoft Word is one of the most widely used word-processing applications for academic writing. Known for its user-friendly interface, it offers various formatting options and tools. It has an inbuilt spell checker, dozens of fonts, and various formatting options.

It’s a fairly general writing tool that lacks some of the more specialized features of some of those mentioned in this article. Nonetheless, Word is a tried and tested writing companion you should consider using with a good referencing software from this list.

Pros
  • Robust formatting tools for academic writing
  • Familiar to most writers
  • Available on almost all PCs
  • Solid offline writing tool
Cons
  • Collaboration features are not as good as other options
  • Additional cost for extra cloud storage
  • Outdated UI
  • Lack of specialist tools

12. Zotero

Price: Free
Use for: Organizing references

Laptop computer displaying logo of Zotero, a free and open-source reference management software
Zotero helps you build and manage your bibliography

Zotero is an open-source reference management software ideal for anyone struggling to keep their bibliography neatly ordered. If you’re writing a lengthy academic paper and haven’t settled on a referencing software, Zotero is worth a try, especially as it’s free.

If you’re working on a group project, Zotero’s collaborative features are helpful when organizing citations in various formats, including Chicago and APA. Naturally, as this is citation software, you’ll want to combine it with a writing platform such as Docs or Word.

Pros
  • Free version
  • Over 10,000 citation styles
  • Collaboration features
  • PDF reader built-in
  • Compatible with Google Docs and Word
Cons
  • Limited customer support
  • Limited offline access without a paid subscription
  • Not the easiest to use without spending several hours practicing

 

13. Mendeley

Price: Free with optional premium plan
Use for: Researching and referencing

Laptop computer displaying logo of Mendeley
Mendeley streamlines researching scientific articles

Mendely is a free-to-use reference management tool that PhD students created. You can tell from the software that the people who created it had wasted hours manually referencing and wanted a more streamlined and efficient way to add citations to their papers.

The Mendeley Library has millions of papers and can be easily browsed from tablet, PC, and mobile. Combining it with a reference management tool will help you organize your research.

Pros
  • Social networking for research collaboration
  • Over 100 million articles in the database
  • Clean UI, even on smaller screens
  • It can be used to generate bibliographies
Cons
  • Storage is limited in the free version
  • Reports of poor synchronization on collaborative documents
  • The downloadable version for PC is no longer available

14. EndNote

Price: $269.95/Full License
Use for: Referencing, annotating, and journal matching

EndNote website
EndNote is used by academic writers to manage citations and references

EndNote is a premium academic research and writing software that is a market leader in providing reference management, citations, and bibliography creation. The premium price tag might be worth swallowing if you’re a serious academic writer.

EndNote can help you match your research papers with potentially compatible journals via its Manuscript Match tool. This software is easy to integrate with popular writing software like Google Docs and makes reading and annotating PDFs very easy, even on your phone.

Pros
  • Excellent reference management
  • Smooth integration with word processors
  • Top-class PDF reader and annotator
  • Novel journal matching tool
  • Collaboration is made simple
Cons
  • The price tag is out of most people’s range
  • The learning curve for new users
  • The student discount isn’t very generous

15. Citavi

Price: Free trial or $1000
Use for: Collaborative reference management and writing

Citavi webpage
Citavi offers automatic citations and collaborative writing features

Citavi is an academic writing and reference management tool. The software combines a seamless collaborative writing experience with an automatic citation tool with over 10,000 styles. 

The software automatically links citations, creates a bibliography, and allows you to export directly to Microsoft Word. The software is impressive and has received great reviews, but the price tag naturally means most people will probably settle for something cheaper.

Pros
  • Covers citations and writing
  • Easy export process to Word
  • Collaborative writing is as good as with Docs
  • Complex academic search queries can be narrowed down with several filters
Cons
  • The price is high as the product is aimed at companies, not individuals
  • Lacks Google Docs compatibility
  • The free trial is very limited

16. Turnitin

Price: Free
Use for: Plagiarism checker

The website logo of Turnitin
Turnitin is one of the most popular plagiarism detection software

Turnitin is a plagiarism detection tool that anyone writing research papers should consider using. Most major research institutions use Turnitin to ensure they don’t publish plagiarized work.

The software is easy to use and rates the uniqueness of academic rating based on its massive pool of papers. Turnitin doesn’t just give a yes or no answer. It points out sections of your work that may be plagiarized and links them to citations of the work that appears to be being copied.

Pros
  • Trusted by major institutions and leading universities
  • Easy to use
  • Free
  • The feedback system gives a detailed breakdown of where you’ve plagiarized and helps you avoid it in the future
Cons
  • Not the most modern user interface
  • Does occasionally flag non-plagiarized copy as plagiarized
  • No in-depth writing support or cross-compatibility

17. Copyscape

Price: Free version or pay per word
Use for: Plagiarism checker

Copyscape webpage
Copyscape is a simple yet effective plagiarism checker

Copyscape is a plagiarism checker designed for online content creators and anyone who runs a blog or a website. Although it’s probably less helpful for academics than Turnitin, it’s still worth mentioning, as it can help academics in the early stages of research that involves collecting information from sources other than official journals. 

