To create Writesim TCExam, we started with TCExam, an existing open-source, Web-based assessment application and modified it to function as a textual simulation environment. TCExam is used by educators to design, schedule, execute, and report assessment tests. Our decision not to use Goventure stemmed from the fact that it is a commercial, non-open source application. Commercial applications have a cost that limits distribution and use. Additionally since it was not open source, we couldnt make the modifications outlined earlier on our own. We named our adaptation as "Writesim TCExam" to denote its status as a writing simulation environment. After correcting the minor problems in the software, the user survey studies show the application to be intuitive, easy to navigate and use.
Other instructional methods
The research community functions as a collective network, exploring, validating, and disseminating scientific ideas that benefit society. Effective scientific writing is fundamental to the progress of the scientific community and to the careers of individual scientists; [1–3] therefore it is essential that novice researchers develop their writing skills. As an added benefit, an in-depth understanding of the writing process can increase productivity .
Over the years, a great many methods for teaching writing skills have been explored, including traditional classroom instruction, seminars, workshops, certificate courses, distance learning, and mentoring. One method, collaborative learning, stresses collective problem-solving . While it has shown some promise in teaching writing skills to researchers,  its practical application is limited because scientific communication depends, in the end, on individual effort. Simulation environments can complement collaborative learning by helping researchers understand the flow of ideas in scientific manuscripts, and the difference between structure and content. As well, studies have noted that simulation environments often promote collaborative learning, which prepares students for peer criticism and group work .
An increasingly popular method, e-learning, makes use of the Internet  and other electronic resources, such as multimedia . However, it often amounts to nothing more than the digitization and dissemination of previously existing educational materials, and so fails to fully take advantage of new technologies, while often perpetuating inefficient and ineffective lesson plans. One example is the e-learning tool created by Dagmar Malikova, consisting of 11 self-study modules, which although is well-designed but is not interactive . Another innovative but limited use of digital technologies involves searching Internet biology forums for comprehensible examples of scientific writing and then using computerized retention strategies to produce "digital learning logs" to track common errors .
Other methods like group manuscript critiques,  rewriting published manuscripts,  manuscript editing,  and journal clubs and letter writing  can help build writing skills, but they are insufficient on their own and must be combined with other methods. Similarly traditional practice assignments have also been shown to be insufficient to help in improvement of writing skills [61, 62]. Finally, studies evaluating the effectiveness of these and other approaches have yielded few important findings, and the findings are often contradictory .
The great variety of writing instruction programs attests to the diversity of settings and objectives that collectively serve to educate novice researchers. Whatever the training method or context, it is important to remember that writing is a dynamic, individualistic process, to which each student brings his own perspectives and concerns,  and that, where possible, training programs should be tailored to the specific needs of the various specialties .
In comparison to the methods described above, simulation environments provide a realistic environment in which users can explore simplified versions of both realistic and highly hypothetical situations .
Researchers evaluating simulation-based approaches to second-language writing instruction, with an explicit focus on genre and genre analysis, cite numerous benefits. Students become increasingly aware of discipline-specific features, they develop competence in discourse, and they become more precise in their use of language . Simulation also helps students overcome motivational and attitudinal problems, especially those related to collaborative learning [53, 67–69]. Other studies have shown that simulation environments increase opportunities for collaborative learning, which improves students' attitudes toward peer criticism and group work . The many strengths of simulation environments speak to their great potential for scientific writing instruction.
We chose TCExam as it followed the computer aided formative assessment method. It suits well for a simulation environment as it also encourages reflective style of learning. It enables consistent delivery and immediate feedback. Recent applications also allow the use of images and videos making the application rich and interactive. Repeatability, flexibility of access, reliability and being student centred are some of its many advantages . By improving student learning outcomes, it leads to positive attitude towards learning . These benefits add on to those of simulation environments. On the other hand, development time, risks related to hardware, software and administrative aspects of the application and need for users to be computer literate are some of its disadvantages  which are equally applicable to simulation environments. In reference to feedback in assessment applications, immediate explanatory feedback on why an answer is incorrect is more beneficial to users as compared to no feedback and it leads to better performance . Although not focused on assessing users, feedback plays an important role in simulation environments. It would facilitates better understanding and retention of the concepts and various aspects of scientific writing. Additionally a second chance mechanism to choose the correct answer was aimed at encouraging brainstorming and enhancing the learning process.
The blog and forum are primarily aimed at improving and enhancing user-user and user-administrator communication. Since Writesim TCExam is an online application, users may not be located in the same place thus restricting group and collaborative discussions. Blog and forum address this issue and serve as a platform for voicing their queries, finding solutions to queries and exchange of individual experiences.
We think Writesim TCExam would be more accessible to the research community owing to its open source nature as compared to other commercial simulation environments like Goventure . Individuals involved in teaching and training novice researchers like mentors, course instructors, program coordinators can download Writesim TCExam  and install it at their institutes. They can modify the application if required as well as develop simulation material according to their needs. They can administer the textual simulation environment by providing a link to the application along with instructions on how to use it. The end users can follow the link to undertake the simulation test.
Currently Writesim TCExam follows a test-feedback, i.e. deterministic mechanism which does not support real time analyses and feedback on non deterministic aspects of scientific writing. Structure and semantic interconnections that assist the reader to map and understand the context of content constitute the deterministic aspects of writing. Structure persists across multiple articles while content changes according to the topic and hence the latter constitutes the non-deterministic aspect of writing. Gopen  argues that deterministic aspects (structure) of written communication provide clues to the reader enabling them to make important interpretative decisions about the content. Our application thus focuses on mimicing intricacies of the deterministic aspects of scientific writing. Additionally, its effectiveness highly depends on the quality of the simulation material.
Writesim TCExam is currently used by the RoR group to train novice researchers and medical students in scientific writing. Writesim TCExam will be used in the Certificate Course in Outcomes Research,  an eight-month course of study that will soon be implemented at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore. The course trains healthcare professionals in every step of research publication, from generating a dataset to submitting to a high-quality journal. Writesim TCExam will be used as a pre-class exercise to train participants in manuscript writing.
WriteSim TCExam is an inexpensive instructional tool that has potential to significantly improve researchers' confidence and writing skills and reduce the time required to produce high-quality manuscripts