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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Patchwork Paraphrasing

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I’m sure you’ve heard about paraphrasing. It’s fundamental to academic writing; it’s better than quoting, because a paraphrase, created with your own perceptions and language, is more closely connected to your ideas than someone else’s writing could ever be. Some (including me) would argue that paraphrasing is the bedrock of scholarly discourse. You’ve probably heard all of this. However, even when students know the importance of paraphrasing, and they try to paraphrase their sources rather than quoting them, they will sometimes unintentionally create something between a quote and a paraphrase, a half-measure that can weaken their writing: a patchwork paraphrase.

What is Patchwork Paraphrasing?

Writing instructors use the term patchwork for this kind of text because it has a pieced-together, hodge-podge quality rather than the seamless integration of strong academic writing. A patchwork paraphrase contains much of the same language or structure as the source it refers to, so much so that it isn’t a unique product of its author. You don’t want patchwork paraphrasing in your writing for a  few reasons, the most important ones being (a) it functions like a quote in your argument (which, as we know, isn’t as good as a paraphrase) and (b) it could be interpreted as plagiarism. 

Patchwork paraphrasing can be tricky to detect, because there’s no easy rule or telltale sign to help you determine whether your writing is patchwork. Instead, you’ll need to ask yourself this question as you write: is this phrasing truly my own creation?
quilt image
Patchwork paraphrasing is sometimes referred to as "quilted text"--
writing that does not use the author's voice but is instead primarily 
made up of words and phrases from the original source or sources.

Patchwork Examples

Let’s look at an example to get a better sense of how you can answer this question. I pulled this passage from an article I found on systems thinking in healthcare:
Health professionals will need to be able to set common goals and targets with patients, service users and relevant stakeholders, and ensure that each group or individual is properly informed and engaged. From a systems thinking perspective, increased participation provides the opportunity to break down barriers between patients and providers, and citizens and policy makers. Evidence and explicit knowledge need to be integrated with tacit knowledge of stakeholders within the working dynamic of the health team. (Swanson et al., 2012)
Here’s a patchwork paraphrase of the same passage:

Healthcare providers need to set common goals for patients, service users, and stakeholders (Swanson et al., 2012). Swanson et al. (2012) argued that more participation from all stakeholders can break down barriers between patients and providers. Evidence can be combined with tacit knowledge of all of the stakeholders on the team (Swanson et al., 2012).

Notice that, technically, I’m not plagiarizing: I didn’t reuse large chunks of the passage word-for-word, and I included citations whenever I mentioned an idea from my source. However, in these sentences I used virtually the same structure as the original passage and didn’t provide my unique understanding of the topic. Compare this sentence from the original

From a systems thinking perspective, increased participation provides the opportunity to break down barriers between patients and providers, and citizens and policy makers.

with this one from my patchwork paraphrase (I’ve highlighted the major similarity)

Swanson et al. (2012) argue that more participation from all stakeholders can break down barriers between patients and providers.

In another sentence, I avoided using the original’s exact wording. However, rather than rephrasing the idea in my own voice—as I should do—I used synonyms of the original’s words. Compare this sentence from the original

Health professionals will need to be able to set common goals and targets with patients, service users and relevant stakeholders, and ensure that each group or individual is properly informed and engaged.

with this from my patchwork (I’ve also highlighted the similarities here)

Healthcare providers need to set common goals for patients, service users, and stakeholders (Swanson et al., 2012).

Instead of a paraphrase, I’ve only produced a knockoff of the original, much like Mr. Pibb was made as a knockoff of Dr. Pepper. (You can surmise which one is more scholarly based on the fact that Dr. Pibb had his degree revoked.)

A Better Paraphrase

Let’s look instead at a true paraphrase of the original:

Original:
Health professionals will need to be able to set common goals and targets with patients, service users and relevant stakeholders, and ensure that each group or individual is properly informed and engaged. From a systems thinking perspective, increased participation provides the opportunity to break down barriers between patients and providers, and citizens and policy makers. Evidence and explicit knowledge need to be integrated with tacit knowledge of stakeholders within the working dynamic of the health team. (Swanson et al., 2012)

Paraphrase:
Swanson et al. (2012), in their application of systems thinking to health care, argued that providers, patients, and other stakeholders can use goal setting, increased participation, and the integration of tacit and explicit knowledge to create positive change in their healthcare settings.

