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Meet Essay Writer, software for students and universities to map their ideas into structured essays.

Introducing Essay Writer.

Brainstorm, connect, draft, edit, and reference each idea as a text section. Revise the essay outline on the idea map, and any changes to section order will be reflected in your document! Paste text in to prompt a new reference, in the style and context you need -- whether numbered, author-date, direct, indirect, or otherwise.
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Quick Start Guide

Want to get started quickly? This guide is for you: brainstorm, create, and structure an idea map, then print the essay.

Quick Start Guide to Essay Writer Software.

Add an instant Table of Contents, restructure your outline, and preview topics for new videos. Press the 'Create Ideas' button to brainstorm, then 'Enter' to separate Ideas. Hold an Idea over another to link them, and move them around to restructure your essay.

Brainstorming with Rapid Fire

Want to add ideas to a particular branch quickly? Rapid fire allows you to do just that:

Rapid Fire.

Rapid Fire Ideas in Essay Writer software: Select an Idea on the Map, then press the Rapid Fire button. This will brainstorm off of the branch Idea selected. Type a word or short phrase, and press 'Enter' to separate each leaf Idea. Turn the mode off when finished.

Working with Branches

As you build up your map, you will collect many ideas. You may find it helpful to hide parts of the map, to concentrate on the work at hand.

Branching Ideas.

Click the 'Expand' or 'Collapse' branch icons at the top-right of the Idea to show or hide its leaf Ideas. Connect Ideas by dragging one over another -- or use the 'Create Links' button. View mixed mode with the 'Map|Text' button. With the text panel open, Ideas moved on the Map will change essay structure in the document. The available command buttons on the closest row will change depending on which panel is active.

Idea Status and Recent Edits

While editing your essay, you can see which areas of the map are finished or need work. Set each Idea's status, adding small icons to them. Display the 'age' of an Idea's most recent edit to keep track of where to refocus.

Idea Status and Edit Age.

Ideas' status and most recent edits in Essay Writer software: right-click to change status and change Document Settings to show edit age.
Right-click an Idea to change its status. This will display the icon you choose on the bottom-right of the Idea. To display the most recent edit age of each Idea, go to 'Edit' then 'Document Settings...' Open the 'Labels' tab and check 'Modified in recent' to alter the settings.


Customise your printed work, by adjusting the text and print styles.

Setting up your Printed Document.

Set up your printed pages in Essay Writer software: Go to 'File' and 'Print Preview' to check how your document will be printed. In 'File' and 'Page Setup', you can change paper size, orientation, and margins. For standard options: go to 'Edit', 'Document Settings', and 'Text View'. Then go to 'Print Style'. Click the 'Help...' buttons for more options.

Table of Contents

A table of contents shows all idea titles in a list, as well as the word counts per chapter. Ensure your introductions and conclusions are always shorter than your main body.

Table of Contents.

Insert your Table on Contents in Essay Writer software: Right-click around your Idea Map. Hover over 'New' and left-click 'Table of Contents'. Link this new Idea to your main Idea Map. Go to 'Edit', 'Document Settings...' and 'Table of Contents' to customise it.

Map Layouts

The default map layout is a star layout, where Ideas spread out from the Central Idea. Other options include horizontal and vertical layouts, for linear ordering.

Change your Map Layout.

Change your Map Layout in Essay Writer software: Right-click the Central Idea on your Map. The default colour is pink. Hover over 'Layout' and left-click which one you want to use. 'Star layout' is the default, for spreading ideas across the map, evenly spaced. Horizontal and vertical layouts are more compact.

Headers and Footers

Add a header and footer to your printed pages. You can automatically include your name and document title.

Headers and Footers.

Add Headers and Footers in Essay Writer software: Go to 'File' and 'Properties' to fill in your name or student number and document title. Next, go to 'Edit', 'Document Settings', 'Text View', and 'Print Style'. In 'Header _ Footer', input %author% or %title% in the desired print area. Click the 'Help...' button for more options.

Setting Defaults

Explore and customise many settings in Essay Writer. To apply these to future documents, save them as defaults.

Setting Defaults.

Set your default settings in Essay Writer software: The two main locations are 'File' then 'Properties', and 'Edit' then 'Document Settings'. In 'File' and 'Page Setup', you can change paper size, orientation, and margins. In 'Edit', you can also 'Save as Blank Template' to save time on your next assignment. Remember to click the 'Help...' buttons for more options.

Referencing Physical Sources

This is the first of our tutorials on referencing in Essay Writer. The first example references a physical book.

