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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

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So You Want to Revise?

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As we’ve discussed in many of our resources and blog posts, revision is an important part of the writing process for all writers. You may have already decided to incorporate revision into your work—great! But even after deciding to revise, you may be wondering, where do I start? Today, I’ll go over some techniques to help you answer this question.

So you want to revise?

First, I suggest finding some patterns in your writing. You might have help doing this if you have feedback from a faculty member or Writing Center instructor, or, you may feel confident in identifying some patterns on your own. Either way, step one to any revision process is re-read your draft

After you’ve read back through your work, reflect and write down some areas you want to work on. Think of these as larger patterns in your writing first, narrowing down to more minute details. If you have feedback from the Writing Center or your faculty, you can use this as a guideline as well. I recommend identifying larger patterns and making a list for yourself, which can even have sub-categories depending on how detailed you want to be.

Example List of Revision Items
1.) Organization
a.) Thesis
b.) MEAL Plan

2.) Evidence incorporation
a.) APA
b.) Citation frequency

3.) Reference formatting

Once you have your list, I suggest going back through your current draft again one item at a time. In my example above, then, I would read through my draft and think about organization. I could check all my paragraphs for the MEAL Plan and make sure they relate back to my thesis. After I’ve finished working on the MEAL Plan and my thesis, then I can read through again and focus on evidence incorporation and making that smoother. Then, I can read through to be sure I’m citing often enough, then review my references.

This may sound a bit tedious, but it will get easier as you go, I promise! The benefit of having a list like this is that you can keep it in mind (and on record) as you write new drafts as well—that way you can start incorporating small changes and revisions as you write. From paper to paper, you may find that your focus and list of revision topics changes and shifts, and that’s fine too! You can use a revision journal to assist you as well. This process can be as complex or broad as works for you—but I suggest starting out at a broader scope so that you know more specifically what patterns are showing up in your writing. And, remember, the Writing Center is here to support you with our feedback as well as part of this process.

Review of today’s techniques
1.) Re-read your draft/feedback
2.) Make a list of broad to narrow topics to address
3.) Go through your draft and make changes one topic at a time
4.) Keep the list for future reference

Using these techniques and keeping yourself organized will help empower you as you work towards revision! You might also like our two WriteCast episodes that go more into detail about using this method. How are these revision strategies working for you? Let us know if you have any particular successes or other revision tricks!

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Claire Helakoski is a writing instructor at the Walden Writing Center. Claire also co-hosts WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast. Through these multi-modal avenues, Claire delivers innovative and inspiring writing instruction to Walden students around the world.

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Thursday Thoughts: Time to Reflect

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2018 may have felt like the longest year ever to exist, but it is finally drawing to a close. Because many people like to reflect at the end of things, the Walden Writing Center is jumping in to share some of our favorite resources related to reflection.

The art of reflecting is about pausing to look at one’s self, situation, or work. However, at its best, reflection is also about then determining what to do next. When you think about your writing over this past year, what will you seek to improve in 2019? What did you do well and want to continue?

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We hope you take some time to reflect and some time to reset for 2019. To help with your writing reflections, check out these writing center resources:

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The Walden University Writing Center provides information and assistance to students with services like live chat, webinars, course visits, paper reviews, podcasts, modules, and the writing center webpages. The center supports students through all stages of the writing process and develops the writer as well as the writing.

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Advice for Writers: Let Go of Your Perfectionism and Finish!

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Even if you wouldn’t consider yourself a perfectionist, generally speaking (have you seen the state of my laundry piles?), perfectionist thoughts and tendencies have a bad habit of showing up when we sit down to write. For many writers, finishing a writing project has just as much to do with responding to perfectionism as it does with the words on the page. Here are some strategies to combat perfectionism in your writing process. I’ve adapted these strategies from a book that has been helpful to me lately: Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done written by Jon Acuff.

