Category Archives: Academic referencing

The Inadequacy of Word Processors for Academic Writing

There are more than 130 million students and faculty in Higher Education worldwide. Every one of these individuals needs to write academic papers and articles. However, the tools we have for academic writing are extremely limited (see Table 1):

  • Microsoft Word is, primarily, desktop with a wide range of features making it difficult to learn and demands too much time to manage the formatting, and also causes version control issues
  • Google docs is a cloud-based product with excellent collaboration features, but is limited for most academic work
  • Scrivener is a Mac product that has some nice note features, but has a very confusing user interface
  • Authorea is a relatively new cloud-based word processor, but it is a latex product that requires knowledge of this technical language

The top 5 limitations are:

1. Reference data must be interfaced with a third-party tool (e.g., Mendeley, Endnote, Zotero)

Integrating third party tools to manage reference data often causes issues, and the limitations of these tools is also problematic. Google docs enables footnote citing with Google Scholar and web searches, but its inability to produce in-text citations renders it useless for most undergraduate writing.

2. Formatting often takes up more time than writing (i.e., it is difficult to get consistency)

What-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editors are great for visualizing the end product and generally offer a wide range of tools to achieve most things. The disadvantage, however, is that it becomes difficult to get consistency, and more time is often spent on formatting  rather than on content development. Frustration with formatting is generally the end result.

3. Functionality is missing (e.g., a list of images, image captions, equation editing)

When writing academic reports there is the need for a list of figures and tables. Google docs is inadequate in this regard, and MS Word requires that you update image numbers before the list is generated, making it a tedious time-waster if you have a lot of images.

4. Notes and comment need to be deleted before printing

In line comments and notes are very useful for keeping track of what is required to be done or for recording feedback. However, all these tools require inline comments to be deleted before output can be created, thereby losing valuable information.

5. Collaboration requires control over different versions

While Google docs has excellent collaboration features, it becomes ineffective due to its other limitations for academic writing. MS Word has no history functionality, so the only way to manage collaboration is to share files with your collaborations. Sharing files has been made easier with products like DropBox, but this generally causes the need to maintain different versions of the same document, which can be a nightmare.

Compare Writing Products

Table 1: Comparison of Word Processing tools

 

ComWriter is a cloud-based writing tool dedicated to the needs of students and faculty. Here are five reasons to make the switch:

1. Formatting (headings, text, captions) is contained in pre-defined styles ensuring everything is formatted consistently and quickly based on academic standards (or customize your own style)

2. Numbering is done as you export allowing you to make as many changes as you like without the need to re-format (image numbers, page numbers, heading numbers)

3. Cut-and-paste is replaced with drop-n-drag making it easier to restructure writing

4. History is saved allowing you to go back in time to see changes

5. Templates are structural rather than design-based providing a head start on writing that next paper

Future functions include notes & comments that do not need to be deleted, collaboration, automated glossary, history slider, and more.

 

About the author: Dr Linda Glassop is a published author and the founder of ComWriter, a cloud-based writing application for students and researchers. Linda has made it her mission to make writing to academic standards easy.

 

 

 

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The Limitations of Mendeley for Academic Writing

Mendeley is a reference manager and academic social network. While this platform has been extremely successful for research collaboration, it is woefully inadequate as a referencing tool. One of the first activities undertaken in the peer review process is to check article submissions for accurate referencing. If references are not cited correctly, the article is rejected without any content being examined. Thus, accurate referencing is a pre-cursor to having publications accepted.

Here are the top five reasons why it is time to find a new reference manager:

1. Reference types do not relate to today’s resources

Mendeley has 16 reference types (see image below) which are inadequate for accurate referencing. For example, many authors cite articles forthcoming, but there is no template provided.

