March 2015 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Walden Doctoral Writing Workshops: Student Interview

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The Walden Center for Student Success (WCSS) launched its first Doctoral Writing Workshop series in November, 2014 through the Academic Skills Center to better support Walden students who are in the dissertation writing stage. There are four 6-week long workshops for both quarter and semester-based term starts that encompass the various stages of a student’s dissertation, including:

As coordinator for the WCSS faculty development, I reached out to students from the WCSS 8010 workshop to ask their opinion of the workshop. I learned a great deal about the content and the inner workings of the workshop from Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration/Criminal Justice student Carmelita Dockery.

Carmelita DockeryCarmelita began her journey at Walden in June, 2010, already holding a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Edwards University in Austin, TX and an M.A. in Professional Counseling from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. When I caught up with Carmelita, she had just completed her first Doctoral Workshop 8010 – Revising and Editing the Proposal as of January 4, 2015, and she took the time out of her busy Walden career to answer a few of my questions.

Shawn: Did the workshop help you with your dissertation?

Carmelita: I was able to submit a portion of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 to my instructor. She was very helpful in terms of guiding me towards scholarly writing, which is required for dissertation writing.

What was the most helpful aspect of the dissertation workshop?

The workshop helped me understand the importance of creating topic sentences, eliminating wordiness, being more concise, and eliminating anthropomorphism in my paragraphs. 

Were you familiar with Walden’s Writing Center previous to taking the workshop?

Yes, I am familiar with the Writing Center, but I have not utilized the Writing Center because I work unusual hours at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. When I need assistance at midnight, I don’t think anyone is available; hence, my reason for taking the writing workshop.

How were the materials from Walden’s Writing Center helpful during your workshop? 

The reading material was helpful, as well as my faculty member’s suggestions. I am using the information I gleaned from the workshop to revise both my Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. 

Can you tell us about the feedback you received from your faculty member through your essay reviews and other interactions?

I received constructive criticism from my instructor on a regular basis. Each time I submitted two to three pages of Chapter 1 or 2, she responded within 24 hours. I appreciated her prompt response. My faculty member also provided me with suggestions on improving my writing for my proposal.   

Did you receive feedback from your peers?

Yes, I received feedback from my classmates. I was reluctant to allow anyone to read my proposal, but when I realized I was not alone in this situation, I shared and received feedback from my peers. I also provided feedback on my classmates’ writings. I enjoyed this workshop tremendously!

Is there anything else you would like to add about the workshop?

I think this workshop should be part of the required coursework at Walden. I completed 3 years of required coursework and thought I was writing well, or scholarly, but I was not writing well enough for the dissertation proposal. Perhaps if this class was included in my coursework, I would not be struggling with my writing issues.

Would you recommend these workshops to other Walden students?

Yes, I would highly recommend this workshop to every student in the PhD program. 


Shawn Picht
 is a writing instructor in the Writing Center and the coordinator of faculty development for the Academic Skills Center. In his free time he likes to jog, jump rope, read literature and philosophy, write about his travels, and play Rolling Stones and Dylan songs on a blue acoustic guitar.

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Planning Your Proposal? Why Now is the Time to Get to Know IRB Resources

Many of you working on your doctoral capstone studies already know that completing the Institutional Review Board (IRB) application is a pivotal stage in your progress. After you have completed your proposal and your committee members have approved it, IRB will review your proposed methods before you will be able to collect any data (including pilot data). Did you try to get a head start and collect any data before your study received IRB approval? Well, I hope not, because none of that data is now usable in your study. None.

This is why the IRB application is so important. Walden’s IRB exists to ensure all research conducted through the university complies with Walden’s ethical standards and U.S. federal regulations, and your chairperson, committee member(s), and URR are there to ensure your study is ready to meet those standards by the time they approve your proposal.

While your IRB application probably won't get a big red stamp, receiving approval will be no less exciting.

How to Prepare for IRB Approval

As someone trying to craft a good and sound research project the size of a dissertation or doctoral study, you may feel like you are starting over a lot. All of the work you do toward your final study is work that is important in your development as a scholar, but it can be frustrating—especially after you have put in a lot of work—to hear from your faculty or IRB that you need to change something significant in your study.

That’s why you should take advantage of the materials available through IRB to plan ahead as you start your writing process. Remember, that doesn’t mean you can approach participants or collect data prior to IRB approval, but you can start using the IRB guidelines to outline your proposal and preproposal documents even before it’s time to submit your application.

IRB Resources

Read through the application and general materials available through the IRB website—you will see there is even a Research Ethics Planning Worksheet designed to help you “anticipate and manage possible ethical concerns that are relevant to planning and executing a study” (para. 1). Even though you cannot complete the IRB application until your committee approves your study, you can start using this worksheet to plan your study even at the very beginning (such as the premise or prospectus, depending on what your program requires).

