Microsoft’s new “Rewrite” feature: A challenge to academic integrity?

April 20, 2020

Microsoft has just announced a new feature in Word: “Rewrite”. Microsoft shared details of the feature in this blog post last Friday.  The feature is designed to provide “sentence-level suggestions” to help users improve their writing. Microsoft reports that, “This feature is powered by cutting-edge, neural-network, machine learning models, which are trained on millions of sentences.” Zhang Li of Microsoft writes that the new feature:

Improves fluency: These suggestions aim to improve the flow of the wording, including mechanics like grammar and spelling.

Concise phrasing: The goal of these suggestions is to express an idea clearly, without extra words.
Paraphrased sentence: These suggestions offer synonyms for alternative wording.

Improves readability: The goal of these suggestions is to make the writing easier to read for people with different reading abilities. In general, suggestions will include shorter, simpler wording.”

Reading through the blog post comments, users are anticipating this will replace services such as Grammarly. People in the tech world are already calling it a “game changer”.

From an academic integrity perspective, it certainly could change the game. Drastically. Scholars such as Ann Rogerson and Grace McCarthy started publishing articles about the impact of paraphrasing software a few years ago. Their article “Using Internet based paraphrasing tools: Original work, patchwriting or facilitated plagiarism” prompts us to consider how paraphrasing software impacts our notion of writing, plagiarism and “originality”.

Microsoft reports that the new feature is currently only available in English and requires a subscription to Microsoft Office 365.

My prediction is that this new feature will change writing as much as spell check has, but in ways that are infinitely more complex. Spell check offers suggestions on individual words. Grammar check highlights possible grammar errors. A feature designed to re-write entire sentences has the potential to shift writing in significant new ways.

This may challenge our notions of “original writing” in ways we cannot yet predict. Educators and administrators will have to figure out how, if at all, this will impact our understanding of plagiarism, authorship and originality. Only time will if assisted and augmented writing will become the new normal.

_________________________________________

Share or Tweet this: Microsoft’s new “Rewrite” feature: A challenge to academic integrity? https://wp.me/pNAh3-2ss

This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


Understanding Language Register

January 2, 2018

A few years ago I wrote a post on language register. It has become one of the most popular and often viewed posts on my blog. It is a long and fairly involved post, so for those who like their information in bite-sized pieces, here is a quick synopsis for you in the form of an infographic:

Language ReGISTER

It is important to understand the differences between registers so you can use language that is appropriate for a particular situation. If your register is too high, you may come across as being snobby, pretentious or arrogant. If your register is too low, you can come across as being inappropriately informal or too friendly.

It is not only English language learners who need to understand the difference between registers, but native speakers do too. One of the things I have observed in my work as a professor is that students sometimes write in a register that is too casual. Sometimes students do this because they do not want to come across as “stuffy” or pretentious. But casual writing in academic and professional papers can backfire. Writing that is overly casual is often not considered professional or terribly credible by the reader. It is important for students, professionals, scientists and academics to know the formal register for writing papers, theses and reports.

Here’s a free .pdf of this infographic that you can use for your own research or teaching purposes: Language Register (.pdf).

Check out these related posts:

Teaching formal and informal language register to native speakers of English http://wp.me/pNAh3-jV

Language Register and Why It Matters (Or: Why You Can’t Write An Academic Paper in Gangsta Slang) http://wp.me/pNAh3-1pr

______________________________________________________

Share or Tweet this: Understanding Language Register https://wp.me/pNAh3-25U

This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


How many sources do you need in a literature review?

February 19, 2014

Students often ask me how many sources they need in their literature review. The short answer is, “It depends.” It depends on your topic, the nature of your research project, your level of scholarship, and a number of other factors.

An article from Canberra University (http://www.canberra.edu.au/studyskills/writing/literature) suggests:

  • Undergraduate review: 5-20 titles depending on level
  • Honours dissertation: 20+ titles
  • Master’s thesis: 40+ titles
  • Doctoral thesis: 50+ titles

Another strategy I learned somewhere along the way that I now share with my students is this:

If your literature review is one section of a larger research paper, thesis or dissertation

 Minimum number of sources = number of pages in the body of your entire paper (exclusive of title page, abstract, appendices and references)

Example: A paper that has 10 pages of content (the body of the paper) needs at least 10 sources in its literature review. 

A thesis of 100 pages (in the body) includes at least 100 sources.

If your literature review is a stand-alone document

Minimum number of sources =  3 times the number of pages in the body of your paper (exclusive of title page, abstract, appendices and references)

Example: A stand-alone literature review that has 10 pages of content (the body of the paper) should examine at least 30 sources.

These are not hard and fast rules by any means. Also, it is worth mentioning that as students and scholars who care about the quality of our work, we want to aim to raise the bar, not simply meet a minimum suggested standard. What these guidelines are suggesting is that you don’t aim for any less. If you do, your search for relevant literature in your field may be incomplete and you need to keep digging. Of course, your sources have to be relevant to your topic, too.

Not every scholar or academic supervisor would agree with the guidelines I offer here, criticizing them as being too reductionist or simplistic. My point isn’t to offer a black and white rule or open theoretical debate for which there can be no clear solution, but rather to offer a straight forward and practical answer to a question that academics often respond to in an ambiguous way, leaving students frustrated, exasperated and anxious about how to go conduct their literature review. 

When in doubt, talk with your own instructor or supervisor, asking them what their expectations are. (Don’t be surprised though, if you get an answer that is vague, like, “It depends…”)

Remember: Aim for quality over quality… and to do a quality literature review, you need to have a substantive quantity of sources.

