September 2013 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Global Days of Service week is coming! #IAmSocialChange

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Here at Walden, we have a unique commitment to helping students become scholar-practitioners who can use their education to enact social change in their communities and in the world. Beginning in 2006, Walden designated a particular day of the year—called the Global Day of Service—for students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends to volunteer together.
global days of service
This year, Walden is celebrating the Global Days of Service throughout an entire week (Sept. 30-Oct. 6). Starting Monday, look for these ways to get involved:

  • Read and comment on new posts here on the Writing Center Blog.

  • “Writing for Social Change: Exploring Perspectives,” the first webinar in a new series, will take place Wednesday from 6-7 p.m. Eastern time. Register here  to join us for a discussion of social change, its definitions and perspectives, and how it connects to writing.

  • Sign up for volunteer opportunities—including ones that involve writing—through the Walden Service Network.

  • Are you a new doctoral or master’s student with a plan for effecting positive social change? Consider applying for one of Walden’s Commitment to Social Change Scholarships (applications are due October 1). In December, Walden will award
    • one $25,000 scholarship to a new doctoral student,
    • three $5,000 scholarships to new doctoral students,
    • three $2,500 scholarships to new master’s students.

  • Head to the Scholars of Change video contest Facebook page to cast your vote--and to be inspired.

  • Follow the Global Days of Service across social media with the hashtag #IAmSocialChange.

Many members of the Walden community will volunteer next week or join a service project to celebrate the Global Days of Service. We encourage you to do the same, but also to dedicate some time to thinking about your ongoing role in enacting social change and how writing might play a part in that role.

What are your plans for the Global Days of Service? Do you have ideas for other ways to get involved? Share in the comments! 

Visit this page for more information on the Global Days of Service.

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Maintaining Confidentiality (Part 1)

A key component of ethical research for many social science studies is maintaining the confidentiality of participants.  This confidentiality means not identifying individual participants and usually also not identifying the study site (e.g., a school, a company, or some other institution) or community partners, depending on what information you agreed to protect in your research plan submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval. This post points out a few places in your capstone study where you should be careful not to identify your study site inadvertently.

Maintaining Confidentiality: Part I

Dedication and acknowledgements

You may want to thank your participants and study site for allowing you to conduct your research. If so, remember to refer to them only in general terms rather than naming them as individuals or organizations.

Evidence of the problem at the local level

For EdD Doctoral Studies in particular, you may find yourself inadvertently citing statistics and other material from your study site to provide necessary evidence for your problem. For other capstone studies, you may face a similar issue when you need to explain the need for your research at your study site. The second post in this series on maintaining confidentiality will focus more on recommended strategies for writing about the site without revealing its identity.

Setting and participants

When you describe your setting, the study site, you may find yourself providing information such as region, state, school district, statistics, or other features of the site that inadvertently reveals your study site. For example, if you note that your study site is the only elementary school in a particular county and then name that county, you have effectively pointed out which school you are studying. Only provide relevant details of the setting and participants to avoid this problem.


Students provide a wide range of materials in their appendices, and sometimes that material includes identifying information (in letterheads, signatures, and other content). In general, do not include any letters or other information that you have already submitted to the IRB for research approval. That material is on file with the IRB office and is generally confidential material such as research agreements from study sites. If you must include something that has identifying information such as names, addresses, and other contact information, redact that information.

Stay tuned for another post in 2 weeks with more recommendations on how to write about your study site without revealing its identity. You might also take a look at the post at the APA Style Blog, “Let’s Talk About Research Participants,” which provides some guidance on writing about individual participants without revealing their identities.

Paul Lai

Dissertation Editor and Web Content Coordinator Paul Lai joined the editing team in 2011 and recently expanded his role into web content coordination for the Writing Center.


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Keep It Super Simple

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One of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned—in writing and in life—is that less is more.

In my first poetry classes, anxious to sound literary, I stuffed my writing with odd metaphors, unusual words, and tangled sentences, as though my sole purpose was to confuse my reader. Then I was assigned a terrifying project: Cut out every third word of my poems.

At first I resented this assignment (didn’t my professor know how hard I’d worked on my drafts?), but I was ultimately shocked—and humbled—to see how such a drastic revision could improve my writing. Befriending the delete key allowed me to weed out superfluous words (or lines or even stanzas) from my poems to create more room for what was truly important.

