December 2016 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

"How I Learned To......." Blog Series Begins Monday

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Here at the Walden University Writing Center, we're embracing the spirit of this time of renewal as we turn over the final page in our calendars and welcome a new and exciting year into our lives. In the coming weeks on this blog, we will share some of our stories about times when we learned things about writing and ourselves.

Cool looking glasses upon a closed laptop with the words "How I Learned" overtop.


We hope these stories will inspire you to keep working hard at developing your academic writing skills. As we work with students here in the Writing Center, we see the struggles and challenges that accompany the process of learning to write at a scholarly level. Even when it feels most hopeless, we encourage our students to keep working, keep practicing, and keep their eyes on the broader goal.

So, Dear Reader, if you are ever feeling like your writing will never improve, we hope these narratives from our Writing Center Instructors and Editors will show you that there is hope. Even the most highly-trained writing experts had to work hard to achieve the skills and knowledge that they currently possess. 


Take heart! And please enjoy our stories. If you would like to share your "How I Learned...." story about your writing journey, please send an email to WritingSupport@waldenu.edu. We'll reach out to you and you might be featured on this blog! 




The Walden University Writing Center
 is comprised of a talented staff of Writing Instructors and Dissertation Editors who have years of experience working with students. The staff comes from a diverse background of academic disciplines, professional writing experiences, and personal journeys. The bond that connects them is a passion for communicative expression and the desire to see Walden students succeed at their mission to create positive social change. 


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Director's Bulletin: The Writing Center By The Numbers

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Back in 2013, we published a short, by-the-numbers look at our writing center. We were a much different unit back then (we had a staff headcount of 29, not the 46 we have today), and the purpose of that post was to let our readers know that they were not alone in seeking writing support. We wanted to show that The Walden Writing Center was a not a refuge for the compositionally inept or a leper colony for the grammatically impaired (stigmas sometimes associated with writing centers), but rather a place that is designed to be as much a part of your university experience as completing coursework, talking with your professor, or nervously checking your grades after an assignment is due.

With a sizable increase in staff headcount late last year, I thought it’d be fun to revisit our stats, see how much our reach has grown, and reemphasize with our readers that your interest in writing support does not make you an outlier, but rather a member of a pretty big (and still growing!) community.

A series of numeric keys in the background with the title text overlaid.

And now for some 2016 stats with some accompanying numbers for context:

  • When we close out the year, our Writing Instructor Team will have conducted almost 11,000 paper reviews. Assuming each essay submitted was at least 6 pages long, that team will have read roughly 66,000 pages of student work or roughly 16.5 million words, meaning that our instructor team has read the equivalent of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings over 35 times in the last 12 months!











If there’s one thing I hope this somewhat silly exercise has shown, it’s that if you have sought out our support in 2016, you’re not alone. Regardless of what services you’ve used, your peers at Walden, although you may not see them, are there with you, by the plane-full, the city-full, the country-full, engaged in this perfectly ordinary university experience of using the Writing Center.


If you haven’t used our services before, well, what’s stopping you?

author

Brian Timmerman
 is the Director of the Walden University Writing Center. His skill sets include, among other things, leadership and googling statistics for comparative purposes. 


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WriteCast Episode 33: Tackling Transitions

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We have many reasons to celebrate in December. It is a time of transition, a time to enjoy personal interests with a little extra time off work, a time to gather for the holidays, a time to hunker down and read a new book. During this transitional time of year, it seems only appropriate that our 33rd episode of WriteCast would be titled "Tackling Transitions."

In this episode of WriteCast, Beth Nastachowshi and Brittany Kallman-Arneson discuss both local and global transitions, with a focus on how you can create more effective flow in your writing by incorporating strong transitions throughout.



For a list of all of our WriteCast episodes, visit the Writing Center website for Interactive and Multimedia writing resources. Here, you can also access download information and transcripts for each of our podcast episodes. Happy Listening, WriteCasters!

As a reminder, the Writing Center will be closed on Monday, December 26th. During this time, we will not be checking in to our social media pages, and we will not offer chat services. We will return on Tuesday, December 27th, eager to work with you for the last week of 2016. 




WriteCast is a monthly podcast written, produced, and published by staff in the Walden University Writing Center. WriteCast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers offers listeners the chance to sit in on a dialogue between two experienced and trained writing instructors. Possible episode topics will always be considered from listeners, just let us know in the comments. 