2. CSL Style library is inadequate

Mendeley uses the CSL style library to format. There are around 7,000 CSL styles for various journal titles. While this sounds impressive, most styles have only 4-5 templates available, therefore, the 16 reference types, in reality, turn into 4-5! Also, these templates treat reference data as the same for every kind of resource and often led to inaccuracies. For example, a journal article is assumed to have a volume and issue number. There are many instances when issue numbers are not used, and volume numbers get replaced with a season (e.g., Spring). The format for these different kinds of journal numbering causes errors.

3. First, Consecutive and Subsequent not catered for

All CSL styles have the first template and a ‘Short’ template. This shortened template is used for both consecutive and subsequent formatting. This creates errors for many styles where consecutive citations differ to subsequent citations.

4. Multi-volume titles and abbreviations are missing

A range of styles require the need to include multi-volume titles and abbreviations. There is no field to capture this data, rendering such references inaccurate.

5.  All independent reference managers must interface with MS Word

Interfacing any two solutions is always problematic. Recent posts on Mendeley’s facebook page suggest that their support for integration is lacking. Researchers waste extensive amounts of time formatting, reformatting and correcting reference data. Technology advances have been fantastic over the past 10 years, yet the solutions fail to deliver modern tools to researchers.

Compare reference types

 

ComWriter has pledged ‘to eliminate referencing hurdles‘. Here are five resons to make the switch:

1. A broad range of reference types including articles forthcoming and books with mult-volume titles (see image)

2. Reference data is examined and alternate outputs provided; especially for journal articles

3. Footnote references provided for first, consecutive and subsequent

4. Write-and-cite in the one platform

5. The entire article (text & citations) is formatted automatically (using a pre-defined style guide), leaving authors more time to concentrate on content and argument

 

About the author: Dr Linda Glassop is a published author and the founder of ComWriter, a cloud-based writing application for students and researchers. Linda has made it her mission to make writing to academic standards easy.

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ComWriter has more theology journal styles than Endnote or Zotero

Theology journal style guides

Australia, 5 June, 2015

Today ComWriter released 21 theology journal style guides to their bank of styles, making it a more robust site for theology writing than either Endnote or Zotero. Of special interest is the ability of ComWriter to style references and footnotes to biblical literary standards.

Dr Glassop, founder & CEO of ComWriter said “Theology writing is complex given its historic origins”, “nonetheless, biblical literature deserves the support of modern technology”.

Other features unique to ComWriter include the use of biblical fonts (Greek, Hebrew and Lit), enabling Old Testament researchers, and other specialty fields, to compile accurate text online.

Dr Glassop said there were ten other journal style guides under development that would be released shortly. Currently, ComWriter supports:

  • AJS Review (Association for Jewish Studies)
  • Australian Biblical Review
  • Australian Ejournal of Theology
  • Church History
  • Communio: International Catholic Review
  • Harvard Theological Review
  • Heythrop Journal
  • History of Religions
  • International Journal of Practical Theology
  • International Journal of Systematic Theology
  • Irish Theological Quarterly
  • Journal of Beliefs and Values: Studies in religion and education
  • Journal of Biblical Literature
  • Journal of Early Christian Studies
  • Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
  • Journal of Ecclesiastical History
  • Pacifica: Australasian theological studies
  • Review of Biblical Literature
  • Semeia Studies
  • TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism
  • Theological Studies

These styles are primarily based on Chicago footnotes or the style developed by the Society for Biblical Literature (USA).

ComWriter is a cloud-based writing application for Faculty and students: write, reference, manage your library online, search more than 2 billion records for ready-made referencing. ComWriter is re-writing the way we write in Higher Education.

For more information visit: comwriter.com  or theology.comwriter.com

 

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Filed under Academic referencing, ComWriter features, Improve your writing, Style guides

5 ways to fail University

 

5 ways to fail university

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February 2, 2015 · 9:01 PM

Write-and-Cite: 5 Tasks to Complete Your Academic Paper

Writing an academic paper doesn’t have to be a drama. Just follow these five steps and you are on your way. Even more exciting is that these five steps can be undertaken within the one software application: ComWriter has been built to help you write-and-cite your college paper.