Essay Writer Referencing 1: Physical Sources.

Click the spot in your text where you want the citation to be added. Press the 'Add Ref.' button in the closest row of command buttons. Select the 'Bibliographic References' tab and press the 'New' button. Select the closest reference type, and fill in as much information as you have.

Referencing Digital Sources

Essay Writer Referencing 2: Digital Sources.

If you copy text from a webpage and paste into your document, the software will prompt you whether to add as a reference or not. Press 'Yes' to include it as a quotation. You must open the reference, then check all details for accuracy. Ensure the web address is in the 'URL' field, and today is the 'Access Date'.

Referencing Articles

Essay Writer Referencing 3: Articles.

Use 'Article', 'Electronic Journal Article', or 'Webpage' for journal and newspaper articles. Where you can determine an electronic material's print information (publisher, town, page, etc.) it will be simpler to do so, rather than present the digital version. Include DOIs and other codes in the 'Notes' field, if you prefer.

Change Your Reference Style

Essay Writer Referencing 4: Change Reference Style.

Go to 'Edit', 'Document Settings', and 'Bibliography'. The 'Reference Style' drop-down menu includes the options 'Harvard' (author, date) and 'Indexed' (numbered). You can choose to sort authors' names alphabetically within each reference. Future videos will explore 'Expert Mode'.

What, When, and How to Quote

Essay Writer Referencing 5: Quotations.

Copy from a digital source and paste into the program. This includes text from a webpage, local software, or another Spark-Space document. Verify all information pulled from the webpage and amend if necessary. Frame the quote within your document and explain its relevance.

Import from Databases: PubMed and EndNote

Referencing 6a: Importing from Databases - PubMed and EndNote.

Make your Reference List in PubMed or EndNote. In PubMed: go to 'My NCBI', select your reference list, press 'Send to', 'File', and format as 'XML'. In EndNote: go to 'Format', 'Export References', and choose 'EndNote' or 'RefMan' style for your list. You may need to change the filename extension to match. In Essay Writer: go to 'File', 'Import', and 'Open' the chosen file. Finally, attach the Reference Ideas to your Reference List Idea.

Import from Databases: Zotero

Referencing 6b: Importing from Databases - Zotero.

Create or log in to your free account. Check the details in your reference list entries both before importing them, and afterwards. Press the Zotero button in Essay Writer, then the red 'Add Account' button or double-click 'Unknown' to launch your web browser. Check the address bar before logging it. Press 'Change Permissions' to review the access requested, and 'Accept Defaults' when you are finished. The Zotero panel will now display your collected references. Press the green 'Refresh' button to display any external Zotero changes.

Images 1: Add Images, Captions, and Image Lists

Graphical media can be added and moved anywhere in your document. You will usually need to list their reference information, as you would with text sources and materials.

Images 1: Add Images, Captions, and Image Lists.

Drag or paste an image into your text, or onto your map. Or drag (or paste) the direct image URL. Press 'Yes' to save the image as a separate image Idea. Click and fill in the 'Caption' field. Right-click around your map to select 'New' and 'List of Images'. Link this to the rest of your Idea Map.

Images 2: Add Reference Details, Adjust Citations, and About Image Ideas

Graphical media should be referenced just as you would reference text sources and materials. This video also explains where to change citation display settings.

Images 2: Add Reference Details, Adjust Citations, and About Image Ideas.

Open an Image Idea, then its 'References' tab. Add image citations with 'Add Ref.' button, just like text citations. Change image citation display settings in 'Edit', 'Document Settings...', and 'Image Refs'.

Tables 1: Add Tables, Captions, and Table Lists

Tabular data can be added and moved anywhere in your document. You will usually need to list reference information, as you would with text sources and materials.

Tables 1: Add Tables, Captions, and Table Lists.

Right-click, select 'New' then 'Table' to create one. Drag tabled .html data or type into the cells of your table. Click the caption field to add one. Click where in your text you want to cite the table, then press the 'Add Ref.' button, 'Tables' tab, and double-click which to refer to. Right-click and select 'New' then 'List of Tables'.

Tables 2: Add Reference Details

Tabular data should be referenced just as you would reference text sources and materials. See 'Images 2' on where to change citation display settings.

Tables 2: Add Reference Information.

Check you have permission to use others' data in your work. Open a Table Idea on the Map, then press its 'References' button. Add reference information for your readers to find the information themselves. This will usually be about where the table was obtained, but may be about the data itself. (See our 'Referencing' series for more information: help menu, YouTube, or Vimeo.)


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