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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

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Transitioning into Your Final Doctoral Study?

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It's been a long time coming. After all those courses, discussion posts, projects, writing assignments, and time spent researching topics in your field... you are finally moving into your final doctoral study. Each degree program has its own requirements and series of documents, but many follow this pattern: premise; prospectus; and final study, project, or dissertation. Your program may not include all three of those or something may go by another name. However, these documents are a big shift from the course work you have been doing.

Transitioning into doctoral capstone writing

The Walden University Writing Center has many resources to help you as you transition into these documents that are part of your final doctoral study. Writing Center instructors are here to help you with your preproposal documents: the premise and prospectus. Let's take a look at some of those now. 

  • If you are working on a premise or prospectus, you can still take advantage of our paper review service. Just be sure to choose the "preproposal schedule."
  • When the day comes when your prospectus is approved and you begin work on the proposal, you will find all the help you need on the Walden Writing Center form and style page.

If you are looking for a specific type of supporting resource, please reach out and let us know. We will be happy to find it for you. 



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The Walden University Writing Center creates resources for scholarly writers at all phases of their Walden University journey. We cater to students just starting their coursework, all the way to students finishing their capstone projects. Paper reviews, a podcast, a website, modules, and live webinars are among just some of the resources we offer to students. 


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Catch Your Reader's Ear: Avoiding Bias and Increasing Sensitivity

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Sensitivity in APA style can be a, well, sensitive subject. When we writing instructors receive questions in chat or in paper reviews about sensitivity, students often ask how to be sensitive in their writing—and what sensitivity even means in relation to APA style! The general definition of sensitive applies to APA style in a couple of different ways.


Catch Your Reader's Ear: Avoiding Bias and Increasing Sensitivity


According to the dictionary, a sensitive person has “a quick and delicate appreciation of others’ feelings.” If you have researched how to avoid bias in APA-style writing, this definition makes sense. Sensitivity in APA style does relate to understanding and appreciating the feelings and thoughts of others. However, there is another definition for sensitive that can also be related to sensitivity in APA, and this definition is that a sensitive person is “quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences.” You might be wondering how quickly responding to changes relates to APA style, so I’ll return to this second definition after talking a little bit about the general guidelines for avoiding bias and showing sensitivity in APA-style writing.

While there are many ways to ensure sensitivity when writing about groups of people, there are three overarching rules that you can follow to adhere to the APA-style guidelines for sensitivity:

Be specific. It can be tempting to use general terms in an attempt to be polite, but it is almost always best to avoid generalizing. For example, if a writer says, “I interviewed young children,” readers will wonder what constitutes “young.” Does the writer mean toddlers or preteens? If the writer instead says, “I interviewed participants between the ages of 5 and 10,” readers will have a stronger understanding of who the writer interviewed.

Keep terms parallel. It is also important to ensure use of parallel terms when describing groups of people. For example, it wouldn’t be parallel to research how women and males respond to video games. A scholar might instead use men and women. In fact, it’s a best practice to avoid using male and female as nouns in general because these terms are largely used as descriptors, such as when studying male and female penguins, for example.

Use a group’s preferred language. This rule is a little more difficult to follow because different people and different groups prefer different terms. For example, while people-first language is generally the standard for sensitivity in APA, some groups of people, such as autistic children, prefer the descriptor to be used first. It is always a best practice to research preferred descriptors and language when writing about a group of people.

There is one final rule not included in the above list because this rule is principal and supersedes the others: Accept change!

To ensure sensitivity in APA-style writing, it is important to understand that change is constant and that a change in preferred descriptors or language is generally a positive sign of a responsive academic community. For example, at one time, the norm in writing instruction was to only use “they” as a plural pronoun. However, due to changes in language preference in the LGBTQ+ community, we at the Writing Center updated our policy to illustrate our acceptance of gender-neutral pronouns. Change means progress, so being flexible and willing to comply with changing norms can help writers ensure sensitivity and avoid bias in writing.

To that end, the second definition of “sensitivity” that I linked above concerning being responsive to change should now make more sense in relation to sensitivity in APA. While it is important to be sensitive to others’ feelings, it is also important to respond quickly and gracefully to changes in preferred language. By always researching before writing about a specific group of people and by being considerate of changing norms, scholar-practitioners can help contribute to an inclusive atmosphere in academia.


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Katherine McKinney is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. She received an M.A. in English from Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education at Walden. Katherine's goal as an instructor is to show students that the best writing results from practice, and she aims to provide feedback and resources that will guide students through the invention, composition, and revision process.

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Thursday Thoughts: On Writing Introductions Well

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Why are introductions so hard to write? When should I write an introduction: before or after the draft has been written? I have a thesis statement, but where should I put it in my introduction? How do I give my reader a clear, concise preview of my essay? Do capstone projects have introductions? 
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Here in the Walden University Writing Center, we receive questions about writing introductions all the time. And students ask these questions for good reason: Introductions are important. They're not the most important element of your essay, but they are the first important element of your essay. 

While the scope, length, and critical elements of your introduction will vary depending on the writing situation in which you find yourself, we've created some helpful resources that you can access as you need them. Take a look and follow the links below: 




Enjoy these resources, dear reader. We enjoyed creating them for you! 


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The Walden University Writing Center
 creates resources for scholarly writers at all phases of their Walden University journey. Students just starting their coursework, all the way to students finishing their capstone projects will find useful resources to help make them better writers today! 


