Category Archives: Improve your writing

Tips and tricks to improve academic writing.

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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Writing a Thesis Statement

Academic writing is generally associated with researching something. When we conduct research, we must first identify what the focus of our research might be. This is achieved with a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a proposition (proposal), a theory about how something works; e.g., Gravity makes Apples fall down to Earth, the Earth rotates around an axis.

Newton-apple

  • thesis: cause followed by effect
  • cause: gravity
  • effect: objects, such as apples, fall down to Earth

 

In the case of Newton, he observed apples falling from trees, and wondered why this happened. He then developed a theory about what he observed: “Gravity makes Apples fall down to Earth.”

The difference between a proposition and a hypothesis, is that a proposition is generally untested; whereas a thesis statement is part of a research program that you are setting out to test. Data are collected to verify/refute the thesis. For example:

  • Thesis statement: “Students leave assignments until the night before they are due.” This is my theory about student behaviour.
  • The problem with a thesis statement is that it makes an assertion about fact: ‘the night before’. Someone else might have another theory that they start assignments 2 days before. Different hypotheses (theories) make a thesis contentious. If something is contentious, then it needs to be investigated to find out which theory is correct.
  • The research question associated with either thesis statement is: “How many days before an assignment is due, do students start their assignments?” Your research is going to set out to find the answer to this question, thereby testing the thesis.
  • Data to verify: We can survey a bunch of students and ask them: “How many days before an assignment is due, do you generally start?” This is a survey question to collate data for finding out the answer to the research question, thereby testing which theory is correct.
  • Results: Some students might say “10 days”, some might say “1 day”, when we average the results, we have a conclusion: “On average, students start assignments 2.7 days before it is due.” This represents the findings from our research (asking students about their behaviour with regards assignments).

Thesis satements that have been tested, data collected and analysed, are also subject to bias. For example, if you only asked one student, then this data would be insufficient to reach a conclusion. If you asked 100 students in a specific Faculty, on a specific Campus, then this data would be more reliable. Generally speaking, the more answers you receive for your research question, the more reliable your findings are going to be.

Academic research is a tricky business, but finding out how the world works has been the subject of academe for centuries. Today we know a great deal about how our world and its inhabitants work. All from researching and finding reliable answers to our theories!

 

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Academic writing now in a single platform

ComWriter is an integrated word processor and bibliographic tool; and it keeps your work in the cloud. ComWriter allows you to:

  • store your research library
  • select a pre-defined style (e.g., APA, Harvard, and more)
  • use writing templates (coming soon)
  • write your academic paper or essay using modern tools (smart lists, drop-n-drag), cite your references, add a bibliography, automated numbering
  • export your project formatted professionally based on your pre-defined style (text and references)

Write smarter with ComWriter

 

The referencing in ComWriter is more accurate than any other bibliographic tool! Try it for FREE.

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Referencing accounts for up to 20% of academic grades!

University writing is quite a science, and catches many students and seasoned academics out. The rules are complex, and the range of material that can be referenced makes the task a changing target. Academics that set assignments for their students, often assign up to 20% of the final mark to referencing!

A journal article, for example, is a common reference item, yet referencing depends on:

  • academic style (Harvard, APA, etc)
  • the type of journal material: full article, editorial, supplemental material, abstract, letter, and more
  • the way the journal is indexed: volume number only, volume and issue number, volume as a year, issue as a season
  • whether the item was found online, in a database, or is a hardcopy

If you use Endnote, Zotero, Mendeley or any other bibliographic software, you can’t be guaranteed that the reference for a journal article will be correct, because they have limited types available and they can’t figure out if you have the season, or volume stuff sorted. These software products all work much the same way, so we haven’t had a tool (until now) that outputs accurate references!

ComWriter is a new breed of academic tool that has re-engineered the referencing process…

ComWriter is a new breed of academic tool that has re-engineered the referencing process, from the perspective of the desired output!

