Why make an outline and how to do it

Not only for beginners but for every writer, an outline is the most preferred starter step. An outline is a list of ideas, concepts or steps to follow, which you write prior to starting writing your paper. It is the simplest way to order your ideas and to secure a logical structure for your text.

English collocations: Gas emanations or gas fumes?

If you are reading about chemistry or about our atmosphere, you may have encountered already these two ways of denoting the leak of gas substances. Technical vocabulary is somewhat difficult to put together in a text, even more if you are not a really experienced scientific writer. This is complex, mainly because there are different terminologies for specific purposes and, in order to impress a scientific audience, we must be really careful about the ideas we want to express using the right words.

How to write a literature review for a research paper

Conducting research is not easy, as it often involves that the researcher invests a lot of time and effort. The literature review in a research paper is one of the most important and time-consuming tasks to do, but it is very important for the researcher and the readers to be aware of the existing investigations about a certain topic. Here we will discuss some requirements to write a complete literature review, which we can also refer to as ‘theoretical framework’, as it is widely used in the scientific community. This article offers 5 steps to go through when writing a literature review for a research paper

The role of technology in the production of texts

Teachers and students, authors and editors, all writers in the globalized world, rely on technological tools to produce their texts. Not only the computer has replaced the writing machines of the past, but the importance of the internet in the last decades has made a revolutionary impact on the way writers produce and share their written work. Furthermore, technological tools to improve the quality of texts are widely used everywhere: language processors, online dictionaries, grammar correctors and translators have all been used for a while now, and have changed the writing game. In the following paragraphs, we discuss the role of technology in the production of texts, with special attention to the contributions of the internet in the educational and working environments. 

5-paragraph essay: a guide

As you probably know, an essay is a text which develops a specific topic, an idea or an opinion in a few paragraphs. One of the most common modalities of this type of writing is the 5-paragraph essay. In these 5 paragraphs, the author intends to provide arguments to support a thesis statement which, sometimes, can be a complicated task. A good 5-paragraph essay should be able to explain a full topic or provide full arguments for an opinion in a small number of sentences, which demands good synthesizing skills by the writer. Usually, at school and college, this is one of the formats most widely required by teachers as an assessment for their courses. In this article, we present some information about this type of essay and recommendations to help students to master this format.

4 ways to get inspired: this is how you start writing!

Unfortunately, it is quite common that you sit in front of your computer with a lot of information in your mind, and still do not know how to start writing! This can happen to a beginner, but also to very wise writers. People talk about this event as if your mind were blocked and prevented you from actually writing. If you are struggling to get inspiration for your paper or do not know how to start, keep on reading this article.

1. Brainstorm your ideas

What is to brainstorm? Take a piece of blank paper and a pencil, write the topic of your paper at the centre and surround it with words associated with it. You write any word or phrase that could be linked to the central theme of your text. This is helpful to start thinking about arguments or things you need to mention irrevocably. You can draw conclusions from this exercise as, for example, determine what is the most suitable word to refer to, in case your topic deals more often with synonyms. This is also a visual aid that could help you organize your paper and also to remember the elemental ideas.

2. Create an outline

When you are ready with the elemental ideas by doing the previous exercise, you will need to organize your arguments in a logical order that is useful for the reading of your audience. Creating an outline can take time if you are not acquainted with this type of structure, but by doing it you are practicing how to synthesize your ideas. General or main ideas are essential for an outline, so it is a helpful exercise to help you discriminate between the several pieces of information you may want to include. It is also useful in terms of organizing conductive arguments that need a specific order of cause and consequence to be fully understood. Furthermore, outlines are especially suitable to start writing a research paper, because they tend to follow the logical structure of the scientific method.

3. Read for examples in the existing literature

A good way of getting inspired is by reading what other authors have said about the same topic. In this case, you may want to pay attention not only to what other texts say, but also to how they are written. Authors to look up to do not have to be experts, you can get inspired by your classmates and teachers. Having good ideas is important, just as it is to be able to explain those ideas in an appealing way. When you read the next paper, pay attention to: order of arguments or information, definitions, and explanations of concepts, discourse markers, paragraph structure, and length, etc. All those details have a huge influence on the final outcome of a text.

