January 2015 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Self-Reflection: Getting to Know All About You(r Writing)

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New Year’s has never been my favorite holiday. I’m not big on sequins and loud parties, my preferred bedtime is well before midnight, and I break resolutions as quickly as I make them. However, one part of the day has always resonated with me: the opportunity to step back from everyday activities and have a frank conversation with myself about how I have been living my life. Taking stock of my habits, accomplishments, failures, and frustrations allows me to enter the new year with a more thorough understanding of where I stand in regard to my goals.

This kind of introspection is an important part of the writing process as well. I can talk all I want about becoming a more prolific, precise, efficient, or effective writer, but this is only part of the equation. I also need to understand what I am doing today in order to identify ways to meet my goals in the future.
Make time to reflect on your writing and writing process.

While I am by no means a model of writerly self-awareness—as the hundreds of abandoned Microsoft Word files on my computer’s hard drive will attest—I do have a few suggestions for cultivating a habit of reflection:

Analyze the feedback you receive.

Take a look at comments from your faculty or writing instructors. How do these outside readers react to your writing? Do you see any commonalities or themes in comments from different readers? Does this feedback align with your own perceptions of your writing? If not, why might this be? If you are not sure what to do with negative feedback, our WriteCast episode "What To Do With Negative Feedback on Your Writing" can help. Amber also shares tips for responding to faculty feedback in her blog post.

Ask the hard questions. 

Have you received a less-than-stellar grade on an assignment, and if so, do you understand why? Are you insecure about particular aspects of your writing, and if so, can you clearly articulate your concerns? How well do you meet your writing deadlines, and if you are struggling with time management, why might that be? It is difficult to identify gaps between where we are and where we want to be, or what we do and what we want to do. Similarly, when we receive a poor grade or other negative result, it is tempting to try to put the whole experience behind us as quickly as possible. The problem is that this head-in-the-sand approach rarely fosters growth.

Be as precise as possible. 

When asked about their writing goals, many students will say things like “improve APA” or “strengthen grammar.” These are both important aspects to writing, but they are also all very broad categories. When reflecting on your writing skills, try to dig in more deeply: Am I confused about citation style, or references, or both? Do I struggle with citing a particular kind of source? What kind of punctuation or grammar errors do I make most frequently? Do I understand the concepts behind those errors, or do I need a refresher? Or does the problem have less to do with grammar and more to do with how to express complicated ideas clearly? The better you get to know your writing, the more successfully you will be able to address your particular concerns. If you need help identifying such goals, don’t hesitate to contact the Writing Center.  

Build reflection into your writing practice. 

Don’t save your reflection for New Year’s! Try to incorporate some time on a regular basis (check out our WriteCast episode on tips for establishing a writing practice) to step back and consider your writing development—once per writing assignment, for example, or at least once per course. Doing so regularly will enable you to maintain a sense of continuity, remind yourself of your goals, and draw clearer connections across your experiences.

Go meta by writing about writing. 

This may be the last thing you want to do if you are struggling with a writing task, but keeping a journal or blog about your writing can actually be quite cathartic. My own writing journal is full of observations like I’m having a terrible time concentrating today and I’m not sure that I really understand this idea well enough to write about it yet. I also try to work through my own questions and concerns: I’m not quite sure why I got marked down in that last paper. I thought I understood the concept; were my examples unclear? As I write about my writing, I find that my worries become less mysterious and more concrete, and expressing them often leads to new insights about how to alleviate them. As an additional bonus, a journal can serve as a record of your writing journey throughout your program and beyond.

Making time for self-reflection and analysis of your current writing habits—including how you write as well as what you write—will make you more self-aware of your challenges, barriers, strengths, and opportunities for growth.

Tweetable takeawayTweetable takeawayBuild a habit of reflection: Analyze feedback, ask the hard questions, be precise, reflect regularly, and go meta.

Practice: Do you make room to reflect on your writing? If so, how? If not, how might you start? Share with us in the comments. 

Kayla Skarbakka author picture

Kayla Skarbakka
is a writing instructor and the coordinator of international writing instruction and support. She is earning her M.S.Ed. from Purdue University. 

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Book Review: 365 Journal Writing Ideas by Rossi Fox

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Last week on the blog, we provided some downloadablejournals to help you document your APA, grammar, and overall writing progress. This week we’re also talking about journals and journaling, but this time in the sense of freewriting.

