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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

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Prewriting Strategies From the Very Beginning

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Many students believe that the writing process begins when they sit in front of their computer and start typing. Although getting those first few words onto the page is an important step in the writing process, there are some things you can do before you type to make the process easier. In fact, the act of writing begins when you start reading your assigned articles.

Prewriting strategies from the very begnning

One of the easiest ways to streamline your writing is to be a good reader. But what makes someone a good reader?

A good reader makes smart use of their time by actively reading the text. Most of us have probably had the experience of reading an article or a chapter in a textbook late at night and having no recollection of what we actually read the next day! This often means that we were passively reading; our eyes might have been moving across the page, but we weren’t really taking in the information in a meaningful way.

One way to make sure you are being an active reader taking in necessary information is through note-taking. Effective note-taking could mean paraphrasing ideas from various articles, highlighting key passages, or keeping track of key terms that authors use across articles. The most important thing about note-taking is to write down information that you think is important and to be sure to include where the information came from. No matter how informal your notes are, you should always include a citation at the end, just to be safe. There is nothing worse than having the perfect piece of information to support your thesis – and realizing that you forgot to write down which article it came from!

You don’t need to keep highly detailed, encyclopedic notes on every article you read, but it helps to jot down a few key ideas to help refresh your memory when you are ready to write that big course paper. For instance, what was the main argument? What methodology did the researchers use? What conclusions did they come to? What were some of the main themes? Keeping track of this material will help your brain actively take in the information, rather than defaulting to scanning the pages passively and not truly taking in the information.

If you are reading multiple articles for one paper, you can also start synthesizing the main  ideas by as you read by thinking about how these articles relate to one another. Do the authors of Article A agree with the Authors of Article B? Do they take different approaches? Was something less effective in one article? These notes may feel random or disjointed at first, but they will help you start to see patterns in your readings and will help you build your thesis before you even sit down to type.

Another important element of being an effective reader and, by extension, an effective writer, is to stay organized. Your notes won’t be of any use to you if you can’t remember where you put them! Thus, once you get into the habit of taking notes as you are reading, try to keep your notes in a single notebook or in a separate Word document to keep the most important information readily available. Keeping these notes all in one place you don’t waste precious time hunting through multiple notebooks or multiple documents in your computer.

By making sure you are being smart about how you read and how you keep track of what you read, you will make the writing process just that much easier for yourself! As daunting as academic writing can seem at times, you can make the process smoother and saving yourself time before you even sit down to write!

The Walden University Writing Center

The Walden University Writing Center creates content to help students with a range of topics related to scholarly writing, APA style, and the writing process. We host webinars, and offer paper reviews, live chat, and a podcast. You can check out all of our resources by visiting our Walden University Writing Center home page.

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February Webinar Schedule

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It's the middle of February, and we still have some live Writing Center webinars to love this month! Won't you join us?

February webinars in the Walden University Writing Center

Writing and Responding to Discussion Posts
Thursday, February 20, 2019
7:00-8:00PM EST
As a Walden student, you'll write many discussion posts in your courses. Attend this webinar to learn the Writing Center's tips on how to create strong discussion posts and how to respond to your classmates' discussion posts.

Building and Organizing Academic Arguments
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
12:00-1:00PM EST
As a scholar, the purpose of your writing is to create an argument for the reader to consider. Thus, you also need to know how to convey that argument in a persuasive, convincing way. In this session, discover how to construct an academic argument as well as how to present it through your writing in with a focus on thesis statements, organization, using evidence, and paraphrasing.

If you are unable to attend any of these sessions in person, we post recordings of every live webinar event on the Walden University Writing Center website. The recordings of these sessions are posted 24 hours after they take place, and you can watch them free and on-demand. 

The Walden 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. Through these services they provide students assistance with APA, scholarly writing, and help students gain skills and confidence to enhance their scholarly work.

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Overcoming Writing Anxiety with Paper Review Services

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When it comes to academic writing, it is common to experience writing anxiety. For many students, academic writing is a new adventure. However, some students have been out of school for decades, and the high expectations of course assignments can create anxiety.

Overcoming Writing Anxiety with Paper Review Services

As a Writing Instructor in the Walden University Writing Center, I have seen students struggle to write academic papers for many years. Throughout my 14 years of teaching adult learners, I have heard the concerns of many students from diverse academic backgrounds, and I noticed commonalities in what my students have to say. For example, students often say that they do not know how to begin or they do not know whether their writing is cohesive at the sentence or paragraph level. And of course, there is the common concern on the proper use of APA formatting, references, and citations.