  • Pre-defined styles: APA, Harvard, MLA, MHRA, and more (references and text is auto-formatted)
  • A range of reference types that mean you can change a ‘journal article’ to be an editorial, or a book review, or one of the other kinds of journal material
  • simply identify the source: hardcopy, online, database and the details are taken care of
  • whether you have volume, issue, year or season data, it is interrogated to produce the correct output

Here is a sample of APA journal references exported from ComWriter:

Author1, A., Author2, B. & Author3, C. (2013). Abstract only in journal [Abstract]. Journal Title, 6(7), 1-20. doi:12345

Author16, M., Author17, N. & Author18, P. (2013). Editorial in journal [Editorial]. Journal Title, 6(7), 1-20. Retrieved from http://www.comwriter.com.

Author22, R., Author23, S. & J., & Author24, T. (2013). Journal article: With volume only. Journal Title, 6, 1-20. doi:12345

Author34, W., Author35, L. & Author36, M. (2013). Letter in journal [Letter to editor].  Journal Title, 6(7), 1-20. doi:12345

Author40, X., Author41, M. & Author42, J. (2013). Monograph in journal [Monograph]. Journal Title, 6(7), 1-20. doi:12345

Author59, Z., Author60, M. & Author61, L. (2013). Supplemental journal material [Supplemental material]. Journal Title, 6(7), pp. S1-S20.

Author65, R., Author66, S. & Author67, T. (2013). Journal article: with volume and season. Journal Title, 30(Spring), 1-20. doi:12345

Author71, A…. Author80, K. (2014). Journal article: with volume and issue. Journal Title, 7(3), 1-20. doi:12345

AuthorA, A., AuthorB, A. & JournalC, C. (2014). Journal article: with issue only. Journal Title, (23).

AuthorE, E., AuthorF, F. & AuthorG, G. (2014). Journal article: With season only. Journal Title, (January-February), 1-20. doi:12345

Journal-Editor47, D., Journal-Editor48, E. & Journal-Editor49, F. (Eds.). (2013). Section in special issue of journal [Special section]. Journal Title, 6(7), 1-20. doi:12345

Journal-Reviewer10, A., Journal-Reviewer11, B. & Journal-Reviewer12, C. (2013). Book review in journal [Review of Book Title, by D. Journal7, K. Journal8 & L. Journal9]. Journal Title, 6(7), 1-20. doi:12345

Great looking references eh!

(ps., ComWriter will do a hanging indent)

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5 steps to perfect academic writing with ComWriter

ComWriter makes writing to academic standards easy with these 5 steps:

ComWriter has 5 steps to perfect academic writing

  1. If your favourite reference style isn’t Harvard (ComWriter includes Harvard as the default), then you can find your favourite Style and add it to My Styles (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian).
  2. Add a few resources you already have (e.g., an authored book or journal article) using the Research tab.
  3. To get writing: Go to the Write tab an click Start a new project & fill out the form (remember to select your style), then click Start and the writing editor will open. In the writing editor add some existing writing (you can use cut-and-paste from Word) to see how the writing editor works (maybe grab some text from your last essay). Follow these steps:

Add writing objects (e.g., a paragraph, a heading, a list)
Enter text into writing objects
Highlight some text to see the formatting menu

  1. Insert an in-text reference citation or add a reference into a footnote using the resource/s you added.
  2. After you create your first project return to the Write dashboard, and click the PDF export button and your project will be automatically formatted using the style you chose. The file will go into your downloads.

Learn more  in our forums or check out our videos on YouTube.

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Writing University Papers is Easy Using ComWriter: watch this

 

 

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March 21, 2014 · 9:46 AM

The Most Annoying Writing Mistakes

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The Pyramid Principle

The Pyramid Principle is an excellent method for developing a logical structure for your writing, whether it is a short essay, a book or an entire dissertation.

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PREP your paragraphs

Whether you are writing a paragraph, an essay or an entire book, PREP holds the key to writing a logical and coherent message.

PREP is an acronym for Point, Reason, Example and Point. These four keys enable a writer to construct logical prose. Without a logical method, writing is a hit-and-miss affair. PREP ensures that your listener will take notice of what you have to say.

Every time you want to make a point, you need to:

  1. Describe the Point (P) you wish to make (e.g., business students need to learn how to conduct research).
  2. Explain the Reason (R) why your point is important so the reader knows why they need to know the point (e.g., proper research generates reliable and objective data on which management can base their decisions).
  3. Provide an Example (E) that illustrates your point (e.g., incorrect information about a competitor can lead to a costly and inappropriate advertising campaign).
  4. Describe the Point (P) you have made (e.g., research that is accurate and up-to-date ensures that management decisions are successful).