Write-and-cite todo list
1. Make sure you know what academic style you need to use (e.g., Harvard, APA, MLA, or others). Your teacher should inform you about this. [in ComWriter it’s a single click to add the one you want into My Styles]

2. Conduct some research on your topic to find approx. 5 resources (e.g., books, articles, websites). [with ComWriter you can search their public library and store what you found in My Library]

3. Start writing your project: [ComWriter has a template called ‘My First Project’ that looks a bit like this]

  • Cover page (title, your name, date, etc)
  • Introduction (what are you writing about, what did you find and in what order are you going to present your findings)
  • Key point #1 (the first main thing you found)
  • Key point #2 (the second main thing you found)
  • Key point #3 (the third main thing you found)
  • Key point #4 (the fourth main thing you found)
  • Conclusion (what you set out to do, what you found, any recommendations, any limitations or concerns)
  • Bibliography (list of resources)

4. Cite your resources in your paragraphs as you write (citing resources means you can verify what you are saying; i.e., back up your findings) [ComWriter makes citing a resource as simple as adding a link]

5. Take a look at what you have produced to make sure it is in the right format (the tradition is: double line spaced, 12 point font, times new roman) [ComWriter does this all automatically; just click Export]

 

If you need some help with grammar, you can also use Grammarly in ComWriter (for free).

grammerly

 

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January 30, 2015 · 6:00 PM

15 steps to academic hell: or 5 steps to academic perfection…your decision!

I recently came across this article that explains in 15 steps how to use Citavi (resource storage software) with Scrivener (writing software for a MAC) to format your in-text citations and produce a bibliography.

15 steps to link Citavi with Scrivener to produce an academic paper

Alternatively, you could:

  1. Store your resources in ComWriter [or find them in our Public library]
  2. Write using ComWriter
  3. Write-and-cite as you go
  4. Add a Smart List/Bibliography
  5. Click export

All done!

50x50

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ComWriter automatically overcomes 50% of common APA problems

Common APA Errors

EndNote has published an infographic to help students avoid the pitfalls of formatting to APA. So, we took a look and found that ComWriter can automatically overcome 50% of these problems.

The most common APA errors [ComWriter’s style automates more than 50%]

  • No running head / incorrectly formatted head (86.3%)
    • the running head has been placed in the template [included in the ComWriter’s style]
    • save style as new to customize the running head
    • the running head is a short title
    • add the running head in capitals
  • Errors with in-text citations (84%)
    • multiple citations of the same author are managed automatically  [included in the ComWriter’s style]
    • make sure to order multiple citations with different Author names alphabetically (as they would appear in the bibliography)
    • incorrect use of ‘et al’  [included in the ComWriter’s style]
    • incorrect use of commas and ampersands (&) [included in the ComWriter’s style]
    • incorrect use of double-spacing between lines [included in the ComWriter’s style]
  • Did not have page numbers / page numbers weren’t properly formatted (75%) [included in the ComWriter’s style]
    • page numbering has been added to the ComWriter APA style, so they will be accurate
  • Abstract was missing or heading wasn’t properly formatted (72.7%)
    • add your abstract to the Preliminaries, and it will be formatted properly
    • add a Heading 1, and it will be formatted properly [included in the ComWriter’s style]
    • make sure your abstract is no more then 120 words
  • Did not include keywords (61.3%)
    • add keywords in a Long quote (to ensure it is indented and block) in the Preliminaries
    • italicize the word Keywords, but do not bold
  • Incorrect margin format (52.2%) [included in the ComWriter’s style]
    • The margin is formatted automatically to 1 inch
  • Incorrect quotations (50%)
    • short quotes should be added in-text with quotation  marks at either end “…”
    • quotations of 40 or more words should be placed in a ‘Long Quote’, with no quotation marks at either end
  • First line of paragraphs not indented (43.1%) [included in the ComWriter’s style]
    • APA (6th edition) stipulates that all paragraphs should be indented (APA 2010, p.229)
  • More than 120 words in the abstract (34%)
    • this is a manual task

APA’s 10 Commandments:  [ComWriter’s style automates 50%]

According to the blog, the APA has ten commandments. The following explains how ComWriter can automatically mange these issues.

