Overview

This bank of resources has been developed to support students with the production and presentation of written assignments. It includes resources to support with note taking and planning based on the acknowledgment that there are skills and techniques that need to be developed throughout the learning journey in order to produce a professional final document.

The tools have been divided into categories based on their primary purpose but it should be noted that some tools fit into multiple categories. It should also be noted that these are just some examples of tools that have been tested and found to be effective but that there are lots of other similar pieces of software available. If these don’t quite work for you, there’s likely to be something else out there that does!

Text to Speech

TextHelp Read and Write Gold

A toolbar which allows web pages and documents to be read aloud, includes spelling and grammar check features and text and picture dictionaries. Available on all student lab computers on Campus via AstonApps.

Available on:

Campus computers via AstonApps


Natural Reader

A free text-to-speech software that can be downloaded and used on laptops and personal computers when not on campus.

Available on:


Immersive Reader (Within Microsoft Office)

Improves the readability of documents by allowing users to adjust various aspects of formatting such as spacing and colour. It also includes a read aloud function.

Available on:

Several Microsoft Office applications including OneNote and Word. You can view the full range of applications

Document Format

Blackboard Ally

A built-in feature within Blackboard which allows documents to be downloaded in alternative formats. The following formats are available by clicking on the ‘A’ symbol next to documents.

Available on:

  • Blackboard

SensusAccess

Access to SensusAccess is provided by Aston University to enable students and staff to convert documents into a wide range of alternative media. While Blackboard Ally is available for documents uploaded to Blackboard, SensusAccess is available for any documents. The documents can be uploaded and the converted version will be emailed directly to you.

Available on:


Mercury Reader

Mercury Reader is a Chrome extension that removes ads and distractions leaving only text and images to make reading from websites or reading articles online easier.

Available on:

Note Taking

OneNote

Part of the Microsoft Office package, OneNote creates digital notebooks that can be divided into sections and pages allowing you to easily organise them. Notes can be tagged for easier searching and the web clipper enables online content to be saved in your notebook quickly.

Available on:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Google Chrome Extension
  • Online

(For guidance on all of the above platforms please view the Office 365 page to download Microsoft Office 365 with your University email address).


EquatIO

Students can access a free version of EquatIO and while this has limited features is available on an ongoing basis; the full range of premium features can be accessed for free for 30 days. Allows easy insertion of equations, formulas and graphs to Microsoft Word and conversion to LaTeX (and back again).

Available on:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Google Chrome Extension
  • Online

All of these above can be accessed at the EquatIO page.

Written Presentation

Dictionary.com

While there are often built-in dictionary tools within things like Microsoft Word, dictionary.com is a comprehensive tool which includes pronunciations and can be used to check the word you’re using has the meaning you intended.

Available on:


Thesaurus.com

Similar to dictionary.com, thesaurus.com can be used to find alternative words in your assignments to avoid overusing the same words and phrases and make your writing richer and more varied.

Available on:


Grammarly

While the free version contains limited features, they are still worthwhile and available on an ongoing basis. It contains a comprehensive grammar, spelling and punctuation checker, can review ‘wordiness’ and detects and suggests improvement to tone.

Available on:


Medincle Pronounce

Medincle is a useful tool for students on any course relating to life and health sciences to help with specific terminology. While there is a (one-off) cost attached to both Medincle Spellchecker and Dictation, the newly launched Medincle Pronounce for guidance on the correct pronunciation of terminology is currently free to download.

Available on:


Manchester Academic Phrasebank

The Manchester Academic Phrasebank is a vast collections of suggested phrases for academic writing and can be helpful for sentence starter ideas or alternative phrasing when writing academic assignments.

Available on:

  • Website (including links to Kindle and PDF versions)
Referencing

Cite them right online

An interactive eBook that provides referencing support and guidance for Aston students. Further information and guidance about referencing can be found from the Learning Development Centre page and Blackboard module.

Available on:


LibGuides

Further guidance about referencing including referencing software such as EndNote and Zotero can be found on Library Services LibGuides where you should be able to find a subject-specific guide. This will mean that the content of all LibGuides may vary slightly by subject.

Available on:

Planning

Freeplane

Freeplane is a free piece of mind mapping software available on all student lab computers on campus via AstonApps.

Available on:

  • AstonApps

Microsoft To Do

Previously called ‘Wunderlist’ and now owned by Microsoft, To Do enables you to create to do lists and keep yourself organised and on track.

Available on:

  • Windows
  • iOS
  • Android

All of these are available from the Microsoft site.

Procrastination

Marinara Timer

In order to boost productivity, research suggests taking regular short breaks to allow you to remain focused. The Marinara timer allows you to set a timer which sets aside dedicated time to work and then lets you know when to take a break. There are preset timers but it also allows you to set your own if you wish.

Available on:


Forest

Forest allows you to set timers during which you can’t access certain potential distractors such as specific websites or your phone. During the timer you grow virtual trees (which will be killed if you give up before the timer) which can eventually be exchanged for the planting of actual trees.

Available on:

Other resources

Links to other sources of support for the production and presentation of written assignments, and learning technology.