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Top Tips for Incorporating Feedback After a Paper Review

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So you’ve written your paper, you’ve submitted it to your writing instructor, and you got an email notifying you that you can collect your paper and your feedback.  What now?  If you’re like me, one of the hardest parts of the revision process is to figure out what and where to start.  With that in mind I have created a list of the things I found most helpful as both a student and a writing instructor to help you through your revision journey! 
A Text and Graphic intro slide for this blog post including the title of the post and the Walden U logo


1. Approach all revisions with a clear mind and be open to the suggestions of others 

No matter what activity allows you to remain focused during your revision sessions (yoga, cooking, reading, gardening, etc), be sure to do it beforehand and save some time for a tune-up midway through (for me this is usually 100 jumping jacks!).  Once you center yourself you’re  already set  up for success, and the next tips will flow even easier.

2. Incorporate feedback as needed

Sometimes you may not know what to do with some of the feedback being suggested.  Perhaps a Writing Instructor recommends that you expand on ideas that are not necessarily relevant to your work, and you feel your paper would benefit more by omitting that information.  This is just fine!  However, what is important is that you make notes of this in your MyPass form.  This allows your next instructor to better focus their review, and see that you did make corrections to your document. 

3. Choose one issue to focus on if the feedback seems overwhelming

Sometimes you will get a lot of specific information and detailed feedback in a review, and it may feel overwhelming.  This happens to all of us, and it is OK!  The best thing to do in this situation is to make sure that you chose one main issue to focus on in your review.  In doing this you can make your revision more targeted, and less overwhelming.  Once you have revised that one large issue, you can go back and revise some of the smaller issues presented in the review.

4. Incorporate feedback to the entire document, not just the area the instructor noted

A good example of this would be for in-text or parenthetical citations.  If you are given feedback on how to correct these make sure that you apply this feedback to all instances of this error throughout.  This will allow your next review to focus on different content, which will give you more information and more ideas to work from.

5. Make sure that you accept or decline all comments in the document

Work your way all the way through your document. You never know when your Instructor will leave you a comment all the way at the end of your references list. Plus, it’s easier for you to continue your revision with a clean draft.

6. Leave enough time between reviews for revision

If you have a paper that is due Friday that you would like the writing center to look at, it would be best to get the paper in by Monday.  Writing instructors have 48 hours to review papers from the time of the appointment.  In leaving yourself enough time for the review process and editing you will ensure that you set yourself up for success, and avoid being stressed due to time constraints.

7. Send Follow-Up Questions to Writing Support

Sometimes during the revision process we may find we do not fully understand use feedback that was explained to us during our review.  However, the Walden University Writing Center has staff members who answer writing support emails 7 days a week, so no matter the time or day of your question you can get help in 24-48 hours! Drop our helpful Writing Assistants a line at WritingSupport@WaldenU.edu

8. Make use of Writing Center live chat services for additional help or clarification

A great way to get live-time clarity about questions or feedback is to visit our chat services.  Chat services are offered over a wide variety of dates and times, and can help you achieve clarity and understanding while you continue your review process. Check out the schedule on our homepage, here.

9. Review webinars, modules and other Writing Center resources to clarify the information you are revising

Webinars and modules,  as well as  our paper templates, grammar reviews, and quick tips and tricks can help to make your revision easier.  Are you having trouble figuring out how to find that extra research your writing instructor asked you to include?  We have a webinar for that!  Are you stuck, and faced with writer’s block?  We have materials as well as webinars that will coach you though these issues and get you back to writing.

10. Make a list of what feedback was most helpful so you can inform your next Writing Instructor

One of the best ways to approach a second review of a paper, or even a new review, is to give the writing instructor as much information as possible.  In telling the writing instructor how you best receive feedback, and what works best for you and what you find confusing you will ensure that you get a more targeted review.  Every review is new and personalized so if something works— let us know!  And if you find something from a past review confusing, also let us know so we can explain it to you in a different way that better meets your learning needs. 

So no matter how many times you have visited the writing center, remember there is always something new we can help with!  And never forget that the help we give you does not end with the closing message of our review.  We are here to help you with all elements of your revision process. Happy writing, and I look forward to seeing you all in the writing queue! 


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: Writing Resolutions

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Hello Walden students! Can you believe we are already two weeks into December, and two weeks away from 2017? With the New Year quickly approaching, many of us begin thinking about New Year's resolutions. I know I am. How will I try to be more mindful this year? How will I meet my goal of not eating all the cookies? 

