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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Misplacing the Word 'Effectively'

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In English, the position of a word in a sentence is significant. Where a word appears in a sentence depends on whether you are writing about time, a question, an adverb; it depends on whether you are writing a positive sentence, a negative sentence, or a subordinate clause.

Adverbs are problematic because they can appear before the subject of the sentence, between the subject and the verb, or after the verb. Their meaning will generally change according to position in the sentence. So it’s not uncommon to see adverbs misplaced in written English.

Such an adverb is effectively. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (preferred by APA and Walden), when placed between the subject and the verb, it means  in effect or  virtually <by withholding funds they effectively killed the project>. But when it is placed after the verb, it means in an effective manner <dealt with the problem effectively>. Follow this URL: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/effectively

Putting an adverb in the wrong position in a sentence will likely confuse readers. For example, you would not want to write, “by withholding funds, they killed the project effectively,” if you meant to say only that the project was virtually killed (“by withholding funds, they effectively killed the project”).

To say how something was done, the adverb must be used after a verb. Use this infographic below as a handy reminder:

Using 'effectively' effectively infographic by the Walden Writing Center


Practice: Do a search (hint: use CTRL + F) in a piece of your writing for the word 'effectively'. Are you using it as you mean to? Share with us in the comments.

author

Tim McIndoo
, who has been a dissertation editor since 2007, has more than 30 years of editorial experience in the field of medicine, science and technology, fiction, and education. When it comes to APA style, he says, "I don't write the rules; I just help users follow them."

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Why I Almost Gave Up on My Degree Program and What Kept Me Going

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Right now, I am in the unique position of being a staff member in the Walden Writing Center as well as being a student in Walden’s EdD program, and I am currently working on my proposal. I thought that because I know a great deal about the resources that are available to students and because I am well acquainted with the process and expectations of the doctoral program, I would be able to fly through the program with ease and grace without needing to rely on the numerous sources of support that Walden offers. Boy, was I wrong.

I love being a student, and I was right on track with my doctorate while I was in my courses. I was capable of going at it alone; I did not rely on my instructors, peers, or other resources, such as the Writing Center’s paper reviews or webinars, very much. I got into a rhythm, and I really enjoyed the program. Then the coursework ended. Now, you are probably reading this and thinking that maybe I have really poor time management skills, which would be reasonable considering the lack of a structured timeline during the proposal stage. Or you might think that I do not have the intellectual threshold or writing skills I need to move forward in the program. None of those were the problem, though. I am a planner by nature, so I like to think I have pretty good time management skills. I know I have the writing skills (the intellectual threshold part has yet to be determined), so these were not the problem. The problem I had was life.

Do you ever feel like giving up on a class or program? What keeps you going?
Photo by Ryan McGuire of BellsDesign | CC0 
I recently read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education* about Ph.D. students and how difficult it is for them to get their doctoral degree in a timely manner. The recurring theme I noticed in the article was unexpected life events, and I have found that this rings true with me as well. I am willing to bet that many of you can relate to me. I am a student in a doctoral program, but I am also a full-time employee, a parent, and a person who has family, social, and community obligations. I balance many things in my life, and I plan, schedule, and make lists to help make it all happen. When it all flows like I expect it to, it is great. However, life has a habit of surprising us, and planning feels so futile to me at times. 

The life event that derailed me from making progress on my proposal was the death of my mother-in-law. She became ill, was hospitalized, and then became comatose and finally passed away over the course of a few weeks. I stepped away from my proposal in order to make time for my family because they needed me. I did not just take time off for the funeral, though. My mother-in-law’s death had residual effects on my husband, my children, and my in-laws. I ended up taking a few months off, and the longer I was away from my proposal, the more resistant I became to returning to it. 

It was really tough to make myself check my student e-mail or even enter the Blackboard classroom because I felt so behind compared to my peers in my cohort. I was constantly finding reasons to put off working on my proposal, and I had almost resigned to let it languish indefinitely as I contemplated quitting the program. I was really frustrated and disappointed in myself, but I just could not get motivated or inspired to continue. 