Time and time again, I tell students they do not need to be afraid of writing because there are services to help. Writing anxiety does not have to exist because resources are available to support students in the writing process. One significant resource that I recommend is the Writing Center’s paper review service

Although the thought of getting a writing expert to review your writing may seem daunting, I would like to assure you that getting a Walden University Writing Center Instructor to review your work will only help you in the long run and lessen your fears when it comes to academic writing.

In case you are skeptical on whether paper review services can help, here are five ways you can overcome writing anxiety with paper review services:

1. Share your assignment’s instructions and your own writing goals

One of the first steps to obtain a paper review appointment would be to fill out the appointment form. On the form, you are encouraged to share your assignment’s instructions and any writing goals that you wish to gain from the appointment. The appointment form is a great place to share all of your anxiety and fears when it comes to academic writing. Let it all out. You are in a safe, judgment-free, and welcoming place to be as honest as possible. Providing this specific information will help the Writing Instructor internalize the given information and determine the best way to approach your paper to ensure satisfactory personalized instructional feedback.

2. Receive personalized instructional feedback

During a paper review appointment, the Writing Instructor will provide instructional feedback catered to your writing needs. After reading the paper and reflecting on your appointment form, the Writing Instructor will provide personalized instructional feedback. The paper review process is a time to share ways to support your writing and also point out strengths in your writing through encouragement. This specific technique does not include line-by-line editing. Instead, the Writing Instructor will provide you with feedback to address areas of concern, ease any anxiety you may have, provide examples to go into more depth, and include any necessary writing resources to support the instructional feedback.

3. Reach out with any follow-up questions after the paper review appointment

At the end of the paper review appointment, the Writing Instructor will encourage the student to review the instructional feedback and reach out with any questions while they apply their feedback to the current draft. When questions arise, sometimes it creates anxiety, and that’s when reaching out to a Writing Instructor at writingsupport@waldenu.edu would come handy. If a suggestion does not seem clear enough or perhaps you would like additional examples, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Writing Instructor with your writing-related questions. The Writing instructor will respond via email with 24 hours. After you received the necessary answers, take some time to apply the Writing Instructor’s feedback to your current draft.

4. Apply the Writing Instructor’s feedback

A great way to ease your anxiety, it is essential to read through the Writing Instructor’s feedback and apply it to your current draft. By taking this step, you will gain valuable insight into how you can strengthen your writing and ensure that your writing meets the assignment’s requirements. Some students notice a significant change in their writing that they come back to the Writing Center for multiple appointments.

5. Make multiple paper review appointments

To maximize the resources in the Writing Center, I like to encourage students to make multiple paper review appointments. In my experience, students who make at least three paper review appointments have noticed a positive change in their writing and academic success. Read more on our Third Time's the Charm: The Magic of Multiple Paper Review Appointments blog post and find out additional benefits of making multiple paper review appointments.

Academic writing can feel difficult and create writing anxiety, but it does not have to be that way. Overcome your writing anxiety by setting up a paper review appointment today, and I guarantee you will feel confident as a writer and increase your academic success. Click “Paper Review Appointment” to make an appointment today and receive useful personalized instructional feedback to strengthen your writing.

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Jeannie Croichy has 14 years of experience in the field of education and she has used that time to develop unique and innovative writing pedagogies to bring out the highest potential in students. She is a dedicated and well-rounded writing educator with extensive experience working with students from all over the world. She received her MEd in English Language Learner from Ashford University and BA in English Writing from William Paterson University of New Jersey. She is currently pursuing her EdD in Higher Education and Adult Learning at Walden University. 

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Thursday Thoughts: Remembering your Reader

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Sometimes in the midst of all your coursework, it can feel like all your writing is made to be read by your classmates on a discussion board. It becomes easy to assume that this is your most common audience, but as you move through your academic program, and after graduation, your audience will become more varied. Perhaps you will be writing for other professional in your field, or for co-workers, or for the general public in popular publications. Maybe you will write for people who don’t know a lot about your topic yet, and maybe you will write for people whose expertise exceeds your own. Whatever your audience may be, it will have more variety than your classmates, and it will appear in more places than a discussion board. So how do you consider your audience?