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Catch Your Reader's Ear: Verb Choice and Scholarly Voice

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If you want to level-up your scholarly voice, there’s one part of speech I recommend focusing on: verbs, the words that convey the action in each sentence. Today, let’s consider three different kinds of verbs that can make a big difference towards improving your scholarly writing.


Catch your reader's ear: Verb Choice and Scholarly Voice

Avoid Verbs that Express Feelings
When you’re passionate about your topic, it’s tempting to bring your personal opinions into a paper. However, it’s best to avoid phrases such as “I believe,” “I think,” and “I feel” in academic writing. Because you’re the one writing the paper, your reader will safely assume that you believe, think, or feel what you’ve written. Furthermore, academic writing privileges research-based evidence over personal opinion. 

Instead of writing an opinion, like this one:
I think that students need to pay more attention to what they read.
Support your beliefs with evidence from your research:
Adler (1940) argued that most Americans did not understand what they read, so the author outlined a series of three reading strategies to aid comprehension.
Your own opinions can be a great place to start, especially when choosing a topic, but it’s important to ground your academic writing in research and remain objective as a scholar.

Vary Verbs that Introduce
It’s often a good idea to introduce evidence with a brief contextualizing phrase. However, it can be tiresome to write “according to so-and-so” over and over again. To add some variety into your use of evidence, incorporate different kinds of verbs into these introductory phrases.

The way you compose your introductory phrases can also show your reader your own perspective on the evidence. If you agree with the source material, you might say the author concluded or proved, whereas if you disagree with it, you might say the author chose or justified. If you don’t have any feelings about it either way, you might say the author proposed or examined.

See this verb “cheat sheet” for a great list of verbs that you can use in your own writing.

Replace “to be” Verbs
To really make your writing more dynamic, try omitting all versions of the verb “to be.” These include be, am, is, are, was, were, been, and being. Instead, substitute verbs that better convey action. For example, take a look at this passage in which a student describes themself:
When I was a college student, I studied nursing and earned my BSN. After graduation, I was a nurse in an emergency department for 6 years. I am now a lead nurse in the emergency department of my hospital. I am interested in earning my MSN so that I am able to continue to advance my career and contribute to social change.
Let’s find all of the “to be” verb conjugations. I have highlighted them below:
When I was a college student, I studied nursing and earned my BSN. After graduation, I was a nurse in an emergency department for 6 years. I am now a lead nurse in the emergency department of my hospital. I am interested in earning my MSN so that I am able to continue to advance my career and contribute to social change.
Now, look at this revision, which avoids the “to be” verb:
I earned a BSN from Walden University. After graduation, I served as an emergency department nurse for 6 years. Now, I work as a lead nurse in the emergency department of my hospital. Earning my MSN will allow me to continue to advance my career and contribute to social change.
I hope you’ll agree that the revised version is not only more concise, but also more interesting to read.

The next time you revise a piece of writing, I hope you’ll look at the verbs in your paper in a new light—they really can be key for making your writing sound more interesting and scholarly.

Cheryl Read Author Image


Cheryl Read is a Writing Instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. Verbs that typically describe Cheryl include writing, parenting, hiking, and knitting

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Catch Your Reader's Ear: A Five-Part Blog Series on Scholarly Tone and Voice

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One of the greatest challenges for scholarly writers is creating compelling, interesting prose that will encourage readers to engage with the writer's ideas. Unlike more informal genres of writing, scholarly prose covers topics, theories, and ideas that require precise, scientific description. Oftentimes, these descriptions are, by necessity, antithetical to the idea of captivating an audience. Plus, the formality valued in scientific research writing means the writer cannot rely on ornamental phrasing or grand spectacles of language to engross the reader. 

So what methods do scholarly writers have at their disposal to engage their audience, to catch their reader's ear?

Catch Your Reader's Ear: Tips for Harnessing Scholarly Tone and Voice


Here at the Walden University Writing Center, our answer to that is writers can write engaging, compelling, interesting prose by harnessing a clear and confident scholarly tone and voice. As writers present their evidence-based research to their readers, there are a number of strategies that can be used to compel readers to engage with their work.  

To help writers learn and utilize these strategies, we would like to present a five-part blog series that delves into this topic. Each post in this series will introduce, explain, and put into practice a writing strategy that will help writers harness a scholarly tone and practice using their scholarly voice. We hope these topics will be interesting and helpful to you as you develop your own methods to Catch Your Reader's Ear!

Join us for each part in this series for tips to help you harness your scholarly tone and voice



Effective Word Choice to Improve Scholarly Tone

Scholarly Voice, Avoiding Bias, and Increased Sensitivity in Scholarly Writing

Revision Tips to Enhance Scholarly Voice

We hope you will enjoy this blog series and learn from the strategies each Instructor presents. Please let us know in the comments if there are any other scholarly voice-related topics you'd like us to address in future posts. 

Until then: Keep writing. Keep inspiring!
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The Walden University Writing Center
 seeks to teach writer's what scholarly writing is, and how to deploy it as a strategic communicative device. Scholarly writing, like all forms of writing, has certain features that are unique to it and that its readers expect to encounter. Once a writer understands and can utilize those features, scholarly writing becomes another tool  that can enhance the effectiveness of the writer's expression. This blog series strives to build these skills and understandings. 

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