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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Thursday Thoughts: Tips for Overcoming Writer's Block

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One of the most frustrating elements of writing is when the words just aren't coming. You've done the reading, you know the assignment, and yet you still just can't make those ideas swirling around in your mind come out onto the page. Writer's Block can be a serious issue for Walden University writers who are asked to produce a great deal of writing in a short amount of time. Since we regularly get questions about overcoming Writer's Block, today's Thursday Thoughts post is dedicated to sharing the Writing Center's top resources to help you Break the Block

Break the Block: Smash through the wall of writer's block

Here's a list of resources you can consult if you ever find yourself standing behind a wall, looking through a glass, or trying to draw water from the well that's gone dry:

The Writing Center's Website Overview of Overcoming Writer's Block: Check out this compendium of strategies you can employ in your writing process to develop a well-rounded writing process that contains safeguards against Writer's Block. 

Break the Block: A Three-Strategy Series on Writer's Block: This blog series dives deep into three strategies for overcoming Writer's Block. In this series, our helpful Writing Instructors have shared their best-practices for ensuring that you never get trapped in an avoidable situation. 

Writing Center Live Webinar Recording on "Developing a Paper From Discussion Post to Course Paper": This overview-look at the writing process of a Walden  writer can be helpful if you'd like to develop skills to make the transition between types of assignments smoother. 

We hope you use and enjoy these resources. 

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The Walden Writing Center is comprised of professional Writing Instructors and Dissertation Editors who would love to share their strategies for overcoming Writer's Block with you. We'd also love to hear from you. Post your questions, comments, and strategies for overcoming Writer's Block in the comments below. 

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Postgraduation Capstone Publication

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In the Writing Center, we are often asked about what students' options are for publishing their capstone after graduation and how to go about doing so.  There is no correct answer to how to proceed, as many aspects of the approach will vary on the type of degree, type of publication sought, and ultimate goal of the publication. 

Since early 2017, the Writing Center editors have created several Kits to help students while writing the different parts of the capstone document.  We have recently added the Postgraduation Kit, which is intended to guide students through the process of publishing one portion of their capstone or a revised, shortened version of the complete study.

Advice for writers on turning their Walden University Capstone documents into publishable work

Here are a few things students should consider when thinking about a postdegree, capstone-related publication:

A Chapter or Section as a Stand-Alone Document
Consider the publication type.  Many professional programs design their capstones so that one chapter or section is already intended as a stand-alone document.  Students should consider whether there is already a portion of the capstone that could be minimally revised and reformatted as a document.  Examples of this are the DBA Consulting Capstone Section 3, EDD Project Study Project, and DNP Section 5.

This approach involves removing the unnecessary chapters or sections and the Postgrad Kit has instructions on how to do this.  The end result here is often a white paper or a project that can be shared directly with individuals or organizations related to the topic.  The goal may be a white paper or project to disseminate among professionals in the field, and whether part of the capstone was designed as such, does not matter.  Any chapter or section can be made to exist as a paper on its own, with the appropriate introduction and conclusion added.

Peer-Reviewed Journals
If a white paper or project to be disseminated is not a desired outcome, students should consider revising the capstone for peer-reviewed publication format.  To begin trimming down the lengthy capstone into a shorter paper, in its entirety, we suggest first settling on a journal.  Then, students should review their References list and explore the most frequently referenced journals.  These should be a good place to begin. 

After a journal is selected, students should conduct some research on the journals, their style, and the submission process.  Publication will involve including all components of the capstone, but in a briefer version and without a lot of the exposition.  There is no need for development of and explanation of the different research methods and all designs that the student could have used.  There is a certain amount of knowledge assumed of the reader.  Generally, the headings included are: introduction, literature review, method, results, discussion and conclusion.  The Postgrad Kit also includes steps and instructions in more detail.

Other Options for the Capstone
If the student's goal is to raise awareness about their results, not necessarily aim for an academic publication, there are other options as well.  Trade journals may also be an appropriate venue.  Though they are not part of the peer-reviewed process and often do not follow the standard format of intro., literature review, etc.  These types of journals often accept articles that are written in a language that is more geared to professionals in the field than an academic audience.

A conference presentation may be another effective option.  Sometimes, the topic needs to be further developed, even after the dissertation, before it may be ready for a journal.  Presenting at an academic or trade conference may help test the ideas and allow the student/researcher to gain feedback on the interpretation of the results.  Seeking out a conference to present the material may be a goal, in itself, or a first step toward exploring publication.