Some chairpersons even recommend their doctoral students use the IRB Application itself to plan out content in the methods section of the proposal. In that case, students use the rubric or checklist for their degree program (available through the Center for Research Quality) to outline the headings for each section and use the IRB Application Form to help fill in the required information.

Anticipating potential IRB concerns should happen sooner rather than later. Even if you are not ready to start drafting your proposal, you can attend IRB office hours. There you can interact with an IRB member in a group advising format to discuss ethical challenges and potential pitfalls to avoid when seeking IRB approval.

Research Red Flags

Designing a study with any of the elements or populations below does not mean you will be unable to get IRB approval, but in order to receive approval you will have to make totally sure you meet all requirements and expectations for ethical treatment of human subjects. The following recommendations are from the Center for Research Quality's "Red Flag Issues that Need an Early IRB Consultation"

While everyone could benefit from attending IRB office hours, people planning to conduct research at their place of employment should definitely make plans to consult with someone from IRB prior to getting too far into designing a study.

Other types of research that would benefit from early IRB consultation include anything that may put participants at risk, such as
  • studies designed to disclose behaviors or views that could compromise someone’s job;
  • studies involving any intervention; questions regarding substance abuse, mental state, or violence that might obligate a referral or intervention on the part of the researcher to prevent harm to the participant;
  • studies including race or ethnicity as a variable or inclusion criteria;
  • questions that may cause participants to incriminate themselves; or
  • studies framing personal issues in a judgmental, noninclusive, or otherwise insensitive manner that could cause individuals severe distress.

Checking with IRB is also a good idea if you want to recruit from any vulnerable populations, such as
  • anyone subordinate to you at work;
  • any of your own colleagues, patients, or adult students;
  • nursing home residents;
  • anyone age 17 and under;
  • prisoners;
  • individuals with mental, physical, or emotional impairment or disability;
  • people who may be less than fluent in English;
  • victims or witnesses of violence or trauma;
  • people who may be undocumented immigrants;
  • active duty military personnel; or
  • anyone else who may be particularly unable to advocate for themselves or protect their own rights and interests.

If you have specific questions, please contact the Walden IRB at Additional contact information for the Center for Research Quality is available here. 

Additional Resources and Help

The Writing Center also has resources for addressing ethical issues and maintaining confidentiality in your document in compliance with IRB. This FAQ document covers many of the concerns you might have when writing about your participants and research site.

Also, check out our blog posts on best practices for maintaining confidentiality in your doctoral capstone document before final submission:
Maintaining Confidentiality (Part 2)

This month on the blog, we're featuring topics related to the capstone (dissertation or doctoral study). Check out our latest WriteCast episode on tackling hard literature review questions and our posts on five things to know before starting your dissertation, what to do after you've received your Form and Style review, and how to make the most of face-to-face time at residencies. Stay tuned next week for our last post in the series.


Lydia Lunnin
g is one of Walden’s dissertation editors and the coordinator for capstone resources in the Writing Center. Lydia also helps oversee the Walden Capstone Writing Community, a place where doctoral students working on their proposals and final studies can connect with their colleagues and get support through the capstone writing process.

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Come Out from Behind that Laptop! How to Make the Most of the Real Live Humans You Meet at Residencies

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*Note: This post is relevant to EdD, EdS, PhD, DBA, and DIT students, as these are the residencies currently staffed by the Walden Writing Center.

As a writing instructor for an online university, I often find myself torn between gratitude for the flexibility of my work and dismay at how much I miss seeing students face-to-face on a regular basis. My impression is that many Walden students share this sense of conflict about the online experience. While online education is designed specifically for students juggling work, families, and community responsibilities in addition to their schoolwork, it does not, of course, include the more traditional classroom experience where students and instructors meet in the same geographical location and get to know one another in person. This means that while working toward a degree at Walden is convenient and academically rewarding, it can feel isolating and lonely as well.

Many Walden programs do offer a face-to-face component in the form of academic residencies, which can provide a healthy dose of in-person interaction with faculty, staff, and fellow students. However, in my residency experiences, I’ve noticed that students sometimes end up creating an environment much like the virtual one they are used to: Students sit in a room while the presenter presents, the students listen and take notes, and when it’s over, they leave.

When we become used to communicating primarily through typing, the flexibility, spontaneity, verbal fluency, and sheer stamina required to discuss academic topics in an intensive environment like a residency can be overwhelming. And especially if you’re an introverted personality, you might find yourself a bit rusty at interacting face-to-face in a scholarly environment after filtering your education through your laptop. In this post, I’ll share three tips for how to overcome these obstacles and get the most out of your opportunities to interact face-to-face with staff from the Walden Writing Center at residencies. 

