Stress-free Writing Tools for Students

September 29, 2022
Updated: Sep 29, 2022
Stress-free Writing Tools for Students

As students, we have a lot going on. And back-to-school season means one thing - more assignments, research, essays, papers and reports. In general, a lot more writing! And writing takes a lot of time. 

But hey - it’s the 21st century. We can complain about the lack of time, but we certainly can’t complain about a lack of tools and apps to help us do everything that needs to be done - better, faster, and cheaper.

And thankfully, when it comes to the hours spent on writing student papers, there’s a lot we can do to make life easier.

However, let’s begin with a reality check.

A cursory search for ‘writing tools for students’ throws up hundreds or maybe thousands of articles with the top 10, 20, 50 or even top 100+ listing of tools for every conceivable writing task. For most of us, it’s confusing, overwhelming and even panic-inducing. A real problem of plenty.

You’d have to think, ‘What!? Now we not only need to stress about conceptualizing and writing all these papers, we also need to worry about choosing the right tools - from a vast pool of options - just to do it right?’ That’s a time-sucking job in itself. And let’s face it, no matter what we pick, there’s that lingering FOMO - have we missed out on something better? Do our classmates know something that we don’t? 

There’s not much we can do about the many balls you juggle or the number of hours in a day, but this article is designed to help you make your writing hours smarter, faster and a lot more productive.

While many of us know what to say in our assignments, not everyone is a born writer who knows the best way to say it. Our writing assignments need solid content, but they also need to be well-structured and well-articulated. Consistently. And that is where smart writing tools help.

And this curated set of tools is your best bets for each important writing task. So let the FOMO go, and get to work! 

How the right writing tools can transform your essays

Everyone has unique needs, but the broad assignment writing process is similar for most students. Mapping it out - whether for a paper, essay or report - helps us identify each task that can be done faster or better, with the right smart tool. 

With smart writing tools, our goal is to:

  • Invest your time on the most value-creating parts of the process, such as the core idea and argument
  • Automate tasks such as checking grammar, spellings and punctuation
  • Improve aspects like language, structure and tone for better overall readability

This is not about just one essay but for all the writing assignments you will need to turn in over the next several years as a student. Knowing your process, and using the right tools will put you in the driver’s seat, making you faster and better at writing no matter what the subject or the deadline.

Let’s jump in.

The essay writing process

First, the big picture. Let’s start with clarity about the writing process with this handy framework, made up of 3 main stages: conceptualize, create and check. You can further break these down into smaller tasks based on your own approach.

Now, it’s time to find the tools for each task, to divide the effort, multiply productivity and efficiency, and add hours to your day. 

Stage 1: Conceptualize

Do you need help with getting started with your writing assignment? These tools can help:

Topic and title selection

Picking the right topic and title can really set you on the path for success with your written assignment- be it an essay, a term-paper or a research report. Remember, first impressions? That’s what the title and topic do for your paper. You can either spend hours on it, or try the smart way. 

For example, this essay begins with a vague idea about comparing capitalism and communism in the 21st century. Running it through EssayTopicGenerator, a handy, free tool that will take in some key words and spit out topic ideas in seconds - gave me a bunch of results.

But, as you can see from the screenshot, the ideas are just that - rough ideas or thought starters. Take a few of the ideas that catch your eye and try to turn them into a title. 

Option #23 is what I would pick - not only is it clearly worded, it actually gives me a great new angle to work with: a paper suggesting how capitalism can be developed within communist states in a changing world.

Define your thesis

You need a strong position or perspective which will be the central focus or claim of your paper. Formulating the thesis can be a roadblock for many students because  it is often much harder to write a concise, succinct statement than it is to write the entire paper!

In my example, I used Wordtune to turn my thoughts into more carefully considered words and make the final thesis statement as compelling as possible. I also picked the option for it to generate more formal toned options, which made the suggestions more academic sounding.

But I did have a starting point. If you only have disconnected ideas and need help even formulating the basic thesis, then services such as ThesisStatementWriter could be useful, but they will cost you.  

Do your research

In academic writing, you need to gather and study existing research not just to build your knowledge, but also to make sure your own work adds a unique angle without repeating what's already out there. Zotero and ReadCube can be really useful assistants to collect, organize, annotate, cite, and share research easily and quickly; and Pockt and Memonic can help larger teams easily access all the curated and collated research painlessly.

High-quality references will no doubt help make your arguments more compelling. But organizing them smartly is not enough. How do you read, comprehend, connect, write and build upon several GBs of research documents, without hitting your deadline first?

Skimming and speed reading may help you get through all your reference research, but holds no guarantee of comprehension or analysis. 

So I tried Wordtune Read, which promises to tirelessly read and summarize complex information in any number of research papers, reports and essays.

All I did was paste the link to a 5000 word essay into the panel, and within seconds, it distilled all the core ideas and concepts into simple sentence-long summaries. I also picked the Spotlight option, on the right side of the screen, which highlighted all the keywords that needed to get my attention. 

This way, I could quickly apply myself to the real challenge - coming up with a strong argument based on what’s already out there instead of spending literally weeks reading through the mountains of information. Being able to analyze more papers with Wordtune Read actually added to my perspective and made my own research and arguments much stronger than they would have been, if I’d only been able to read a few papers.

Stage 2: Create

The heart of the assignment is actually writing it out - turning a mere idea into 2000 words or more. Here’s where smart writing tools can really up the game.

Prep your outline

You have all your research and ideas in place - now it’s time to create the frame on which you will hang your essay. Bubbl.us, MindMeister, Miro, and MindMup are all virtual mind mapping tools that help you brainstorm, get ideas flowing, and find logical connections between ideas in the research to build your own outline. Here’s one that I tried for the same essay topic I generated earlier. 

Write better

Writing is not everyone’s cup of tea, writing well even less so. Your job as a student is to come up with a compelling, evidence-based argument that helps prove or disprove the thesis you started with. In other words, time to start fleshing out the outline. 

But a poorly articulated essay with good content is as bad as a well-articulated essay that has nothing useful or original to say. Using smart tools brings your powerful arguments to life. 

Using Wordtune to rephrase and fine-tune my sentences just made them sharper, smarter and tighter. It was like having my best English teacher working 1:1 to improve the quality of my writing, improve sentence construction and rephrase my thoughts, as I wrote.

Academic writing is not creative writing. It needs to be properly organized and argued, usually with a formal, active, third-person voice. You also need to use the most appropriate vocabulary, especially for subject-specific terms and jargon. Word Tune helps improve the style and consistency of your tone, as well as use the best words possible.

Ludwig is another writing assistant that helps you write better on the go. It dubs itself a ‘sentence search engine’, offering multiple contextual options to better construct your sentences.

A lot of student assignments are collaborative. If you are working as part of a team, Google Docs is a great tool to write with. It maintains version control, tracks feedback and comments from team members, and allows you to choose between read, comment or edit access to stakeholders such as tutors, experts or even parents. 

Similarly, Miro helps larger teams collaborate and brainstorm visually and bring complex ideas and perspectives to life. It’s especially helpful for distributed and remote teams, which means you can work on weekends or even during breaks when everyone is in different places.

Speaking of distributed teams, for more advanced or complex assignments, different team members may have different roles to perform. For example, students working on a product launch assignment at a business school may allocate one member to do the research, another to handle product design, another for market research and so on. There may be dependencies within the team, and that is where a collaboration tool like Trello works wonders in keeping the project ticking along at a steady pace, red-flagging bottlenecks, delays and upcoming deadlines.

Structure your text

Once you have all your words down on paper, it’s time to check the flow. Are all the sections, heads and subheads categorized around the right themes? Do themes repeat themselves and can they be clubbed and consolidated? Is your essay easy to skim and read, with numbering, bullet points and sub-sections used to best advantage? Do you need tables, captions, callouts or font variations to highlight specific points? Getting a friend to look over the structure and offer feedback on whether they get the gist of your argument by skimming the flow may be your best bet for this. 

Wrap up with a tool like Wordtune Read, which will summarize and highlight key points from your essay (remember we also  used it to summarize and distill the essence of our research material?), helps check if all the key points of your argument are covered.

And if you want to go all glam, then tools such as Canva, Book Creator, and Storybird will help with format and design, visual illustrations and graphics, or any specific format and template you need to adhere to.

Stage 3: Check

With all your thoughts and ideas now on paper, it’s time to start  tidying up. You need an objective third party to help, and smart editing tools are more than up to the task:

Edit

Human editors may be expensive and error-prone, but you can be sure tools like Hemingway editor will not overlook anything when it comes to correcting your content in terms of grammar, punctuation, and spellings. They will also highlight sentences that are too long, too short, too complex, too passive, too repetitive, or just the wrong tone.

Fix all that they surface with Wordtune, including fleshing out short sentences or content-thin paragraphs; as well as shortening long or complex sentences without losing their meaning. If you happen to get a low readability score - i.e. how easy or difficult it is for someone to grasp the meaning of your content - then use Word Tune to tweak and rephrase your sentences, and improve sentence variety and paragraph transitions.

My bottomline: smart tools don’t just speed up the editing, they literally elevate the quality of your content.

  1. Copy and plagiarism checks: like millions of others, you can quite comfortably trust tools such as Grammarly and Hemingway to ensure there are no spelling, grammar or punctuation errors in your copy; and Plagscan to ensure you don't inadvertently just copy existing material into your essay.. 
  1. Citations and biblio: writing bibliographies and citations of your references - in any style, be it APA, MLA, and Chicago; and following any specified writing conventions will make the rest of your assignment process seem like downright fun. Apps like BibMe, Citavi, EndNote, and Citethisforme make sourcing and citing research much less painful. 

Write those essays with confidence, speed and style!

Here’s a handy ready reckoner so you can locate the right task and tool at a glance.

With these power writing tools in your arsenal, you will be all set to ace this school year.

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