OSU English teacher receives $ 250,000 grant for writing software

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Media contact: Jacob Longan | Communications and Marketing Coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences | 405-744-7497 | [email protected]

Dr. Stephanie Link, an Oklahoma State University English Department professor, created software that helps people learn to write for a scientific publication, earning him one of the largest grants ever received by a OSU English faculty member.

The National Science Foundation’s $ 250,000 Innovation Partnerships grant will fund Link’s research for two years while she works to improve the software, “dissemicity”- to disseminate the research with clarity. The intelligent tutoring system helps emerging science writers understand the conventions of published empirical studies, making it easier for them to write their own manuscripts. Using natural language processing, the system is trained to recognize language patterns in journal articles.

“By understanding the language of scientific writing, we can train computers to identify these patterns and communicate with humans,” Link said.

Link plans to use artificial intelligence to convert their text data into automated comments allowing users to improve their writing.

“This project is based on the idea that computers can be trained to help humans solve everyday problems quickly,” Link said. “In this case, the central problem is to provide editors with consistent and meaningful feedback on how to effectively communicate new research contributions as a key requirement for publication in leading journals.”

Link, an applied linguist, said her team wanted to create a software system that could teach people how to write different types of articles initially focusing on peer-reviewed journal publications, as this genre is a common struggle. for graduate programs. Once a student gets to the next level, many programs expect students to already know how to write scientifically, but this isn’t always the case.

“When I was a graduate student I had to dive into research writing for one of my first times, and it was really difficult because I was a first generation student who lacked the knowledge to communicate. with a scientific audience, ”Link said. “I had a lot of room to evolve as a writer to get to a point where I felt on par with my peers. Learning the structure of scientific writing has helped me understand the role language plays in communication.

Link created Dissemity with the help of Ph.D. candidate Robert Redmon. He is a doctoral student in linguistics and focuses on sociolinguistics, but has a different background from other linguists at OSU. Redmon was fascinated by computers in junior high, and he learned to code on his own for fun. He even started his bachelor’s degree as computing major before moving to the field of linguistics. His pursuit of linguistics eventually led him to take a language and technology course with Link – and that’s when he discovered the world of computational linguistics.

For his final project for the course, Redmon developed a tool to extract data from Twitter and create a database of Tweets to support his linguistic analysis. When Link saw the project, she knew she had found the person who could help her bring her idea for academic writing software to fruition.

“For my project, I wrote software, and apparently that was unusual,” Redmon said. “She recruited me from there to work on an idea she had. It became Wrangler, and it became Dissemity.

Together, Link and Redmon created Dissemity’s predecessor, “Wrangler”. Wrangler has been used to “bring together writing resources” and Link has tested it in a variety of settings including graduate colleges, thesis writing workshops, and thesis writing workshops. Seeing its usefulness in these settings, Link and Redmon extended Wrangler for classroom use. Link now teaches a graduate course in preparing publishable manuscripts where she uses Dissemity to teach students how to write for publication.

A year after starting to work together, Link and Redmon’s work on Wrangler earned them a $ 50,000 NSF Innovation Corps grant, which allowed them to travel across the country and discover the commercial potential of their research.

“What we did with this grant was find out if Wrangler was really a viable technology, a technology that could solve major problems among researchers and other stakeholders,” Link said. “The positive response from this grant suggested that we should continue, and that is why we applied for the Partnerships for Innovation grant. ”

The PFI is a huge achievement, and Link said winning the award helps show the importance of humanities research in interdisciplinary collaborations. She hopes her research can help people understand the value of her field of applied linguistics to the wider field of research across the campus community.

In addition to using artificial intelligence to create a smart tutoring system with automated feedback on writing, Link hopes to use the grant money to expand Dissemity beyond the OSU, as she believes the people from various academic backgrounds can benefit from this technology. The team has already started working in partnership with Cowboy innovations and other research institutes to build their collaborative network.

Redmon said he was grateful to Link for giving him the opportunity to work on Dissemity, and his experiences with the project helped him find a niche in the field of linguistics that he would like to explore further on. ‘to come up. He will graduate in May, but he plans to continue working with Link on Dissemity for his postdoctoral research.

Link said she is grateful to Redmon for all the hard work he has put into Dissemity, and she is delighted that the grant gives her the opportunity to continue working on a project that meets one of her passions: developing the next generation of researchers.

“We have incredible resources on campus, but this technology will complement that work by helping students find more structure in their usually very complicated writing process,” Link said. “And through this process, it will help them find their own style of writing and their own identity.”

Dissemity is available for all OSU students, faculty and staff to use with their O-Key login at dissemity.com.


Ellie Melero’s Story, College of Arts and Sciences Graduate assistant


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