You’ll notice that, while I’ve used a few of the same words as the original (which I’ve highlighted), I’ve used a different sentence structure here. This paraphrase is also shorter than the patchwork, because I’ve focused on the aspects of Swanson et al.’s ideas that matter for my argument.

Your paraphrase of this passage would look different from mine, which is good; it would represent your understanding, not mine. You should strive for this individuality in your own paraphrasing, because this is why people will want to read your writing rather than the sources you’re using: to see your unique ideas.

Reference
Swanson, R. C., Cattaneo, A., Bradley, E., Chunharas, S., Atun, R., Abbas, K. M., … Best, A. (2012). Rethinking health systems strengthening: Key systems thinking tools and strategies for transformational change. Health Policy and Planning, 27(Suppl. 4), 54–61. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czs090

author

Matt Sharkey-Smith is a writing instructor and the coordinator of the graduate writing initiatives in the Walden Writing Center. 
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WriteCast Episode 9: The Residency Experience: Reflections from Current Walden Students

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This month on WriteCast, Nik interviews doctoral students at the Walden residency in Atlanta. Lam Cosmas (PhD in Management candidate), Gladys John (PhD in Human Services candidate), and Karim McDaniels (PhD in Management candidate) talk about their residency experiences, writing journeys, and writing advice for fellow students.


WriteCast podcast team

Writing Instructors Nik NadeauAnne Shiell, and Brittany Kallman Arneson produce the WriteCast podcast. 



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Writing Together: How Peer Writing Communities Can Be Your Secret to Success

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Writing together: The secret to success


The Solitary Scholar

Writing can feel like a lonely exercise sometimes, and often when you’re alone with your keyboard it’s easy to forget about your audience. As you focus intently on the task at hand, it is also easy to forget that, as you write, you are one among many people adding their voices to a broader academic discussion.

In your work at Walden, you may feel additionally isolated because most of your interactions happen online. While you may get to know your colleagues through class discussion and at residencies, geographical distance can make it easy to forget about your peers and the support they can offer. Don’t let this happen, or you could miss out on a lot.

Writing with a Group

Writing with your colleagues has a number of benefits:
  • It lets you work together to solve problems when you face similar issues with your writing.
  • It makes you stick to a schedule and keeps you accountable to other people.
  • It helps you become a better reader and reviser of your own work.
  • It shows you how other people approach the writing process.
  • It gives you the chance to share what you know and what has worked for you.
  • It keeps you connected and helps you understand how other readers see your work.
  • It gets you used to sharing your own ideas and lets you learn from your colleagues as they share theirs.

You are Not Alone (for better or worse)

As you progress through your degree, you should remember you are learning to write for an increasingly larger audience. So, even if it feels like you are just alone with your keyboard writing to nobody sometimes, remember two very important things:
  • Developing your academic voice and writing in a scholarly way is all because you are in training to produce work that other researchers will someday read;
  • Also, perhaps more importantly, you have dozens, even hundreds of peers who are going through the same thing and training for the same goal, and you can learn a lot from one another.
Writing can be a lonely exercise, but it doesn't have to be.
Writing can be lonely--but it doesn't have to be. 

Building a Writing Community

There are a number of ways you can start a writing group, even if your colleagues are hundreds of miles away. If you are a doctoral student working on writing your proposal or final study, you can join the Walden Capstone Writing Community.

If you are not in a doctoral program or you’re not quite at the proposal stage yet, keep track of the people you meet in your courses and at residencies who are working on similar topics, exchange contact information, and try to set up a time when you can all get together either online or over the phone to share drafts, talk about ideas, or work out problems you may have as you write. Helpful tips for keeping the group going include
  • Consistency—Make a commitment to meet regularly, and try not to skip meetings, even if no one has a draft to share. Don’t let yourself get out of the habit of checking in with each other.
  • Collegiality—Writing groups thrive on honest and respectful exchanges between peers, so make sure you remain engaged with others’ work and offer useful feedback every time.
  • Compatibility—Try to build a group with people with whom you know you will work well. This could mean you are all writing on similar topics, or it could mean that you all work in the same way or just like to write at the same times. Be aware of what works well for you and find other people with similar habits.

