WriteSim TCExam--an open source text simulation environment for training novice researchers in scientific writing.
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BACKGROUND: The ability to write clearly and effectively is of central importance to the scientific enterprise. Encouraged by the success of simulation environments in other biomedical sciences, we developed WriteSim TCExam, an open-source, Web-based, textual simulation environment for teaching effective writing techniques to novice researchers. We shortlisted and modified an existing open source application - TCExam to serve as a textual simulation environment. After testing usability internally in our team, we conducted formal field usability studies with novice researchers. These were followed by formal surveys with researchers fitting the role of administrators and users (novice researchers) RESULTS: The development process was guided by feedback from usability tests within our research team. Online surveys and formal studies, involving members of the Research on Research group and selected novice researchers, show that the application is user-friendly. Additionally it has been used to train 25 novice researchers in scientific writing to date and has generated encouraging results. CONCLUSION: WriteSim TCExam is the first Web-based, open-source textual simulation environment designed to complement traditional scientific writing instruction. While initial reviews by students and educators have been positive, a formal study is needed to measure its benefits in comparison to standard instructional methods.