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Feedback Journals Can Help Develop an Effective Writing Practice

Develop Your Own Effective Writing Practice: Print out these journals or keep them in a handy location on your computer. Add to and consult them as you write and as you review feedback. Then, check back in with us! We’d love to know what you think of these journals, if they're helping you in your writing practice, and how they might be improved.
APA Journal – MS Word Version
APA Journal – PDF version
Grammar Journal – MS Word version
Grammar Journal – PDF version with examples
Writing Feedback Journal – MS Word version
Writing Feedback Journal –  PDF version

Walden University Writing Center

As a sentimental person (or as a borderline hoarder, as my husband would say), I've kept many of the papers I wrote in college. Usually they sit in the back of a closet gathering dust, but I come across them every so often and read through them again. This weekend, as I pulled out my old papers, I noticed something interesting I hadn't seen before: several papers written for different classes throughout one semester contained similar comments from my professors. I clearly hadn't been using their comments to improve my work in my other courses.

It's not that I didn't care or didn't try to strengthen my writing. On the contrary--I loved writing, and I took each comment and correction to heart. I also knew writing would play a major role in my future career, so I took greater pains than the average student to learn from my writing experiences. However, I didn't have any systematic method for keeping track of the feedback I received so that I could reflect on it and apply it to my other papers.

In our interview with the Writing Center’s Associate Director Melanie Brown last year, Dr. Brown proposed a great suggestion to track and organize the feedback you receive on your writing. Kayla also discussed the importance of documenting your writing concerns and errors in her post on applying feedback throughout a draft. Keeping a running list of feedback notes, areas of improvement, areas of strength, and plans for future writing can help you remember the valuable feedback you get from faculty, peers, and the Writing Center and put it to good use.

To help you get started, we've created APA, grammar, and writing feedback journals free for you to download and use in your own writing practice. Click the links at the top of this post to get started! 

One of our most popular episodes of the WriteCast podcast addresses the topic of starting and sticking to a writing practice. By "writing practice," we mean not only the act of writing, but also prewriting, revising, reflecting on your writing, evaluating your process, and growing as a writer.


Anne Shiell
 is the Manager of Writing Instructional Services at the Walden Writing Center. Anne also produces WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast.

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What's New in the Writing Center?

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Excitement is in the air at the Writing Center as we get to work on new initiatives for 2015! Here’s what’s happening:

New website

We recently launched a new Writing Center website, which features much of the same content but improved organization. Check out the new site and update any Writing Center bookmarks you have saved. Bookmarking the main page or favorite pages is a great way to access them quickly.

new Walden Writing Center website
Check out the new Writing Center website!
image created via Placeit.net

Relocated WriteCast page

We’ve moved the WriteCast page to the new website as well. Starting today, you can access all episodes and transcripts on the WriteCast podcast page. We’ll continue to let you know about new episodes here on the blog.

Two myPASS appointments per week

Students submitting undergraduate or graduate coursework for review in myPASS can now make two appointments per week. Just remember that we still ask students to actively revise their work, making an effort to apply feedback between appointments.

If you’re writing your dissertation or doc study, we have several resources to help you with your writing. In particular, we want to highlight the new doctoral writing workshops along with the Walden Capstone Writing Community, a great space to connect with fellow students and chat with a Writing Center editor.

Small Writing Groups

The pilot of our Google+ private writing groups kicked off today! If you signed up to be part of a group, don’t forget to accept your group invitation, which came to your Waldenu.edu e-mail address.

Post-Webinar Facebook Chat

Join us for our first live Facebook chat with writing instructors Matt, Beth, and Anne following Wednesday’s “Building and Organizing Academic Arguments” webinar. The chat will take place from 7-7:30 p.m. Eastern Time on our Facebook page. You don’t need to preregister or attend the webinar to participate, though you can get the most out of the chat by attending the webinar. Need a reminder? Register for the webinar and add it to your calendar, and/or RSVP to our Facebook event

2015 is off to a great start! We're looking forward to what this new year will bring, and we hope you are, too.


Anne Shiell
 is a writing instructor and the coordinator of social media resources at the Walden Writing Center. Anne also produces WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast.

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WriteCast Episode 17: 5 Tips for Establishing a Writing Practice

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Happy New Year, everyone! Want to strengthen your writing in 2015? Check out our latest WriteCast episode for our five tips for getting into a regular, productive writing practice this year.

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