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Cut Your Goal in Half
When we face down a big goal, it can be crippling. We might set the goal with the best of intentions, but if it’s too big, it will be overwhelming rather than motivating. This is why it’s important to break down larger tasks. Instead of “write my literature review,” it’s much easier to work on “find and download ten relevant sources from the library.” The goal of “finish my dissertation” might be paralyzing, but “spend 25 minutes working on an outline for one section” is doable.

If the perfectionist voice in your head is speaking up right now, it’s probably telling you that a smaller goal isn’t good enough, that if you write one chapter by the end of the term rather than two, there is no way you will finish your capstone on time. Actually, one study described in Acuff’s book indicated that when people cut their goal in half, 63% of them increased their performance over previous attempts, and 90% felt more motivated to work on their goal. That’s right: cutting your goal in half can actually make you more productive.

Double Your Timeline
Sometimes it isn’t possible to cut a goal in half. After all, your professor probably expects a full prospectus or capstone rather than one that includes half of what they’ve asked for. In these cases, when you have the control to do so, consider doubling your timeline. You may find yourself feeling anxious at lengthening an already long timeline, but in reality this longer timeline will probably be more reasonable and lead to better, and perhaps even faster, results. For example, Acuff cited a study where one researcher asked students to estimate how long they expected it to take to finish their theses in both the best circumstances and the worst ones. Interestingly, less than 50% of them finished by their longest estimate. This indicates that we often underestimate how long it will take us to complete a task and need to lengthen our timelines to make them manageable.

Do Less to Do More
Of course, there are also times when both the goal and the deadline are fixed, such as when a course assignment is due. When this happens, you need to focus as much attention as possible on achieving your goal within the time allotted. To do this, you’re probably going to have to give something up in another area of your life, at least temporarily. This means disregarding the voice of perfectionism, which will tell you that you can give 100% to your work, school, family, and social lives all at once. Instead, choose what you are willing to let go to achieve your goals. Perhaps that’s a Netflix habit, social media (though not the Walden Writing Center blog, of course!), or doing certain household chores yourself. Is there anything you can eliminate from your busy schedule to allow more time for your goal? If not, how can you simplify what you have to do?

Build in Rewards
In theory, finishing an assignment, class, or degree program should be its own reward, but that’s actually perfectionism talking again. For most people, writing is hard work, so give yourself some rewards for putting in the effort! Maybe you can enjoy your favorite treat or playlist while working on your project to make it feel more enjoyable. When you’ve worked towards a big, long-term goal consistently for a week or a month, do something special for yourself to recognize your hard work. And, of course, make a plan for what you’ll do to celebrate once you’ve finally achieved your goal. These rewards don’t necessarily have to be expensive or time consuming (though they can be, if you like). They should be something that you will find motivating and be able to indulge in guilt-free.

What steps will you take to let go of your perfectionism and finish your writing project?

The tips in today’s blog post have been adapted for Walden writers from Jon Acuff’s Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.

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Cheryl Read
 is a Writing Instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. Her reward for finishing her PhD will be a family trip to Disney World. When she's not helping student writers at Walden, Cheryl stays busy playing with her son and knitting.

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Thursday Thoughts: Writing as a Process

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Did you know that writing is a process? For instance, when you read academic articles, the authors didn’t write their work in one sitting. Instead, they practiced prewriting, drafting, revising, and proofreading strategies to polish their work so that they could present their arguments clearly and effectively to readers. Of course, approaching writing as a process can also help writers with time management issues related to writing, such as writing under deadlines, and writing for a course while juggling work and other responsibilities.

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Want to learn more? The Writing Center has several sources on all stages of the writing process. Don’t forget to share with us what prewriting, drafting, revising, and or proofreading strategies you use that you find effective!  

The Walden Writing Center provides writing resources and support for all student writers including paper reviews, a podcast, live chat, webinars, modules, and of course a blog.