To provide a point without a reason is an assertion. An assertion does not justify the point or provide any basis upon which the listener should take notice of your point. To provide a point and a reason without an example might make your listener take notice, but makes it difficult to understand how it might relate to the situation being discussed. A point-reason-example (PRE) provides a logical and coherent argument that people must take notice of. The final point acts to meld the PRE into a conclusion that reinforces what it is you are trying to convey.

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Writing a structured paragraph

Whether you are writing a paragraph, an essay or an entire book, PREP holds the key to writing a logical and coherent message.

PREP is an acronym for Point, Reason, Example and Point. These four keys enable a writer to construct logical prose. Without a logical method, writing is a hit-and-miss affair. PREP ensures that your listener will take notice of what you have to say.

Every time you want to make a point, you need to:

  1. Describe the Point (P) you wish to make (e.g., business students need to learn how to conduct research).
  2. Explain the Reason (R) why your point is important so the reader knows why they need to know the point (e.g., proper research generates reliable and objective data on which management can base their decisions).
  3. Provide an Example (E) that illustrates your point (e.g., incorrect information about a competitor can lead to a costly and inappropriate advertising campaign).
  4. Describe the Point (P) you have made (e.g., research that is accurate and up-to-date ensures that management decisions are successful).

To provide a point without a reason is an assertion. An assertion does not justify the point or provide any basis upon which the listener should take notice of your point. To provide a point and a reason without an example might make your listener take notice, but makes it difficult to understand how it might relate to the situation being discussed. A point-reason-example (PRE) provides a logical and coherent argument that people must take notice of. The final point acts to meld the PRE into a conclusion that reinforces what it is you are trying to convey.

When the four sentences noted as examples above are joined, the result is:

Business students need to learn how to conduct research (P). Proper research generates reliable and objective data on which management can base their decisions (R). For example, incorrect information about a competitor can lead to a costly and inappropriate advertising campaign (E). Therefore, research that is accurate and up-to-date ensures that management decisions are successful (P).

The term “proper research” (in the second sentence) qualifies the term “research” (in the first sentence) and the balance of the second sentence outlines the rational or justification for doing “research” (as noted in first sentence). In the fourth sentence “accurate and up-to-date’’ provides a definition for “proper research” (second sentence), and “successful” explains the outcome that “reliable and objective data” (second sentence) has for a business decision (second sentence). All sentences act to reinforce different aspects of the point you are trying to make.

Note that the paragraph provided has no references. Therefore, it is a personal assertion (opinion) made by the writer. If we wanted to ensure that what we are writing is credible, we need to find a journal reference to back up the point being made (first sentence), why it is important to know this point (second sentence) and an example drawn from past research (third sentence). The final point does not need a reference as it is a conclusion made by the author as drawn from reading the articles summarised in the first three sentences. So an objective paragraph would look like this:

Business students need to learn how to conduct research (Smith, 2006). Proper research generates reliable and objective data on which management can base their decisions (Jones, 2007). For example, incorrect information about a competitor can lead to a costly and inappropriate advertising campaign (Peters, 2008). Therefore, research that is accurate and up-to-date ensures that management decisions are successful.

In this example I have drawn the point from Smith (2006); I found a rationale for the point written by Jones (2007), and Peters (2008) provided an example from her research that illustrates the point (P). By using references in this way I have paraphrased published writers (re-written their points using my words) and also supported my argument with other works that provide objectivity. (R). Objectivity acts to reinforce that what I am writing has validity and should be taken notice of (P).

If you follow the PREP logic in this last paragraph you will note that I have used PRP without an example (P). The example is not needed, because the point itself is acting as the example (R).

If you then follow the PREP logic in the previous paragraph you will note that I have used PR without an example or final point. This is because the previous paragraphs illustrate the point I am making (E), and a summation would merely act to repeat what I am saying (P).

In summary, PREP acts to provide a logical and coherent argument. PRP can be utilised where the writer considers an illustration to be unnecessary. PR can be used on its own, but only when the rationale for the point acts as the example. By using PREP to structure everything you write, you will command attention from your reader and ensure that the points you are making are worth listening to.

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