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College Prep: 10 Online Tools to Make Essay Writing Easier

An essay can be a difficult and stressful assignment for students, but it is also a practical way to internalize the information you learn in your courses. If writing isn’t your gifting, there’s no need to worry. There are several free and low-cost tools available online that can transform your papers into a well-polished reflection of your hard work. Check out the following resources:

#1 Grammarly

This tool could singlehandedly change the way you write. Grammarly is a robust editor that reviews your work against 250 grammar rules, suggests vocabulary, and checks spelling contextually. It can be integrated into your browser to analyze anything you write–even your email or Facebook status. The errors are easily fixed and well explained. You would do well to check your work with Grammarly before turning it in for grading. Sound smart for free!

#2 Bibme

Cite your sources with this easy bibliography generator. It offers you several style options, including Turabian (the CCBC preference), and allows you to search for the books, websites, journals, and film you need to cite. Once you select your material, it offers you the information in the correct citation form that you can just copy and paste into your paper. Just make sure you review the citation to make sure it collected all the info correctly.

#3 PaperRater

Grammarly and WriteCheck have great plagiarism checkers with nice features at reasonable costs, but there are a number of free plagiarism websites you could also use. PaperRater is simple and checks against the billions of pages online for original content. All you have to do is paste your paper into the textbox. It will at least tell you if you need to rethink and cite your writing. If you pay to check for plagiarism, you’ll be able to check against better databases and more scholarly material. The free options generally scan Google or Yahoo for similar text. For some good plagiarism explanations and helpful tips, plagiarism.org is an excellent resource.

#4 Hemingway App

Think of this as “trimming the fat” in your paper. If you have a tendency to be wordy or passive in your writing, you may want to paste your work into this editor. It will tell you if your sentences are difficult to read or if you made any common mistakes (like passive voice). It even gives you word suggestions to simplify your content and points out if you’ve used too many adverbs (suggesting you need more specific and bold words). It’s free and easy to use!

#5 Ashford Writing Thesis Generator

Ashford University developed this thesis generator to help students conceptualize their papers. It allows you to map out your argument using basic keywords and yields wonderful suggestions for crafting your thesis statement and formatting your paper. With tips and suggestions, you could essentially have the outline for your paper in minutes. Be encouraged to check out the Writing Reviser, a grammar and style editor, offered through this website as well.

#6 MindMup

If you need to brainstorm, MindMup is an excellent resource for visually mapping your points. It allows you to integrate images and you can also color code as your paper progresses. You can even collaborate with your friends in real time. Save to Google Drive or DropBox.

#7 Simplenote

As a note taking software, Simplenote allows you to quickly open the app, write some thoughts, and know you’ll be able to find it later. It has search capabilities so you never lose an idea, and you are able to share your notes with friends. It syncs to all your devices, so you can use it anywhere and anytime you’re hit with an inspiring thought. It may be helpful for taking notes and compiling research for your paper.

#8 Memonic

This reference manager allows you to keep all of your research organized. Save any website or article you find online to the manager in folders or by tags. You can search your articles by keyword, too. Memonic syncs to any of your devices and offers real-time collaboration with your friends or study partners. For a more robust reference manager, consider Mendeley. Although you have to download it, you can save word documents, pdfs, and websites and organize them by topic automatically. It also provides citations in addition to many of the same features as Memonic!

#9 Anti-Social

Enhance your productivity with this specialized filter. It allows you to identify the websites that distract you and then block them for any period of time (15 minutes to 8 hours). Your ability to focus will improve tremendously without the preoccupation of Netflix bingeing and the pictures of lunch your friend just posted. The only way to get around the block is to restart your computer. This product is currently $15, but may be well worth it for those of us with serious procrastination issues.

#10 StayFocusd

Similar to Anti-Social, StayFocusd works the opposite way (and it’s free). Instead of blocking sites for a certain amount of time, StayFocusd allows you set the amount of time you can spend per day on any given website. If you waste valuable studying time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, or any other social timesuck, this Google Chrome extension gives you the ability to set your own timely boundaries so you can be more productive with your time. Think of it as your doting mother.

 There are several other free and similar resources available for students online, but if you need more help, don’t feel discouraged! Your CCBC Librarian is able to help you with your difficult research questions, and will even get you set up with some great resources for your paper. During the Fall 2015 semester, the Library will host a writing workshop where students can come each week for help with essay formatting, proofreading, and other paper writing help. Be sure to come by on Wednesdays at 3:30pm-5:30pm to take advantage of this excellent service!