Research Writing with Digital Tools

“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.” – Joseph Pulitzer

Writing is a personal experience and shows conversations we have with our brains about a subject. Students struggle with organizing and presenting these brain conversations through their writing to an audience. Writing for an audience takes skill. Students need to learn how to engage their audience, organize their thoughts, give their writing flow, provide well supported research and cite their sources accurately.

Check out ESL Library’s Writing Section for ready-made lessons

The Internet offers many free digital tools and apps to help students develop their writing skills in engaging ways. Below are tips and resources to help you develop your students’ writing skills with the help of technology. Find an accompanying slide presentation here.

Teach the Process

Our students become skilled writers by undergoing the process, which involves brainstorming, research, organizing, prewriting, drafting, peer editing, and publishing. You can find lessons on these topics in ESL Library’s Writing section. Your students can practice what they’ve learned with sites, such as Creately and LucidChart. These sites have several diagrams and flowcharts to help students organize their ideas for different types of reports, such as comparison/contrast essays, problem-solution essays, and persuasive essays. ReadWriteThink has many interactives that walk students through the writing process.

Develop Their Research Skills

Our students need to learn how and where to find accurate and valid resources to give them a richer understanding of the topic and to support their writing. The Kentucky Virtual Library has an interactive infographic that illustrates the digital research process. We can help our students research routinely by introducing them to social bookmarking tools and apps like Educlipper, Diigo, Pinterest, PearlTrees, Flipboard, and Livebinders. Find more resources in this slide presentation, Research in the Digital Age.

Get Them to Cite Accurately

Google Docs has incredible apps and features to help students write better essays. Check out the Research feature under the Tools tab on Google Docs. Click To Tweet

A sidebar pops up that allows students to search for scholarly resources and creative common images. Students can also cite the source by choosing APA, MLA, or Chicago style and the citation will appear at the bottom of the essay.

Here are a few more apps to help with citation:

  • Cite This for Me is a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that helps students quickly get the appropriate citation while navigating the web.
  • EasyBib has a free app for iOS and Android devices that allows students to get the appropriate citation by scanning a book’s barcode.

Here’s a fun post about the ESL Library style guide

Create a Safe Environment

When our students write they share their ideas, opinions, thoughts, and experiences about the topic. Therefore, feedback can be one of the scariest parts of the writing process. Students fear how their teachers will grade their writing and they fear what mistakes their peers will point out. We need to make sure we create a safe environment for our students to feel comfortable sharing their writing.

Instead of marking their papers, try providing audio feedback with Kaizena. Russell Stannard explains how to provide video feedback with screen capture tools in this article.

More Resources

  • Evernote is a great research and note-taking app that syncs to any device.
  • Grammarly helps students catch the errors in their emails, essays, and blog posts.
  • The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) provides many resources, templates, and examples for research writing and projects.

What are your favorite writing tools and apps?

Check out all of Shelly’s tips for teaching English with technology


Leave a Comment ↓

  1. Shan Shan says:

    Jun 01, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks a lot for your useful and helpful information! I’ve learned a lot from your supports.

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