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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This Old Dog has a New Trick!

Old dog, new tricks

I recently came across an article from Harvard Business Review (see HBR Blog) claiming that CEOs are too old to innovate! Although, the author does acknowledge that older CEOs might have some worthwhile skills:

“Of course, the CEO job also requires more than creativity, and additional years of experience may help with this broader set of duties. For instance, researchers estimated the peak age for good financial decision making to be 53. So while creativity is probably in decline for most people by the time they hit 50, other critical management skills are still improving.” (Frick, 2014)

My reply was this:

“As an academic I praise research, but the problem with this research is that disruptive ‘innovation’ is, generally speaking, atypical. Nobel prize winners are ‘typical’, that’s what they do for a living: scientific research. As a 55+ female with an IT startup (www.comwriter.com), I could only have done this with the experience that I have garnered over the years. Most young entrepeneurs don’t make it because of a lack of business experience (not lack of ideas!).”

I think it is time we stopped stereotyping ‘older’ versus ‘younger’ individuals. Innovation is what some people do, and what some don’t!

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IT Startup Poised for International Success

After just 3 months on the market, the ComWriter startup hits 5,000 registered users from 39 countries. ComWriter is a cloud-based writing application for students and faculty to write assignments, dissertations and journal articles. This innovative product combines a word processor, a bibliographic tool, and an online library within the same platform. ComWriter’s primary innovation is the auto formatting of references and text to academic standards with one click of the mouse using pre-defined styles.

ComWriter hits 5000 Sign Ups

Dr Glassop, a former academic and IT executive, is the founder of ComWriter. Linda said “This is a very exciting milestone to reach for our fledgling company.” “It demonstrates that there is a significant need for an innovative writing tool in Higher Education.”

Linda has had her fair share of dissenters. After all it requires a lot of courage to take on Microsoft Word AND Endnote in one hit. Linda explains “Word is 22 years old, and Endnote is 17 years old.” “It is about time we had a product designed specifically for academic work.”

The productivity gains with ComWriter have seen undergraduates getting High Distinctions for their assignments, and PhD students flocking to the  app. While ‘app’ seems to be an understatment for this behemonth platform, the future looks rosie for this Australian innovation.

There is a FREE version for High School students to get University-ready. Looks like Linda has thought of everything!

Issued: 2 December, 2014

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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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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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Now that is smart!

Academic writing, in fact most writing projects, all have a similar structure:

  • Cover, the first page/s of something. For example, a cover page, cover letter, or the like.
  • Preliminaries, or front matter. For example, an abstract, executive summary, a table of contents, list of figures.
  • Body: the main component that includes an introduction, key points, a conclusion.
  • Addenda, or back matter. For example, a bibliography, a glossary, appendices.

ComWriter, is the first writing tool to actually acknowledge this fundamental writing structure, and provides it as a background template on every writing project.

Structured writing editor

What’s a ‘smart list’ I hear you ask? Writing projects often contain ‘lists’, for example: a table of contents, a list of figures or tables, a bibliography. ComWriter automates these ‘lists’. All you have to do is Add a Smart List marker to tell the computer the location of the list. Now that is Smart!

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Finally, a bibliographic tool for legal referencing

Legal referencing is pretty difficult, but made even more so by the antiquated approaches taken by the current bibliographic tools. Compare the facts (see Table):

  1. Judicial material: Endnote has 2 types, Mendeley & Zotero 1, ComWriter has 6
  2. Legislative material: Endnote has 4 types, Mendeley & Zotero 3, ComWriter has 11
  3. International material: Endnote, Mendeley & Zotero have NIL, ComWriter has 2
Compare Bibliographic Tools

Compare Bibliographic Tools

If you use Treaty references a lot, we have you covered with: Bilateral, Multilateral and not yet in force being sorted automatically based on the data input into the reference. And, UN Official Document is able to sort through the complex array of details to present a perfect result.

Try now for FREE!email_signature (1)

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5 reasons to get rid of Word if you do academic writing

Academic writing is difficult enough without the ‘tools’ making life harder. MS Word is 22 years old! Any system this old would generally be called a ‘legacy’ system. Here are my top reasons for replacing Word.

1. Referencing does not work

The referencing function in MS word is very simple, and generally does not format to academic standards. If you use bibliographic software (e.g., Zotero, Endnote, Mendeley) then you have to manage a plug in, which often fails. Also, the reference types used in these applications (they are pretty much all the same) are mostly ‘not quite right’ forcing you to have to edit the reference in Word. This means you need to (a) know the intricate details of academic referencing, and (b) allow sufficient time for re-formatting.

2. Contents and captions must be re-numbered constantly

Move an image or add headings requires the user to re-number the caption label (for images), or ‘update’ the table of contents when new headings are added. This constant annoyance means continually checking what you are writing, wasting valuable writing time.

3. Formatting often takes longer than writing

Aside from the above two issues, headers & footers, page numbers, bullet alignment, often can get ‘out of whack’, and if you do not know how to manage Word Styles, then formatting can take longer than actually writing.

4. Collaboration requires cut-and-paste assembly

You cannot write collaboratively using MS Word. Which means if you are working on a group project, someone has to take charge to be the cut-and-paste assembler. This person then ends up with all the formatting to do. When it is finally assembled, the  text can seem disjointed because the members have used different writing language, and  then one person needs to edit to fix it up so that it reads ‘as if’ written by one person.

5. Version control is manual

If you are writing over an extended period of time, or writing a large document, then you need to keep different versions of your history ‘just-in-case’ of a system crash, or a hard-drive fail, or because you want to retrieve something you wrote last week.

ComWriter logoThree reasons to use ComWriter for academic writing:

  1. It is in the cloud, saves every 30 seconds, stores history (3-in-1 reason)
  2. Reference and text formatting are done automatically, including numbering, after you hit ‘export’
  3. I can spend more time on researching and writing content, thereby improving the quality of my work

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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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