Building Your First Notebook


Elicit's Notebooks are a powerful tool to save you time as you find papers, narrow and refine your research, and uncover new insights on your topic. But where do you even start?

This guide will walk you through:

  • The three primary steps to open a new Notebook

  • Add additional steps to your Notebook

Elicit's Primary Steps

When you open a new Notebook, you'll pick one of Elicit's three primary steps to begin your research: Find Papers, Extract Data from PDFs, or List of Concepts. Which one you choose depends on where you are in your research process and whether you already have papers you'd like to use.

Find Papers

If you already know what your specific research topic will be and you're ready to start finding literature to review, Find Papers is the place to start.

The Find Papers step searches over our corpus of more than 125 million papers from Semantic Scholar, both open access and closed access.

Write your search query in natural language, and Elicit will use semantic search to find similarities between the meaning of your search query and the content of the papers. There's no need to try to think of every possible keyword or synonym to find relevant papers. Just ask Elicit a question like you would ask an expert in the field.

Elicit will return a summary of the 8 most relevant papers it found on your topic and a table containing the papers.

For tips on improving your Find Papers search results, check out the resources below:

Extract Data from PDFs

If you already have papers in PDF format from which you'd like to extract data or use as part of a systematic or literature review, then start with the Extract Data from PDFs step.

Simply upload your PDF files, select the ones you'd like to include in this Notebook, and click the arrow button.

Elicit will create a table with those papers, which you can then use to review, summarize, or dig deeper into your topic by adding columns or additional steps.

For tips on extracting data from PDFs, see the articles below:

List of Concepts

In Elicit, a "concept" includes things like effects, techniques, datasets, arguments, or examples of any topic that you'd like to explore. Use the List of Concepts step when you'd like to identify common concepts discussed across the topic's literature.

For example, you might ask it to return a list of effects of invasive species:

Elicit will first find papers relevant to that topic. Then it will analyze those papers to find common concepts the papers discuss. Next, it will remove any duplicates that it finds before displaying a final table of the concepts it found.

Because List of Concepts requires multiple steps to produce the final result, it will initially require more credits to run than the other steps.

The table will display the various concepts that Elicit found and the papers in which they were discussed so that you can explore those concepts further.

In some cases, you will see "Language model" in the right column instead of a paper. This means that we asked a language model to provide a list of concepts on this topic. This was one of the concepts it provided, but Elicit was unable to verify it in any of the papers found. Elicit still includes the concept in case it's valid and useful for you, but we flag it so that you can double check that it's correct for yourself.

Adding Additional Steps

Once you've run your first step, you can further your research and build out your Notebook by adding additional steps.

In addition to the three primary steps, you also have the options to:

  • Select specific papers from your table (or multiple tables) to create a new table with just those papers

  • Summarize the abstracts of specific papers you select

  • Chat with papers you select

These additional steps allow you to narrow or broaden your results and extract more meaningful data. You can add as many additional steps as you'd like as your research takes you in new directions or uncovers interesting new insights.

For example, you might start with the Extract Data from PDFs step to bring in papers you already have. Then you could add a Find Papers step to discover more papers on your topic. You can then select the most relevant papers from both steps to combine into a single table, chat with those papers, or summarize the abstracts of those papers.

Or you might start with a List of Concepts to generate ideas for where you'd like to go in your research. Then you can add a step to find papers about one of the concepts the first step returned, before chatting with those papers to get a better understanding of the concept.

For a great overview of all of Notebook's features, check out the video below: