• Heather Saigo

Artificial Intelligence Makes Literature Review Easier

I love trying out new educational technology -- especially tools that I can use in my own work. Currently, I am deep in the process of writing a dissertation proposal. It feels like a never-ending quest through research databases and libraries. Thousands of keyword combinations, Boolean operators, skimming abstracts, reading reams of journal articles, mining bibliographies for seminal works, and distilling it all into a few words for my manuscript... I love it, but it is slow work.

I stumbled onto elicit.org last week and am really excited about its potential. I have not mastered all of its features, but wanted to share this quick first-impression review in case it helps anyone else. It's always deadline season, right? Watch my five-minute overview video here.

The first thing I noticed about elicit.org is that it searches a research question instead of keywords. I tried asking a question about the impact of intrinsic motivation on women's career persistence. The AI offers additional questions to help you decide what to search, and I like using a combination of my own questions and the suggested queries.

screengrab of an elicit.org search results page with notes and arrows to important features
Overview of some helpful elicit.org features.

I took a snapshot of the search results page to provide an overview of some of elicit.org's features at a glance.

  • The results are filterable and sortable, which is a quick way to narrow down a long list. For example, if you are working on a literature review and need to find the seminal works in the field, it is helpful to sort the results by citations. This will move the most-cited articles to the top of your list. If you see papers with hundreds or thousands of citations, that is a good sign that you should be familiar with those studies.

  • Use the Has PDF toggle to limit results to those with PDFs available. This feature helps avoid wasting time on paywalled articles if you don't have a subscription to the publication.

  • Elicit provides an AI-generated summary of the top four search results. This is a dynamic feature that refreshes when you filter or sort the results. I would not suggest using this summary as a replacement for your own analysis, but it is an interesting tool to include between skimming abstracts and reading full papers. I love seeing how it changes when I update the search results. This bit really fascinates me.

  • You can also filter the search results by study type. If you know you want to see longitudinal studies or randomized controlled trials, you can narrow down your list accordingly.

  • Once you are satisfied with your search, you can export the results. I downloaded several CSV files with results from different versions of my search question. These are now populating a spreadsheet of more than 120 articles that I am reading and analyzing for my literature review chapter.

  • It does more, but this is just a quick introduction.

I hope this helps with your literature search and saves some time combing through databases. Elicit.org will not replace those searches, but it is a fun and helpful addition to the research toolbox.

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