Academic Writing and Referencing While Using Assistive Technology… It Can Be Done!

This post will consider the topics academic writing and referencing, and how assistive technology can be used while conducting the afore mentioned activities. Similar to academic research, it is inevitable that you will be required to compose an academic piece of writing which is referenced correctly when you are in college/university. Academic writing is a different type of writing which is quite different to your normal writing style. For example, when writing an academic piece, you cannot use any personal pronouns such as “me”, “I”, or “you”. Referencing is a process where you tell the reader where you have sourced the information you are writing about. However, referencing is not just a case of stating “I found the above information in my core textbook”. There is a specific format in which references should appear, and each college/university has a slightly different approach to the referencing process. Much like my previous post, the following information is written assuming you understand the terms academic writing and referencing.

This is an image of a book regarding referencing sourced from Microsoft Word's Clip Art.

Image of Referencing Book

EndNote Referencing Software/iOS App:
In my opinion EndNote is essential for any student completing any form of academic writing which requires referencing. EndNote will manage the references you have used in your written piece, and help you to create a correctly formatted bibliography. A bibliography is an expanded version of the initial reference included in your text. EndNote is available on the web, a Windows and Mac application and an iOS app. I have successfully used the web and iOS versions of EndNote. I installed the Windows version too, but it wasn’t immediately accessible, and I didn’t have time to investigate the application further. EndNote is at its best when you are importing references generated from Google Scholar and other databases as discussed previously. The staff of your college/university library will offer training on the EndNote software. While this training will probably not focus on how the software is used in conjunction with assistive technology, it is paramount that you understand how the software works. Once you have an understanding of EndNote, you can figure out how you can access its features using your assistive technology of choice.

A Good Thesaurus:
I would recommend the use of a good thesaurus for both students using assistive technology and for those who are not. When you are trying to paraphrase something you have read regarding your research interest, it can be difficult to find a word which has the same meaning, but can say the same thing with fewer words. There is a built-in thesaurus in Microsoft Word which is completely accessible with JAWS, and I’m sure it is accessible with the majority of screen reader software available. Other word processors may also include their own thesaurus, and its functionality is likely to be the same as the one present in Microsoft Word. To use a thesaurus in a word processor, just open the thesaurus option and search for a word of your choice. For example, searching for the word “academic” finds the following results:
1. Moot
2. Theoretical
3. Abstract
4. Hypothetical
5. Speculative
6. Practical
7. Educational
You can then choose the word which is most appropriate in your situation. In Microsoft Word the thesaurus option is found in the Review section. Please note, paraphrasing is only one technique used as part of academic writing, and many more techniques are available and should be utilised. Also, it is very important that you do not overuse a thesaurus as the below video clip illustrates.

Voice Dream Writer for iOS May Help:
Voice dream writer is quite a new application specific to iOS, and it may help with your academic writing and referencing. This app is unique to iOS in that it is able to read your text sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph. While VoiceOver is fantastic, it does not have the afore mentioned ability to navigate text by sentence or paragraph. Voice Dream Writer can also read a sentence to you once you insert a full stop, and for faster typists this feature can be disabled. Similar to Voice Dream Reader, the major benefit of this writing application is that you can choose a custom voice to read back your text. Furthermore, if you have purchased additional voices in Voice Dream Reader, you can use them in Voice Dream Writer for no additional charge. Typing errors, punctuation use and the flow of your academic argument is much easier to assess when it is being read to you instead of reading it in your own head. As this app is quite new to iOS, I did not have an opportunity to use it for academic writing purposes.

The below paragraph is taken from my Masters, and it should give you an idea of how something should read when it is academically written and referenced correctly. While the subject matter of your assignment may be different, the referencing and phrasing should be somewhat similar.

2.1 Definitions of Social Media
In the literature there is congruence regarding the definition of SM. However, it should be noted that definitions often vary in technical complexity according to their source and context. Nash (2009) defines SM as the sites or online tools which enable individuals to interact with one another and allow the posting of materials they have created online. Kietzmann et al (2011, p.241) builds on this definition by stating that SM are sites which:
“Employ mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms via which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content.” (Kietzmann et al 2011, p.241)
Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) suggest that SM consists of collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia), blogs (e.g. WordPress), content communities (e.g. SlideShare), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft), and virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life).

You may have noticed this post is shorter than the previous post on academic research, and that reflects the importance of getting the academic research right before beginning the writing and referencing stages.

As always, I hope the above information is of some benefit to you or someone you know. If there is anything you would like to ask me about, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Funnily enough academic writing and referencing aren’t topics which appear in music a lot, so I decided to pick a song which mentions “Words” in any context. On this occasion the musical contribution is courtesy of Extreme with More Than Words.