October 2016 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Top Tips for Maintaining AcademicTone

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One of the hardest things about academic writing is staying in an academic tone.  Whether you are joining the academic community after taking years off, are new to the community, or are a seasoned academic writer, it is still something that each of us needs to be aware of in our own writing.  So, to get to the point— academic tone is very important and relevant to all academic writers, in all fields, and at all levels.  So here is my quick and dirty list of tips and tricks to make sure you are easily able to do so!

The intro slide that contains the title and the Walden U writing center logo.

Paraphrasing is a valuable way for a writer to include specific information and data to their writing, while still giving credit to the original researcher.  This allows for the writer to have the space needed to draw their own conclusions from the literature, and then present those conclusions in a specific fashion using the research of experts in the field to support their ideas.  In paraphrasing instead of directly quoting, you will also better meet the expectations of APA style, which prefers paraphrasing to direct quotes in most cases.  Also, in using paraphrasing instead of direct quotes you, as the author, are showing the reader that you are an expert in the field and do not need to rely on the direct quotes but rather have interpreted the information of others.  So, to sum it up— paraphrasing makes your sound much more academic than using direct quotes.

Paraphrase Quick List:

Use Specific Information
One of the hallmarks of academic writing is including specific information and details.  A lot of times we are so close to the materials we are presenting that the “they” or “she” we use in our writing makes perfect sense to us.  However, often times when readers see this information they aren’t quite sure what author, topic, or research study we are referencing.  This is why it is super important to use specific language.  You don’t want to spend hours and hours on a paper, only to not have the reader understand your point!

Here are some quick examples of vague wording, and how to correct it:

Needs Revision:
They (2003) surveyed 500
Dean (2003) surveyed 500… 
This was to…
The purpose of Bill 774 was to…

Specific Information Quick List:

Replace Clichés
One of the things I like to remind myself in my own writing is that clichés are OK in a first (and even a second) draft.  Many times we use clichés while we are writing because they are the most accessible words we can find at the time— the words that come to us when we are feverishly writing our research down for the first time.  The important thing to remember is that you will want to edit out all clichés and colloquialisms in your writing.  This will allow for you to have a more even and scholarly voice throughout, which will cause your reader to trust and retain your information more easily.

In this day and age
Path of least resistance
Think outside the box
Few and far between
All walks of life
At the end of the day
All intents and purposes
Writing on the wall
The rest is history

Clichés Quick List:

Revise, Revise, Revise
Even though revision is an important aspect of all academic writing, it is especially important when you revise your academic tone.  In having a consistent and scholarly tone you are ensuring that the reader fully understands not only your argument but that you are an expert in the material. 
One of the best ways to practice using scholarly writing is to write and edit your own work as frequently as possible.  In doing so you will both find your academic voice, and develop the editing skills needed to ensure you stay within your scholarly tone.  Hopefully this convinces you that it is important to use the strong writing and editing skills you are developing during your time here at Walden University. 

Revision Quick List:

Meghan Barnes is an instructor and writer based in the South. She has two dogs, and a handful of composting worms  that she enjoys feeding scraps to. When she is not writing, editing, or reading, she enjoys playing kickball, softball, and other active sports.

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Thursday Thoughts: New and Improved, Just for You!

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Hey students! The writing center has a BIG announcement, and we are very excited to finally be sharing the news with you. Since the beginning of 2016, we have been working hard to better our APA style modules for you, and the day has finally come! A big thanks goes out to our staff who have championed this cause. Beth Nastachowski, Rachel Willard, Melissa Sharpe, and Hillary Wentworth, THANK YOU.

Walden University Writing Center, APA Style Modules

Alongside our grammar modules and plagiarism prevention modules, these new and improved APA style modules are another essential tool for your success at Walden. They allow you the opportunity to learn at your own pace about the aspects of APA that you need to better understand.The new APA style modules will be your key to understanding some of the trickier aspects of APA, such as avoiding bias and clarifying the actor. They will also help you to understand tricky formatting guidelines for numbers, headings, and lists. 

