How to Use ChatPDF to Quickly Summarize and Extract Information from Research Articles

I used ChatGPT to write parts of this blog post, specifically the definition and features of ChatPDF

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I recently wrote a blog post about how to use ChatGPT for academic purposes, which sent me down a rabbit hole in learning how to use other AI tools. As an educator, I’m interested in learning how AI tools can facilitate teaching and learning. Do I have concerns about students using these tools to cheat and plagiarize? Yes, of course. But I also see opportunities for educators and students to embrace these tools.

I am currently developing an academic writing course for doctoral students and believe that tools such as ChatGPT, ChatPDF, and Elicit can be used to teach and facilitate academic writing and research. I conducted a preliminary literature search using Google Scholar and identified numerous editorials, commentaries, and research articles on the uses of ChatGPT.

I eventually located a recently published systematic review by Sallam (2023) on ChatGPT’s utility in healthcare education, research, and practice. I learned that ChatGPT has been found to improve scientific writing and health literacy, efficiently analyze datasets and literature reviews, and personalize learning. Limitations identified within the literature included risk of bias, incorrect citations, and inaccurate content with a risk of hallucination. Read more on AI hallucinations here.

Here’s how I used ChatPDF to help me digest the information published in the articles I identified on the use of ChatGPT for academic purposes.

First, what is ChatPDF?

ChatPDF is a web-based platform that allows users to convert their PDF files into editable documents that can be easily modified, annotated, and shared with others. ChatPDF can be used to help students and researchers to make the most of their time by increasing their efficiency and productivity when working with PDF files. ChatPDF works by analyzing text in a PDF file and summarizing relevant information. Users can ask questions to quickly extract information.

According to the ChatPDF website, it can be used for the following purposes:

  1. Summarize information included in PDF files to aid in comprehension.

  2. Answer questions about text included in a PDF file.

  3. Analyze documents to aid in the quick extraction of information.

  4. Interpret and translate PDF files in any language.

Here is an example of how I used ChatPDF to extract information from the systematic review by Sallam (2023).

First, I uploaded the PDF and ChatPDF immediately generated the following:

ChatPDF: Hello there! I am the ChatGPT Utility PDF file and I am here to help you with your healthcare education, research, and practice needs. In this systematic review, we explore the promising perspectives and valid concerns of using ChatGPT in the healthcare industry. Here are three example questions you can ask about the file:
– What are some of the promising perspectives of using ChatGPT in healthcare education?
– How does ChatGPT benefit healthcare research?
– What are some of the valid concerns associated with using ChatGPT in healthcare practice?

I then asked ChatPDF the following questions, some of which I know it wasn’t designed to answer, to test its capabilities. Here were its responses:

How many articles were included in the review?

ChatPDF: According to page 3 of the PDF, a total of 60 records were eligible for inclusion in the current review.

What I found: This information is correct and located in the abstract on page 1 and within the body of the article on page 3.

What databases were used to search for articles?

ChatPDF: According to page 3 of the PDF, the records were retrieved following the PubMed/MEDLINE and Google Scholar searches.

What I found: This information is correct and located in the abstract on page 1 and within the body of the article on page 3.

How does ChatGPT improve scientific writing?

ChatPDF: According to page 13 of the PDF, ChatGPT can improve scientific writing by improving language and better ability to express and communicate research ideas and results. This ultimately speeds up the publication process with faster availability of research results. Additionally, ChatGPT can be used as an efficient tool for conducting comprehensive literature reviews and generating computer codes, thereby saving time for the research steps that require more efforts from human intelligence.

What I found: This information is correct and located on page 13. However, other important information was included in the article that was not included in ChatPDF’s response. The authors also mentioned ChatGPT’s relevance for researchers who are non-native English speakers, and how it can promote diversity and equity in research.

What are the concerns about the use of ChatGPT for scientific research?

ChatPDF: According to page 1 of the PDF, concerns regarding ChatGPT use were stated in 58 out of 60 records, including ethical, copyright, transparency, and legal issues, the risk of bias, plagiarism, lack of originality, inaccurate content with the risk of hallucination, limited knowledge, incorrect citations, cybersecurity issues and risk of infodemics.

What I found: This information is correct and located on page 1. However, additional details were provided about these concerns on page 12. The author stated that “Ethical concerns were commonly mentioned by 33 records (55.0%), especially in the context of risk of bias (mentioned by 18 records, 30.0%) and plagiarism (mentioned by 14 records, 23.3%) among data privacy and security issues. Other concerns involved the risk of incorrect/inaccurate information, which was mentioned by 20 records (33.3%); citation/reference inaccuracy or inadequate referencing, which was mentioned by 10 records (16.7%); transparency issues, which was mentioned by 10 records (16.7%); legal issues were mentioned in seven records (11.7%); restricted knowledge before 2021 was mentioned by six records (10.0%); risk of misinformation spread was mentioned by five records (8.3%); over-detailed content was mentioned in five records (8.3%); copyright issues were mentioned in four records (6.7%); and the lack of originality was mentioned by four records (6.7%, Figure 4).”

