ComWriter is a cloud-based writing application designed to support the writing needs of students researchers and faculty, as well as writers of structured documents (e.g., consultants). Academic writing is the genesis of good writing, so ComWriter has been designed with this in mind.
There has been a range of word processors developed since the inception of modern computing, but the basic premise for the design has changed little since the 1980s. All word processors tend to function in a similar way on the basis of format-as-you-write. Also, the primary writing products have tended to be all things to all people, thereby allowing one to write a party invitation as well as an academic dissertation using the same tool. Thus, there has been little innovation provided for academic writers. One major innovation came with the design of reference management software as an independent tool from the word processor (e.g., EndNote, CrossRef, RefWorks, BibTex, etc.).
Academic writing is good writing practice, but it is often misunderstood. The process is not sequential, but organic and, generally, involves:
- searching for relevant literature; today via library databases
- designing research projects, especially, identifying the methodological approach; e.g., observation, capturing data, interviewing, examining specimens
- conducting research activities
- collaborating with peers (students, academics, industry peers) and supervisors
- examining research findings
- organising literature, methodology, and research findings to present a discussion of the research (in a thesis or paper)
- developing the writing structure (a logical outline and story)
- as a student: submitting work for examination
- as a research student: publishing work at conferences or in the press (e.g., journal articles), and submitting the thesis for examination
- as an academic: publishing work at conferences or in the press (e.g., journal articles)
Academic writing is difficult and made more so because of the disparate, fragmented tools and old technology supporting the writing pipeline. The technology that supports the academic writing process is, generally speaking, left to the independent researcher to organize. Thus, a significant amount of a researchers time is spent organising data and findings rather than actually researching and presenting their findings. ComWriter is the only writing platform designed for the breadth of process that constitutes academic work. It will send the archaic concept of ‘word processor‘ straight to the trash where it belongs. ComWriter includes: an on-line library, fully-featured referencing capabilities, a personal resources database, modern writing tools, collaboration in the cloud, task management, smart lists and pre-defined style guides. Writing to academic standards has never been so efficient and easy. Students, researchers, faculty and business people will finally be able to work smarter with ComWriter. We have more than 30 Universities and 15 Schools, on three continents, already signed up for beta testing.
The outcome of research is always presented in written form. The method for presenting academic writing is generally determined by the specific discipline one is working in (e.g., medicine, law, business, arts). Writing standards have been further plagued by the history of print media. Journal editors and publishers have created their ‘brands’ for their journal by establishing the format writers must use. These formats include the references, and well as the body of the writing (e.g., headings, text, tables, etc). As a consequence, with over 20,000 academic journals, there are now over 20,000 writing style guides academic writers must consult before they submit their work for publication consideration.
ComWriter overcomes this problem by automating the academic style guide independent of the actual writing. A writer can change their style at any time during their writing or when generating output.
One of the major difficulties that has persisted in academic writing is the formatting of references. There are four major reference styles (author, author-date, note, numbered), but these have also been extrapolated into 20,000 unique styles as each journal stipulates its specific style. Some standards are emerging in certain disciplines: for example, citing medicine, Council of Science Editors, and legal referencing specific to certain legal jurisdictions (e.g., Australia uses AGLC, USA uses the Bluebook, UK uses OSCOLA).
Referencing problems still remain because of what seems like an unlimited possibility of information sources: print, web, archives, social-media, notes on the web, and so on.
ComWriter is overcoming these difficulties in a number of ways:
- by having the style guides pre-defined for each journal based on the editors choice, and
- by incorporating bibliographic databases within the writing environment.
This second option could eliminate the need for a writer to have to deal with bibliographic data completely as the databases already have the data for each resource (e.g., thesis, journal article, book, etc.) already indexed.
ComWriter was designed by Dr Linda Glassop, an academic from Australia. Dr Glassop was concerned about the writing abilities of undergraduate commerce students. Linda used her background and experience in the I.T. industry and started designing an app for the iPad to assist her students. The design grew in stature and she soon realised she was designing a fully-featured ‘word processor’ with added functionality.
- The first beta version of ComWriter was launched in July 2013 (features that enable writing, adding resources and auto Styling of output).
- Version 1.0 was released in September, 2014 (including: access to online databases, analytic data for projects).
ComWriter is a cloud-based writing application that currently requires an active internet or wifi connection to operate. The range of features contained in their patent pending includes:
- writing without needing to consider formatting using pre-defined style guides
- fully-featured referencing in any style: author (e.g., MLA), author-date (e.g., APA), note (i.e., footnotes), numeric (i.e., endnotes)
- smart lists, including: table of contents, list of captions, list of terms (abbreviations, glossary, index) [forthcoming], references (as cited, bibliography)
- automated numbering of captions, pages, and headings without any user intervention (i.e., updating)
- analytic data to monitor the progress of a project and the type of content it has (i.e., resources included)
- a personal resource database to store papers, bibliographic records, images, web clips, and so on
- search the ‘public’ library; that is, access a range of online databases and include findings in personal resources (databases include: CrossRef, WorldCat, Wikipedia)
V2.0 forthcoming (January 2018)
- real-time online collaboration (various roles include: writers, reviewers, visitors)
- adding comments, notes and todos that never need to be deleted (assigned to a collaborator, add a due date, mark status open or closed)
- a history slider to show who has entered what
- discrete sections enabling long documents, where collaboration can be controlled per section
- milestone tracking for project management of writing
- A WYSIWYG editor enabling editing in preview mode
- Formatting styles for academic writing:
- block paragraph
- first line indent paragraph
- handing indent paragraph
- long quote
- numbered headings 105
- appendix headings 105
- unnumbered headings 1-5
- 5 types of captions (chart, equation, exhibit, figure, table)
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