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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Demystifying the Introduction/Abstract Divide Part 2: The Abstract

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Last week’s post discussed writing an introduction, so today we’ll look at another element of academic writing that goes at the beginning of your paper: the abstract. This post will also provide you with some examples and checklists so that you can compose your abstract with confidence. And remember, requirements for abstracts differ between programs and type of project—Walden University actually prohibits the use of first-person in capstone project abstracts. Make sure you double check your template and ask your faculty member if an abstract is necessary and what format is appropriate if so.


Demystifying the Abstract Introduction divide: The Abstract


Generally, the main differences between abstracts and introductions are that an abstract, unlike an introduction, is a summary, and not a teaser summary, a complete summary. This is because the purpose of the abstract is very different from an introduction. 

When you write an abstract, your reader wants to know if reading the entire article is worth their time—so they don’t just want an overview, they want to know specifics. In an abstract you want to concisely hit the main points, research findings, and conclusions of the paper. You aren’t trying to persuade your reader— instead, you’re giving everything away. In the course of your introduction, you might cite some of your background information. However, it is typically true that abstracts do not include citations—this is because the abstract is your own summary of the information you discussed in your work. 

Looking back at the sample prompt from last week’s “Introductions” post, let’s take a look at how abstracts differ from Introductions. First off, here’s a reminder of the hypothetical paper prompt we’ll be using as a guide:
“Write a 2 page reflection paper where you discuss what your writing process looks like and how you might want to change or improve your writing process to more fully embrace the practices and tips provided in the course materials.”
And now let’s look at a sample abstract that follows our guidelines:

Here’s the sample abstract:
The writing process varies from writer to writer, but for me personally I struggle with time management in my writing. My writing process includes drafting and proofreading, currently. After reading some of the Walden writing webpages, I plan to improve my process to also include brainstorming and revision in order to reflect on my papers’ scope, focus and clarity both before and after writing so that my work with be stronger and clearer for my readers.

And now compare it to the introduction from last week:
The writing process is a circular and recursive process that writers go through when composing a piece of text (Laureate, 2016). When writers take the time to prepare for writing, it can help to make the process easier (Laureate, 2015). However, sometimes writers are short on time, and it’s challenging to complete the full writing process. This has certainly been true for me. In this paper, I will discuss the bad habits of my writing process and ways that I plan to change this process per the suggestions on the Walden University Writing Center website.  My current writing process is focused solely on drafting and proofreading and this process could be significantly improved by embracing the full writing process and focusing on better time management.

Take a look at these two examples side-by-side for easier comparison:

                       Abstract                                                      Introduction
The writing process varies from writer to writer, but for me personally I struggle with time management in my writing. My writing process includes drafting and proofreading, currently. After reading some of the Walden writing webpages, I plan to improve my process to also include brainstorming and revision in order to reflect on my papers’ scope, focus and clarity both before and after writing so that my work with be stronger and clearer for my readers.

The writing process is a circular and recursive process that writers go through when composing a piece of text (Laureate, 2016). When writers take the time to prepare for writing, it can help to make the process easier (Laureate, 2015). However, sometimes writers are short on time, and it’s challenging to complete the full writing process. This has certainly been true for me. In this paper, I will discuss the bad habits of my writing process and ways that I plan to change this process per the suggestions on the Walden University Writing Center website.  My current writing process is focused solely on drafting and proofreading and this process could be significantly improved by embracing the full writing process and focusing on better time management.

See how the sample abstract hit the main points of the prompt but didn’t evaluate or offer judgement? Instead it restated the facts and conclusions in much more detail than the introduction—which only hinted at the main processes the paper would discuss changing. The abstract explained why change would be beneficial and which specific changes would be made moving forward.

The reason for this complete summary is because when researchers work they may skim hundreds of articles related to their topic of choice—and they simply don’t have the time to read articles that 1.) Don’t fully relate to their points or research or 2.) Repeat information or sources they already have. That’s why they use the abstract—to see if reading through the entire paper will be worth their time. 

A researcher may not be sure they want to read your paper, but then discover that your own conclusions mirror their own and decide to. Or they may see your conclusions and have enough other articles supporting that idea already—so including your conclusions and concisely reiterating main points is essential for an abstract. Because you need to state your conclusions, it’s best to write your abstract after your paper is complete—that way you can make a list of your main points and conclusions and then be sure to include them in your abstract.