Then something wonderful happened. I opened my student e-mail. There was an e-mail from my chair, and another one from a student in my cohort. They wanted to know how I was doing, they offered help, and they sent encouraging words about how they believed in me. They reminded me of how far I have come, and they gently coaxed me back into the classroom. Gradually, my academic spirit and my motivation returned as they continued to support me and persuade me to keep going.

Find strength in the relationships you build, and lean on folks when you need to do so. In turn, support others.
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What I hope you can take away is this: life happens. It is messy and it gets in the way. When it does, look for support within your Walden community. Find strength in the relationships you build and lean on folks when you need to do so. In turn, support others. If you notice one of your classmates is not as active in discussion boards or seems to be falling behind, reach out to him or her. You have no idea what other students might be going through, and you never know how much a kind word or a show of support can mean to someone. It made such a difference for me.
Do you need help finding a writing community? Join a January writing group or the Walden Capstone Writing Community.

* Walden students: Access the full text of “The Ph.D. Student’s Ticking Clock” through the Walden library.


author

Amy Kubista is the Manager of Writing Instruction at the Walden Writing Center. She is pursuing an EdD with a specialization in higher education and adult learning. 


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WriteCast Episode 16: Why You Need to Join a Writing Community

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Being a part of a writing community is a great way for student writers to connect with each other, stay motivated, keep each other accountable to writing goals, share challenges, and celebrate successes. This month, Nik and Brittany chat with Dissertation Editor Lydia about the importance of having a writing community, the communities that the Writing Center offers, and new resources for doctoral students.



Episode 16 Transcript

Next year, we're going to be trying another kind of writing community: small, private writing groups through Google+. Fill out this brief survey to become part of a group for January!

Resources mentioned in this episode:
Walden Capstone Writing Community 
Writing Center on Facebook
Writing Center on Twitter
"Writing Together: How Peer Writing Communities Can Be Your Secret to Success" blog post


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WriteCast 
is hosted by writing instructors Nikolas Nadeau and Brittany Kallman Arneson and produced by writing instructor Anne Shiell. Check out the podcast archive for more episodes.


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Responding to Feedback is Hard--Here's Why You Should Do It Anyway

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This fall, for the first time in my life, I was accused of plagiarism. I had written a literature review for my online graduate program, and due to the frequency of citations as well as the length of my reference list, my draft received a rather high similarity score in Turnitin (TII). Having felt proud of the work I submitted and confident in my paraphrasing and citation skills, I was shocked and disheartened to see a note from my professor advising me to rewrite the entire paper.

Okay, so this was not exactly an accusation, but it sure felt like one! After a moment of panic, I wrote back to my professor, politely pointing out that the only flagged content consisted of citations, references, and a few common academic expressions. We engaged in a small debate on the topic, and at last my professor concurred, acknowledged that a high similarity was to be expected due to the nature of the assignment, and even thanked me for reminding him of the need to analyze TII reports rather than judging a paper solely on its similarity percentage. This story has a happy ending, but I found the whole experience to be incredibly uncomfortable, and I had to wonder: If I did not have so much professional experience with TII, would I have stood up for my work? Would I have contacted my professor at all?

Words of wisdom from the Walden University Writing Center
Original image (c) 2014 Doug Robichaud via Life of Pix
My purpose here is not to discuss how to interpret TII reports—we’ve done that in previous posts—nor is it to criticize my professor, who only wanted to help me improve my writing. Instead, my goal is to offer a student’s perspective on Amber’s recent blog post as well as to WriteCastEpisode 15, both of which focus on responding to faculty feedback. These resources offer invaluable tips and best practices. However, as I learned this fall, engaging with feedback can be harder than it sounds – even for someone who reviews academic papers nearly every day.

Writing that first e-mail to my professor was not easy. I had to rein in my initial reactions, including panic that I had inadvertently plagiarized, indignation (“Don’t you know what I do for a living?”), and a natural inclination to acquiesce to authority figures. I had to analyze an idea that I found unpleasant—the possibility that I had plagiarized—and ask myself: Can I see where my professor is coming from? Do I understand the nature of his concern? Do I see anything that I did wrong? What evidence do I have to support my perspective? And then, after all of this, I needed to craft an articulate, respectful, convincing e-mail voicing my questions and concerns.

