Consensus Library Primer

Have a question about science, health, fitness, or diet? Get cited, evidence-based insights with Consensus.

Try for free
Written by Consensus
February 16, 2023 8 min read

What is Consensus

Consensus is an AI-powered search engine built for academic research.

Importantly, Consensus is a search engine first, with AI built “around” it. This means that every response is grounded in academic research.

Consensus includes many of foundational aspects of academic search combined with the delightful and time-saving power of language models. 

You can keyword search or search in a conversational manner, and Consensus will first find the most relevant papers, and then use our purpose built language models to summarize key insights within and across multiple research papers.

The source material within Consensus comes from the Semantic Scholar database. This includes over 200M research papers across all domains of science. You can learn more here.

Consensus is freemium product. The basic search functionality is free but our most powerful AI and workflow features require a premium account.

Bottom Line: Consensus combines the rigor of traditional academic search, with the magic of AI to provide an innovative, but grounded, academic search experience.

How is Consensus different from other AI tools like ChatGPT

  • We cite our sources!

Most new AI tools, like ChatGPT, are fully generative, meaning the AI models are simply just generating text in response to a prompt. This can create a whole host of problems when doing academic research, namely an inability to reference actual research papers, or worse, making up fake papers.

Instead, Consensus begins its response with a comprehensive search of the literature to find relevant papers given the users input. Once a set of papers are returned, our AI models begin their work, extracting relevant insights from individual papers and summarizing takeaways across multiple papers.

Every piece of text that is generated by our AI models is tied back to its original source material with a citation. You are always one click away from the underlying source content.

  • Purpose built-academic features

Simply put, ChatGPT and other fully generative tools are not built for academic research. Consensus is.

Consensus contains a litany of features that are designed to both speed up your research, but also help guide you toward the highest quality research possible.

Some of our most popular features include:

  1. Advanced AI-powered search filters – filter your results by nine different study methods, by the sample size and even the qualities of the population studied
  2. Study Snapshot – click the study snapshot button on any paper and get the key paper details (methods, outcomes measures etc.) instantly extracted
  3. Bookmarking & custom lists – save lists of papers and/or searches directly within Consensus to reference later
  4. Quality indicator tags – many results have colorful tags on them. These tags indicate things like the quality of the journal or the design of the study – the goal is to help highlight papers that are likely to be high-quality

Our goal is to make it easier to find high-quality research and want to use as many different ways to assess research quality, beyond just standard bibliographic metrics.

  • Responsible usage of generative AI

Consensus uses AI to help make research more efficient, accessible and effective. We also know powerful these models are and how they must be used carefully and responsibly.

We have many guardrails in place to help ensure responsible AI usage in our product:

  • The default setting is to not synthesize the results – a user has to opt-in to our most powerful generative features
  • Our model is explicitly instructed and trained to only generate its response using the text from the Consensus results
  • All of the results + sources that power the summary are all directly present below and one click away
  • We have a separate search relevancy model that only allows search results above a certain threshold to be included in the response
    • I.e. if you type in a question and get back completely irrelevant results, we won’t allow any summary feature to be utilized
  • We have a support portal directly within the product and always encourage users to send us mistakes and act quickly to fix issues

How is Consensus different from traditional academic search engines

  • More intuitive searching

By state-of-the-art using natural language processing methods, Consensus is designed to take more flexible queries than traditional academic search engines to make searching feel even more intuitive.

Instead of trying to hack together keywords, try a few of the best ways to search on Consensus:

-> Simple yes/no question: does the death penalty reduce crime?

-> Open-ended phrase: benefits of mindfulness meditation

-> Ask about the effects of a concept: what is the impact of climate change on GDP?

-> A conversational command about a research topic: review the literature about the relationship between socioeconomic status and healthcare outcomes

  • AI-powered analysis, not just a list of links

Instead of delivering you a list of links to papers related to your search, leaving you to click open dozens of tabs, Consensus will pull out direct insights from papers related to your question.

This allows you to more quickly find the papers to dig into further, or in some cases, deliver you the insight you were looking for right on the search results page.

Additionally, with features like our “Copilot” and the synthesize feature, you can instantly get an overview of what the research says about your query across many papers all at once.

With copilot, you can even ask for specifics formats of the synthesis of the research you are looking for -> “make me a bulleted list of all the effective ways to reduce homelessness”

How Consensus partners with universities

We have partnered with universities across the world in a variety of ways to get students and faculty full access to Consensus and all of our premium features.

  • University-wide license – in this case, we typically work directly with the library who purchases a single license at a rate based on the enrollment of the university. Contact us at for a quote.
  • Smaller scale engagements – we also have engaged with universities on a smaller scale, like a class, lab or school level. If your request is under 100 users, please use our self-service portal here. For a bigger plan, please reach out at for a custom quote.

To learn more about what is paywalled in our product – please visit our pricing page here:

Use Cases

  • Finding Supporting Evidence for a paper

The most straightforward use case for Consensus. You are writing a research paper and need to find supporting evidence for your hypothesis.

You type in your research question into Consensus and will instantly see where certain papers stand in regards to your hypothesis, allowing you to quickly decide which papers to further investigate and eventually cite in your work.

  • Determining your own hypothesis about a question or subject

Similar to the above, the only difference being that you come to Consensus without a hypothesis in mind. 

You begin by typing your research question into Consensus, quickly analyze the weight of evidence on both sides of the argument and make a determination of where you stand and what the argument your work will be taking.

  • Conducting a literature review

If you are tasked with a literature review, Consensus can be an easy way to find papers related to multiple facets of your research question.

For example, let’s say you are doing a literature review on the effects of climate change on the global economy. You can first start with a question like “What is the impact of climate change on the economy?” Then, get more granular with questions like “How will climate change affect GDP?” and “Will climate change have a more negative impact on developing countries?”

  • Determining your research question or identifying gaps in the literature

What if you don’t even have a question in mind? Well, Consensus can still be helpful.

If you are writing a paper, type a potential research question into Consensus to see where the literature stands and what would be best to research further.

Or, if you are conducting research yourself and are looking for an unexplored topic, ask some questions in Consensus to see if you have identified a gap in the literature.

  • Getting a quick snapshot of what the experts think about a question 

Need to know what researchers think about your question? Just type your question into Consensus and see conclusions from relevant research instantly.

If you need to dig deeper, click into the details page to read the abstract or access the full text, but Consensus is the easiest way to get a snapshot of the research in seconds.

More information

Have a question about science, health, fitness, or diet? Get cited, evidence-based insights with Consensus.

Try for free