Writing a research paper does not actually take long at all. Your students can do a 10-page paper in one day if they really knuckle down and get going.
The most annoying things about this academic assignment are at the beginning and the end of the process: the research and the bibliography. Your students will seldom find all the information they need in one database. When they do have enough information, they then have to wade through hundreds of pages of obfuscating language that academics love to use to get a couple of pages of useful material. Once they have the ample resource materials to back their arguments, students then need to “bag it and tag it” in preparation for the citations and references.
Between research and referencing, referencing is worse. It is finicky, boring and takes so much time. It would be okay if this research paper was the only thing happening in a student’s life, but that is seldom the case. They probably have to deal with the requirements of other classes, maybe even (gasp!) another research paper or two. Noisy roommates and social networks can also cause endless distractions and delays. You would like to help them, but it is the nature of the beast.
Fortunately, there is hope for your students. This is an era where all the tools and the information they need are just a click away. They can become better and more efficient researchers if they make use of online tools. Here are 10 online tools you can recommend to give your students a boost.
The real value of this free reference manager is in the publicly shared libraries of other users. If you can find someone on the network who is working on a similar paper, you will not have to start from scratch. All you have to do is take out what you don’t need and add anything you’re missing. It can cut the time you spend on searching for materials by at least a half. In fairness, you should likewise share your own library to benefit others.
You can use this free tool in conjunction with Mendeley to get additional material quickly. Zotero detects the content in any website you visit, and you can grab it with one click. It will then index it so you can quickly find and organize the material.
With this site, you can send the research materials you have to them so that they can create a research summary for each, and maybe even a bibliography. This will further cut down the time you use to find the nuggets in the dirt. You can even send them your paper and they will do your in-text citations. The site has professional researchers and editors that you can request help from at any point of your research.
This is a search engine for peer-reviewed journal articles and academic papers, especially useful for scientific research papers. You can use it freely, but many articles you find may be from paid academic databases such as JSTOR or Elsevier. If your school has a subscription for these paid services, your tuition should cover full access to these materials. If not, you can type in a search for “free” articles if you want to keep your costs down, or you can try your luck with the next tool.
Open access means free, so this is a great resource for cash-strapped students. It gathers available open access journals and papers into one site and indexes them to make them easy to find. However, many open access articles are more than five years old, so if your paper specifies current bodies of work, you could be out of luck. It can’t hurt to check, anyway.
You may find some useful material in this free website that makes a weekly collection of the best data science news, resources, and inspirations from around the web. Published authors talking about the current state of their research write some of the articles. While these are not peer-reviewed, it can provide you with valuable insights into the people behind the research articles, and it is good way to get quotes you can use.
This is a similar site in that it gathers the latest in the world of scientific research, with an important difference: it rounds up only newly published research articles. It is a great tool for keeping up with changes in the field you are interested in, which can redefine the direction of your research paper. The subscription is free, but if you find an article you need in a paid database, you need to pay to subscribe to that database. The value of Sciencescape is giving you real-time updates on the very latest papers for your particular field when you subscribe or “follow” a stream..
This is also a good resource for managing and discovering scholarly references. This site is free, but you still have to pay for paid subscriptions when an article is not open access. It does have quite an extensive database of mostly free but dated articles, which can work if your paper is historical.
This is another handy online reference manager for both desktop and mobile devices. You should seriously consider it for organizing your research, especially since it is free. The app goes one step further, automatically generating citations in your preferred format on top of one-click saving of reference materials through the web importer. It works a lot like Evernote.
If you are on the home stretch and dreading creating your bibliography, the EasyBib can come to your rescue. Input the author, title of the article, ISBN or DOI number and it will generate the entry. You can also make citations for websites, books, online newspapers, databases, plus 59 reference options. Choose the format you need among the most popular standards. However, the free version is limited to MLA. If you need other formats, you pay $4.99 monthly or $19.99 yearly..
The writing part in research paper writing is the fun part. You can help your students have an easier time doing their research paper by helping them become better researchers. These tools will help get them there.
Antonio Tooley is a hopeless optimist who enjoys basking in the world’s brightest colors. He loves biking to distant places and occasionally he gets lost. When not doing that he’s blogging and teaching ESL. He will be happy to meet you on Facebook and Twitter.