As a Walden student, you may not have the luxury of a physical student lounge where you can hang out and work with your peers, but that doesn’t mean you have to write alone. Be proactive and get creative. Staying connected through this process will help you develop your own writing, and it will also give you the support you need when the going gets tough.




Other posts you might like:

Who Needs a Writing Buddy? You Do!
Community: Your Secret Weapon





Dissertation Editor Lydia Lunning

Lydia Lunning
is one of Walden’s dissertation editors and the Coordinator for Capstone Resources in the Writing Center. Lydia also helps oversee the Walden Capstone Writing Community, a place where doctoral students working on their proposals and final studies can connect with their colleagues and get support through the capstone writing process.

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From the Archives: Calling All International and Multilingual Students!

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This week, we're re-sharing Kayla's popular post with tips and resources--including some updates--for international and multilingual students. 


Every so often, we tutors (update: now called writing instructors) receive e-mails from students expressing concerns about writing in English. “Some of my issues are related to translation,” a student recently noted. “My first language is Spanish, so you can imagine how difficult it is to write a paper in English.”

As someone with an embarrassingly limited knowledge of other languages, I certainly can imagine the challenge. There’s no way around it: scholarly writing is tough. The sophisticated vocabulary, tone, and structure needed to write clearly about complex ideas can prove arduous even if you’re writing in your first language. When you’re writing in a second (or third or fourth) language, the challenge is, of course, all the greater.



Global group of people
Walden students live all over the world.
However, the rewards of this struggle are also great. In my year and some as a Walden writing tutor, I’ve read countless eye-opening papers from international and multilingual students. I’ve learned about education in Japan, healthcare in Nigeria, and business in Saint Martin. I’ve read accounts of identifying with multiple cultures and triumphs in navigating in a new country. And I’ve developed a profound respect for all the dedicated, hardworking multilingual students whose perspectives and experiences enrich the scholarly dialogue at Walden.

Free Resources for You

To help with the challenges of academic writing in English, the Writing Center offers great resources, 100% free of charge, to all Walden students:
Consider these options as well:

  • Writing courses through the Academic Skills Center. One course to consider is Graduate Writing for Non-Native English Speakers, which reviews the grammar and writing skills necessary for success in your work here at Walden.
  • Daily Buzzword or The Challenge to build vocabulary.

Finally, and most importantly, we’re always looking for ways to improve our resources. If you're a current international and/or multilingual Walden student, please take our brief survey to help us improve our services for you. The survey link will remain posted here as long as the survey is active. Thank you!













Kayla Skarbakka
Writing Instructor and Coordinator of International Writing Instruction and Support Kayla Skarbakka earned her certificate in teaching English as a foreign language in Peru. She has also lived in Chile and Minnesota, and she currently resides in Texas. 

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Breaking Down the MEAL Plan: Wrapping Up With Lead Out Sentences

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Over the past three weeks, Beth, Sarah, and Jen explained the first three parts of a MEAL plan* paragraph: a main idea, evidence, and analysis. This week we’re going to explore the fourth and final letter of the MEAL plan acronym: L, for “lead out.” 

Breaking Down the MEAL Plan: Part 4: The Lead Out Sentence

Of all the components of the MEAL plan, the lead out is the one I see writers struggle with most often. Maybe it’s because the term “lead out” doesn’t paint as clear a picture in our minds as do “main idea,” “evidence,” and “analysis.” Those three words show up often in course readings and assignments; “lead out,” not so often. So what does it mean to lead your reader out of the paragraph? In order to write an effective lead out sentence, it’s important to know what it is, but also what it is not.

