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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

Writing Proficiency Threatens the Success of Every Student

By Dr Linda Glassop, Composeright Pty Ltd

Academic writing is a critical success factor for University because it relates to assignment work. While many assignments might include other activities (e.g., presentations, demonstrations, or the development of physical items), writing is the predominant mode of communication for assignment work. To lack proficiency in academic writing threatens the success of every student.

Stressed student

Most Australian universities provide little support to students for academic writing. It would appear that Universities assume students have the skills when they arrive, or will figure it out on their own. Typically, University support is provided thus:

  • The library: Librarians are an excellent resource for helping students find research material, and for assisting with referencing. However, students generally need to take advantage of this resource on-campus during library hours
  • Style guides and other help sheets: the libraries at most universities provide a number of online help sheets for reference styles, writing tips and other issues related to writing. However, in this modern technology era, the idea that students will read a help sheet or indeed come on campus during library hours, is ill-informed
  • Study Skills: Most universities offer some sort of study or academic skills support. A student can make a booking with an advisor, attend a short course or seek out help sheets.

What is sadly lacking, however, is access to:

  • tutoring; specifically targeting academic writing, during the hours a student needs it (more often than not, in the evening or week-end)
  • online support, for seeking assistance (e.g., how to search the library databases)
  • tools that assist with writing, such as bibliographic software

On this last point, most Australian Universities do provide some bibliographic software support (e.g., EndNote), but this tool is primarily geared towards seasoned researchers (rendering it complex for an undergraduate to use) or not provided to undergraduates at all. Also, referencing is only one aspect of the complex process related to academic writing:

  1. Understanding the assignment (i.e., what is being asked)
  2. Finding research material related to the assignment task
  3. Knowing the difference between a thesis, a proposition and an assertion
  4. Structuring a story relevant to the assignment question
  5. Understanding the essentials of writing structure (e.g., introductions, conclusions)
  6. Quoting and paraphrasing to avoid plagiarism
  7. Providing a grammatically correct communique
  8. Referencing research material appropriate to the discipline (citations, footnotes, bibliography and image captions)
  9. Formatting a document relevant to the task (e.g., preparing an essay versus a report)

1. Understanding the assignment (i.e., what is being asked)

If you fail to clearly understand what is being asked, then the answer a student provides will miss the mark. Work done will go for naught. Examining a research question involves unpacking the keywords and identifying the aim or purpose of the question (i.e., getting to the heart of the matter).

Tools available: None that I am aware of, except blogs, help sheets and books explaining ‘how to’

2. Finding research material related to the assignment task

Libraries themselves and library databases have a wealth of information. Sorting through all that data requires knowledge of researching using keywords, understanding the value of current information compared with older information, constructing a review of the literature in the field of inquiry and knowing how to manage what you find, so it doesn’t get lost.

Tools available: None that I am aware of, except blogs, help sheets and books explaining ‘how to’

3. Knowing the difference between a thesis, a proposition and an assertion

The ability to convey meaning is indeed a craft rather than a science. But, the ability to carefully build a story around a central theme requires intimate understanding of the role of language. To make an ill-found claim is an assertion, to suggest something is to make a proposition, to state how something might behave is to posit a theory. Research work is important to our world. It helps us understand what is going on and our position in that world. A lack of understanding about the fundamentals of our own thoughts fails to provide the skills that will challenge beliefs. Challenging our beliefs constitutes progress, but it must be done in a thoughtful manner if anyone is to take notice. Beliefs that have evidence are theories we can all subscribe to. Beliefs that are forced upon us tend to get rejected outright.

Tools available: None that I am aware of, except blogs, help sheets and books explaining ‘how to’

4. Structuring a story relevant to the assignment question

Education was founded on philosophy. The great philosophers had an intimate understanding of the art of forging an argument. Politicians are also great orators, but the difference is that Politicians tend to ignore the question, speaking of what they want you to hear rather than what is being asked about. Great orators know how to stay on task, and weave their story into a convincing argument supported by good evidence.

Tools available: Some templates can be found in various word processors; ComWriter has more structured templates; otherwise it is blogs, help sheets and books explaining ‘how to’

5. Understanding the essentials of writing structure (e.g., introductions, conclusions)

Starting and finishing your story can is like welcoming your guests and bidding them farewell; it is not something you would ignore or overlook. But the customs of welcome and farewell are learned from our peers and mentors.

Tools available: None that I am aware of, except blogs, help sheets and books explaining ‘how to’. ComWriter templates have a structured approach.

6. Quoting and paraphrasing to avoid plagiarism

Many people have said many things. It is important to acknowledge the great writers in our field and use them (politely) to support our arguments. The ability to weave another’s words into our story is quite challenging. I once heard a well qualified Professor say “I call this…” I was shocked, because what he claimed was ‘his’ (I) were the words of another well-known author in the field. Plagiarism is theft! Stealing other’s ideas without acknowledgment is appalling. But building on what has gone before is evolution. Evolution is founded on history (previous knowledge that we must acknowledge).

Tools available: TurnitIn, Grammarly

7. Providing a grammatically correct communique

English is fast becoming a generic language, but there are different flavors (or is that flavours)! For many students undertaking study in the English language poses a real problem when it is not their native language. I have my regular grammar mistakes that seem to haunt me, but trying to make sure our words can be understood is the central goal to communication.

Tools available: Grammarly, can be used in any word processor but is free for online product like ComWriter

8. Referencing research material appropriate to the discipline (citations, footnotes, images, bibliography)

Acknowledging our resource sources is something we learn at University or College. The rules are complex and, quite frankly, antiquated. But rules are there for a reason and we must try and obey. There are many tools available to support referencing, but they are generally antiquated and complex to use. Further, they must be integrated with our word processors or use copy-cut-and-paste. Writing is central to academic work, so it is crazy that we have not a single tool to assist with this. Although ComWriter is one such new tool working towards this goal.

Tools available: EndNote, Zotero, Mendeley, Papers, BibMe, ComWriter

9. Formatting a document relevant to the profession and the task (e.g., essay versus report)

Word Processors all work the same and have endless features and menus. It requires a significant amount of time to become acquainted with these tools, let alone become an expert. Students can spend endless hours formatting documents rather than concentrating on structuring their story.

Tools available: There is only one tool that I am aware of that will automatically format text: ComWriter

A happy stundet concentrating on writing good content

Conclusion 

Students enter education for one purpose: skill development. Our role as teachers is to evaluate their skills. Written communication is still the primary mode for evaluating a student’s skill development. Yet we provide little by way of innovative support in this area. Tools are fragmented and old, the rules are complex and difficult to understand, support is lacking, and stress is high. Student Evaluation Surveys tell us about these problems over-and-over again. ComWriter is an innovative new writing platform dedicating itself to enhancing academic writing proficiency. Imagine: a library that acts like a google search, a word processor that has modern tools, the absence of formatting, and the ability to get assistance online. Imagine a learning environment where the pain of evaluation has been eliminated and I am free to explore my own ideas and creativity. Imagine no longer, compose right with ComWriter: NOW AVAILABLE.

 

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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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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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