How does ChatGPT benefit healthcare research?

ChatPDF: According to page 13 of the PDF, ChatGPT can benefit healthcare research by providing an efficient tool for analyzing massive data including electronic health records or genomic data. It can also generate computer codes and conduct comprehensive literature reviews, thereby saving time for the research steps that require more efforts from human intelligence. This ultimately speeds up the research process with faster availability of research results. Additionally, ChatGPT can be used in drug design and discovery.

What I found: This is the same question as above, except I replaced ” “scientific” with “healthcare” to see if ChatPDF would return similar results because the author used the term “scientific research” in the heading of the paper to address health care research. ChatPDF essentially combined information from the article from two different sections on pages 12 and 13 to answer this question and the response is taken out of context.

How many primary sources were included in the review?

ChatPDF: According to page 3 of the PDF, a total of 110 records were initially screened, and 41 records were excluded. An additional nine records were excluded due to the inability to access the full text of these records. Therefore, a total of 60 records were eligible for inclusion in the current review.

What I found: Although the information reported is correct, it doesn’t answer my question. The types of records included in the review are presented in Figure 2, but the term “primary source” is not mentioned within the text. The reader would need to manually extract information to answer this question.

What are the limitations of ChatGPT in scientific research?

ChatPDF: According to page 16 of the PDF, limitations of ChatGPT use in scientific research include concerns regarding the quality of training datasets that could result in biased content and inaccurate information limited to the period prior to the year 2021. Additionally, other concerns include the current inability of ChatGPT to handle images as well as its low performance in some topics (e.g., failure to pass a parasitology exam for Korean medical students), and the issue of possible plagiarism. Despite ChatGPT versatility in the context of academic education, the content of ChatGPT in research assignments was discouraged, being currently insufficient, biased, or misleading.

What I found: This information is incorrect. ChatPDF extracted information regarding healthcare education instead of scientific research. The author addresses the limitations of ChatGPT in scientific research on pages 13-14.

What are concerns regarding the use of ChatGPT in healthcare practice?

ChatPDF: According to the systematic review on ChatGPT utility in healthcare education, research, and practice, concerns regarding the use of ChatGPT in healthcare practice include ethical, copyright, transparency, and legal issues, the risk of bias, plagiarism, lack of originality, inaccurate content with a risk of hallucination, limited knowledge, incorrect citations, cybersecurity issues, and risk of infodemics. (Page 1)

What I found: This information is correct and located in the abstract but additional details are included within the body of the paper.

What are recommendations for future research?

ChatPDF: According to page 16 of the PDF, there is an urgent need to develop guidelines for ChatGPT use in scientific research, taking into account the issues of accountability, integrity, transparency, and honesty. Thus, the application of ChatGPT to advance academia and health care should be carried out ethically and responsibly, taking into account the potential risks and concerns it entails. Additionally, future research should focus on improving the quality of training datasets to reduce biased content and inaccurate information. Furthermore, future studies could explore ways to improve ChatGPT’s ability to handle images and enhance its performance in certain topics. Finally, researchers should continue to investigate ethical issues such as plagiarism and transparency regarding content generation when using ChatGPT in scientific research.

What I found: This information is correct and located on page 16.

Are there any examples of passive voice within the text?

ChatPDF: I’m sorry, but as an AI language model, I am not programmed to identify passive voice in a given text. However, I can suggest that you use a grammar checker tool or consult a language expert to help you identify any instances of passive voice within the text.

What I found: I recognize that ChatPDF is not designed to answer this question but was curious to see its response, as this is a task that I will assign to students in my writing course.

Screenshots of my chat with ChatPDF:

how to use ChatGPT
how to use ChatGPT

Major Takeaways

  • ChatPDF can quickly extract information from a journal article, which can speed up the process of determining whether articles contain desired information.

  • ChatPDF does not always provide accurate responses. Thus, users who plan to make decisions with the information extracted by ChatPDF need verify all responses.

  • ChatPDF often pulls information from the abstract, which can lack sufficient detail and context for the reported findings.

  • ChatPDF cannot answer complex questions that require critical thinking and reasoning.

As you can see, ChatPDF is incredibly useful for quickly extracting basic information from a journal article. However, its applications are limited. For instance, it cannot analyze text and produce information beyond what is already stated within the text. This was evident when I asked it to tell me how many primary sources were reviewed by the author and what types of study designs were cited. It would be useful to be able to upload multiple PDFs to compare results across several studies. I plan to further explore Elicit for these purposes. Stay tuned!

Reference: Sallam, M. (2023) ChatGPT utility in healthcare education, research, and practice: Systematic review on the promising perspectives and valid concerns. Healthcare, 11, 887. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare11060887

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