At some point or another, all of us at the Walden University Writing Center have been students, with writing goals to work towards and writing deadlines to meet. So, as 2017 approaches, I'd like to take a trip down the Writing Center's memory lane, and share two of my favorite tips from my colleagues to inspire your writing resolutions. 


Blue backdrop with an orange firework in the foreground. Text reads: Thursday Thoughts, Walden University Writing Center

In a blog post about crafting discussion posts, Jes Philbrook shared with Walden students that it's best to break down discussion prompts into paragraph sized chunks. Jes says, "Once you know what questions you’re being asked, you can choose how to group them into topics that will guide your paragraphs." While this technique applies to discussion posts, it also applies to larger writing tasks... and to life in general. You can always break down a daunting task into its smaller parts. 

In another blog post, Sarah Prince provides some great tips for writing against the clock. We've all watched deadlines approach, knowing our day-to-day schedules won't allow for much writing time. In this post, Sarah mentions again the great idea to break a big task down into chunks, but she also tells students to "determine your golden hour of productivity." Sarah tells students to figure out when they can be most productive when writing so that the time they spend writing is time well spent.

With all this said, I plan to go into the New Year with a resolution to break down big, daunting tasks into their smaller parts, and to commit to being most productive when I have the time to do so. 

We at the Writing Center hope to be a source of support for you in the New Year, and we can't wait to hear about your writing resolutions!



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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Tools for Source Identification: The Choice is Yours

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“Standing on the shoulders of giants.” According to Sir Isaac Newton, that’s what we’re doing when we use accumulated knowledge to support our own claims. Whether writing a dissertation, doctoral study, or project study, we owe it to our sources and to our readers to identify any and all ideas gleaned from other writers. Identification takes the form of a citation; it is a matter of ethics (legally and morally) and the evolution of ideas.

The title of this blog post superimposed over a person writing.

In APA style writing, there two styles for citing a source: We can include the author and year of publication in the narrative (in-text citation) or we can insert the author and year within parentheses (parenthetical citation). One is not better than the other. It’s about emphasis.

So, when to use the author in an in-text citation and when to use it in a parenthetical citation? Usually, an author’s ideas are more important than the author herself. Thus, a parenthetical citation is called for. By keeping the ideas in the foreground and the citation in the background, clarity and sentence flow are improved; the narrative becomes easier to read and the argument easier to follow. Still, careful writing is needed to avoid the passive voice.

On the other hand, when the author  herself is important—say, we're discussing theories or using the author as the source for a paragraph or series of sentences—an in-text citation is called for. This style also promotes clarity because the syntax is simpler: “Johnson (2016) wrote….” Still, careful writing is needed to avoid a misperception that the author is the focus of the sentence.


In practice, the number of parenthetical citations should far exceed the number of in-text citations. Similarly, the number of paragraphs with both in-text and parenthetical citations should be few. To ensure this balance, it helps to concentrate on what is being said (the ideas) rather than who said it (the author).



Tim McIndoo is a Senior Dissertation Editor in the Walden Writing Center. He came to Walden University in 2007 with over 30 years of editorial experience, including work as translator and photographer. He lives in Minneapolis with four cats.


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Thursday Thoughts: December Webinars

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Walden students! We hope your first few weeks of the quarter are going smoothly. We are excited to begin working with you and reading all of your interesting discussion posts. For those of you in semester programs, we hope your final papers are going well.

To new and returning students alike, we encourage you to check out this page to learn how to set up a 1:1 appointment with a writing instructor. Here, you'll find information about our scheduling system, myPASS, and the types of documents we can review. Additionally, this month, we have a number of webinars on the schedule.


Laptop sits on desk. Text reads: Thursday Thoughts, Walden University Writing Center


Every webinar presents students with a live, interactive setting, in which you can ask questions about current projects, get ideas from peers, and develop a better understanding of the topic being presented. This month, our topics range from use of first person language to effective paragraphing.
Click on the webinar links above to register for the webinars and receive reminder emails in your inbox! We hope you'll join us!

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, e-mail 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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A Writing Center Review: Recite Reference Checker

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Managing and updating citations is an arduous, but critical, part of the scholarly writing process. These tasks can be particularly vexing for capstone writers because their work is lengthy, undergoes so much revision, and demands precision, accuracy, and correct formatting. Today, I will provide some perspective on a tool that might be helpful to Walden students, particularly students in the process of writing their capstone studies. The tool is Recite Reference Checker.

