Consensus Library Primer

December 16, 2022 By Eric Olson

What is Consensus?

Consensus is a search engine that uses AI to search for and surface claims made in peer-reviewed research papers.

With Consensus, you can ask a plain English research question, such as “what is the impact of climate change on GDP?”, and you will be returned claims made in research papers related to your question.

Each tile is a word-for-word snippet from a paper.

Using Consensus allows you to instantly see where the literature stands about your questions, speeding up the research process and more quickly finding relevant and citable information for your studies.


How Consensus is different from traditional academic search engines?

  • More intuitive searching

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 one of the three most optimal ways to execute a Consensus query: 

-> Two concept relationship (“direct cash transfers and poverty”)

-> Direct question (“does the death penalty reduce crime?”)

-> Open-ended phrase (“benefits of mindfulness meditation”)

  • 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 snippets 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!

  • Research quality indicators

A key part of the Consensus experience is to try to guide the user to quality research. Right now, our first step toward this is adding the “rigorous journal” tags.

This metric goes beyond standard bibliographic rankings and measures the rigor standards of the studies within journals.

Over time we will add more and more objective quality indicators, all calculated using our AI tools – including but not limited to: paper funding sources, study design, effect size and sample size markers

  • User experience

Traditional academic search engines like Google Scholar have not innovated in any meaningful way in the past decade.

Our goal at Consensus is to take our expertise at building easy-to-use, intuitive technology products and apply to the domain of academic research.

We strive to build a product that outperforms traditional search engines both in its functionality and in its look and feel.

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.

What is coming?:

Consensus is only a few months old and will continually be improved over time. This may result in the ordering of results to change based on improvements to our underlying algorithms.

Features that are currently in development to be released in 2023 include:

  • More research quality indicator tags (study design, funding source etc)
  • Auto-citation generator
  • Multi-paper analysis
  • Library subscription data integration

We are a new product and want to integrate as much feedback from our early users as possible. If you have any questions or features you want to request, please contact us through our support portal here:

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