Writing well remains a critical component of graduate student success. In this blog, I suggest finding and using good tools to improve outcomes for writers. I found feedback and managing references to be two essential tools for developing as a writer. I recommend some options for the beginning researcher’s tool kit.
Writers often read and re-read writing until the process becomes automatic. In automatic reading mode, a writer is likely to miss many potential opportunities. A friend or colleague can read the document and find the opportunities for improvement because the material is fresh for them. Friends and colleagues have busy lives though. As an alternative, consider using software as a source of feedback. One great aspect of software as a writing tutor is that software never gets tired. Writers will find a tireless and patient source of feedback in software. For example, Word will remind writers to put a comma in before the word “which” until the action becomes automatic. A writer who uses software as an additional editor could gain some advantage! The question then becomes: Which software? So, let's think about software help for the serious writer.
The Microsoft Word program available has an excellent built in editor. Find the index for the spelling and grammar function and choose "technical writing". Once activated, the writer will see wavy green lines under style and structural errors. A red underline indicates a spelling error. Right click on underlined text to receive additional editing information. The spelling and grammar function in Word is a great place to start a review of your writing.
The UOP library has Writepoint, which is powered by Grammarly, and is free to University of Phoenix students. To find Writepoint in the library, go to the Center for Writing Excellence and click on Writepoint. The click will take writers to Grammarly and a tutorial will walk the writer through the first steps in a few minutes. Writers can select a level of writing just as in WORD. Select the highest level for checking spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and style. The Center for Writing Excellence also has Turnitin and that software is invaluable in helping writers to find similarities to other published materials. Similarities could just indicate general terms that are common to many published articles. Or the software may show similarities to specific terms and phrases that need citations. The turnitin report is a valuable final step in a writer’s document review.
Reference Management Software
Reference management systems are tools that researchers could find very useful in managing large numbers of articles and other materials. Reference management software allows users to collect and import articles within a software package that will automatically synchronize with Word and generate citations and references once the data is imported. At a minimum, doctoral level researchers need a database manager that will work within your operating system (MAC or PC), export and import files from libraries, automatically develop APA style citations and references while you write (cite while you write features), and integrate into your Word software.
Refworks has all these features, is available in the UOP library and is free to UOP students. To find the resource, go to the university library, click on “Writing and Publishing resources” and click on Refworks. Refworks tutorials are available on youtube to help you learn to use Refworks in 20 minutes.
In Refworks, researchers can collect and import research materials, organize and annotate documents, share with others, and write and cite simultaneously. A MAC friendly version was introduced in 2012. While reference management systems take some time to learn, the overall savings in time is well worth the investment.
Several reference other management systems can be downloaded from the Internet for no cost. Mendeley software allows users to store and actively manage references. The system also allows researchers to work collaboratively with others. Zotero is another free software program that allows researchers to store and manage research references. Researchers can use Zotero to generate citations and references similar to other reference management systems
Interested students can find a plethora of resources and tools available at the University library. Explore the Center for Writing Excellence to find workshops, Phoenix Connect Academic Support Communities, Writing samples, Writing wizards, Live Labs, and other Writing Resources.
The illustration for this Blog is “The Lace maker” by Vermeer painted around 1669 and currently housed in the Louvre in Paris. Vermeer is famous for painting light. Several hundred years later, the Impressionists followed in his footsteps painting impressions of daily life as recorded in light. Just like Vermeer’s lace maker, researchers are engaged in a detailed and complex task that requires full attention to detail. And just as the lace maker works with specialized tools, student researchers need good tools that will assist in student researchers in developing well-written and well-developed documents.