Please, take a second to peek at one (or all!) of the new APA style modules below:

If you've pulled up our page for the new APA style modules, and you are not sure which modules will be the most helpful for you, consider taking one of our diagnostic quizzes for some guidance. These diagnostic quizzes will point you in the direction of the module(s) that will be most beneficial for you to study. The References and Citations Quiz would be a great place to start!

Finally, the biggest thanks goes to you, our students, for being an inspiration to us to always better our services and strive to be the best. This improvement is for YOU!

The Walden Writing Center offers to Walden students 1:1 writing support and offers to students and non-students alike all the writing expertise, tips, and information a writer could want.

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Don't Apologize for Missing a Paper Review Appointment

The Walden University Writing Center prides itself on providing Paper Review appointments to Walden University students across the globe. But have you ever wondered what happens if you make an appointment but can't meet the deadline? Not to worry! Don't let one missed appointment stand in your way from continuing to work on your academic writing.

It happens sometimes at the Writing Center: a student misses an appointment. There can be a number of reasons why this happens. Students are busy enough with schoolwork itself to also have time to work with outside services like the Writing Center. Emergencies and unforeseen events can crop up, taking time away from work. Sometimes, a student just forgets. And I am here to tell you: all of this is okay.

From time to time, the Writing Center will get responses from students apologizing profusely for missing appointments, or providing reasons and excuses. Though we always love to hear from students personally, I hope it is known that we hold no grudges and have no issues with students who miss an appointment. We completely understand.

Because the Writing Center‘s mission is to help support students, we avoid penalizing students for either policy or academic-related reasons. We also try to avoid using judgmental-sounding or discouraging language. Our goal is always to get you to come back to the Writing Center. If you miss an appointment, you should still be able to sign up for a new appointment and we will review it the way we always have. You should never worry about us chiding you for missing appointments or bothering you with multiple reminder messages.

Here’s a bit of a look behind the scenes into the Writing Center: you may think that failing to upload your paper on time is a massive inconvenience to your instructor. In fact, it is not! The worst thing that happens in this case is that your appointment will be marked as missed and a different student may take your appointment slot. We Instructors are actually pretty good at managing our time—don’t feel like you are wasting it if you miss an appointment. There are always more students to work with, and other writing-related tasks we can do.
This does not mean that missing appointments is not without consequences, however. According to our current appointment policies, a total of three missed appointments on myPASS will lead to a students’ account being deactivated. However, in those cases, all that is required is that you contact an administrator to have your account reactivated. We understand that sometimes multiple appointments will be canceled in a row because of unforeseen circumstances. Again, our goal is always to have more students working with the Writing Center, not less. Do not ever feel worried or ashamed to contact us at writingsupport@waldenu.edu and ask for a reactivation of your account if you miss multiple appointments.

This might be a somewhat unorthodox message for a Writing Center blog post, but my goal here is to put students more at ease. I know, having been a student myself, how mortifying it is to be late on an assignment, or forget to do it, or not do it very well. I know the feeling when a teacher is disappointed in my work. The Writing Center is a safe space where you can talk to us about all of these concerns. We serve the students first--not instructors, the academic chair, or Walden’s corporate higher-ups. So don’t feel the need to apologize: I can tell you from my own experience that my colleagues at the Writing Center are an empathetic bunch. We were once students like you, and we know how you feel.

So, now that you know all this about your Writing Center Paper Review services, isn’t it about time for you to log on and make an appointment? I’m looking forward to working with you. 

Nathan Sacks is a writing instructor in the the Walden University Writing Center. He also enjoys writing books, playing guitar, and playing with cats. 

