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Writing Your Paper

Writing Tools and Tips

The following are some tools and tips to help make the writing process easier. Unless otherwise stated, all these websites and functions are available online for free, or as a built-in part of most word processors/computers.


Online Tools

Writing Assignment Calculators

These webpages allow you to input the date you receive an assignment and the due date, and then break the writing process into a manageable set of tasks, each with their own suggested due date. This can be a good way to figure out an order and schedule for tackling a large writing assignment, as well as figuring out roughly how much time you should spend on each step. Many of these webpages can also direct you to further resources to help you complete each of the steps (research, brainstorming, drafting, and editing).

Here are some writing assignment calculators developed by different institutions:

The Tomato Timer

The Tomato Timer, and other similar timers, are based on the Pomodoro study method, which alternates between study periods and rest periods. Using these timers helps you take regular breaks during your study process and keep your mind fresh. You can also change the timing on most of these timers to suit the work/break schedule that works best for you.

Here are some online study timers:

Mendeley

Mendeley is an open-source citation management software. It is pre-installed on all GPRC Learning Commons computers, but you can also download it for use on your personal computer for free. It's a great tool to help you keep track of the sources you're using for a research paper. Mendeley allows you to:

  • Automatically download citations of sources you find online through the browser plugin;
  • Access a full list of the citations you have downloaded and export them into your papers;
  • Save the citations for later use.

The software can be downloaded from the Mendeley website here.


Keyboard Shortcut Tools

These are just a few of the keyboard shortcuts that can help you accomplish writing tasks more quickly/easily. Note that "Control" (Ctrl) is used on PCs - if you are using a Mac, you will need to hit the "Apple" button instead of "Control" to use these shortcuts:

  • Ctrl+F: this allows you to search Word documents, Google docs, webpages, and most PDFs for specific words or phrases. This can be very helpful when searching for specific errors in your own writing, or looking for information in another source.
  • Ctrl+A: this allows you to select all the text on a document or webpage. It's a lot easier than clicking and dragging if you need to highlight an entire document at once! This can be useful when formatting or copying/pasting.
  • Ctrl+C / Ctrl+X / Ctrl+V: these allow you to copy, cut, and paste text that you have selected more quickly. "C" is for copy, "X" is for cut, and "V" is for paste. If you are using Google Docs or other online word processors, these shortcuts may be the only way for you to copy/cut/paste material.
  • Ctrl+S: this allows you to quickly save your document. Be sure to save your work often to not lose your progress!
  • Ctrl+Tab: this allows you to indent just one line of text without impacting any others in the same paragraph. This is helpful for creating hanging indents for short reference lists, as this is faster than using the "Paragraph Options" menu if you only have one or two cited works.

Other Tips

Using The "Cite" Button

Most academic databases will include a "cite" button, which automatically generates article citations in various styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) While this can be a very useful, time-saving tool, always be sure to review the "cite" button citations carefully alongside a verified example and make sure all the formatting is correct. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for among "cite" button citations:

  • The weird gray highlight. If you copy and paste auto-generated citations from the GPRC databases, sometimes they will have a gray highlight behind them that can be very difficult to remove. You can use the "paste text only" option to avoid this, or highlight the reference and use the "clear all formatting" button in word to get rid of this highlight (though that second option also means you have to redo other elements of the formatting, like italics).
  • Improper use of capital letters. This is especially true for APA citations, since APA does not capitalize most of the letters in most titles. Additionally, citation machines will sometimes write authors' names in all capital letters, but this is not needed in any citation style.
  • Missing information. Some things that tend to be missing include volume numbers, issue numbers, full page ranges, and dois.

Customized Spellcheck

When using Microsoft Word, you can customize the Spelling and Grammar Check tool to check for a wider range of grammar and style errors/suggestions:

  • These options can be found under File --> Options --> Proofing.
  • You can check or uncheck individual types of grammar considerations depending on your assignment.

Additional Spelling and Grammar Check Software

There are some other programs out there that offer additional layers of spelling and grammar checking. Many of them work in both internet browsers and word processors. Here are some popular ones - be aware that many of them have both free and paid versions:

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Phone: 1-780-835-6750
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