Engaging takes time. It takes mental effort. It requires us to juggle confidence in our perspective with open-mindedness and humility. No wonder so many of us, at the end of a long working day, are wary about expending this kind of effort. No wonder we want our homework to be as simple and painless as possible. And no wonder that even when we feel confused, isolated, or frustrated, we hesitate to reach out, to challenge, to ask.

But this type of engagement is exactly what we signed up for when we enrolled in higher education. If we are unwilling to engage our faculty in conversations and to learn more about our work, we run the risk of become passive consumers of knowledge or of falling into learning ruts. When we actively communicate our questions, comments, and concerns, however, we are co-creators of our learning experiences. We are holding up our end of the academic conversations. From my perspective, this is our responsibility as students: not just to absorb information, but to process that information, interpret it, make it relevant, and contribute to it.

So the next time you receive difficult feedback from a professor, a classmate, or even a Writing Center writing instructor, remember the following:

1. You’re not alone! If you have a question or concern, odds are that someone else does as well.
2.  Your instructors don’t know how to help you unless you contact them. They can’t meet your needs until you make those needs known.
3.  It is your right and responsibility to construct your own learning experience. Make it a good one.



author

Kayla Skarbakka is a writing instructor and coordinator of international writing instruction and support. She is earning her M.S.Ed. from Purdue University. 


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New in 2015: Join a Walden Writing Group!

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We’ve talked about the importance of having a writing community here and here on the blog, and we'll also be talking about it in our next WriteCast episode (stay tuned!). We know that finding such a community can be challenging, though, particularly at an online institution. That’s why next year, we’re trying out a new service: small, private writing groups for Walden students. 

writing group

The groups will run for four weeks in January and will take place in Google+ communities. A Writing Center staff member will organize the groups and will post some discussion questions to get things started, but what you want to get out of the group will be up to you and your group members. To help make the groups useful for everyone, we just ask that you commit to checking in to the group twice a week.

The writing groups are open to all Walden students--undergraduate and graduate--working on coursework. If you're interested in joining a writing group, please sign-up via this brief survey. If you're a doctoral student working on your proposal, we encourage you to form a group through the Walden Capstone Writing Community.

What can you do in a writing group?
Discuss writing questions, challenges, and successes
Motivate each other
Keep each other accountable to writing goals
Share writing tips and advice
Get feedback from peers on your writing

We're going to start forming groups this December, so fill out the sign-up survey today!

If you have questions about the groups, please ask them here in the comments. 


author

Anne Shiell
 is a writing instructor and the coordinator of social media resources at the Walden Writing Center. Anne also produces WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast.


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What's Your Writing Question?

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If you're a Walden student (or a student somewhere else), I'm sure you have at least one writing question just waiting to be answered. Maybe you're wondering why you have to use APA style. Maybe you have trouble with writer's block and want suggestions for getting unstuck. Maybe you rock your introduction paragraphs but struggle with conclusions. Whatever it is, we can help!

Submit your question to be answered on WriteCast

We're gathering questions about writing to be asked and answered on a WriteCast podcast Q&A episode. Simply click below (alternatively, visit our voicemail page) to record your question using your computer. Here are a couple guidelines to ensure the best recording:
  • Please ask your question slowly and clearly.
  • If you have more than one question, please ask them separately.
  • If you'd like, feel free to introduce yourself and your program or degree. You can also remain anonymous. 
  • If you have a microphone or headset with a mic, using it will provide the best sound quality. If you don't have a microphone, that's fine--just try to get close to your computer when speaking.
Follow these steps and you may hear your question--and Nik and Brittany's answer--in a future episode!

Note: If you're a Walden student or faculty member and you need an immediate answer to your question, also feel free to e-mail it to us at writingsupport@waldenu.edu.

Thank you!





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WriteCast 
is hosted by writing instructors Nikolas Nadeau and Brittany Kallman Arneson and produced by writing instructor Anne Shiell. Check out the podcast archive for more episodes.


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What’s the Difference Between a Summary, a Transition, and a Preview in a Capstone Study?

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(Note: For the sake of simplicity, this blog uses the dissertation terms chapter and section. In doctoral studies, the cognates are section and subsection.)