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Thursday Thoughts: Students Inspire Us to Give Back

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This week, Walden's Global Days of Service are in full swing! We at the Walden University Writing Center feel invigorated by the stories you've shared about your own positive social change causes and triumphs. Thank you so much for sharing your passion with us! From Walden's 2014 Social Change Impact Report, it is easy to see how passionate Walden students are about their impact on positive social change, with 79% of you believing that you can make the world a better place through your actions   

Image of globe over teal background. Text reads, "Global Days of Service 2016, Help Make a Difference - Find and Register for a Project Today"
Join us in creating positive social change in our communities. 

This week, we at the Writing Center feel inspired by you, our students, and we are actively engaging in volunteer activities to create a positive impact in our communities.
  • On Monday, we worked with Emma Norton Services to help women, children, and families get ahead. 
  • On Tuesday, we worked with the Alzheimer's Association to get out communication about the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. to local chapters and provide for the Walk to End Alzheimer's.
  • On Wednesday, we worked with Cookie Cart to provide teens with meaningful work, life, and leadership skills through experience and training in an urban, nonprofit bakery. 
  • On Thursday, we will be working with EDIT (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Together) to empower youth to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion together in our communities through service learning, leadership, and the arts.   
  • On Saturday, we will be working with Pillsbury United Communities to create quality support resources that enrich communities with academic, social, and emotional success.

If you, too, are considering how/why/when/where you might impact positive social change, feel free to peruse the resources below
To you, we want to say thank you! Thank you for sharing your social change stories with us, and thank you for carrying your Walden educations with you to promote positive social change within your communities.

Walden University provides a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can effect positive social change.

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Global Days of Service Kick-Off: Volunteering in the Hustle and Bustle of Daily Life

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A banner introducing the Global Days of Service from Walden U
Walden University's Global Days of Service starts today!
Today begins Walden’s Global Days of Service 2016, a week-long celebration of our mission of social change where those in the community are encouraged to volunteer and make a difference.

According to a 2015 study conducted by the United States Department of Labor, the volunteer rate for the US is in decline with 24.9% of the population volunteering. While many in the Walden community volunteer regularly, there’s a good chance that this isn’t something that everyone does, perhaps because they don’t feel like they have the time or they haven’t found a place to volunteer. We get it. There’s already so much to balance in life from work to family to school.

However, as Hillary stated in her blog post last week about writing skill development, “Yes, you do have time for that—even if it’s just 5 minutes a day.” The same is true for volunteering and working to make a difference in your community: you have time for that, and it’s important. Even if it’s just an hour a week or one afternoon each fall, taking the time to volunteer will bring many positive benefits to both you and your community.

In my own experiences volunteering at grade schools, summer programs, the zoo, fall clean up days, and nursing homes, here are the benefits of volunteering I’ve discovered:

You Meet New People: Volunteering is a great way to get out in the community, meet some new people, and form relationships. The people you meet might become your friends, colleagues, co-workers, teachers, and more. There’s a good chance that you’ll meet people who are different than you and can challenge you, help you grow, and teach you new things. For example, each time I volunteer with kids, I learn more about curiosity and having fun, and each time I volunteer at nursing homes, I learn about wisdom and patience and storytelling. Meeting new people and expanding your network and the people in your circle can bring many rewards.

You Learn About Your Community: Through volunteering and the people you meet and structures you work within, you can learn a lot about how an aspect of the community works.  For example, I just moved to Minnesota from Missouri, and each week I volunteer at my local grade school in the media center and in a classroom. Through this experience, I’m learning a lot about the diversity in my community, the needs of the school district, and what kinds of books and topics entice kids to read.

You Positively Benefit Others’ Lives: Volunteering, by nature, is a somewhat selfless act. We all have busy lives, and choosing to spend our time on an activity without compensation shows effort.  That effort is not missed, and you might find that your volunteering positively impacts someone else. Whether it’s providing someone with a meal, offering tutoring in a community center, cleaning up fallen leaves, or working one-on-one with kids: you’re making a difference through your selfless act and positively impacting someone else’s life.