A lead out sentence is:
  • The final sentence of the paragraph.
  • A summary of the main point you want your reader to take away from your paragraph.
  • A resting place for your reader to process what he or she has just read before moving on to new content in the next paragraph.
A lead out sentence is not:
  • A transition sentence.
Yep, that’s right. Though “lead out” sounds like a synonym for transition, for paragraphing purposes, it isn’t. Here’s why.

Imagine your paper is a journey you are taking with your reader. You are the guide, and you have the map; the reader doesn’t know where you are going, but trusts you to lead expertly and to thoughtfully consider how long each leg of the journey should be. Your job is to anticipate the most logical resting points, and group your ideas together in ways that will allow the reader to rest easily between them. These groupings are your paragraphs. The space between each paragraph is a resting point, a place for the reader to briefly process what he or she has just experienced on the leg of the journey just completed: the previous paragraph.

So, what do you want your reader to process while he or she rests up for the next leg? A succinct summary of the main content of the preceding paragraph. If you transition before the resting point, the reader may not be able to rest at all; instead, he or she has to jump instantly into processing a new idea.

As an illustration, let’s look once again at our sample paragraph from the first three blog posts. This time, though, I’ve changed the original lead out sentence to a sentence that transitions to a new idea.
     Many infant and mother deaths can be prevented, especially in the third world. Worldwide, around 11,000,000 children under 5 years old die primarily from preventable diseases, and over 500,000 mothers die from pregnancy- or delivery-related complications annually; almost 99% of these occur in developing countries (Hill et al., 2007). This high number is devastating because while infants in these countries have a high risk of dying, their risk does not stop once they are adults. For women, the lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes is about 100 times higher in Bangladesh than in developed countries (WHO, 2004). The continued failures in implementing straightforward interventions targeting the root causes of mortalities have been responsible for these deaths (McCoy, 2006). The medical community has not been able to come up with simple, cost-effective, and life-saving methods that would help save lives in developing countries. In spite of these high mortality rates, women hold more political seats in Bangladesh than in nearly all other developing nations in the world.

Do you see how that last sentence, while well-written, factual, and smoothly linked to the preceding content, feels jarring at the bottom of that paragraph? If, as a writer, I wanted to move from discussing infant and mother mortality rates in Bangladesh to discussing Bangladeshi women in politics, I could certainly do so, especially if my paper was a broader discussion of life for women in Bangladesh. It would make much more sense, however, to make this transition at the top of the next paragraph, after the reader had rested and taken in the content in this paragraph about high mortality rates. The transitioning sentence would instead become the main idea (that “M” in the MEAL plan) of the next paragraph.

The original concluding sentence of the example paragraph is a perfect example of a successful lead out. Let’s check it against the criteria listed above.
This lack of innovation in the medical field has resulted in the continued unnecessary deaths of thousands of mothers and children.

 Is it the final sentence of the paragraph? Yes.
 Does it summarize of the main point of the paragraph? Yes. It does not repeat the main idea but instead helps tie together all three MEAL components that precede it: main idea, evidence, and analysis.
 Does it help the reader rest before moving on to the next paragraph? Yes. It gives readers content from the previous paragraph to file away in their brain so that they are up to speed on the paper’s argument and are ready to move on.
 Does it wrap up the idea(s) in the paragraph rather than transitioning to a new idea? Yes. It stays with the same ideas, leaving the transition for the beginning of the next paragraph.


Using the MEAL plan can help you write paragraphs that are organized, developed, focused, and easy for readers to understand. Try the MEAL plan with your next piece of writing, and let us know how it goes in the comments!

*The MEAL plan is adapted from the Duke University Writing Studio.

Breaking Down the MEAL Plan with the Walden Writing Center: Part 1: The Main Idea Breaking Down the MEAL Plan with the Walden Writing Center: Part 2: Evidence Breaking Down the MEAL Plan with the Walden Writing Center: Part 3: Analysis Breaking Down the MEAL Plan with the Walden Writing Center: Part 4: The Lead Out Sentence Image Map


Brittany Kallman Arneson
 is a Writing Instructor and the Coordinator of Writing Center Residency Instruction and Design. Brittany also co-hosts WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast.