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It's Not A Game! Avoiding Unintentional Plagiarism

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If you’re ever played board games with your family or friends, maybe you have dealt with someone who cheats at them. Growing up, my older sister made cheating at board games a science—each time I would catch her in the act, she would find a new way to cheat next time. These board game shenanigans meant that playing detective with her cheating was more of the actual game we were playing. I’m still waiting for the board game police to show up.

It's Not A Game: Avoiding Unintentional Plagiarism

Unlike cheating at board games, though, there are consequences to academic dishonesty such as plagiarism. Intentional plagiarism is a fairly cut and dry to understand. When plagiarism occurs, though, it is often unintentional plagiarism. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t carry the same academic consequences. This isn’t meant to scare you, though, as there are some fairly easy ways to avoid accidental plagiarism. In this blog post, I want to discuss two main tips for avoiding plagiarism: correctly citing each sentence that provides information from a source and correctly paraphrasing points from a source. 

Citing Correctly
If you have had a paper review with one of our Walden University Writing Instructors, maybe your instructor pointed out to you the need to cite each sentence that provides information from a source, and you wondered, why? For instance, maybe you cited at the end of a paragraph or cited every other sentence because you were citing the same source throughout the paragraph. The issue is that each point that comes from a source is not attributed to a source, so those un-cited sentences suggest to readers that they are your own ideas when they are actually coming from a source. Both not attributing ideas to a source and falsely attributing ideas from a source as your own and are forms of plagiarism.

Correct citation also refers to ensuring direct quotes are properly formatted. For instance, when a direct quote is included, the page number where the quote was found would be included (as “p. xx”). For sources with no page numbers, the paragraph number would be included (as “para. xx”).  As well, quote marks need to be included around the quoted material, otherwise, readers will assume that the information is a paraphrase. Presenting quoted material as a paraphrase is a form of plagiarism.

To avoid plagiarism, then, it is important to correctly cite by: 1) ensuring each sentence that provides information from a source is cited so that information is correctly attributed to the source and not falsely attributed to you, and 2) ensuring direct quotes are correctly formatted so the information is not presented as your paraphrase of that information or point. 

Paraphrasing Correctly 
Paraphrasing is usually better than quoting since paraphrasing demonstrates a writer’s command of the material and direct quotes, especially long ones, can disrupt the flow of points since they are in a different voice from the author. With this in mind, while incorrectly presenting a direct quote as a paraphrase is problematic, so is incorrectly paraphrasing a source. One way a source might be incorrectly paraphrased is through patchwork paraphrasing which largely means that some of the original source’s wording is used. For instance, the paraphrase may change a word here and there, or move around some of the wording of the original source. In this sense, it would be similar to including a sentence that is a direct quote from a source but presenting that direct quote as a paraphrase—the original author’s words are presented as your own. While not as egregious as not citing at all, ineffective paraphrasing can still be considered to be a form of plagiarism.

So, to avoid plagiarism, it is important to paraphrase effectively. Paraphrasing effectively means that 1) the paraphrase stays true to the original sources’ meaning, and 2) the paraphrase is in different wording, and has a different sentence structure, then the original.

I know this seems like a lot of information, but as I noted in the beginning, the main tips for avoiding plagiarism include correctly citing each sentence that provides information from a source, or needs to be supported by a source, and correctly paraphrasing. Plagiarism can be a scary word, but it doesn’t have to be if you are informed about how to avoid it. 

Students can find Walden’s general policy for academic integrity in the Handbook's Academic Integrity section under Code of Conduct. While the Writing Center is not involved with any program-specific or overall university guidance, we do have sources on citing and avoiding plagiarism. For instance, we have a page on how to cite and how often, a plagiarism prevention checklist, plagiarism prevention modules, and a plagiarism prevention webinar

Have any questions about avoiding accidental plagiarism? Have any tips you use to avoid accidental plagiarism? Let us know! 

Veronica Oliver author pic

Veronica Oliver is a Writing Instructor in the Walden Writing Center. In her spare time she writes fiction, binge watches Netflix, and occasionally makes it to a 6am Bikram Yoga class.

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