At the end of all but the last chapter of a capstone (dissertation or doctoral study) study, most rubrics require three elements: a summary of the current chapter and a transition statement to get readers from the current chapter to the next chapter. Then, at the start of that next chapter, there is a preview of its major sections. Because guidance from the various programs says little about how these three elements differ, they tend to be treated as equivalent to one another. For example, the summary may just list the topics covered in the chapter (much like the Table of Contents does); the transition may just list the next chapter’s main headings (much like the Table of Contents does); and like the chapter summary, the preview at the start of the following chapter may just list the next part of the Table of Contents. Alas, such redundancy is not very helpful for readers. The goal of this post is to suggest how to distinguish these elements in the narrative. 

Think of Your Study as a Story 

First, try to see your study—and write about it—as if it were a story: There’s a beginning (Introduction, Literature Review), a middle (Methodology, Results), and an end (Discussion, Conclusions, Recommendations). In the summary of each chapter, recap the main points or essence of the chapter, but do it in a way that gives your readers a sense of the study’s evolution. A mere list of topics (what was covered), is not enough. Make sure it’s clear how all the elements fit together--for example, the relationship among the problem, purpose, and research question or guiding question. You’ll be writing from a narrow perspective, that is, the current chapter.

After the chapter summary comes the transition statement, which forms a bridge between the current chapter and the following chapter. A mere list of topics is not helpful; guidance on the interrelationships is needed. Describe how the current chapter leads to the following chapter and how the next chapter advances your story (study). Write from a broad perspective, that is, your entire study.

While the transition statement serves to bridge chapters, the chapter preview opens the following chapter. In the preview, tell your readers what you will cover in just this chapter. Again, be clear about how all the elements fit together. A list of topics is not helpful. The goal is to make sure that your reader does not feel lost. Here, again, you’ll be writing from a narrow perspective, that is, the current chapter.

None of these three is easy to write. But you might consider approaching them as a tour guide or baseball announcer.

The Tour Guide

Gettysburg battlefield (image (c) Emilyk | CC by 3.0)
Imagine that you are a tour guide at a famous battlefield. As the bus pulls away from the first site, you remind the tourists about the importance of what they just saw and how it fits in the story of this particular war (like the chapter summary). You then tell them about the next stop on the tour and why you are going there (like the transition statement). Finally, you tell them what to look for (like the preview).  

The Baseball Announcer

Harry Caray, famous American baseball announcer
Imagine yourself as an announcer, like Harry Caray, famous American baseball broadcaster (Public domain image modified from the original by Delaywaves.)  
Now envision yourself doing the play-by-play announcing for a baseball game. At the end of each inning, you announce the score and recap what happened during that inning (like the chapter summary). Then you might say who’s coming to bat in the next inning and talk a little about what these players are facing this inning, based on the team’s history against this particular opponent, and how the game has progressed so far (like the transition statement). Finally, you run down the names of the three lead-off batters (like the preview).

Whether visiting a historic site, watching a baseball game, or trying to follow the argument of a complex research study, guidance is needed to recall what has been seen or read, how that fits in the bigger picture, and what is coming up next. Summaries, transition statements, and previews provide critical continuity in capstone studies. 

Summaries, transition statements, and previews provide critical continuity in capstone studies.
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Dissertation Editor Tim McIndoo, who joined Walden University in 2007, has more than 30 years of editorial experience in the fields of education, medicine, science and technology, and fiction. When it comes to APA style, he says, "I don't write the rules; I just help users follow them."


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WriteCast Episode 15: What To Do With Negative Feedback on Your Writing

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Feeling frustrated, discouraged, or confused about feedback on your writing? Want to know how to handle these feelings in the future? Don't miss our discussion with Dr. Melanie Brown, associate director and manager of writing initiatives at the Walden Writing Center. Dr. Brown also teaches Walden student support courses, and she has a lot of helpful advice for students on what to do with negative faculty feedback. Stream or download the episode below, or view the transcript, and share your thoughts with us in the comments!


Episode 15 Transcript

Blog posts mentioned in this episode: "Help Them Help You: Being Receptive to Faculty Feedback"


author

WriteCast
is hosted by writing instructors Nikolas Nadeau and Brittany Kallman Arneson and produced by writing instructor Anne Shiell. Check out the podcast archive for more episodes. 


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How to Give Useful Peer Feedback

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Throughout this article are 12 "tweetable takeaways." Click on a Twitter icon () to share one of Lydia's peer review tips. 

