It takes a lot of effort to write a good paper, because you need to spend time doing research, checking spelling and grammar, and working on citations etc. With the fast development of technology, there are a lot of choices for educational tools, so sometimes it is difficult to pick out good ones for your academic work. There are a couple of tools that might be helpful for your academic writing (try with VPN if some tools do not work).
1. Google Docs (VPN required)
Google Docs is a cloud-based word processing tool on Google Drive that is a free cloud storage application with many powerful functions. All the changes you make on Google Drive will be saved automatically.
Sometimes you might be tired of typing in front of your screen, or you might want to quickly mark down some ideas for your writing but you forget the complete sentence structure. Use the voice-to-text function on Google Docs, which can save you a lot of time from typing. It also keeps you away from spending too much time on screen so that you can simply close your eyes and speak out your ideas. After you finish, go back and do the formatting. The voice-to-text function can access through the following steps:
Create a Google Drive account – New – Google Docs – Tools – Voice typing (Figure 1)
There are a lot of online dictation tools, but the reason for recommending Google Docs is that Google Drive provides other great products for you to explore. More importantly, they are convenient and free!
2. Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary
Both Oxford and Merriam-Webster have over 150 years of history. Our library has subscribed to Oxford English Dictionary (OED), while Merriam-Webster Dictionary is free to use.
How to access OED?
Off-campus access to library resources needs to be processed through VPN. Instruction for setting up VPN can be found at Connect from Off Campus. After setting up VPN, enter OED link http://www.oed.com. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, quotation and pronunciation of 600,000 words— past and present—from across the English-speaking world.
How to access Merriam-Webster?
With Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, you have free access to more than 225,000 definitions and different methods of learning English, including World of the Day, Weekly Challenge and Word Games. What’s more, offline access allows you to access the dictionary whether you have internet or not.
Figure 2 From App Store
You can access the dictionary through the official website and mobile App that is available in both IOS and Android devices. However, the official download link for Android is currently not available. You may download it through search engine on your devices.
Most of the students in our university are non-native speakers of English. It is common that students tend to use Native Language (e.g. Chinese) – English or English – Native Language dictionary, because it is easy to know the meaning of a word in their native languages. However, many English words, like synonyms, have subtle differences that cannot be recognized in translated languages. Instead, using English-English dictionary is helpful for you to learn more native or idiomatic expressions, increase your vocabularies, and make proper word choices in your academic writing.
Grammarly was founded in 2009 by a Ukrainian technology company. It provides free grammar and plagiarism checking services to help you reduce writing mistakes and avoid copyright issues. Besides checking grammar and referenced sources, the checker also checks punctuation, spelling, enhancement, and style etc. Figure 3 shows the checking results of a sample paragraph.
With Grammarly plug-in on browser, you could get correction suggestions anywhere you type on the web (Figure 4), such as Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, and LinkedIn etc. Grammarly is also compatible with many platforms and devices, so it should be able to meet your needs. To use the free and basic services, you just need to create an account and start!
4. EndNote X9 and Other Citation Tools
Citation is the required in your writing if you refer to someone’s ideas or information, which is to acknowledging authors’ contribution to your academic work. Our library has purchased a citation tool EndNote X9 to help you cite properly. You can access it through CUHKSZ SharePoint or the website Endnote Online. There are some alternatives such as Purdue Owl Writing Lab, Mendeley, Bibme, and Zotero etc. If you would like to know more information about citation tools, you could watch the citation guide through our library website that includes EndNote X9 tutorial as well.
Technology has made our lives more convenient, but we cannot completely rely on technology. Technology is a set of tools that become useful only when you create value out of it. Therefore, make sure you double check your writing when using any tools. What’s more, learn to think why you would make these mistakes and try to avoid them next time. If you are not sure about the corrections that are made by the tools, you could consult your instructors or discuss with your classmate for the problems.
Hope these tools would be of a little help to your writing. If you have any great tools to share, you are welcome to make comments.
Sharkstone, Anna. “9 Online Tools For Better Writing Skills.” ELearning Industry, ELearning Industry, 13 Oct. 2017, elearningindustry.com/9-online-tools-for-better-writing-skills.
Wilson, Samantha. “4 Free Educational Tools To Enhance Your Academic Skills.” ELearning Industry, ELearning Industry, 7 Mar. 2018, elearningindustry.com/4-free-educational-tools-academic-skills.