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Breaking Down the MEAL Plan: Adding Analysis

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In the past couple weeks, Beth and Jen have outlined the importance of including a main idea sentence and credible evidence in each of your MEAL plan* paragraphs. This week we’re going to examine the third letter of this acronym: A, for “analysis.”

Breaking Down the MEAL Plan: Part 3: Analysis

Effective paragraph-level analysis should explain your evidence for your readers and clearly link each piece of evidence to your main idea. In other words, analysis should function as both the “you” (your unique interpretation of evidence) and the “glue” (a clear linkage among pieces of evidence and between evidence and the topic sentence) in every paragraph. To ensure you have analysis in your paragraph and that it serves the appropriate function, you will want to ask yourself three key questions:

1. Do I interpret/explain each piece of evidence for my reader? Let’s say I only included the following evidence in my paragraph:
Recently, in the state of Georgia, 18.5% of youth were categorized as being overweight, and 16.5% were categorized as being obese (CAHMI, 2011).

Without analysis, my readers could interpret this statement in many ways. For instance, a reader from Louisiana, a state that has much higher youth obesity rates, might interpret this evidence to mean that the state of Georgia is doing pretty well regarding youth obesity. However, a reader from Oregon, a state that has very low youth obesity rates, might read this same statement very differently. My job as a writer is to tell my readers what this evidence means or how it should be interpreted.

2. Do I clearly link my ideas together? Often, writers might include strings of paraphrased evidence, but they do not tell readers how these pieces of evidence are connected. Highlighting the relationships between pieces of evidence is also an important form of analysis. For instance, let’s add another sentence of evidence to my previous sentence. Now, the evidence portion of my paragraph reads as follows:
Recently, in the state of Georgia, 18.5% of youth were categorized as being overweight, and 16% were categorized as being obese (CAHMI, 2011). In 2007, 16% of youth were categorized as being overweight, and 21.3% were categorized as being obese (CAHMI, 2007).
Here, I have written out two pieces of evidence, but I have not informed my readers of how this evidence is related or what this evidence means within the context of my paragraph. In order to clarify my meaning, I need to add some analysis to my second sentence:
Recently, in the state of Georgia, 18.5% of youth were categorized as being overweight, and 16% were categorized as being obese (CAHMI, 2011). Although still high, these numbers have decreased significantly from 2007—when 16% of the youth in the state were categorized as overweight and 21.3% were categorized as obese (CAHMI, 2007)—indicating that the state’s healthy eating campaign is having a positive result.

This revised second sentence clearly demonstrates a relationship between the pieces of evidence and details why I’ve included the evidence—to demonstrate the decrease in overweight and obesity rates as a result of the state’s healthy eating campaign.

3. Are my ideas clearly connected to my paragraph’s main idea? Your evidence must be linked to or progress your main idea. You can ensure this connection or progression through the use of solid analysis. For instance, let’s say my topic sentence for the above evidence and analysis is as follows:
Healthy eating campaigns are one effective way to reduce rates of youth obesity in the state of Georgia.

My above analysis helps link back my evidence to this very claim, progressing my argument and, hopefully, persuading my reader to agree with my position.

So, now let’s ask these same questions of the sample paragraph Beth introduced in her initial post:
Many infant and mother deaths can be prevented, especially in the third world. Worldwide, around 11,000,000 children under 5 years old die primarily from preventable diseases, and over 500,000 mothers die from pregnancy- or delivery-related complications annually; almost 99% of these occur in developing countries (Hill et al., 2007). This high number is devastating because while infants in these countries have a high risk of dying, their risk does not stop once they are adults. For women, the lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes is about 100 times higher in Bangladesh than in developed countries (WHO, 2004). The continued failures in implementing straightforward interventions targeting the root causes of mortalities have been responsible for these deaths (McCoy, 2006). The medical community has not been able to come up with simple, cost-effective, and life-saving methods that would help save lives in developing countries. This lack of innovation in the medical field has resulted in the continued unnecessary deaths of thousands of mothers and children.

