Google Docs features to help you pass your college exams

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Google Docs can be great for writing school essays and other projects. From dating to research to collaborating with classmates, take advantage of these helpful features for your college assignments.

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Investigate with the Explore feature

Like the Researcher tool in Microsoft Word, the Explore tool in Google Docs helps you locate sources and conduct your research. Select the Browse button at the bottom right of the Google Docs screen.

Explore button in Google Docs

When the sidebar opens, enter a search term at the top. You will see three tabs for your results. So you can choose Web, Images, or Drive (your Google Drive) to find the item you need.

Explore the sidebar in Google Docs

You can add a citation as a footnote or insert an image that includes a link to the source. Or just select a result to read about the topic. It’s easy to research your work using Explore in Google Docs.

Use the built-in dictionary

To correct spelling, check tense, or find synonyms, check out the Google Docs Dictionary. You can look up any word and save yourself a trip to a physical or online dictionary.

RELATED: How to check your spelling in Google Docs

Select a word in your document and go to Tools > Dictionary or open the tool from the menu and enter your word in the search box in the sidebar.

Dictionary in the Tools menu

You’ll see everything you need to use the word correctly, spell it correctly, or get another word that means the same thing.

Dictionary Sidebar in Google Docs

Add citations and a bibliography

To include your references in the text and in the form of a bibliography, Google Docs provides you with the Citations function. Go to Tools > Appointments to open the Appointments sidebar.

Appointments in the Tools menu

Select your APA, MLA, or Chicago writing style from the dropdown box at the top. Then click “Add Citation Source” to add the type and reference details for your source.

Format choice and font choice screens

Save the citation and then easily insert an in-text reference. Hover over the source in the sidebar list and choose “Cite.”

Cite button for a source

Once you have a citation in the sidebar, you can insert a bibliography. Put your cursor where you want the list and go to the bottom of the sidebar. Choose “Insert Works Cited” or “Insert References,” depending on the writing format you’ve chosen.

Insert references in citation sidebar

Google Docs automatically inserts and formats your bibliography so you can continue writing without worry.

List of references in Google Docs

RELATED: How to automatically insert a bibliography in Google Docs

Includes footnotes

When you have additional details or notes that you want to include but not directly in the main content, use a footnote.

Place the cursor next to the word or select the word in your text. Go to Insert > Footnote in the menu.

Footnote in the Embed menu on the web

You will see the number of the footnote where the cursor was placed and the cursor will appear in the footnote area for you to add the text.

Footnote inserted in a Google Doc

Add more footnotes in the same way and they will automatically be numbered per page.

Open the equation editor

If the paper you’re writing is for a math class, you can use the built-in equation tool. This saves you time by providing the letters, symbols, and operators you need to enter an equation instead of looking for them elsewhere.

RELATED: How to use the equation editor in Google Docs

Select Insert > Equation from the menu and you will see the Equation Editor bar at the top of your document.

Make sure your cursor is in the place in the document where you want the equation. Then use the dropdown boxes in the Equation Editor to select what you need for the equation. As you choose each element of the equation, you will see it added to your document.

When you’re done, use the X on the right side of the Equation Editor bar to close it.

Take advantage of collaboration features

If you’re working on a group project with other classmates, Google Docs has the features you need to collaborate. Start by sharing the document with editing permissions, and then use the tools below to work together.

RELATED: How to share documents in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides

Leave comments

Select an element in your document, such as a word, sentence, or image, and then click the Comment icon in the top right or on the floating toolbar. Add your comment, use the @ (At) symbol to mention a specific person, and click “Comment”.

Comment on Google Docs

Anyone with access to the document can view the comments. And while you’re tackling notes or tasks, click the Solve icon (checkmark) to keep track.

Advice: You can also use the emoji feature for quick reactions to parts of the document and the assign comments feature to delegate tasks.

View version history

When multiple people are working on a document at the same time, it can be difficult to remember who did what and when. You can select “View Version History” from the File > Version History menu to see all changes to the document.

View Version History in the File menu

You’ll see a list of dates and names, and you can select a version to view. This does not immediately change your current document; it is simply a way of seeing what has changed and by whom. If you want to use a particular version, select the three dots on the right and choose “Restore this version”.

Version history in Google Docs

When you’re done viewing the version history, click the arrow in the top left and you’ll be taken back to the document.

Quickly email your classmates

For a quick and easy way to get in touch with your classmates, you can email all collaborators one document at a time. Select File > Email from the menu and select “Email Contributors”.

Email Collaborators in the File menu

A message window opens with your collaborators already included and the name of the document as the subject line. Write your message and press “Send”.

Email message for collaborators

This gives you a great way to communicate with your classmates about the project without creating a separate email in another app where you have to track their email addresses.

For other collaboration tools, check out how to suggest an edit, or specifically how to track changes in Google Docs.

With these Google Docs features, you can find what you need, cite your sources correctly, and work with your fellow students to create a document that will wow your professor.

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