Research, style adherence, grammar and punctuation, and mandatory academic sources, writing your first essay or research paper can be daunting prospect. Professors love passing out tons of research, top heavy assignments. But, more often than not, these educators fail to explain more than the subject at hand and assignment requirements. No worries, Ultius has enough free resources to get you started.
Writers need resources
While those dust-covered encyclopedias have been replaced, any researcher worth their weight will tell you Wikipedia just doesn’t cut it in the classroom. Nope, our research must take a new, mature focus. Along with the resources listed above, we’ve also published a blog listing the top 20 tech tools that may help writers. The first step to digging up the sources you need starts with the campus library.
Many universities have spent large sums of money for student academic success – hint, those mysterious fees included with your tuition aren’t just paying for the president’s office furniture. Some of this money goes to fund library resources. Check with your school librarian. You may find all you need. Most colleges have subscriptions to EBSCOhost, LexisNexis, World Cat, and even Ancestory.com.
Ask the OWL – The Purdue OWL that is
Purdue University not only invests in current student’s success, the university also makes its award-winning Online Writing Lab (OWL) available to the public, online, and free. OWL features up-to-date information on all writing styles, including those elusive styles some professors demand students use. The style guides are viewable online, as a printable PDF, or in basic HTML form.
Each guide also includes a sample paper written in said style and in-text citations and reference page examples. OWL also features grammar and punctuation guides, brainstorming and research, formatting, and structure guidelines. Students who still need a little one-to-one mentoring can send their questions to OWL tutors, again free-of-charge. Tutors also created a large selection of instructional videos to help students who need a visual approach to learning. OWL’s topical guides include:
- Resumes and Cover Letters
- Academic Papers and Research
- PowerPoint Presentations
- English as a Second Language (ESL)
No, we’re not talking about circus tricks here. HighWire is as serious as they come. The online ePublisher and academic database partners with major scholarly journals, libraries, universities, and independent researchers. HighWire collects academic, peer-reviewed documents from these sources and compiles them in an easy-to-search, online database. Best of all, the company doesn’t charge a dime for its services.
That’s right; Google is good for more than following Kim Kardashian or Lady Gaga. The search engine giant – super giant? – excels at scholarly research. Google Scholar is like Google Search on steroids. The engine pulls content relevant to your search phrase(s), guards against unfounded sources, and lists scholarly, peer-reviewed journals, books, websites, etc.
Students can use the search engine for any topic they choose. Searches are customizable to include specific dates or date ranges, specify between books or articles, and restrict your search to certain publishers or writers. Google Scholar also saves your citations for easy importing into Word or citation builders.
Sci-Hub is essentially a site built from digital piracy, and is in many ways the Napster of academia. It was created by Alexandra Elbakyan, a russian student who became frustrated that a large number of academic journals are only available to financially privileged students. In Elbakyan’s own words (quoted by Fiona MacDonald of Science Direct):
“Payment of $32 [for an article] is just insane when you need to skim or read tens or hundreds of these papers to do research. I obtained these papers by pirating them.”
While Word’s citation builder is a handy tool; there are better, more intuitive versions online. Each online version has its ups and downs, but most are more than adequate for scholarly work. For example, OttoBib, a free citation generator, is a no-frills software. Students simply type the information, choose the style, and OttoBib spits out their citations one source at a time.
On the other hand, EasyBib will keep track of your sources and builds a complete works cited, bibliography, or references page. And Son of a Citation Machine does some of the background work for you.
This platform searches the Internet for your source and the correct way to cite the material. Mendeley, another free citation builder, is considered to be one of the top platforms. According to the company’s website, Stanford and Cambridge Universities and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) all use this service.
Mendeley goes a step further than the previous systems. It offers a social platform for collaboration, document storage to keep up with your research, paper planning and outlines, and, of course, a citation generator. Plus Mendeley provides sync capabilities for your iPad, iPhone, Windows 8 device, or PC desktop.
- OttoBib (Free)
- EasyBib (Free and Paid)
- Son of a Citation Machine (Free)
- Mendeley (Free)
With all the red, green, and blue lines in Word, students may find it rather difficult to understand the built-in spelling, formatting, and grammar check. Worse still, Word isn’t always correct. There are common and new words not identifiable to the including dictionary, plus Word never figured out the whole grammar check thing. Don’t fret; Grammarly has you covered.
The mostly free spelling and grammar check service is hands-down the best way to go. Not only does the service check for common spelling and grammar mistakes, the platform cross-checks for vocabulary, consistency, style, and usage. Grammarly even recommends more useful word replacements and prevents clarity issues. And, for an additional monthly subscription, Grammarly will check your essay for plagiarism issues. That’s right; no more worrying whether you quoted or cited correctly. This system takes the guess work out of writing.