You Get to Try Something New: Volunteering is a great way to develop skills and have new experiences, and the time commitment can be as much or as little as you like. Through volunteering, I’ve enjoyed developing my skills in working with children, which is not something I do in my job as a Writing Instructor here at Walden. In addition, through fall clean-up and outdoor beautification projects, I’ve learned a lot about yard work, basic maintenance, and gardening. You might find too that you can use volunteering as an avenue to have a new experience or develop a new skill.

You Can Use Your Professional Skills in a New Context: Volunteering is a great way to use your professional skills in a different way to benefit those in need. For example, several years ago I volunteered in a summer program held at the zoo, assisting kids grades 1-5 as they created books about their experiences and the animals they were seeing and learning about.  As a writing teacher practiced in asking leading questions to encourage and support writers, and as an amateur sketch-artist gifted with the ability to draw pictures of animals, these skills were very helpful working with kids this age as they worked on their first books. I felt proud using my professional training and creativity in this way.

As we celebrate Walden’s Global Days of Service, I hope you’ll reflect here with me: What other benefits are there for volunteering?  How do you use your professional skills to volunteer and offer a service to your community? I look forward to hearing your responses and celebrating Walden's Global Days of Service with you.

Jes Philbrook 
 is a Writing Instructor and the Coordinator of Doctoral Writing Assessment at Walden University, and she is working on her dissertation as she nears the end of her own doctoral program in English.  In addition to her busy life working and writing, Jes volunteers each week at the neighborhood grade school. She loves volunteering because it’s a way to give back, make new friends, and learn about her community.

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Thursday Thoughts: Global Days of Service Sneak Peek

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Across Walden, there are murmurings of our upcoming Global Days of Service, which begin next Monday and continue throughout the week, October 17th to the 23rd. Empowered by a university mission statement that focuses on social change, the entire Walden community participates in our Global Days of Service with excitement, passion, and purpose. This is a "fun, weeklong celebration that underscores our mission of social change by encouraging all members of our community to volunteer and make a difference. With multiple days and opportunities to volunteer, you are sure to find a project that you can be passionate about and that fits your schedule."

Image of globe over teal background. Text reads, "Global Days of Service 2016, Help Make a Difference - Find and Register for a Project Today"

To participate in Walden's Global Days of Service, you can

However you choose to participate in creating positive social change in your communities, know that we at the Writing Center proudly stand behind you and support your efforts. We feel lucky to read about many of your social change efforts in your writing.  Through your actions, you are impacting the lives of others in meaningful ways.

Thank you for all that you do. 

Walden University provides a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can effect positive social change.

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I Only Have 5/20/60 Minutes! Which Writing Center Resources are Right for Me?

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Have you ever told yourself that you'd practice your writing if you just had a little bit more time? Today's post makes that excuse irrelevant. The Walden University Writing Center has on-demand resources that can be useful in any time-increments. Read on to learn how to continue improving your academic writing in manageable periods each day. 
Title Image for this post. A smart watch being consulted.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from students is “I don’t have time for that.” There’s no way to sugarcoat the situation: Time is your natural enemy. In any given 24 hours, you may be working your professional job, engaging in Walden coursework, preparing a meal, exercising, commuting, managing parental duties, and getting a few hours of sleep. It’s hard to think of adding more to that list of activities.

But in order to succeed at Walden, you will need to carve out some time for skill development above and beyond your classroom requirements. Writing proficiency is something that will serve you in your program by way of confidence, clear communication, and swift achievement of milestones. It is also something that you take with you after completing your degree, with the potential to impact your career as a scholar-practitioner. 

