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Write great papers with Microsoft Word

You may already use Microsoft Word to write papers, but did you know that you can also use Microsoft Word to collect research, co-write with other students, record notes on the fly, and build a better bibliography?

Well, now you do.

Getting started

Let’s get started by opening Microsoft Word and choosing a new document to create. You can either:

  • Select Blank document to create a document from scratch.

  • Select one of the templates. (Great for structuring reports!)

  • Select Take a tour for Word tips.

Word new doc templates

The basics

Next, let’s look at adding and formatting text. You can do that by placing the cursor where you want it on the blank page and typing some text. The status bar at the bottom of the document shows the page and number of words you have so far, in case you’re trying to hit a certain word count.

Word ribbon format text options
  • To format text and change how it looks, select the text, and then select an option on the Home tab: Bold, Italic, Bullets, Numbering, etc.

  • To add pictures, shapes, or other media, simply navigate to the Insert tab, then select any of the options to add media to your document.

  • Word saves as you go so you don’t have to stress about losing your work in case you forget to hit save.

Cool stuff

Here are some of the advanced tools you can try out while using Microsoft Word.

Type with your voice

Ever just want to speak, instead of writing, your ideas? Believe it or not, there’s a button for that. All you have to do is navigate to the Home tab, select the Dictate button, and start talking to “type” with your voice. You’ll know Dictate is listening when the red recording icon appears.

Tips for using Dictate

  • Speak clearly, and conversationally.

  • Add punctuation by pausing or saying the name of the punctuation.

  • If you make a mistake, all you have to do is go back and re-type your text.

Dictate button in Word

Finding and citing sources

If you need a head start on collecting sources and ideas for a big paper, find Researcher in the References tab of your document and try typing in a keyword.

Researcher button in Word

Researcher uses Bing to search the web and deliver high-quality research sources to the side of your page. Search people, places, or ideas, and then sort by journal articles and websites. Add a source to your page by selecting the plus sign.

As you write, Researcher saves a record of your searches. Just select My Research to see the complete list.

Citations

Hate having to keep track of all your sources? Turns out, Word has its own, built-in bibliography maker. Simply navigate to the References tab.

  1. First, choose what style you want your citations to be in. In this example, we’ve selected APA style.

  2. Select Insert Citation and Add New Source.

  3. In the next window, choose what kind of work you’re citing—an article, book, etc.—and fill in the required details. Then click OK to cite your source.

  4. Keep writing. At the ends of sentences that need sources, select Insert Citation to keep adding new sources, or pick one you already entered from the list.

Point to Insert Citation, and choose Add New Source

As you write, Word will keep track of all the citations you’ve entered. When you’re finished, select Bibliography and choose a format style. Your bibliography will appear at the end of your paper, just like that.

Make things look nice

When you want your report or project to look extra professional, try out the Design tab! Here, you can browse different themes, colors, fonts, and borders to create some work you feel really proud of.

What if you need to illustrate a concept with a chart or a model? Head back to the Insert tab and choose SmartArt. In this example, we chose Cycle and filled in text from the writing process to make a simple graphic. Choose other graphic types to represent hierarchies, flow charts, and more.

Example of a chart you can make

To insert a nifty 3-D model, choose Insert > 3D Models to choose from a full library of illustrated dioramas from different course subjects and 3D shapes.

Invite someone to write with you

If you’re working on a group project, you can work on a document at the same time without needing to email the file back and forth. Select Share at the top of your page and create a link you can send to other students.

Now, everybody can open the same file and work together.

Keep learning

Check out more Microsoft Word training and support.

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