Now let’s take a look at an abstract checklist—things to ask yourself as you’re writing and once you’re done. Does your abstract:

  • Summarize your main points, arguments and discoveries?
  • Offer no judgement?
  • Express your points concisely?
  • Describe your conclusions?
  • Avoid citing source information?

If you’d like more practice, The Writing Center has lots of great in information about abstract basics as well as a page with some examples on our website.
Have any thoughts, comments or abstract-writing tips? Share them below!

By following these guidelines and looking back at this page once you’ve completed your abstract, you can ensure that you’re differentiating between these two important elements of academic writing and completing each successfully

 
Claire Helakoski is a Writing Instructor  at the Walden Writing Center and holds an MFA in Creative Writing. She has taught writing and Composition as well as acted as a writer and editor in a variety of mediums. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and enjoys reading, writing creatively, and board games of all kinds 


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Writing Center Closing for Memorial Day

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On Monday, May 30th, the Walden University Writing Center will be closed in observance of Memorial Day in the United States. We will return Tuesday, June 1st with our regularly scheduled programming, including the second part of our Demystifying the Introduction/Abstract Divide series: The Abstract. 

See you on Tuesday!


The Walden University Writing Center is passionate about the importance of writing inside and outside the institution and welcome the opportunity to share this passion with all members of the university community.



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Demystifying the Abstract/Introduction Divide: On Writing Introductions

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Abstracts and introductions are integral to providing your reader with helpful context at the start of a paper, but these different components have varied expectations and requirements that are sometimes unclear. Although various Walden programs may have different requirements for abstracts and introductions, the heart of the matter is this: an abstract is a summary while an introduction is the beginning, or the opening, to your paper. Today, I’ll focus on writing introductions, and next week, you’ll hear more about writing abstracts and the unique functions that these types of text provide.
Demystifying the Abstract Introduction divide. Part 1 on writing introductions

APA is often thought of as a guide for citation and format, but it also offers helpful guidelines for writing different areas of your manuscript, including introductions. The APA manual suggests that your introduction contain these components: an introduction to the problem, an exploration of the importance of the problem, a description of relevant scholarship, and a clearly stated hypothesis with correspondence to research design.

Luckily for you Walden writers out there, elements of APA's guide to introductions can be isolated and used for course writing as well. Though each assignment and program may have unique requirements to follow, the essence of this APA guideline for manuscripts is that introductions should include the following:
  • Background information, including (1) what the problem/issue/topic is, (2) why that problem/issue/topic is important, and (3) what other researchers have said or shown about this problem/issue/topic.
  • Your argument and purpose for the paper, including (1) the purpose of the paper, (2) your main argument for the paper, otherwise known as a thesis statement, and (3) what you’ll do in the paper.

Therefore, when you are writing a paper, be sure to include an introduction for the reader that offers this relevant background information and that lets the reader know your overall argument and purpose for the paper. The introduction is your chance to ease the reader into the topic with some context and a clear statement of purpose.  
***