So the question is: How can you hone your writing skills without losing the precious work-life-school balance you have achieved? Two years ago, in a WriteCast podcast episode, my colleagues Nik and Brittany introduced Writing Center resources and tips appropriate for short nuggets of time. In this blog post, I update their list of resources with a few of my own. So the next time you’re about to forgo writing because you feel like you don’t have the time, hopefully this can be you instead:

“I want to utilize the Writing Center’s resources to practice my scholarly writing, but shoot! I only have…”

5 minutes:

Read a Writing Center blog post, skim a web page, or view a video. Have you identified one writing issue you’d like to work on? It’s a great idea to have goals for each quarter or semester. Once you have chosen your writing goal for this term, you can learn about it in short 5-minute bursts. Use the website’s Search button in the upper right to find appropriate blog posts, web pages, and videos—and then bookmark and work through them one at a time. Perfect for: waiting for the water to boil on the stove.

Freewrite or journal. It might seem silly, but getting in the habit of writing will make your “for real” academic writing better. Keep a journal nearby where you can freewrite for 5 minutes about the weekly course topic, your research process, or even about your day. Perfect for: sitting in the parking lot waiting for kids to finish sports practice or school.

20 minutes:

Listen to an episode of our WriteCast podcast, a casual conversation for serious writers. The audio podcast tackles such subjects as the writing process, the perfect paragraph, writer’s block, and word choice. Downloadable to your device of choice. Perfect for: commuting to work or exercising.

60 minutes:

Watch a recorded webinar. The Writing Center presents three to four live webinars per month, and all of these get archived on the website. Start with What Is Academic Writing? and then work through the webinars in the Scholarly Writing category for an overview of key writing concerns. Each recording is roughly 1 hour. Perfect for: viewing while munching on your lunch break.

Take a grammar or APA module and then apply what you learned. Feeling interactive? The Writing Center offers modules on APA style and on grammar issues such as verbs and sentence structure. These are 30-45 minutes in length and include quizzes, videos, and text-based instruction to support your learning. After taking one of these modules, reread a past discussion post or paper and analyze what you would do to improve it, based on your new knowledge. Jot down a few tips to apply to a future assignment. Perfect for: taking a breather from a strenuous assignment; staying writing-minded during the weeklong hiatus between quarters.

Now do you see how writing skill development can fit into your life? Yes, you do have time for that—even if it’s just 5 minutes a day. 

Hillary Wentworth has been mentoring Walden writers since 2010—first in the Writing Center and now in the Academic Skills Center. In addition to teaching, she serves as the Academic Skills Center’s Manager of WCSS Faculty Development and Graduate Writing Courses to ensure quality instruction. Hillary edits an online literary journal and writes her own nonfiction from her home in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Thursday Thoughts: October Webinars

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Psssst! Hey, writers! We at the Walden Writing Center are having so much fun reading your professional development plans, prospectuses, and discussion posts. Please, keep them coming. If you are a new student at Walden and are hoping to set up a 1:1 appointment with us, check out this page. Here, you'll find information about our scheduling system, myPASS, and the types of documents we can review. 

As we wrap up the first week of October, we're thinking about all of the Writing Center events on the horizon. This month, you have four webinars to look forward to, as well as a writing-focused look at Walden's Global Days of Service week, which begins on October 17 this year. 

Human in blue, button up shirt writes in a notebook while sitting at a desk. Text overlay reads Thursday Thoughts, Walden University Writing Center.

From the webinar schedule, you can see that we are excited to chat about paraphrasing, as well as cohesion and flow. During our October 19 webinar, we will be celebrating Global Days of Service, and during our October 25 webinar, you'll get a peek into our 1:1 appointment service. 

We hope you'll join us for these webinars. We are excited to see you! Feel free, as well, to check out our entire Webinar Recording Library here! If you have any questions about our webinar schedule or appointment scheduling system, email us at writingsupport@waldenu.edu.

The Walden University Writing Center webinars teach APA guidelines and writing skills for all Walden students, along with webinars specifically for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral capstone students. Webinars offer live writing instruction, as well as an opportunity for students to connect via Q&A and chatting with staff and other Walden students, and each webinar is recorded for later viewing.