The software is straightforward to use as it is a simple copy-and-paste system. There is a limited free version, but even the premium per-word rate is very reasonable.

Pros
  • Free version
  • Easy to use
  • Great for someone running a blog that posts academic content from multiple writers
  • PDF compatible
Cons
  • Generally, Turnitin is more appropriate for academics
  • The website has a very cheap feel

18. ChatGPT

Price: Free version or $20/month
Use for: AI-enhanced writing, editing, and researching

Screen with ChatGPT chat with AI or artificial intelligence
ChatGPT is a multi-utility AI tool that can be used for writing, editing and researching

ChatGPT has been the most talked about technological innovation this year. Its impact on the world of research and writing is still evolving, and the model is still developing. It’s a fantastic tool for researching if you’re willing to spend a few hours learning how to create effective prompts. 

ChatGPT can rapidly search the web for content published before 2021 and present it concisely. Regardless of the topic you’re researching, this software is going to be able to help you research and write more efficiently.

If you want an in-depth review of ChatGPT and how you can use it to become a better academic writer, check out our ChatGPT review

Pros
  • Rapid response to even very niche research requests
  • Finds sources from all over the web much faster than a traditional Google search.
  • Speeds up the writing and editing process
  • It is a useful tool to master, considering the likelihood of more large language models hitting the market in the future
Cons
  • It does make factual mistakes.
  • Sometimes, the AI suffers from so-called hallucinations that can result in very strange answers.
  • Its access to the web was cut off in 2021, so it can’t find the latest research papers.
  • You’ll need to spend some time learning about writing prompts to get the best out of ChatGPT

19. Ginger

Price: Free version or $4.99/month
Use for: Spelling and Grammar

Ginger website
Ginger checks your spelling and grammar and offers insights into your writing

Ginger is a spelling and grammar software that offers an interesting alternative to Grammarly. This software is compatible with most popular writing platforms and goes beyond basic grammar and spelling checks.

Ginger offers unlimited rephrasing suggestions and can translate documents into dozens of languages. In addition, they’ve managed to undercut Grammarly’s prices, so this could be worth a try if you feel Grammarly is too expensive.

Pros
  • Solid grammar and spell checker
  • Very nice UI
  • The rephrasing tool will help you add new life to your writing
  • Well priced particularly if you pay for a yearly subscription
  • The translation feature makes it stand out from the crowd of grammar checkers
Cons
  • The free version isn’t as comprehensive as the one offered by Grammarly
  • Only available on three browsers

20. Authorea

Price: Free version available
Use for: Writing and publishing

Authorea homepage
Authorea is a writing tool that can help you get published

Authorea is a collaborative writing tool designed for researchers working in small teams. Importantly, Authorea goes beyond just helping you write by offering several tools that help researchers publish their papers once it’s completed. Beyond the basic collaborative writing features you may expect, it also offers automatic citation formatting even when multiple people are editing one document.

The software can automatically format research papers to suit 40 of the biggest publishers in the world. The free version is fairly comprehensive, but frustratingly, it’s unclear how much they charge for the premium service, as the price has to be negotiated directly via email with the team. It appears to vary depending on the insulation you work for and the size of your team.

Pros
  • The publishing feature will be beneficial for academic writers.
  • Free to use
  • Elegant website and UI
  • Collaborative writing and automatic formatting of citations
Cons
  • The premium pricing plan is not clear
  • It’s specialized software, so using it will require some practice
  • If you only publish in one journal, then the formatting feature won’t be that useful

21. Trinka

Price: Free version available
Use for: Specialized academic spelling and grammar checker

Trinka registration page
Trinka offers in-depth writing suggestions that are generated using AI

Trinka is an AI-powered technical writing grammar and plagiarism checker. This is essentially a more technical version of Grammarly that’s been designed specially to help academic writers. It can help you create a more formal tone, introduce technical terms, and even have the option to focus suggestions on specific scientific areas such as medicine, chemistry, and physics. 

In addition, it has a publication feature that can help you get your paper into the format required by most publishers. If you’ve been using Grammarly as an academic writer but feel that its suggestions are too general, then Trinka could be a great alternative.

Pros
  • A spell checker designed for academic writers
  • Suggestions tailored to your scientific field
  • Formatting tool and an in-house plagiarism checker
  • Tone enhancement designed for academic papers
  • Premium version reasonably priced at $80/year
Cons
  • The free version is slightly limited
  • Only 5,000 words per month with the free version
  • Slow response times from customer support, according to some reviews

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.

Author

  • 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.