Prompted to Write: A Guide for Using Walden Assignment Prompts to Your Advantage -->

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Prompted to Write: A Guide for Using Walden Assignment Prompts to Your Advantage

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As a student at Walden, you’re often likely provided with lengthy and descriptive prompts for your discussion board, application, and capstone assignments. These prompts are there to guide you to think and write about specific and complex topics. However, since the prompts are complex, it’s not uncommon for students to write papers that don’t fully adhere to the prompt. So, in this blog post, I’m going to offer some tips for how to ensure that your assignments adhere to the prompt as you prewrite and also as you revise.

Prompted to Write: A Guide for Using Walden Assignment Prompts to Your Advantage

Adhering to the Prompt as you Prewrite
The best way to ensure that your paper adheres to the prompt is to start off strong with prewriting. Prewriting includes brainstorming, taking notes, and outlining to prepare as you write your paper. Here are some strategies you can use as you prewrite to prepare yourself to write a paper that adheres to the prompt:

1. Identify the main questions or topics that the prompt is asking you to address. Many Walden assignment prompts come in 3 parts: (1) Introductory information, (2) Steps to accomplish as you prepare to write, and (3) Directives for the paper. The first two parts are helpful and let you know what to do to prepare, but it’s this third part that tells you what to do in your paper. The questions or requests posed there are the directives of the prompt that tell you what to do in your paper.

2. Read through the prompt closely and highlight important information. This likely means that you’ll read the prompt a few times and take notes. Highlight important information such as page length requirements, sources you need to use, directives (like analyze, explore, argue, describe, summarize), and the questions you should address. You can make a checklist for yourself with this important information.

3. Reframe the directives in the prompt as topic sentences for paragraphs. For example, if the prompt states the following, “Explain which Writing Center resources you used,” you could reframe this directive as a topic sentence in this way: “In the pursuit of improving my writing skills, I used Writing Center resources including webinars, paper reviews, and website content.”

4. Outline your paper using language from the writing prompt. Once you have identified all of the directives in the assignment prompt and composed topic sentences for paragraphs, you can craft an outline. Organize these topics in a way that makes sense to you, and then plan for an introduction paragraph with a thesis statement, a conclusion paragraph, and any section headings that might be relevant. From there, start writing the essay. Using the outline which was crafted from the prompt will help keep you in line with the prompt.

Adhering to the Prompt as you Revise
Another way to ensure that your paper adheres to the prompt is through revision. Revision means re-seeing the paper and it requires looking back at ideas to make sure that everything fits the purpose of the paper. Here are some revision strategies which you can employ to ensure your paper adheres to the assignment prompt.

5. Create a reverse outline of your paper and compare the outline to the prompt. Take notes and ask yourself with each paragraph: What is this paragraph doing, and how does it relate to the prompt and advance my ideas? If you see discrepancy between your reverse outline and the prompt, then revise your content to more clearly address the prompt. This might include creating a new outline, revising a topic sentence, cutting length, or adding content.

6. Use the prompt as a checklist and compare highlighted important information in the prompt with the content of your draft. If you see a discrepancy between the important information in the prompt and your content, revise to adhere to that important information. This might include expanding a whole section of your paper, cutting content or adding content to meet length requirements, integrating more sources, or developing some ideas.

7. Re-read the prompt and remind yourself of the audience and purpose for the assignment. Then, re-read your paper draft and ask yourself: Does this meet the needs of the audience and adhere to the purpose for the assignment? If you find places where your content does not meet the needs of the assignment and adhere to the purpose, then go back to pre-writing and do some outlining and planning to revise your content to meet the needs of the audience and purpose.

8. Talk to your faculty. If you’ve gone through these steps and still aren’t sure if your paper addresses the prompt, ask your faculty!

One thing you’ll notice in all of these tips is that the prompt is part of every step. It’s easiest to write a paper that adheres to the prompt if referring to the prompt is an integral part of your writing process. I hope that these tips provide you with some strategies to approach your next assignment. 

If you’d like to learn more strategies for interpreting and addressing Walden assignment prompts, you can watch our Strategies for Demystifying Walden Assignment Prompts webinar recording or listen to our WriteCast Episode 11: "Doesn’t Meet Requirements"—Strategies for Following Your Assignment Instructions podcast.

Jes Philbrook is a Writing Instructor and the Coordinator of Doctoral Writing Assessment in the Walden University Writing Center. Jes has been a writing tutor for over a decade, and in all those years of tutoring, one of her favorite things to do with students is to help them decipher their writing assignments and then plan or revise their paper to address the prompt. This post has been percolating in her brain all those years. In her free time, you can find Jes walking her neighbor’s dogs, tending to her basil garden, or playing games with her family and friends.

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