Welcome Walden Students
Welcome sign at the 2014 Indianapolis residency.

Tip 1: Come prepared

In Blackboard, you have time to think about and edit your discussion comments and responses. At residencies, you’ll need to be able to respond more quickly in presentations and advising sessions. If you feel tongue-tied speaking in front of large groups or if you tend to freeze during the question and answer time of a presentation, consider looking through the program book or new residency app ahead of time. Read the titles and descriptions of the sessions and consider what your main questions or concerns are about the topics being covered. Write down your questions in advance, so that when the time comes for you to ask them, you don’t draw a blank.

You can also prepare questions to ask in individual writing center advising sessions or bring a paragraph or two of your own writing to advising with specific questions about how to improve it. Don’t have a specific writing question? Come to advising anyway and ask for a tour of our resources. This is a great way to show initiative, meet Writing Center staff, and learn about the services we offer Walden students.

Walden residency advising
Writing Instructor Kayla chats with a student during open advising. 
Tip 2: Speak up
One of the major benefits of being in the same room with one another is that we can speak to one another using our voices. We also get the added benefit of body language, inflection, and other important communication cues that are lost when we are typing back and forth. Strangely enough, communicating verbally about writing can actually help you improve your skills in writing, because you don’t have to attempt to express your concerns or questions about writing in writing, as you often do in an online environment. So, speak up! Chat with Writing Center staff about your writing concerns, either informally after a presentation or in an advising session. 

Don’t forget to talk to your fellow students, too. You can extend the usefulness of your residency experience far beyond the official days of the residency by building a network of support that you can carry back into your online experience. In the Writing Center, we call this building your writing community. You can learn more about writing communities in our WriteCast podcast (episode 16) and in Lydia’s blog post on writing communities as the secret to success 

Tip 3: Follow up

So, you’ve initiated connections with faculty, staff, and students at a residency, but now you’re back home behind your laptop. How do you make sure those relationships don’t just fade away? The key is to follow up. Use the communication mediums we become so used to in the online environment to solidify the connections you made face-to-face. For instance, if you had an interesting conversation with fellow students, you might send them a quick e-mail letting them know you enjoyed meeting them. You can also connect with folks—including the Writing Center—on social media. We love to chat with students on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and here on the blog.

You can also solidify connections you made with Writing Center staff by making an appointment for a review of a discussion post or course paper not related to capstone work, registering to attend a webinar, or e-mailing a specific writing question to us at Remember, your connection to the writing staff you meet at the residency doesn’t end when the residency is over! We are here to support you through your entire Walden experience.

This month on the blog, we're featuring topics related to the capstone (dissertation or doctoral study). Check out our latest WriteCast episode on tackling hard literature review questions, our post on five things to know before starting your dissertation, and our post on what to do after you've received your Form and Style review


Brittany Kallman Arneson
 is a writing instructor and the coordinator of Writing Center residency instruction and design at the Walden Writing Center. She also co-hosts WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast.

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You've Received Your Form & Style Review--Now, What?

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At Walden, one of the last steps in the capstone process for doctoral students is the Form & Style Review, which prepares the document for publication. Here's what to do after you receive your completed Form & Style Review.

Before digging in

  • Try not to panic. Everybody needs an editor (including your editor). But getting edited is no fun. Most writers dislike it.
  • Even though the capstone represents your ideas and your research, and you are responsible for all of it in the end, the process is really a shared one. Everybody gets to chime in: your chair, methodologist, other committee members, and now the Form & Style Review editor.
  • Try not to take it personally. Your editor only wants you to get approval ASAP. If you missed something in your final draft, your editor will probably have identified it in her or his review.
  • Chances are good that most of what your editor has suggested would be seen as an improvement by your committee. Nevertheless, you are required only to meet all APA and Walden standards. Please revise whatever your committee insists on.
  • If you can wait, don't look at the Form & Style Review for a few days. For some students, it can be overwhelming. Try to psych yourself up to begin the process. Let your mind get adjusted to the idea of digging in again one last time and making revisions—sometimes significant revisions—despite that fact that you already did the best that you could do.
  • Keep in mind that making revisions is a process of discovery and it’s in the nature of writing. Everyone needs to write multiple drafts. The Writing Center at University of North Carolina offers a good definition: “Revision literally means to ‘see again,’ to look at something from a fresh, critical perspective. It is an ongoing process of rethinking the paper: reconsidering your arguments, reviewing your evidence, refining your purpose, reorganizing your presentation, reviving stale prose” (para. 2). It takes courage and some time to “see again.”