Giving and getting peer feedback on drafts can be an incredible tool for improving your writing, but only if that feedback is clear and specific about what to do next. Having someone say, “I liked it!” or “Well done!” can feel good for a moment, but it won’t help anyone improve.

You also don’t have to “know everything” to give helpful writing feedback; just be self-aware about your own reading experience. The whole point of feedback is to just show the author what a reader will see in a draft. 


women discuss over a laptop
Is peer review part of your writing process? 

General Strategies

Find out what the author wants, but keep in mind you may see things the author hasn’t considered yet, too. Peer review tweetable takeaway

Don’t give too much; don’t give too little. Sometimes it is not helpful to point out every error and make suggestions on every line—this can be overwhelming. Vague or incomplete feedback can be just as frustrating and can feel like a waste of time. Peer review tweetable takeaway

Follow the golden rule. Give the kind of feedback that you would like to get. That is, be respectful, constructive, thorough, and honest. Peer review tweetable takeaway

Trust yourself as a reader. If something is not clear to you, the author probably needs to make it clearer. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense because the author hasn’t made sense of it yet. Peer review tweetable takeaway

Content Critique versus Error Correction

You don’t need to be a grammar or APA expert to give worthwhile feedback. Address the big things first! For example, if you are reading over someone’s problem statement, it is probably more important that the author made sure you could understand the point than if he or she used a semicolon correctly. Focus on content and clarity before you focus on mechanical errors, like typos or missing punctuation. Proofreading concerns should come last unless they significantly interfere with a reader’s overall understanding. Peer review tweetable takeaway

Thinking of Things to Say

Keep track of questions that occur to you as you read. For example: How does this point relate to the one before? What does this term mean? Is there a missing word here? Peer review tweetable takeaway

Offer concrete suggestions whenever you can. For example: This paragraph might work better at the beginning. I was confused here—maybe a subheading would make the transition clearer. Peer review tweetable takeaway 

Examples of things to focus on in a content critique:
  • Organization (are things in a logical order?)
  • Consistency/contradiction (does the author say the same thing throughout or seem to change his or her mind?)
  • Focus (can you tell what the main ideas are, or is there a lot of extra information?)
  • General clarity (make note of passages that don’t seem to make sense to you, either because the wording is confusing, there is not enough explanation, or you can’t tell how the information fits in to the main idea)
  • Point out when authors do something well, too, and let them know why. For example: The obvious topic sentences really helped me follow your argument. The wording in this paragraph is clear and easy to understand. Explaining it this way is much better than in the earlier paragraph—now I know what you mean. 

Don’t Get Stuck

If you can’t find something positive to say about a draft, look at it from another perspective: The wording is dense and hard for you to understand, but maybe you can really tell how knowledgeable the author is about the topic. (When people have a lot to say, sometimes it just takes a few drafts to make sure they say everything in the right order.) Peer review tweetable takeaway

If you come across something you just don’t understand, tell the author this, but also say what you think it means—sometimes when an author hears a reader’s interpretation (or misinterpretation) of an idea, the author can more easily figure out what to fix. Peer review tweetable takeaway

If you can’t find anything to critique, focus on making sure the author knows why what he or she did worked. Don’t just say “This is awesome!” Be specific: “I could really tell how all the scholarly evidence fit together—the way you explained things and gave examples was really helpful.” Peer review tweetable takeaway

Interpreting Feedback for Your Own Work

Try not to take it personally—you are very close to your own writing and may think you have settled on the right way to do things. What makes sense in your head may not make sense in someone else’s.

Be grateful! Thoughtful feedback takes time and mental energy. If someone has a lot of suggestions, don’t think of it as “tearing your paper apart;” think of how many ways he or she is trying to make it better.

You don’t have to follow every suggestion, but keep an open mind. A fresh pair of eyes may catch something you missed.

Getting #writing feedback: Don't take it personally, be grateful, & stay open-minded. 
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Giving and getting peer review feedback is an excellent way to develop your skills as a writer. We encourage you to join a writing community and/or find a writing partner to make peer review a regular part of your writing process.

