As a Demand Studios writer, I'm constantly looking for ways to expedite the research process and improve the quality of my work for those coveted high scores and of course, more money. In this post, I'll share some of the tools I use to aid my work. I was recently accepted to write for Livestrong. The stringent guidelines for this site made clear to me that I needed to polish my research skills and increase my speed if I wanted to have any time left over for working on residual income after a full day of writing for upfront pay. Hopefully, these tools and tips will provide some benefit for my readers who also write for Demand Studios.
Google Custom Search Engine
The Google custom search engine has been a treasure to me over the past few weeks. I must admit, however, that this was not my idea. I was perusing the Demand Studios forums recently and someone (I can't recall who) mentioned Google CSE for reducing research time. I quickly started building my own search engines for my preferred topics.
If you aren't familiar with Google custom search engine, it's a search engine that you build by selecting the specific sites you want to search. For instance, I've created a natural health search engine that only searches .gov and .edu (with a few approved .com) sites that offer information on alternative medicine, natural remedies, etc. Before discovering custom search, I used the site:.edu operator, but even then I'd have to weed through junk to get to the good references. Now, I can research any alternative medicine topic in seconds and I can see in a glance if there's enough research to support the article.
I primarily write Garden Guides and natural health articles for Livestrong, so I've created two custom search engines for these topics. Feel free to use them if you write similar articles, though I fear I'll be increasing my competition for some of the harder-to-research titles. :)
I found this next one on the DS forums. It wasn't my creation but I've been using it with great success for writing general health and nutrition articles for Livestrong. I hope the creator doesn't mind my posting it here, but if you read this Iva, let me know if you want it removed.
Any search results that appear when using these search engines are approved by Demand Studios as a reputable reference. Many of them are on the DS suggested reference list, while others are .gov and .edu sites that I've used for months without any problem. In the Gardening engine, I've used wild cards to target only the specific areas of various websites that contain relevant information. If you have a suggestion for an addition to either of the search engines, please leave a comment and let me know. I'll be glad to add the site.
If you write on different topics and you'd like to make your own custom search engine, it's quite easy but it does take time to find all the websites. I'd recommend starting with the Demand Studios suggested references for your topic and going from there. For the technically challenged among you, here's a video to show you exactly how to make your own search engine.
Aztekera Passive Writing Analyzer
If you struggle with passive voice, the Aztekera To Be Verbs Analyzer will help improve your scorecard tremendously. I thought I was doing a great job avoiding the dreaded "to be" verbs, but after analyzing a few articles, I realized I was writing passively much more than I intended. Using the tool, I now submit articles with 0% passive verbs and my scorecard has climbed even higher. I can't take credit for discovering this however, as I also found it on the DS forums. I rarely visit, but when I do, it seems I always find good, helpful information.
This free tool is extremely easy to use. Simply paste your article in the box, hit the analyze button and a few seconds later, you'll have a list of sentences that need rewording to make them active instead of passive. I've been doing this before submitting every article and I can't recommend it highly enough. I only wish I found it sooner, as I'm sure my overall score would have improved more quickly. Anyway, check it out, even if you think you're writing actively. You may be surprised at the little passive slips you don't always catch in your own work.
Do you have any tools you use to help expedite research or writing speed? I'd love to hear from you!