  1. Font: 12 point font for all text, except tables and figures, which can use 8 point type [included in the ComWriter’s style]
  2. Spacing: doouble line space all text  [included in the ComWriter’s style]
  3. Margins: set to one inch  [included in the ComWriter’s style]
  4. Page numbers: appears in upper right-hand corner [included in the ComWriter’s style]
  5. Running Head: appears in the upper left-hand corner in capitals  [included in the ComWriter’s style, but customize the style to add your short title]
  6. Boldface and Underlines: do not use underline, bold or italics (except for headings)
  7. Punctuation: add a comma (,) at the end of each item in a list that contains three or more items (shorter lists should be added in-text)
  8. Capitalization: Job titles are not capitalized, nor are names of theories, diseases, models or conditions
  9. Numbers: nine and lower are written in full, others are presented as numerals (unless they begin a sentence)
  10. Percentages: always appear as numbers (unless they begin a sentence)

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A bibliographic tool for the modern information age

We live in an information era, yet the tools for writing and publishing seem to be reminiscent of a bygone print era. Central to academic writing is the use of bibliographic tools. Bibliographic software falls into two main camps:

Camp 1: EndNote, RefWorks.

EndNote was the first bibliographic tool to emerge on the market, and is now the most used; and also the oldest. Being such an old product, EndNote is plagued with problems:

  1. It must be connected with Word (itself an old product).
  2. It has only 53 reference types that haven’t kept pace with the information age. For example, just about everything can be sourced Online, but endnote only has a few ‘electronic’ resources.
  3. As a result of 2, references need to be edited, or manually written. For example, Endnote does not have: journal article forthcoming, book volume, and it has difficulty formatting when the journal article does not have an Issue, or uses a date as the Volume.

Camp 2: Zotero, Mendeley and other CSL products.

These bibliographic tools are, generally speaking, free to use, and have emerged based on the Open Source community which has indeed improved their popularity. However, these tools only have 36 reference types (what is deemed to be the main one’s used), and therefore these tools have the same problems as Camp 1. Free does not mean they will be more accurate. While they have around 6500 style sheets, less accurate does not really make up for the diversity of journal formats. It still means loss of productivity for academic writers.

New Platform: ComWriter

ComWriter has redesigned the reference types and has 120 to choose from, including a large range of legal references. By re-writing the reference structure, ComWriter has brought reference data management up-to-date to meet the needs of the modern information age (see image below):

  1. ComWriter is a word processor and bibliographic tool combined, so there are no interfaces to manage.
  2. 120 reference types provides a wide array of options, and this means data will be formatted exactly right; e.g., Handbook, Book Volume, Journal article forthcoming.
  3. Every reference has a Source tag nominating whether the reference is ‘Hardcopy, Online, or Database’. This allows each resource to be customized based on its source. Effectively this means there are 360 reference types.
  4. Journal references can be unpacked to determine if the metadata has: volume only, issue only, volume & issue, volume as a year or season, no volume or issue; and then format the reference as is appropriate saving the need to edit or write the citation manually.
  5. Disciplines forgotten by the other tools now have something they can rely on, with reference types such as: Performance, International material (Treaty, UN document), Archival material.
  6. The flexibility of this tool enables the reference template Settings to be set for each of the 120 reference types. This means the output can be further customized to enhance accuracy.

While ComWriter, a startup that is barely 3  months old, still has a way to go in terms of incorporating all the available databases (they have hooked up WorldCat and Wikipedia, with CrossRef to follow soon), the accuracy of their output across the board will make academic writing a whole lot less stressful.