Practice: Find a draft of something you wrote a while ago. Pick something you haven’t written or read recently so that you have some distance from it. Take 10-15 minutes to read over and make comments on the draft, imagining you are giving feedback to a colleague on his or her work. What kinds of things do you notice? What suggestions for revision can you make?

author

Lydia Lunning is one of the editors in the Writing Center who conduct the final form and style review of all of Walden’s dissertations and doctoral studies. She was terrible at revising her own work until she joined a peer tutoring program in college.


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Ready, Set, Write! It’s time for #NaNoWriMo and #AcWriMo.

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Do you thrive under pressure? Need to set a few goals for yourself and your writing? Want to challenge yourself in your writing?

November marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo). This is the month for writers and academics across the globe to come together for accountability and motivation to start that novel they’ve always wanted to write or to work on an academic writing project. It’s a great chance for writers to get involved in a goal-oriented and fun writing community!

AcWriMo: Are you in?

Have you ever considered jumping on the writing bandwagon? Tobias Ball (Dissertation Editor and Developmental Editing Coordinator), Amber Cook (Manager of Program Outreach and Faculty Support), and Nathan Sacks (Writing Instructor) of our Writing Center staff have participated or are considering participating in NaNoWriMo. Here’s what they have to say:

Why did you choose to participate in AcWriMo and/or NaNoWriMo?

Tobias Ball (Dissertation Editor and Developmental Editing Coordinator): “I did it because [a coworker] ...suggested I give it a try. I had an idea for a novel that I had not yet started, so I went for it.”

Amber Cook (Manager of Program Outreach and Faculty Support): “I needed a kickstart for a writing project I’d been dreaming about for a while. I was always overwhelmed at the idea of committing to such a long-term goal, so having a month-long challenge made it seem much more doable.”

Nathan Sacks (Writing Instructor): “Any writing practice is good writing practice, and I look at NaNoWriMo as a chance to work on a completely new project I have never thought of or worked on before.”

You participated in NaNoWriMo in the past. What were the drawbacks to participating?

Tobias: “There were no drawbacks. It was fun and I wrote 85,000 words in 4 weeks. It felt good to start and complete something.”

Amber: “I got really behind on my Netflix queue. :) [Also] November is a tough month, with Thanksgiving travel and pre-holiday business, and I lost some steam at the end last time. I have a desk job, so it was sometimes hard to make myself spend yet another few hours at a desk for so many days in a row.”

What particular challenges did you experience or do you expect to encounter?

Tobias: “My regular pattern is to start my day with about an hour of writing. […] I added some writing time at night.”

Nathan: “If you can’t write one day because of an emergency or other reason, it may be harder to get back on the saddle and keep working for the rest of November. [Another challenge is] running up against the limits of my knowledge and imagination, which is always when I generate the best stuff.”

What benefit would it be to Walden students to participate in AcWriMo and/or NaNoWriMo?

Amber: “The short-term nature of the challenge helps keep the end in sight, so it doesn’t seem as overwhelming as, say, a 12-month project. It also provides a helpful accountability framework, allowing you to connect with others on the same solitary journey and reminding you to stay on track with your page count.”

Are YOU up for the challenge? See PhD2Published's AcWriMo 2014 announcement and the NaNoWriMo official website for more details.
Practice: For the next 10 minutes, think about a writing goal that you have for this month. Then, declare your goal in the comments! Remember to provide feedback to other writers to help them stay motivated and accountable towards their goals.  

author

Rachel Grammer
 is a writing instructor and the coordinator of student messaging at the Walden Writing Center. The best writing advice she has received is to turn off the "internal editor" when beginning a paper--a great tip for starting AcWriMo or NaNoWriMo!


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Writing Center Services Announcement from the Director

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As many of you have probably heard by now, the Writing Center and Academic Skills Center have recalibrated their services to better support student writing at Walden. In short, we are (a) adding doctoral writing workshops for capstone (premise, prospectus, and proposal) writers and (b) shifting of our paper review service to serve undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students in coursework only. This means that by the end of the year our paper review schedule will no longer accommodate capstone drafts, but all of our other services (e.g., course visits, developmental editing, Q&A support, webinars) will continue to support capstone writers.