Writing tip from the Walden University Writing Center blog

How to proceed

  • There are two parts to this revision process: (a) structure (chapter, section, subsection, paragraph, sentence) and composition (word choice, flow, tone, voice, clarity, etc.), and (b) the details of APA (formatting, spelling, citing, etc.). If you get tired of working on one part, switch to the other for a while.
  • Check with your chair or mentor as needed. She or he can be of great help with questions about meeting the requirements of the rubric.
  • Your dissertation editor is happy to answer technical questions or questions about what she meant in a comment. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • You might print your work. For many people, a hard copy makes this final draft easier to read and easier to see the issues (and gives you space in which to write notes). Don't forget that you can print your work with or without the comments, including formatting.
  • Write out a list of the tasks in the revision process. Break them down into small parts. (You can get some ideas from your editor’s cover letter.)
  • Proceed slowly. You might tackle just one or two pages at a time. Or you could tackle just one issue at a time.
  • Start with a task that seems easy, something you know how to do. (That way you can build up some confidence.)
  • If you're in agreement with the edits, you can make many changes quickly via the Track Changes function. Just keep in mind that your editor did not mark all instances of a given issue, but mainly those in Chapter 1. You’ll need to apply what you learned in Chapter 1 to the rest of the chapters in your paper.
  • Try reading a problematic sentence or paragraph out loud. Sometimes it’s easier to recognize what needs to be done when we hear the words in question.
  • For some kinds of fixes, you might be able to use the search-and-replace function. For example, you might decide to abbreviate a commonly used phrase or name, or change “the researcher” to first person (“I”). To do so, bring up the search-and-replace dialog box. Put the old word or phrase in the Find box and your replacement in the Replace box. (Just make sure that there is no space after either word.) Then click on Find Next to decide, on a case by case basis, whether to Replace the old with the new. If you're quite certain of the replacement, then just click on Replace All.  
  • Perhaps your editor recommended that you review the guidance offered in the pages of the Writing Center website. Many of the topics are offered in audio or video format.
  • If you have concerns about something your editor did not comment on, consider running the relevant pages through Grammarly. That program can find—and explain—many kinds of writing errors. You are also welcome to contact your editor. He or she remains available to answer your questions. 

The capstone can seem like an insurmountable task. You’ve likely never tackled such a large and complex project before, and now you're faced with a series of revisions. In this final stage, try to keep in mind what brought you to this scholarly endeavor and how it will change your life. Publishing a well-executed and well-written study constitutes a pinnacle of achievement. Your study will function as your calling card for some time and you’ll always be known as a specialist on your topic. The finish line is in sight! And with just a little more time and a little more guidance, you will soon have your degree in hand.

This month on the blog, we're featuring topics related to the capstone (dissertation or doctoral study). Check out our latest WriteCast episode on tackling hard literature review questions and last week's post on five things to know before starting your dissertation.


Tim McIndoo
, who has been a dissertation editor since 2007, has more than 30 years of editorial experience in the field of medicine, science and technology, fiction, and education. When it comes to APA style, he says, "I don't write the rules; I just help users follow them."

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5 Things to Know Before Starting Your Dissertation

Writing a doctoral dissertation is a major task. For many people, it is the most difficult professional or academic endeavor that they ever undertake. Stories of dissertations years and years in the writing are all too common, and for good reason: The dissertation stage is where students who complete their first year of coursework are most likely to get stuck or give up. Fortunately, a little advanced planning and shrewd use of your resources goes a long way to helping you finish your dissertation and graduate in a timely fashion!

5 Things to Know Before Starting Your Dissertation via the Walden University Writing Center Blog


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WriteCast Episode 19: The Literature Review: Tackling the Hard Questions

In our latest episode, Beth and Amy K. chat about literature review (in)FAQs. You won't hear about synthesis or MEAL plan paragraphs here! Instead, we wanted to tackle some of the harder questions students ask, such as
  • When can you stop researching and start writing?
  • When do you know you're finished?
  • How long should the lit review be? 

To download the episode to your computer, press the share button on the player above, then press the download button. Visit the Writing Center's WriteCast page for our episode archive and transcripts. Happy listening!

This month on the blog, we're featuring topics related to the doctoral capstone (dissertation or doc study). Stay tuned for a new post each week! For more on literature reviews, check out our upcoming live webinars: 

WriteCast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers is a monthly podcast written, produced, and published by staff in the Walden University Writing Center. Join us each month for a dialogue between two experienced and trained writing instructors. Possible episode topics will always be considered from listeners--share your questions and suggestions in the comments. 

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