About a year ago I was having a conversation with a good friend about her doctoral dissertation. She was having challenges with the writing process. However, when I began to ask her questions about her research, she was able to talk it through clearly and at length. She knew her topic well and was very enthusiastic about it. I suggested that she take out her iPhone, record our conversation, and use it as a springboard to jump-start the writing process. She found this extremely helpful during the writing up phase of her doctoral journey, as our talking sessions were beneficial in helping to strengthen her arguments and clarify her ideas.
I am sure there are many other students who find it useful to verbalize their ideas before writing them down. Others who find writing challenging, in particular those with dyslexia, may prefer to dictate streams of thoughts or even entire essays. Speech to text software is invaluable for this process. In addition, text to speech, the converse of speech to text, can be used to play back the text that was dictated. The two together can aid in further thought and revision of work.
Most newer Macs and PCs are equipped with built-in speech to text tools which are easily enabled. To learn how to activate this on a Mac, see Apple Support. The accuracy is not perfect but pretty good for a built-in tool. To activate the tool in Windows, see Office Support.
Another really nice benefit of using speech to text tools is that you don’t have to be chained to a desk to work. As students, we spend a lot of time sitting at a desk and are often torn between remaining stationary and continuing to work or taking some time for much needed exercise. Exercise can help stimulate your thinking, so instead of neglecting it, go for a brisk walk and take your mobile phone. While you’re walking and taking some time to smell the flowers, you can dictate your thoughts and ideas as they come to you, using the dictation feature and the built-in notes app on your phone. On the iPhone, do make sure Siri is activated by going to “setting,” “general,” “Siri” and toggle to the right to enable the feature. Also, make sure that when you are ready to dictate, you have access to wifi or a 3G connection. Simply click on the microphone at the bottom left corner of the screen keyboard and start dictating. Your words will appear in the notes app and you can sync those notes with a Mac computer or email them to yourself.
I have used the built-in options on my iPhone and have been pleased with the results. However, you may want to check out the app store to learn about a variety of alternative dictation and notes apps. If you are a student with learning difficulties or other disabilities, do check with the Disability Office at your university as you may be eligible for the Student Disability Allowance (DSA) which may allow you to purchase more advanced tools based on your needs.