ComWriter Library

ComWriter Library

It is true to say, that the emergence of online publishing will eventually replace the need for reference data that was typical of a Print era. However, online publishing, with links to reference resources, is still a few years away (change in the education and publishing industry generally moves slow).

 

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It’s about time!

Academic writing has been dominated by antiquated ‘legacy’ systems requiring students and faculty to manually integrate a range of software solutions. MS Word is 22 years old, bibliographic tools all work the same and lack the breadth and depth to format correctly (e.g., endnote is 17 years old, and CSL lacks detail to format a range of resources correctly). Today’s users  demand modern tools and features (e.g., something actually engineered for the cloud).

ComWriter is a new breed, cloud-based, writing tool specifically designed for academic work:

  1. Store all your research material in your personal library enabling users to cite resources without having to manage interfaces between applications
  2. Simply select a Style to format all your references AND text, automatically. You can forget formatting entirely!
  3. Write projects in a structured way without having to be plagued by clumsy tools and constant formatting issues
  4. Export your project and let the computer do all the formatting automatically
 
Conceptual image of comwriter

 

It’s about time we had some software purpose-built for academic work!

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To p. or to pp.

Compose right with ComWriter

Sunday 6 April, 2014

Blog series: Academic referencing is stuck in a print era

Topic: Page numbering

I have been designing some new software to make writing to academic standards easy: ComWriter. Well, I didn’t know what I was getting into with academic referencing: APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard, Turabian, AGLC, Bluebook, OSCOLA, Oxford, Vancouver, and the list goes on. Firstly, there is no official Harvard style, everyone seems to have their own flavour.

What I have uncovered is that academic referencing is stuck in a bygone era of print media. Trying to create the automated rules for referencing has been a very big challenge. We are winning the battle, but this blog series is going to highlight some of the, well, to put it bluntly, stupidity surrounding referencing.

Today I am picking on page numbering. That should be easy shouldn’t it? Well no. Let’s see how may ways there are to write pages:

A single page:

  1. p. 2
  2. p.2 [no space]
  3. p 2
  4. p2 [no space]
  5. 2 [the nude version]

A page span:

  1. pp. 235-237
  2. pp. 235-37
  3. pp. 235-7
  4. pp.235-237 [no space]
  5. pp.235-37 [no space]
  6. pp.235-7 [no space]
  7. pp 235-237 [no dot]
  8. pp 235-37 [no dot]
  9. pp 235-7 [no dot]
  10. 235-237
  11. 235-37
  12. 235-7

And, do we include pages in brackets (), [] or not? Which means a page span now has 36 options!

  • 2002 (2-3)
  • 2002 [2-3]
  • 2002 2-3 [no brackets]

Then, do we need to add a comma or a full stop afterwards, which means we now have 108 options for a page span!!!

  • 2002 (2-3)
  • 2002 [2-3]
  • 2002 2-3 [no brackets]
  • 2002. (2-3)
  • 2002. [2-3]
  • 2002. 2-3 [no brackets]
  • 2002, (2-3)
  • 2002, [2-3]
  • 2002, 2-3 [no brackets]

In summary, when writing a reference with page numbers included (I won’t list here the rules for when there are no pages!), a writer needs to ask:

  1. Is there a single page, or a page span (2 options)?
  2. How do I notate the numbers in the span (3 options: all numbers, last number, last two numbers)?
  3. Do I add brackets (3 options: square, round, none)?
  4. Does it need p or pp before the number/s (2 options: yes, no)?
  5. What punctuation do I include (3 options: comma, full stop, none)?
  6. Any spaces to add (2 options: yes or no)?

So, if my maths is correct that is: 2 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 2 x 2 =216 possibilities for writing page numbers! Easy peezie…yes?

But, when I have nailed down the exact configuration I need from the 216 options, I still need to consider:

  1. Is the configuration the same or different for: in-text citation, footnote, reference list?
  2. Where do I locate the pages in terms of the other data I need?

And that’s all a student needs to do to consider page numbering in their referencing! 

by Dr Linda Glassop

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