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Selecting Appropriate Capstone Sources

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What is the best way to decide if you're finding the best research to include in your capstone document? Along with consulting your faculty members and the Walden University Library, take a look at these tips that will help you decide what stays in, and what should get cut from your references list. 
The title image for this post on selecting effective sources.

In this Blog post, I want to share a few tips for selecting and using appropriate sources in scholarly writing, most especially doctoral capstone writing. Proper source selection and use is important for writers of every stripe. It is especially important, however, for capstone writers because of the rigorous expectations they must meet. As with your research design, source selection and use are a key means by which readers evaluate and interpret your work.

Effective source selection on your topic informs you of current developments and shifts in thinking in your field. It is also how you develop proficient knowledge and become versed in the language of your field. Source selection and use is also a key means of learning about research protocol and method. Keeping a keen eye on how others have designed their studies and approached data collection and analysis will give you confidence as you make these decisions yourself.

Today, I want to share some tips for selecting appropriate sources in your capstone document. These tips are based on my experience as a dissertation editor and as a former faculty member and instructor.

Tip 1: Understand the different types of sources. Literature varies in terms of its audience, purpose, authorship, publication process, and other factors. General categories include peer-reviewed, popular, trade, and governmental. Throughout your research and writing process, you need to be mindful of different types of literature.

Tip 2: Prioritize peer-reviewed sources in your study. Because of the rigor involved in this type of publication process, scholarly work that is peer-reviewed is generally more credible than other sources. Experts in the field have carefully evaluated all facets of a manuscript and, oftentimes, demanded multiple revisions before determining that it is worthy of publication. The breadth and depth of peer-reviewed studies will provide you with a richer basis for crafting your argument and designing your study than other types of literature. Additionally, reviewing peer-reviewed literature is key to developing your own scholarly acumen.

Tip 3: But, evaluate and incorporate a range of sources, as appropriate, in your writing. In your capstone writing, you need to develop expert knowledge on your topic and research methods. That means conducting an exhaustive literature review, in which you learn how others are negotiating, discussing, and deliberating your study topic and problem. You should be reviewing newspaper articles, white papers, program evaluations, and so on as part of this process. You may not incorporate all of this reading into your final document, but you will be more knowledgeable and well-versed on your topic if you do so.

Tip 4: Don’t forget about books. Journal articles will probably constitute most of the sources for your study, and with good reason. But, don’t neglect books, both peer-reviewed and popular ones, even if these may sometimes be more challenging to obtain.

Tip 5: Limit uses of secondary sources. As a capstone writer, you need to be fully in command of the content that you incorporate in your study. As you learn about your topic and become well-versed in key vocabulary, theories, concepts, and methods for your study, you will, no doubt, draw on writers’ interpretations of others’ work. You need this information. However, I recommend that you only use secondary sources when you cannot access primary ones. You need to read the source material yourself and clarify your understanding of it. Your writing will be more accurate and perceived as credible by readers if you do so, and it will convey more of your own voice.

Tip 6: Acknowledge the limits of your review of the literature. When discussing the rationale for your study, be careful to avoid saying that no research been conducted on a certain topic. Yes, you are expected to be exhaustive in your review of the literature, but you cannot say with 100 % assurance that you consulted every relevant source on your topic. That is why I recommend writing “based on my review of the literature” when making statements such as “researchers have not studied x” or “no studies have been conducted on y.” Adding such a clause acknowledges to readers that other work might exist. Taking care to do so, and, also, being as clear as possible when describing your search process makes things more transparent, which, again, reinforces your credibility.

Reviewing the literature on your topic can be a daunting task. But, hopefully, this list gives you some helpful guidance and reminders that make the process as smooth as possible.

Tara Kachgal
  is a dissertation editor in the Walden University Writing Center. She has a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and teaches for the School of Government's online MPA@UNC program. She resides in Chapel Hill and, in her spare time, serves as a mentor for her local running store's training program.

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