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical assignment prompt (we’ll also use this prompt in next week’s post about abstracts) and use it to as we practice these methods to help your reader get the information needed to read your paper with ease. Here’s an example of how you might start incorporating these two elements, background information and argument/purpose, in to your writing.
Sample Assignment Prompt: Writers go through a process when composing papers.  However, not all writers practice the full writing process.  Today’s assignment asks you to reflect on your writing process and what you can do to improve it. To prepare, reflect on your own writing practices and then review the provided course materials from the Writing Center about the writing process, specifically the content on prewriting, drafting, revising, and proofreading. Then, write a 2 page reflection paper where you discuss what your writing process looks like and how you might want to change or improve your writing process to more fully embrace the practices and tips provided in the course materials.
Now that you know what the assignment is, you can use the techniques provided in the Walden Assignment Prompts: Learn the Writing Requirements webinar to break down the prompt. In this case, students are being asked to reflect and discuss their writing processes and ways to improve, citing the course materials from the Writing Center website. In writing an introduction, writers must then decide what information is relevant for background information and what kind of a thesis or purpose statement needs to be provided.  Here is a sample introduction for our prompt that provides both the elements of a strong introduction
Sample Introduction: [Background information] The writing process is a circular and recursive process that writers go through when composing a piece of text (Laureate, 2016). When writers take the time to prepare for writing, it can help to make the process easier (Laureate, 2015). However, sometimes writers are short on time, and it’s challenging to complete the full writing process. This has certainly been true for me. [Purpose statement] In this paper, I will discuss the bad habits of my writing process and ways that I plan to change this process per the suggestions on the Walden University Writing Center website.  [Thesis statement] My current writing process is focused solely on drafting and proofreading and this process could be significantly improved by embracing the full writing process and focusing on better time management.
Here are some things to note about this sample:
  • It starts with context and background information about the topic, specifically about the topic of the writing process. This context offers the reader some information to help understand the paper to come.
  • It brings in paraphrase to offer more background information and to show what others have said about this topic. This helps to build the author’s authority as well.
  • It provides a purpose statement that directly relates back to the prompt so that it’s clear what the writer is doing in the paper.
  • It provides a thesis statement that outlines the argument so that the reader knows the author’s specific take and perspective on this topic.

You can use these same techniques of offering relevant background information and then clearly stating your argument and purpose when you write introductions to prepare your reader for the paper to come.

Here are some advanced tips for when writing your own strong introduction paragraph: 
  • Consider your audience when presenting context
  • Provide a clear and argumentative thesis statement
  • Provide the preview or purpose statement, but don’t only rely on it
  • Consider writing your introduction last

For a robust explanation of how to write a successful introduction paragraph, I recommend watching this webinar, “Beginnings and Endings: Introduce and Conclude Your Writing. In addition, be sure to tune in next week to read the follow up post on writing abstracts.


Jes Philbrook
 is a Writing Instructor in the Walden University Writing Center, and one of her favorite things to teach is introductions.  A well-written introduction can be inspiring and engaging and draw a reader into the rest of the paper, and she's eager to help Walden students develop this skill of bringing readers in. In her free time, Jes likes to go on walks, canoe in rivers and lakes, and play with her adorable nieces and nephews.


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Thursday Thoughts: Our Top APA Style-Related Webinars

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Happy Thursday, Writers. Along with our current APA series on the blog, we'd like to share with you our top webinars we recommend to writers learning the finer points of writing in APA style. In no particular order:


APA Citations (Parts 1: Methods to the Madness): The first half of this two-part series introduces the important concepts related to documenting sources in APA style. Citations are covered in detail, and so too are references entries and lists. The most common types of sources Walden students will encounter are discussed here (for a look at citing and referencing less-common sources, check out APA Citations Part 2: Nontraditional Sources).

Using and Integrating Quotes and Paraphrasing Source Information: These two 'practical skills webinars' are all about joining APA rules with APA style. Sure, you have to know how to document your sources in order to quote and paraphrase from sources, but there is also an artfulness to be learned in doing so gracefully. 

References List Checklist: For those of us who are never quite sure what a 'correct reference entry' looks like we have this webinar. This might be the most useful hour you spend working on your writing. It not only tells you how to construct effective references pages, but it explains why it's important to do so. The more you know, the better you will become as a writer.

And there you have it, our top APA Style-Related Webinars. Remember, our webinars are recorded from LIVE presentations and can be streamed on-demand the day after they are originally broadcast. Check out our live schedule and see our entire catalog of webinars by visiting our Webinar home page

Happy Writing!


The Walden University Writing Center has a library of webinars on a gamut of academic writing related topics. As with all of our resources, our webinars are created to appeal to a variety of writers at a variety of skill levels at a variety of stages in their writing process. Please leave us a comment and let us know how we can be more helpful.  


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To Cite Yourself or Not To Cite Yourself: That Is The Question!

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Using a thought or idea that you have previously communicated in your past course work may come up in the course of your studies here at Walden U. According to APA citation standards, anytime you reference a thought or idea taken from another source, you cite the source. So, does this mean that you cite yourself? An important factor to consider here is that you are a student. As a student, finding yourself in an instance in which all the conditions align just right for you to cite yourself is  truly uncommon. Therefore, let’s demystify the act of citing yourself and take a look at what you should do if you are faced with the decision to cite yourself or not to cite yourself... For that is the question.    