I relearned this lesson four years later while training to receive my certificate in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). Whenever my TEFL trainer observed me teach, she’d write the letters KISS on my report. It wasn’t as cutesy as it sounds; KISS stood for Keep it super simple, a reminder to avoid asking my beginning English students convoluted questions such as “Would anyone in the room maybe be willing to read page 34?” Far better were simple, concise requests: “Maria, please read page 34.” Again, simplifying my words helped my meaning shine through.
KISS: Keep It Super Simple
Now, I am certainly not suggesting that you cut every third word out of your paper or study or write as though your reader is a beginning English student. I am arguing, though, that keeping your work as concise and super-simple as possible will allow your reader to focus more on understanding your ideas and less on deciphering your words. Here are a few specific tips to get you started:

1. Edit ruthlessly, and fear not the delete key. Always be on the lookout for places to cut out extra words or phrases.

Wordy: It has been stated by Jackson (2008), in his study, that most students at the high school level agree and concur that they are assigned to do more homework than they like.
Revised: Jackson (2008) stated that most high school students believe they receive too much homework.

2. Be wary of conjugations of the verb to be, which tend to weigh down sentences.

Wordy: There are many reasons that politicians have suggested to support universal health care.
Revised: Politicians have suggested many reasons to support universal health care.

Wordy: It was the accreditation report that convinced the managers to rethink company policies.
RevisedThe accreditation report convinced the managers to rethink company policies.

3. Use simple words and sentence structures. Remember: Simple language is the clearest way to express complex ideas.

Wordy: The hospital is running into a panoply of quandaries due to envisaged removals from next year’s budget allocations.
Revised: The hospital faces many problems due to next year’s budget cuts.

Wordy: Beginning in 2007, employees expressed concerns about transparency in the company, to which the company responded by beginning to hold quarterly town hall meetings.  
Revised: In response to employees’ concerns about transparency, the company began holding quarterly  town hall meetings in 2007.

Give these tips and tricks a try, and remember: Keep it super simple!   

Kayla Skarbakka, Writing Instructor & Coordinator of International Writing Instruction and Support, is inspired by Walden students' drive to pursue their educational and career goals. She earned her certificate in teaching English as a foreign language in Peru.

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Becoming a Writing Nomad

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I’ve been under deadline recently for an article I’m writing. This is a new situation for me, since it isn’t only a professor’s deadline I have to meet. This time, I have actual editors who expect my manuscript on time. Scary, right?

In anticipation of my procrastination, I took a few days off work to devote myself fully to reading, writing, and revising. I hoped that this intensive approach would help me complete the article on time.

I’ll give away the end of the story: I finished and submitted my article on time. Cue sighs of relief.

Those three days reminded me that writing and reading in such an intensive way is tough! More specifically, I realized that I get restless easily. I become bored with the music I’m listening to, the people around me, the table I’m sitting at, the thing I’m trying to do. You name it, I probably became restless with (and subsequently annoyed with) it during those three days.

Become a writing nomad

But, with all that boredom I knew I had to finish the draft. There wasn’t any extension waiting for me, and no possibility that I could leave the article half-finished. If I didn’t complete the article (and complete it well), at the very least I’d be disappointed with myself. At the most, I’d get kicked off the project.

What I also realized, though, is that my restlessness is normal. It’s just part of who I am and the way I write. But, here’s the secret: That’s okay!

It’s okay that I get restless because I worked around it by becoming what I like to jokingly call myself: A writing nomad. I found that it worked better for me to give into the restlessness periodically rather than pushing through and becoming even more distracted. When I noticed my focus waning, rather than look out the window every few minutes, I moved to a different location. I moved from the library to the coffee shop. Then, I moved back home. Once home, I went from my desk to my bedroom. Each time I moved locations, I gave my mind a mini break. Once I settled into the new location, I renewed my focus and energy. I was able to devote another burst of energy to my writing until I became restless again.

Whether you’re working on shorter assignments like discussion posts and course papers or longer drafts like final papers or a doctoral study, think about the last time you struggled to complete the assignment. Did you get distracted and restless like me? Maybe you, too, need to give yourself a change of scenery or a short break to re-energize and refocus. Try it—see if it works, and let us know in the comments!

Beth Oyler , the Writing Center's webinars guru, recently celebrated her three-year anniversary with Walden.

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