Use a Visual Thesaurus by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D.

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Mar 11th, 2014
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Professors love words.  Maybe I’m making an assumption, but at least I am hoping we can agree that almost all professors love words.  Here’s a tool for exploring words and expanding your use of great words:  Visual Thesaurus.

I have been an aficionado for at least 5 – 6 years. I use this tool every day and have given it as a gift to MANY of my friends. Here are my top ten tips for increasing your productivity with Visual Thesaurus.

    1. Own it. You can purchase it for on-line use (and pay a yearly fee of $19.95).  I buy the on-line version every year.
    2. Test out a trial version if you’re not sure.  Just go to Visual Thesaurus and you will see the option to test out a few words.  Pick some interesting words that you know you use in your writing and see what options pop up for you.  You’ll see the words displayed in visual arrays (get it?…it’s a “visual” thesaurus) that show the relationships between among the various words.
    3. Use it by pulling arrays from Visual Thesarus into your PowerPoint® presentations or Word docs you are creating.  There aren’t directions shown anywhere about this, but I had a secret source within the company and this is what she shared (and it works).  Set up the array the way that you want it.  Then, click anywhere inside the array and press Ctrl + Shift and then left click and drag the array over to the document where you want it.  It doesn’t look like anything is happening but when you release the mouse button and the keys, it will open up as a graphic on your slide (or wherever you have dragged it).
    4. Use it to look up words that you are using (duh) but not necessarily to find alternatives in the typical way we think about using a thesaurus. Rather, see if the suggestions prompt some fresh thinking on your part regarding whatever it is that you are working on.  I use it this way frequently and it either gives me a fresh boost or helps me get “unstuck.”
    5. Use it when you are writing titles for articles, books, and conference presentations.  You want your titles to be informative and interesting and Visual Thesaurus helps you create such titles.
    6. Use it when you are writing letters of recommendation. When you are spending more time thinking of just the right word to describe a student than you are in actually writing the letter, it’s time to consult Visual Thesaurus.
    7. Keep it open all the time for easy access.  When we are writing, it is common for us to keep using the same words over and over and by having this tool already open and ready, we’re more likely to just quickly find an alternative to a word that is appearing far too often in our text.
    8. Use it to find words in various parts of speech.  Sometimes you might be writing an article, a grant, or working on one of your classes.  In your wording about something, you want to stay in the same vicinity in terms of meaning but you want to make your writing more interesting by using compelling verbs rather than more adjectives, for example.  Visual Thesaurus shows parts of speech and you can either turn off or on that feature, depending on what you’re working on.  Generally, I like having that displayed.
    9. Have it available in class so that you can explore words and concepts along with your students.  It is a fast and easy way to keep everyone learning.  Additional tip: Encourage your students to use this tool, too.  They will LOVE the help it gives them.
    10. Donate copies (subscriptions) to your school – or to a local K-12 school.  You can receive educational discount pricing and I’m quite sure the schools in your area would appreciate the donation.

Note:  Ask about the availability of this product in Spanish.  I know they were working on that and it may now be ready.

open_your_mind_v2-croppedAnd to help you generate those ideas for your next project you will want to access the teleseminar Proficient & Productive Use of Mindmapping Open Your Mind! which is available for immediate download and listening.

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