4. Help yourself by using a language software

Nowadays, technology has developed some outstanding language software. Most of them help writers correct grammar mistakes and general stylistic issues. In the case of WriteBetter, it does much more than that! WriteBetter is also a language software, whose main characteristic is that it provides writers with examples retrieved from databases and published academic entries. This way it supports researchers and no matter the area of expertise of their work, it will contribute their work with examples to get inspired. The easiest way to run this program is by using it along with your language processor of preference, online and at the same time that you are writing.

In other words, WriteBetter provides immediate feedback and support to your writing, which saves a lot of time from consulting teachers or learning from bad grades. Finding help in technological devices is not uncommon these days, in fact, experts are relying more often on these tools which are economic and beneficial in a lot of aspects. Apart from enhancing your papers right away, these tools also foster self-learning, as you will be the one in charge of selecting the suitable words and examples to build your text.

Finally, remember that practice makes perfect! Over time and by following these pieces of advice, you will eventually learn how to come up with outstanding ideas for your text, getting better and better. Just be patient and try out these steps.


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How to avoid plagiarism

Good writing is authentic, trustworthy and relevant. A paper with little or no citations is hard to find published in a database that considers itself prestigious and ethical. Therefore, teachers’ talks about plagiarism are repetitive, but also very accurate: not giving credit to other’s ideas is not only bad for acquiring nice grades, but also prevents your paper from being published and it can even lead to legal sanctions. Believe it or not, plagiarism is a big deal!

When does plagiarism occur?

Plagiarism occurs when writers do not acknowledge an idea as found in a previous publication, or when a very general idea is thought not to have any original source. In these cases, the best we can do is to read and look for already published information. Usually, one can find ideas of public domain cited in many papers as part of their introduction or in theoretical frameworks. In other words, in academic writing, we need to be able to distinguish common sense from public domain ideas; the latter are usually generalities that writers need to cite.

How can we avoid plagiarism?

The easiest way of getting rid of plagiarism is to cite, either literally or paraphrasing. On one hand, literal citations will be necessary whenever you determine that no one can state that information in a better way! If no one can say it better, then use the original phrase from the author; that is to quote, but be sure to acknowledge the source in detail, including the author’s surname, year of publication and/or the page in which the quote appears. This information can be useful for your readers, in case they want to look for the original source and its content. Do not forget to signal the literal citation by means of quotation marks or indented paragraphs, according to the citation style you are required to use.

On the other hand, paraphrasing is explaining with your own words a piece of information you read in other sources. This style of quoting still demands a source, but it offers readers more flexibility in terms of wording. It is useful with very technical information, which authors may want to restate in order to get to wider audiences out of the area of expertise. It is also useful with complex ideas for which you can offer a simpler explanation. Still, if you are using somebody else’s ideas, you should acknowledge them!

A good way of avoiding plagiarism is revising your text twice before its delivery. Writing takes time, and you should organize your time in order to provide space for error correction. A common mistake is missing quotations. For example, when we mention an author once, but soon after we still talk about the author’s ideas, a frequent mistake is not to mention the name or the source again. Why is it necessary to acknowledge the source every time I make use of the information? Because not all your audience is aware of the works you are quoting. In other words, you should bear in mind that the only person aware of your paper’s sources is yourself! Giving proper credit whenever we use published knowledge is not only good for writing, but it is also part of the ethical considerations that every writer should embrace.

What can I do if I am running out of inspiration?

If you are running out of inspiration, taking somebody else’s words is never an option! Nowadays, there a multiple language tools that can help you either with synonyms or ideas to complete your paragraphs. WriteBetter is one of them, providing you with examples from published materials in order to help you build your text. It works in real time, while you are writing, and you can make use of this software through the language processor you already have in your computer, Word or GoogleDocs, for example. By introducing new words, the software will show you on the right side of the screen ideas with similar words and for similar contexts. It is a trustworthy tool, as it only displays materials from published sources like databases or academic magazines. Thus, you can combine your own thoughts with papers from other authors and get inspiration from them!