A little something to remember

When writers consider their audience, they are able to engage them through appropriate content and word choice. and Knowing that our students will work and write in many fields, and that the purpose for writing may also shift, we have created resources for considering the audience:

The Walden University Writing Center

The Walden University Writing Center creates content to help students with a range of topics related to scholarly writing, APA style, and the writing process. We host webinars, and offer paper reviews, live chat, and a podcast.

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Where To Go From Here: Redefining Your Writing Prompt

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In our appointments in the Writing Center, we typically talk about the writing process as something defined by the writing assignments you get from your instructors. Let’s say you’re asked to write a 3-5 page paper responding to a prompt about a topic you’ve been studying. You might use a process like the one we describe on our website, in which you complete subsequent steps to achieve a particular writing goal. We often use the word iterative to describe this process, which means that you’ll rarely go through these steps just once for any given writing task—typically, you’ll go through them a few times, making progress in each cycle until the paper is as complete as you can make it.

Where to go from here: redefining your writing prompt

This is an excellent way to approach many projects, especially relatively short course papers. In my perspective as an instructor, I also think it helps writers develop a strong writing practice. You might question, though, whether this process is ideal for other kinds of projects—should you take these same steps when writing something long, like a master’s thesis. Conversely, what if you only need to revise a portion of a paper—a section or even just a paragraph?

When you’re in a situation like this, I argue that you can—and should—use the process described above, but you should add an important step at the beginning. Rather than taking your assignment instructions as your prompt, your first task now should be to redefine your prompt based on what you need to accomplish. Often, this involves breaking a large project into a set of smaller projects in order to establish a set of criteria (or set a goal) for the project by asking yourself questions about what your finished product should look like.

Let’s go through a hypothetical example to illustrate how this new redefined writing process might work. Let’s say you’ve written a paper and had it reviewed by an instructor in the Writing Center. For the most part, it looks good: it’s clear on the sentence level, your body paragraphs are clearly organized, and you draw several key conclusions about your overall topic. The instructor noted, however, that it’s missing a thesis statement, and they recommend that you provide one early in the paper to give your reader a good sense of what you’re arguing. 

Here’s a process you might use for this task:

Redefine your prompt: “I need to add a thesis statement in the introduction of my paper. It should include just 1-2 sentences, and it needs to be specific, concise, and arguable.”

Read critically: Gather ideas you could use or refer to in your thesis. This might involve rereading your paper and noting the conclusions you’ve drawn about your evidence. How do these conclusions fit together? What bigger argument do they contribute to? What overall claim are you making?

Organize: Make a plan for your thesis statement. You could even write a short outline to make sure you’re covering everything you need to. (This might also be a good time to read through the Writing Center’s thesis-statement web page or watch our Writing Strong Thesis Statements webinar to get more information on what your thesis should include.)

Write your rough draft: Write your thesis statement.

Revise: Take a look at your draft and compare it to the redefined prompt you set. Is anything missing? Is anything included that shouldn’t be?

Write your final draft: Make one more pass through your thesis for clarity and style, then insert it into your overall paper.

Reflect: Think about how this went and any changes you could make for the future. You might, for example, remind yourself to include a thesis during the planning step when you write your next paper.

Of course, the details of each step in the process will vary depending on the task at hand. For a section of a literature review, your prompt might be something like “write a 1-2 page synthesis of the articles I read that address technological barriers to EHR adoption in rural clinics,” and for a major assessment project it might be “in 1-2 paragraphs, identify the problem of high teacher attrition rates and the gap in the literature regarding this topic.”

You may not need to take all of these steps for every writing task you face—in some situations they may not all be strictly necessary (e.g., you may not need to revise or reflect when fixing a minor word-choice issue), and you may take some of them subconsciously. I encourage you, though, to practice setting your own criteria for your writing tasks. It can help you manage your projects, use your time judiciously, and become a more self-sufficient writer.

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Matt Sharkey-Smith 
is a senior writing instructor in the Walden Writing Center. He also serves as contributing faculty in the Walden Academic Skills Center.  Matt joined the Writing Center in 2010 with a BA in English from Saint John's University in Minnesota. He earned an MFA in Writing from Hamline University in St. Paul in 2011 and has worked outside of Walden as a technical writer, fact-checker, copy editor, tutor, and writing instructor.

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