Here are some of my favourite resources to help you write your literature review:

University of Toronto – http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/literature-review

U Conn – http://classguides.lib.uconn.edu/content.php?pid=239974&sid=1980274

University of Leicester –  http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/writing-resources/literature-review

Queensland Univeristy of Technology – http://www.citewrite.qut.edu.au/write/litreview.jsp

Birmingham City University – http://library.bcu.ac.uk/learner/writingguides/1.04.htm

Related posts: Why APA formatting matters http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hc

_____________________

This post had had over 52,000 views since I wrote it. Why not share it?: How many sources do you need in a literature review?  http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hu

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


How to create a research paper outline: 5 great resources

January 2, 2013

Sarah Elaine Eaton, speaker, presenter, keynote, technology, social media, Calgary, Canada, educator, education, professional developmentOnce again, I am teaching “Writing Educational Research” to Master’s of Education (M.Ed.) students at the University of Calgary this semester. I have found that some students struggle with the process of outlining their final research papers.

Outlining is an invaluable skill that helps you to conceptualize, plan and organize your writing. I learned to outline my essays when I was in school and to this day, I use outlines for research papers and even my books. I find that organizing my ideas in an outline helps me to keep my writing focussed and clear. I even outlined my Master’s and Ph.D. theses. When my Ph.D. thesis had to be modified as I was writing up my project, having an outline helped to decide what to toss, what to keep and how to re-organize the work effectively.

Here are some excellent resources that are useful to university level students, as well as high school students and adult learners who are learning to write essays:

  1. How to write an outline (SUNY) – This is an excellent web page resource produced by the State University of New York (SUNY). The method they demonstrate is the same one I learned in school. It is a classic “tiered” outline. The chart on this web page presents the information in a very clear way that is easy to understand.
  2. How to write an outline (LAVC) – Similar to the SUNY resource, this web page by the Los Angeles Valley College Library explains the difference between a topic outline and a sentence outline, using the tiered format. This web page has some great examples of what a real outline might look like.
  3. Wikihow – How to write an outline – This Wiki breaks down the process of writing an outline into simple, easy-to-follow steps. The wiki also has samples of a research outline, a literature outline and a “compare and contrast” outline.
  4. How to outline a 5-paragraph essay – This YouTube video (4:26) offers tips on how to write a shorter essay. It is great for students who have to write shorter papers or adults who are learning how to write an essay.
  5. Sample qualitative research outline by Rey Ty – This YouTube video moves a bit slowly, but it gives an excellent overview of how to write an outline for a qualitative research project.

Learning to outline is a valuable skill that will serve you in school and in the workplace. A good outline keeps you focussed, organized and on track.

Related posts:

Readings for Writing Educational Research (EDER 603.23) http://wp.me/pNAh3-1OJ

12 Phrases to Avoid in Your Academic Research Papers http://wp.me/pNAh3-1JX

Active vs. passive voice — How to tell the difference http://wp.me/pNAh3-1HX

Why APA formatting matters http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hc

How many sources do you need in a literature review?  http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Hu

What’s the difference between a citation and a reference? http://wp.me/pNAh3-1F9

Why “as cited in” should be avoided in academic writing  http://wp.me/pNAh3-1BH

10 Great writing resources for grad students – http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Bc

_________________

If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or leave a comment. Thanks!

Share or Tweet this: How to create a research paper outline: 5 great resources http://wp.me/pNAh3-1y6

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


5 Tips to make writing easier

October 4, 2012

This past spring I taught a course on Writing Educational Research to a group of Master’s students, most of whom taught English as an Additional Language as their job. I was surprised how many of them loathed writing. One student said that she was reluctant to teach writing in her EAL courses because it felt like forcing a traumatic experience on them.

Over the course of the six-weeks we learned together, we came up with some strategies that they could use for themselves, and also use with their students. Here they are:

1. Write every day. Saying, “I’m going to write my essay on the weekend,” can turn the weekend into a time of torture instead of a time to relax and recharge your batteries. Instead, commit to writing 30 minutes per day. This helps build the writing habit.

2. Choose a time of the day when you feel fresh and creative.  For me, that time is often first thing in the morning. By mid-afternoon I am crashing and after supper my brain seems capable of basic life support only. In the morning is when I feel both creative and clear-headed.

3. Work with a writing partner. Choose someone you get along with and like to work with. Arrange a time to work together to review each other’s writing, make suggestions and do some peer editing. The point of working together is to try to help each other, not to nit pick. Set some ground rules and focus on the positive.

4. Let go. Some students said they hated writing because they couldn’t tolerate being criticized or being asked to revise their writing. They became very emotionally attached to their writing right away. What if the purpose of writing was to share it? And share it in the best form possible? If we start with that idea, then we might become less emotionally tethered to the writing… You can still be proud of your work without having a  Gollum-like attachment to it.

5. Edit and revise. It is said that Mozart never revised his music. He sat down, wrote it and was done. Unfortunately, most of us are not Mozart. I recently submitted the second revision of an article I submitted to a peer-reviewed academic journal. It was “accepted with minor revisions” when I first submitted it. That was almost six months ago. I made the changes the reviewers requested and re-submitted it. Then recently, the editor came back to me with a few more minor changes. He was right in asking me to change a few more things. I had forgotten to add in some citations, which are important in journal articles. I made the changes and sent the manuscript back again. I had been so close to the work, I could no longer see the errors. Working with editors, reviewers and instructors is really a chance to make your writing better.

Writing seems to be very easy for some people and very painful for others. These strategies may help a few reluctant writers and ease their stress so writing does not seem so daunting.

_______________

Share or Tweet this: 5 Tips to make writing easier http://wp.me/pNAh3-1uY

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


%d bloggers like this: