5 Google Docs Features to Help Students in Their Writing Projects

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Google Docs has a host of powerful features that are available for users for free.  Some of these features are overlooked by our students which minimizes the educational potential of this platform. A few weeks ago I started a series of posts shedding light on Docs features that are integral to students learning. The purpose is to help students make the best of Docs in their learning.

After covering Docs accessibility features,  today's post highlights some key features to help students with their writing.

1- Spelling and Grammar
The Spelling and Grammar functionality has four features: spelling and grammar check, spelling suggestions, grammar suggestions and a personal dictionary. The first three features when activated will help students optimize the mechanics of their writing avoiding as many errors as possible. Here is how to activate them:
  • In Docs, open a document
  • Click on Tools Spelling and grammar
  • Check the three first features
2- Personal Dictionary
Docs integrated dictionary puts a squiggle under words it does not recognize which can be really annoying especially when you include words from another language or when you use neologisms. You can overcome this by using the personal dictionary feature. Personal dictionary lets you add your own words to Docs dictionary. In this way, Docs will recognize them and will not not mark them as misspelled. Here is how to add words to Docs personal dictionary: 
  • In Docs, open a document
  • Click on Tools → Personal Dictionary
  • Type the word and click Add
  • Click on the bin icon next to the added word to delete it 
3- Compare Documents
The Compare Documents feature allows students to track changes between two docs over time. They can compare their papers and see what has changed have been added/deleted. Here is to access the Compare Documents feature:
  • In Docs, open a document
  • Click on Tools → Compare documents
  • Select the comparison document
  • In the 'Attribute differences to field' type in "the name of the user who will be labelled as the author of the suggested edits in the comparison output file."
  • Check 'Include comments from the selected document'.
  • Click on Compare.
4- Citations
Students can use Docs citation feature to easily add citations and bibliographies to their documents. Docs supports three citation formats: MLA, APA, and Chicago. To open the citation tool: 
  • In Docs, open a document
  • Click on Tools  citations
  • From the citation sidebar that appears on the right, select a formatting style.
    4.1- To add a citation source:
  • Click on +Add citation source in the Citations sidebar
  • Select Source type (e.g., Book, Website, Journal article, etc)
  • Select how the source was accessed (e.g, print, website, online database)
  • Type in the citation details 
  • Click on +Contributor to add multiple contributors
  • Click Add citation source.

  4.2- To add an in-text citation
  • "In your document, place your cursor where you want the citation to appear.
  • In the Citations sidebar, point to the source and click Cite.
  • If # appears in your citation, replace it with the page number for your citation or delete it."

 4.3- To edit/delete a citation source:
In the Citations sidebar, point to the source that you want to edit/delete and click More and then Edit/Delete.

  4.4- To add a bibliography
  • "In your document, place your cursor where you want the bibliography to appear.
  • In the Citations sidebar, at the bottom, click Insert bibliography."
Use Explore in Docs to add content from the web and/or Google Drive
Explore allows students to easily search for and add content from the web and /or Google Drive. Here is how to access Explore:
  • In Docs, open a document
  • Click on Explore at the bottom right
  • Use the search box to search for content. Search results will show in three categories:
           "Web: Info from the web related to your document.
            Images: Images from the web related to your document.
            Drive: Documents saved in your Google Drive.

Add an item from your search:
           Add an image or chart: Click the item you want to add. At the top, click Insert.
           Add a footnote: Point to your search result. Click Cite as footnote Cite as footnote".
           Add a link: Point to your search result. Click Insert Link +".

5- Dictionary
Docs has an integrated dictionary that lets you search for definitions and synonyms without leaving Docs. To use Docs dictionary:
  • In Docs, open a document
  • Click on Tools  Dictionary
  • Type in your query in the search box in the sidebar on the right.