Write your literature review with Connected Papers

I discovered Connected Papers while recently completing the literature review section of a research proposal. I’ve written about how I found this tool and decided to try it. In short, I was looking for a way to condense the papers and information that I was collecting and was interested in tools that did not position themselves as reference managers. I wanted to cite historical and contemporary papers to not omit seminary work.

What is Connected Papers

Connected Papers is a free online visual tool that helps researchers and students find relevant articles within their fields. Writing an evidence-based paper involves reading and analyzing different manuscripts related to the topic. This is not always simple and can become cumbersome if not handled systematically. While Connected Papers is geared toward researchers and applied scientists, it can also be helpful for students who struggle with the literature review sections of their dissertations, master’s thesis, and other research proposals and manuscripts.

How does Connected Papers work?

Connected Papers uses an algorithm to create graphs of related papers. The process works by:

  • Analyzing over 50,000 papers and ordering them according to their connection with the seed paper (or original paper)
  • Papers are then classified and arranged based on similarity, which is based on co-citation and bibliography interdependence. This helps to ensure that papers that do not cite each other can still be connected.
  • A force-directed graph is created to group related papers so that closely associated papers cluster together and are near the origin paper; less related articles appear further from the seed paper.
  • The related papers are then highlighted in circles through the node selection feature. Clicking each node provides an abstract about each article. The size and color of the node are also symbolic, as the size represents the number of citations, and lighter colors signal older papers. The lines that connect articles are also stronger when papers are similar.

Using Connected Papers

To use Connected Papers, you will need to follow these steps:

  • Create an account by registering on the platform.
  • Input the paper DOI, URL, or title in the search bar.
  • Select the “build the graph” button, and choose which nodes to visualize on the left pane. Related papers will appear closer to each other.

Is Connected Papers helpful?

Connected Papers is valuable as it offers a visual overview of a subject and its relation to other topics. In general, Connected Papers provides the following benefits to users:

  • Includes many relevant papers to your topic, ensuring that you do not miss referencing important articles
  • Creates a visual summary of the state of academic knowledge around a particular topic
  • Since you can explore papers in a bi-directional manner, you discover older and more recent articles
  • Relies on the Semantic Scholar Paper Corpus, which contains millions of papers from diverse fields
  • Helps users create a bibliography, which is a necessary addition for any academic publication

Alternatives to Connected Papers

To find papers for your literature review, you may consider starting with the following sites or others recommended by your university or institution. Although Connected Papers serves an entirely different purpose, to begin your literature review, you’ll still need to start retrieving papers from popular databases like the ones listed below:

  1. SemanticScholar
  2. ResearchGate
  3. Scopus
  4. Google Scholar
  5. Web of Science
  6. Embase
  7. arXiv.org

However, it is important to note that these sites are limited when compared to Connected Papers. True alternatives to Connected Papers include:

I have not tried any of these alternatives, but they each have the potential to generate graphs.


Connected Papers will not take away the work that users have to do to write about and understand the visualized connections. By highlighting the relation between papers and presenting it as a force-directed graph, Connected Papers is an excellent addition to writing your literature review.

You may be interested in these posts…

You may support me with a generous cup of coffee.