July 2012 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

How to Think (and Write) Like Your Instructor

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Nik Nadeau
By Nik Nadeau, Writing Consultant

Are you confused about how to meet your instructor’s expectations? Here at the Writing Center, we receive lots of questions about assignment prompts and instructor comments, with some simply asking “What do I do?” For the majority of these situations, we like to recommend the following:

For questions relating to the content of your assignment or capstone work, check with your instructor. For example, if you are unsure what your instructor means by holistic learning, send him or her an email and ask! Make sure you read the assignment carefully and express your concerns or confusion—after all, your instructor will be grading you on how well you read and interpret the guidelines as well as on the writing itself. Or, if you are unsure about what to do in the Delimitations section of your dissertation proposal, ask your committee chair and consult the rubric (to find the appropriate rubric for your doctoral program, see the Center for Research Support –Office of Student Research Administration homepage).

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Writer's Workshop #1: A Bird's-Eye View

Beth Oyler discusses revision.
By Beth Oyler, Writing Consultant

This post is the first in our new monthly Writer’s Workshop series, which provides students with activities to improve their writing.

When I talk about the revision process, some students look at me blankly, wondering What process? Don’t worry if you’re one of those people. If you don’t usually revise your papers (or even if you do), know that revision is just what I say: a process.  You’ll develop your own revision process as you develop your writing, and I hope that the Writer’s Workshop series will help.

The most useful revision strategy for me has to do with organization and getting a bird’s-eye view. Once I’ve completed a first draft of a paper, I take an inventory of the information I’ve included so far. This helps me better understand whether I’ve fully supported my thesis, developed all ideas fully, and organized my information in a logical manner.

To take an inventory, read through the paper paragraph by paragraph, summarizing each paragraph in one sentence (that’s right, just one—or even a phrase if you can swing it!). Don’t let yourself get too wordy. If you can’t summarize the paragraph in a short, simple sentence, star* the summary for that paragraph so you know to come back to it later.


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Transcribing Audio Files From Interviews and Focus Groups


Photograph of Tim McIndoo
By Tim McIndoo, Editor

Qualitative studies are common at Walden, but many students publish their transcriptions unedited. While it’s true that most of an interviewee’s words are sacrosanct, some of them can be edited to improve readability and clarity. This blog will suggest what should and should not be done while you are transcribing from the recording and then right after you’ve finished typing the interview.


The data in qualitative studies typically comes from interviews or focus groups. Both yield audio files that must be transcribed to make the data accessible and facilitate analysis. Transcribing is a task you’ll need to do or hire someone else to do for you. Either way, you are responsible for its accuracy and clarity.

To transcribe is to make speech readable. But it is not a matter of just recording all of the speaker’s utterances. Some sounds and some words convey little or no meaning, while some wordless gestures—a pause, a smile, or shrugged shoulders—can be evocative. Thus, transcribing requires vigilant listening, careful note taking, and sensitive interpretation.


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Grammar, Style, and Absolute Phrases

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Jonah Charney-Sirott
By Jonah Charney-Sirott, Writing Consultant

When revising your work, it’s important to proofread for grammatical errors, as well as for stylistic concerns. What is the difference between the two, you might be wondering? A grammatical error is one that breaks a rule of the English language, an error that can be definitively noted as right or wrong. Style, on the other hand, is much more subjective. Take passive voice, for example. Rules-wise, there is nothing incorrect when it comes to the phrase “A qualitative approach was utilized to conduct the study.” Government officials, for example, speak this way all the time (“mistakes were made”).  However, APA prefers students write in the active voice instead.

Now that we’ve got the difference between grammar and style out of the way, let’s discuss what are known as absolute phrases. An absolute phrase is an example of a grammatical rule, not a style issue, because if you use an absolute phrase incorrectly, your sentence will likely confuse your reader.

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Community: Your Secret Weapon


Jamie Patterson
By Jamie Patterson, Dissertation Editor

I don’t want you to be afraid, but only a little over half of all students who enroll in a doctoral program actually complete the program with a degree (Wao & Onwuegbuzie, 2011). Those who do complete the degree tend to take about double to quadruple the amount of time prescribed by most programs, with the delay occurring during the dissertation writing process.

As a dissertation editor I work with student writers who are at all stages of writing the dissertation. They all approach me with the same plea: tell me how to write this monster of a document.

I’m afraid the only advice I can give to them, and now to you, is simply: write. Seek out help and write. The seeking out help part is the key, and here at Walden we’re trying to develop services that will provide relevant help at just the right time. For instance, we have been piloting capstone study writing groups and are hopeful that this will be a service available to all students in the near future. For now, if you are an EdD student in your first course of 8090 we have a pilot writing group beginning July 16 and running for 6 weeks. If you’re interested in learning more, email us at writinggroups@waldenu.edu. If you don’t meet the criteria for this pilot, not to worry, there are options for you too.


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