The title slide for this post featuring a woman holding a placard with the title text


Many students are familiar with citation managers such as EndNote, Zotero, RefWorks, and Mendeley. These tools allow you to create a database of sources, from which you can compile citation information and automatically create in-text citations and reference lists. You can annotate research articles as well as create libraries for specific projects. For many individuals and those working on collaborative projects, these tools are useful at all stages of the research process, from writing a literature review to proofreading for publication.

However, Recite is different from a reference citation manager in that it is a citation checker. Its tagline is “Reference Checking Made Easy.” In contrast to citation managers, this is a tool that you would probably find most useful when proofreading your study before your defense or submission to the URR and ProQuest.

Recite is currently free as it is undergoing Beta testing. Its developer, 4cite Labs, plans to introduce “very competitive pricing” after testing is complete. All you need to use it is a Google account. Another plus for Walden students is that it is compatible with APA style, one of the two citation styles Recite supports.

User Experience: How Recite Worked for Me

To use the service, you login in using your Google account on Recite’s website. Then, you upload your own document. I recommend uploading your full study, as opposed to an individual chapter or section, as the software checks your in-text citations against your reference list.

Recite will first show you a list of all in-text citations from your document. The output is color-coded. Dark blue indicates that your citation correctly matches a reference entry. Yellow indicates a possible match while red indicates no match.

Demonstration of Recite Color coding
Demonstration of Recite's Color Coded Citation Checking
The software also compares your citations and entries to literature in its databases and suggests possible errors. For example, you may have a wrong name or, for a source with multiple authors, you might have authors out of order. Recite will show you an entry that it thinks is correct. That way, you can assess whether your citation and possible reference entry need to be changed. The software will also tell you when it can find no references for an author or year.

Another positive is that Recite checks your citations and reference entries and tells you about possible APA errors. For example, in one of your sentences, you might include “Smith et al.” as an author in a citation. If this work only has two authors, Recite can tell you that this is an invalid use of “et al.”  Recite will also go through your reference list and check whether your entries are correctly formatted in terms of APA. It will show you places for you need to include an ampersand or modify your punctuation, for example.

Evaluation: Is Recite Right for Walden Capstone Writers?

With its integration of APA and its ease of use, Recite seems like a helpful tool for capstone writers. Like any tool, however, Recite may provide you with inaccurate reference or formatting information. You cannot use it as an alternative for double-checking your source information and formatting. If Recite points out a possible mismatch between your reference entry and what it has in its database, you should still double-check your PDF or printout and confirm whether your entry needs to be corrected.

Likewise, if Recite points out a possible APA error (e.g., an ampersand should be used instead of “and” in the author element of a reference entry), you need to be able to determine whether this is, indeed, an error. There really is no shortcut to developing your own APA proficiency as a capstone writer. That is why we offer so many APA resources on our website.

You can test Recite for yourself by either uploading a document or by reviewing the markup on a demo paper on its website. Be sure to read Recite’s terms of service and privacy policy if you decide to use it. Also, keep in mind that Recite stores your document for a “short amount of time,” but the company says this is temporary, while the software is Beta.

Let us know in the comments box whether you have used Recite and what you think about it. 


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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WriteCast Episode 32: The Great Debate

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The Walden University Writing Center has just released its 32nd episode of WriteCast, our podcast on all things writing. This episode is titled, "The Great Debate: Continuity or Variety in Writing Feedback." In this episode, Beth Nastachowski and Brittany Kallman Arneson discuss whether it's best to work consistently with one writing instructor at the WUWC or to work with a variety of writing instructors. 

Beth and Brittany make arguments for both approaches, and they present different student mindsets and how these mindsets might affect the choice you make. If you're curious about this topic, take a listen. Hit the orange play button below. 




For a list of all of our WriteCast episodes, visit the Writing Center website for Interactive and Multimedia writing resources. Here, you can also access download information and transcripts for each of our podcast episodes. Happy Listening, WriteCasters!



WriteCast is a monthly podcast written, produced, and published by staff in the Walden University Writing Center. WriteCast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers offers listeners the chance to sit in on a dialogue between two experienced and trained writing instructors. Possible episode topics will always be considered from listeners, just let us know in the comments. 


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