To begin this investigation, let’s dig in a bit more to our most reliable source, the APA manual. According to the current APA 6th edition manual, “researchers do not present the work of others as their own (plagiarism),” and “they do not present their own previously published work as new scholarship” (p.16).  This makes sense, right? So, as a student involved in scholarly conversations, it would seem that you would want to cite yourself to avoid self-plagiarism.

However, an important part of this puzzle to keep in mind is that although you are a scholar participating in reading research and composing your findings, you are also a student learning and generating coursework. In being a student, the goal is that you will continue to generate new work as you build your studies and learn about your chosen field. Thus, it is not common for students to cite themselves because they are always applying their research and findings into discovering their assignments in new ways. 

As a student, your main goal is to create new boundaries as a learner. Even if you come across related course material and assignments within your specific field of study, your job is to continue to tackle your topic by finding fresh ways into interpreting your research and your assignments, and to extend yourself as you engage in critical thinking.

Best Practice: Consult with Your Faculty Member   

It is a best practice to consult with your faculty member and seek permission to cite yourself. The reason being is that there may be instances when citing yourself is not accepted. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you would like to cite a thought or idea you have previously conceived, I recommend sending your instructor a communication stating why you would like to reference a thought or idea you have made previously and your plan to apply it in a new way to the current assignment at hand. Await their response and always adhere to the direction of your faculty member.

A Rare Instance

In a rare instance, you may find that you originated a thought or idea from a previous assignment that is just so good and so applicable that you want to reference it in a current assignment and take it in a new and exciting direction. Then, in this case, you may consider citing your previous thought or idea. For example, say I came up with a cool take on applying adult learning theory to time management in previous coursework, and now I find that for my current course I am studying how to achieve an efficient schedule for a local business. I would like to reference my previous adult learning theory scheduling idea and apply it to my new local business assignment. This would be a good possible instance where I may consider citing myself. Keep in mind that my reference to my previous point would be comprised of only one or so sentences; notice the point I make where I’m citing myself is only one sentence long. Here is what it may look like.

“In looking at the company at large, the employees at the Greenwood Fitness Association (GFT) are experiencing significant scheduling problems. As a result, customer appointments have been missed. To solve the GFT scheduling problems, I propose designing a new scheduling system that would be based on adult learning theory (Lundberg, 2016). Specifically, I would like to apply the concept of choice from adult learning theory (Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy, 2011) and implement a scheduling system at GFT that would contain embedded choices. These choices would allow individual users to craft their own personalized schedules while still adhering to company mandates.” 

References*

Lundberg, C. (2016). Innovative scheduling. Unpublished manuscript, Walden University.

Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy. (2011). Adult learning theories. Retrieved from https://teal.ed.gov/sites/default/files/Fact-Sheets/11_%20TEAL_Adult_Learning_Theory.pdf

Now the mystery is solved and the choice is yours! You now know how to go about the decision to cite yourself or notMay your learning journey continue to be rich, prosperous, and fruitful as you realize it through writing!

*Note: With any citation there must also be a references entry. Notice that the entry for when you cite yourself follows a familiar formula: Name + date + Title + Unpublished Manuscript + University Name





Christina Lundberg is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center and is driven by the desire to grow, shape, and develop a page to reach its highest potential. When she is not immersed in student papers, she enjoys dance classes, coffee shops, and time with her husband and son. 


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WriteCast Episode 27: 5 Tips for Using Writing Feedback

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Greetings WriteCast-Aways. We're back with Episode 27 which looks at five helpful tips to keep in mind when you're considering feedback you've collected on your writing. One practice that all good writers share is they gather feedback on their writing from a variety of sources. Join Beth and Brittany as they discuss tips to help make the best use of this feedback depending on from where it has come. 

So, after your next Paper Review session or the next time your Uncle Jerry starts giving you unsolicited advice at the dinner table about your latest course paper, WriteCast can help you make sense of it all.

You can stream WriteCast Episode 27: Five Tips for Using Writing Feedback by clicking the player below:



And check out our WriteCast homepage on the Walden University Writing Center website where you can find a list of all 27 episodes of our "casual conversation for serious writers" as well as transcripts of each one. 

