Perplexity: AI tool that provides information with references

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Written By Abha Malpani Naismith

Communications strategy. Digital specialist. Brand journalist. Writer. AI enthusiast.

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In my search for finding AI tools and hacks to help me work better and faster, the latest tool I’m loving is

The (free!) research assistant you thought you’d never have

Research is an integral part of a writer’s job, whether you are writing a book, a press release, a feature article or a social media post, you need access to the latest and most relevant information.

This is where comes in. It is an AI powered search engine and chatbot that utilizes natural language processing and machine learning to answer your queries.

Ask it any question, and it is able to scour the web for multiple articles related to your query. It then uses those articles to provide a summary of the answer to your question, and the reason it is different is because it provides you with links to the sources from where it got its information. Yes, it gives you references and citations!

It has a ‘quick search’ function, which will give you information based on 5-6 sources, and it has a ‘copilot’ feature that will give you information based on 19-20 sources. The tool searches the web in real-time unlike Chat GPT whose information source stops at 2021.

Copilot search example

It has a ‘focus’ feature where you can limit the sources from which Perplexity finds you information. For example, maybe you only want it to search academic journals or Reddit; or only Youtube or Wolfram Alpha, you can narrow your search accordingly. Or, you can upload files in plain text, code, or PDF format, and Perplexity will use the contents of the file to formulate answers. For short files, its language model will analyze the entire document. For longer files, it will extract the most relevant segments to provide the most pertinent response to your query.

Perplexity’s Focus feature

The summaries Perplexity provides are short and references are limited to the most recent ones as so you are not bombarded by an overwhelming amount of information.

Just like Google does, it also gives you ‘related questions’ at the end of every search. It also allows you to ask a follow up question to the one you originally asked for. This allows you to go back and forth with it to keep answering your questions in context of the information you are looking for, in a feature it calls Threads.

Sometimes the summary is not that well written or hard to understand, but it’s not an issue because you can go to straight to the source and get the information you need to fix it or better understand the summary.

The tool is free to use which is great. You can upgrade for some additional features, but in the beginning you won’t find it necessary, so you can have a good play around with it before putting down your credit card.

This tool feels like a dream come true for writers and journalists who depend on finding and reading a lot of research for their articles. A must try!

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