The rationale for this change is twofold: We want to (a) reserve skill-building sessions for those students still in the formative stages of their degrees and (b) create a scalable service via the workshops to ensure that all students needing assistance at this stage can be supported (e.g., we can continue to grow our faculty to accommodate our enrollment).

While this change may be welcome to some and less so to others, I do want to remind you about all of the services we offer with the following figure.

Walden Writing Center Services

Writing Center Services

Key:

Available to All Students
Exclusive to Students Working on Their Capstones
Exclusive to Undergraduate Students
Exclusive to All PreProposal Students
* Available via the Walden Writing Center website
** Membership may be requested at editor@waldenu.edu
ǂ 24-48 hours from day of appointment, exclusive to students working on their coursework

Questions or concerns can always be sent my way at brian.timmerman@waldenu.edu.


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Brian Timmerman is the director of the Walden Writing Center and the Academic Skills Center.





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From the Archives: Writing Through Fear

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Happy Halloween, readers! Today seems like the perfect day to resurrect Hillary's post on working through writing fear, originaly published in 2013. 

I suppose fall is the perfect time to discuss fear. The leaves are falling, the nights are getting longer, and the kids are preparing ghoulish costumes and tricks for Halloween.

So here’s my scary story: A few weeks ago, I sat down at my computer to revise an essay draft for an upcoming deadline. This is old hat for me; it’s what I do in my personal life as a creative writer, and it’s what I do in my professional life as a Walden Writing Center instructor. As I was skimming through it, though, a feeling of dread settled in my stomach, I began to sweat, and my pulse raced. I was having full-on panic. About my writing. 


Tips from the Walden Writing Center on writing through fear

This had never happened to me before. Sure, I have been disappointed in my writing, frustrated that I couldn’t get an idea perfectly on paper, but not completely fear-stricken. I Xed out of the Word document and watched Orange Is the New Black on Netflix because I couldn’t look at the essay anymore. My mind was too clouded for anything productive to happen.

The experience got me thinking about the role that fear plays in the writing process. Sometimes fear can be a great motivator. It might make us read many more articles than are truly necessary, just so we feel prepared enough to articulate a concept. It might make us stay up into the wee hours to proofread an assignment. But sometimes fear can lead to paralysis. Perhaps your anxiety doesn’t manifest itself as panic at the computer; it could be that you worry about the assignment many days—or even weeks—before it is due.

Here are some tips to help: 

1. Interrogate your fear. 

Ask yourself why you are afraid. Is it because you fear failure, success, or judgment? Has it been a while since you’ve written academically, and so this new style of writing is mysterious to you?

2. Write through it. 

We all know the best way to work through a problem is to confront it. So sit at your desk, look at the screen, and write. You might not even write your assignment at first. Type anything—a reflection on your day, why writing gives you anxiety, your favorite foods. Sitting there and typing will help you become more comfortable with the prospect of more.

3. Give it a rest.

This was my approach. After realizing that I was having an adverse reaction, I called it quits for the day, which ultimately helped reset my brain.

4. Find comfort in ritual and reward. 

Getting comfortable with writing might involve establishing a ritual (a time of day, a place, a song, a warm-up activity, or even food or drink) to get yourself into the writing zone. If you accomplish a goal or write for a set amount of time, reward yourself.

5. Remember that knowledge is power. 

Sometimes the only way to assuage our fear is to know more. Perhaps you want to learn about the writing process to make it less intimidating. Check out the Writing Center’s website for tips and tutorials that will increase your confidence. You can also always ask your instructor questions about the assignment.

6. Break it down. 

If you feel overwhelmed about the amount of pages or the vastness of the assignment, break it up into small chunks. For example, write one little section of the paper at a time.

7. Buddy up. 

Maybe you just need someone with whom to share your fears—and your writing. Ask a classmate to be a study buddy. 

The writing centers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Richmond, as well as the news site Inside Higher Ed, also have helpful articles on writing anxiety.

Practice: For the next 10 minutes, think about your own writing fears. What writing tasks or assignments make you anxious? How do you, or how will you, work through them? Share your practice in the comments below this post, and don't forget to give feedback to fellow writers.

author

Hillary Wentworth
 is a writing instructor and the coordinator of undergraduate instruction. She has worked in the Walden Writing Center since 2010, and she enjoys roller-skating and solving crossword puzzles.


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