Friday, July 22, 2011

Online Tools to Aid with Research and Writing

The temperature forecast for today in New York City is 100+ degrees. Wherever you and your family are spending this hot day, we have some suggestions for online tools that can help with research and writing -- now and well into the cooler days of fall.

Research Tool

It is critical that students learn to determine which websites can be consulted for reliable information and which should be taken with a grain of salt (or avoided altogether). But online research can be frustrating for even the most discerning student because of the difficulty inherent in organizing found information.

Is it best to copy and paste each relevant url to a document and consult them later? Copy and paste chunks of useful text onto a document, being careful to note the source? Juggle between multiple windows, all open at once on the screen? It’s enough to make one nostalgic for the good old days of highlighting paper documents. Thanks to two innovative websites, students can enjoy the best of both worlds. Both webklipper and crocodoc allow users to archive useful web pages, then highlight, annotate, and draw on them. They can be referenced again and again from any computer, and even shared with other users.

Writing Resource

What’s the difference between passive and active voice? What’s the format for a business letter? How do I develop a thesis statement? And really, why would anyone ever need a semicolon? Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), a site created and maintained by the school’s English Department, is one of the best, most comprehensive writing resources available. From the homepage, writers can search for information by typing in a few keywords, or access the sitemap for a list of the hundreds of relevant topics the OWL covers.

The OWL provides quick answers to questions about punctuation or citation (both MLA and APA), but also features in-depth instructions on more complicated topics like writing an argumentative paper or formatting a resume. Outstanding examples – sometimes a single sentence and sometimes an entire paper – help to illustrate the clear, user-friendly explanations. Best of all, the site is free and available anywhere the Internet is accessible. Writers of all ages and skill levels will definitely want to bookmark this page!

Photo used under Creative Commons by Ray Bodden

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