Happy Listening!


The WriteCast podcast is produced by the Walden University Writing Center. New episodes are published monthly, and suggestions for episode topics are always welcome. Just leave a note in the comments. 


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Am I Writing When I'm Not Writing? Gathering Ideas to Bring Back Home

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On the blog, we usually discuss tips and strategies for students to succeed in their writing and develop their writing skills. That makes sense, right, we’re a writing center! Sometimes, though, lessons learned while not writing can be just as useful in helping us when we get back to our desks.    
Last month I had the good fortune to attend the Online Learning Consortium’s (OLC) Innovate conference in New Orleans, along with my colleagues from Walden’s Center for Faculty Excellence, Laurie Bedford and Laurel Walsh. We were invited to present at the conference because Walden University won two OLC’s Effective Practice awards, one for the Center for Faculty Excellence’s faculty development Juntos and one for the Writing Center’s self-paced writing modules. In addition to accepting the two OLC Effective Practice awards, we also presented at the conference, talking with our fellow attendees about our work at Walden. (follow this link to view our OLC presentation if you’re interested).

Balancing work and writing can be tough, but here's one way to make it all work together.
L to R: The conference program; Beth accepts the award; Beignets in NOLA :)

We at the Writing Center are excited to be recognized by a national organization like the OLC for our ability to effectively help students with their writing. However, the award was just a small part of what made this a positive experience for me. Throughout the OLC Innovate conference, I was continually reminded of how important it can be to step away from our writing and actually engage with others in our field. During the conference, I attended panel presentations, focus groups, and round robin discussions by my peers in higher education, all working to support and teach students online. The discussion in these sessions and engagement with ideas was invaluable. This discussion and engagement with my professional community renewed my enthusiasm, gave me ideas to bring home to the Writing Center after the conference, and reaffirmed my sense of professional purpose.

So, to all of the Walden students out there, my advice today isn’t about writing. Instead, it’s about not writing. Take a break, get out there in the world, eat a delicious French pastry, and engage with others in your field whether at a conference, at work, or in your community. Talk about big ideas, compare experiences, and ask questions. You’ll come back to Walden and your writing with renewed energy and enthusiasm.


Oh yeah, and check out our award-winning writing modules. ;) 


Beth Nastachowski
 is the Manager of Multimedia Writing Instruction in the Walden Writing Center

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Achievement Unlocked: Positive Feedback Received on Writing Center Modules

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Dear Writers. We are quite proud of the resources we create for our Walden writers, and from time to time on the blog we share some of those resources with you. A while back, we shared one of our most interactive, learner-centered with you: Our Writing Center Modules on Avoiding PlagiarismLearning APA Style, and Practicing Grammar Skills. We're excited to share these resources with you again because of the great feedback we've been getting since that first post in February.

Writing Center Modules Title Page
Writing Center Modules
Take a look at our Modules homepage to start exploring this one in a kind resource


Here's how it works. Start by taking the premodule quiz to find out your areas of need. Then, move through the tutorials, focusing on the resources that appeal most clearly to your learning style. After you've completed the tutorials at your pace, then take the postmodule quiz and see how you did. And, since we believe in rewarding a job well done, you can also obtain your certificate of completion upon finishing.
Here are the four steps you can complete to self-guide through a module
Here's The Process for Completing a Writing Center Module  

Based on our assessment, students who complete these Modules show high levels of skill in the topic areas, confidence in their writing, and satisfaction with these learning tools. We've created a handy infographic with our data so you can see for yourself. And we're not the only ones who noticed. Recently, these Writing Center Modules won an Effective Practice Award from the Online Learning Consortium (we'll post more about that on the Blog soon).

Let us know what you think!




The Walden University Writing Center is committed to helping students develop as writers. Our staff of dedicated professionals supports students in building and applying their writing skills as scholars, practitioners, and agents of positive social change.


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Breaking it Down: An Introduction to APA Capitalization Rules

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APA rules can sometimes be confusing, including rules about capitalization.  Despite slight variations, the main capitalization rules can be broken down into two format categories: title case and sentence case.


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