Finally, if you feel stuck in your process, a good idea is to stop writing and continue later. As we have said previously, writing takes time and writers should save time for error correction. Plan your writing by making an outline and revise your text before delivering. You can also combine literal quotations with paraphrasing, to make your text a varied one and interesting to read. As a last piece of advice, ask a friend or a teacher to read your document and give you honest opinions. Remember that there is always room for improvement when it comes to writing!


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Estilector and WriteBetter

As writers, students of all kinds need constant support and assessment in order to reach adequate standards to cope with university requirements. In this sense, teachers are not always available to help learners with their writing skills. Moreover, academic writing is far more complex than just checking the orthography of a text. For this and other matters, technological devices such as writing software tools come to play an important role in the making of good writers, and they also help students achieve their academic goals. There are many writing software tools existing nowadays, all of them with specific characteristics to meet different students’ needs when it comes to writing skills. In this article, we review two different technological tools whose aim is to help you with your different necessities.

Two amazing tools to improve your writing

Nowadays, most text processing programs already include the option for writers to check orthography, but they lack help in terms of vocabulary options or what teachers expect regarding text structure. Here it is where technological tools as writing assistants come to play an important role. If you need help with your academic writing in Spanish, Estilector is your tool. If you need help with English, WriteBetter can change your life!

Estilector: improve your academic writing in Spanish

Estilector will provide you with information about the use of discourse markers or repeated words in Spanish. This tool is available online and it requires an internet connection to function, but it will immediately highlight the words that you constantly repeat in each paragraph. The lack of innovating vocabulary could diminish the quality of your text, creating an image of your writing skills as rather simplistic, which is something teachers usually pay attention to. In this sense, this tool is oriented to beginners, students who are initiating their academic writing production in their first or the second year of university.

Along the same line, Estilector will give you information about the discourse markers present in your text. The program shows the variety and quantity of discourse markers and suggests changes in order to enhance the coherence and cohesion of your writing. Teachers also focus on these aspects when grading their students’ texts, because it will show if your argument follows a coherent line. Nevertheless, for more proficient writers, that is, advanced university-level students, this analysis would not be enough.

WriteBetter: improve your academic writing in English

When dealing with upper courses at university, teachers ask for more than fancy words or markers in your text. For such purposes, WriteBetter is a more suitable tool if you need help with your English writing. The most interesting characteristic of this software is that you can use it through the text processor of your preference (Word, GoogleDocs, and Overleaf), giving you writing examples in real time. In other words, you may be lacking inspiration on how to conduct your writing, and this software will give you examples of how to continue your paragraph. Examples are displayed next to your texts, and they are taken from real published papers, giving you extra confidence in your writing.

Another important aspect of WriteBetter is the unlimited range of topics or text genres to be displayed in the examples. There is no a specific discipline which works best in WriteBetter: if you are writing about very specialized topics, this tool will show suitable examples to enhance your text, no matter how technical your content is. Also, if there is any word you are not sure how to implement in your document, this software gives you a list of contexts in which that word is most likely to appear. This is extremely useful in terms of confidence: no more random introductions or conclusive paragraphs, just choose an alternative that has already been proved successful. This last characteristic makes WriteBetter a perfect tool for postgraduate students and researchers who cannot make mistakes in their papers.

Finally, academic writing is a complex matter for students and it requires practice to achieve well-written texts. And even for well-trained writers, good ideas can be blurred by lack of inspiration or innovation in terms of vocabulary or technical concepts. Therefore, writing tools provide immediate solutions according to different writing purposes that students may have. As we already know, a perfect orthography is not enough to get good grades by teachers or to convey a good idea. All the other writing needs can be covered by either the help of a teacher or, as posed here, by using innovating writing programs that provide writers with immediate evaluation of their texts.


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3 ideas to become a better writer

The challenges of writing are endless. First of all, it is a complex action which takes practice and passion to polish. Secondly, writers need a lot of self-awareness in order to identify and correct the mistakes they make. Students are assessed critically by their teachers, who will guide them in order to accomplish better writing products. Nevertheless, the help of an educator is not always available and when writing is a common practice, the writer needs to reflect on his/her own practices. In this article, we present 3 ideas to monitor your own writing process, to become an active learner and a better writer!