1. Do I interpret/explain each piece of evidence for my reader? Yes! I provide a clear statistic of infant and mother deaths, then I tell my reader how to interpret this statistic: “This high number is devastating…”.  Next, I demonstrate why it is devastating, highlighting the medical community’s “continued failures in implementing straightforward interventions…that would help save lives in developing countries.”  In this paragraph, words like “devastating” and “unnecessary” also act as analysis, telling readers how they should interpret the evidence I am providing.

2. Do I clearly link my ideas together? Yes! By using transitional phrasing throughout my paragraph, I am forcing readers to see connections between my ideas. For instance, the phrase “This high number” that begins my third sentence relates to the number of deaths I detail in the second sentence. Similarly, “This lack of innovation” is an analytical phrase that ties my last sentence to the details concerning the medical community’s failure to innovate to saves lives in the previous sentence. Even transitions such as “likewise” or “however” can draw out connections for your readers and serve as part of your analysis.

3. Are my ideas clearly connected to my paragraph’s main idea? Yes! My main idea sentence addresses the preventability of many mother and infant deaths in developing countries. In this paragraph, my analysis highlights this claim as both serious and devastating, blaming the international medical community for these deaths. This analysis explains and progresses the argument I laid out in my initial main idea sentence.  

Although academic prose requires more than inserting the “you” and “glue” into your writing, effective analysis plays the important role of convincing readers of your interpretation of a topic or an argument through well connected ideas and evidence. 

*The MEAL plan is adapted from the Duke University Writing Studio.


For our final post in the series, go here next.
Breaking Down the MEAL Plan with the Walden Writing Center: Part 1: The Main Idea Breaking Down the MEAL Plan with the Walden Writing Center: Part 2: Evidence Breaking Down the MEAL Plan with the Walden Writing Center: Part 3: Evidence Breaking Down the MEAL Plan with the Walden Writing Center: Part 4: The Lead Out Sentence Image Map



Dr. Sarah Prince is a writing instructor and coordinator of embedded writing support and design. Sarah's favorite thing about working with Walden students is helping them develop the confidence, clarity, and unique critical voice it takes to become effective and articulate scholarly writers.

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The Writing Center Celebrates the Launch of myPASS

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After months of planning, plotting, and preparing, the Writing Center staff is thrilled to announce the launch of its new scheduling system, myPASS (my Paper Appointment Scheduling System). Based on the valuable input received from Walden students and faculty about the old paper review system, the Writing Center launched myPASS to provide a more streamlined experience for scheduling a paper review. We are confident that both students and Writing Center staff will enjoy the new features that myPASS has to offer.

The new system includes several benefits that include the ability to
  • search for open paper review appointments through a more organized, user-friendly interface;
  • join a waiting list for open appointments;
  • access the schedule via most mobile devices;
  • attach your paper and provide review preferences within a single system;
  • access past reviews;
  • include or attach assignment instructions;
  • articulate your place in the writing process and your goals for the review; and
  • view bios of each writing instructor to gauge their specialties and interests.



While this new tool has so much more to offer, it does require that students learn to navigate a different system. Change can be tough, so we have created some fantastic resources to guide you.  First, check out the Paper Reviews page on our website to read about how to make appointments, attach a paper, sign up for the waiting list, and so on. Next, check out the video tutorials we created.  You can put up your feet and watch all of the video snippets at once, or you can click through the playlist to find specific videos. Finally, register in myPASS and try it out for yourself! The link to the myPASS schedule is conveniently located in your myWalden portal (Click on the Academics tab, look under Research & Resources, click on the Schedule an Appointment link, and under Writing Center, click the myPASS link). Be sure to visit the WritingCenter Policies page as well. Because we have a new schedule with new features, we have had to adjust some of our policies. One of our favorite policy changes is that with myPASS, you will be able to schedule one appointment per week, see appointment openings, and have more than one appointment scheduled at a time.

Well, that should do it. And of course, we appreciate any and all feedback you can provide us with at writingsupport@waldenu.edu or here in the blog comments. We’d love to hear from you as we continue to refine and improve our services. Happy writing!

Brian




Brian Timmerman is the director of the Walden University Writing Center.

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