For more information and tips what to do with the capstone after graduation and on how to develop the document into a working publication visit our Postgraduation Kit on the Form and Style website.  Direct questions about writing the capstone or potential revisions for publication to

Kelly Chermack author picture

Kelly Chermack is the Manager of Editing Services in the Walden University Writing Center. She first joined the staff as a dissertation editor in 2012. She earned her PhD from the University of Minnesota in Sociology, and specializes in organization theory, workplace policy, and research methods. She is also a contributing faculty member in Walden's Human and Social Services PhD and Doctorate of Business Administration. 

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Thursday Thoughts: Paper Review Appointments and December Webinars

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The Writing Center will be closed this week on Thursday and Friday, November 23rd and 24th, for the Thanksgiving holiday. For many of you, this is also a quiet time of the semester, with few papers due and even fewer readings. We hope you enjoy the reprieve! 

This is an image of all the Writing Center instructors, with text that reads "Come see us!"
We at  the Writing Center would love to see you!

A little known secret is that the Writing Center's schedule is aplenty with appointment openings  the week after the holiday, because quarterly classes are just getting underway. Come visit us during this slow week and submit a paper for review that's already been graded. We at the Writing Center will be thrilled to provide you with ideas to strengthen your writing for your next term! 

As you begin coursework next week, keep the December webinar schedule in mind. We have six webinars throughout the month. 

We hope to see you during the quiet week after Thanksgiving, and we can't wait to see you in our webinars! 

Nicole is a writing instructor at Walden University's Writing Center. Having worked in writing centers for 10 years, Nicole has developed a passion for supporting diverse groups of students with their diverse sets of needs. 

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Avoid Procrastination and R.E.A.P. the Benefits of Proactivity

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For me, procrastination often stems from feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things I need to get done. That said, procrastination has a way of feeding off itself—the more a person procrastinates, the more things need to be added to a long list of to dos, Thus it becomes more stressful  to face those to dos  and, subsequently, the more one might procrastinate. While it might be difficult to change one’s emotional reasons for procrastination, it is possible to use strategies to help one move from procrastination to proactivity. In this blog, I will discuss some strategies to help you R.E.A.P the rewards of facing procrastination head on:

Avoid Procrastination to R.E.A.P. the Benefits of Proactivity: Ready Yourself by creating a to do list; Evaluate your to do list for priorities; Adapt your to do list as needed; Pamper yourself!
Ready Yourself by Creating a To Do List
To do lists can be a step towards proactivity since they force a person to think about and document what they need to do. It’s a good idea to create a to do list even for more mundane activities (like grocery shopping) if a person has a tight schedule, such as students who, in addition to working on their degrees, might also be working full-time and or have other responsibilities. However, many people who create to do lists might not actually follow through with them because, in creating the list, a person can feel overwhelmed, thus perpetuating procrastination thinking. While I used to create just one big list, I learned that I was less likely to get things done because I felt overwhelmed. So, I started to create daily lists.

Evaluate Your To Do List for Priorities
What I learned from creating daily to do lists is that it is equally important to prioritize the list according to high, medium, and low priorities to include how time consuming each task is within a given priority level. This way, smaller, less time consuming lower priorities don’t build up, and larger, more time consuming priorities are gradually worked on and not left for last. For instance, I usually take care of both high and low priority emails as they come since I can often quickly respond to them as needed, then I start working on larger projects that are both time sensitive as well as more time consuming.

Adapt Your To Do List When Necessary
While it is important to work towards completing everything on a to do list in a timely, daily, manner, it is also necessary to be flexible enough that you can adapt your to do list if and when necessary (such as when a new, immediate priority needs to be added to your list). It’s all about balance and continually working on tasks while making any necessary changes. So, maybe I don’t get to all of the low priority emails I wanted to in one day, but I will be able to add them to a new day as long as I keep working on my to do list and focusing on high priority tasks first (and do low priority tasks that are quick) so I stay on track in order to have time to delegate a low priority task that are time consuming

Pamper Yourself
People often underestimate or overlook pampering themselves with self-care as a high priority. Yet, providing enough “me” time helps ensure that a person stays on track because it helps reduce stress which is another important reason for to do lists—working on tasks and completing them in a timely manner means that when it is time to relax a person is not worrying about what they need to get done. Setting time aside for self-care is important for proactivity; however, many people might not set aside such time because they have a lot to do, which brings me back to my introductory point— stress can lead to procrastination and procrastination has a way of feeding off itself and creating more stress which is self-sabotaging for one’s proactivity.

So, I suggest creating a daily to do list, prioritize that list into time consuming and less time consuming high, medium, and low priorities, adapt the to do list when necessary, and always leave time for pampering yourself to feel good about all you have accomplished!

I hope you'll join in on the conversation and tell us: What are some tips you have for combating procrastination?

Veronica Oliver author pic

Veronica Oliver is a Writing Instructor in the Walden Writing Center. In her spare time she writes fiction, binge watches Netflix, and occasionally makes it to a 6am Bikram Yoga class.

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WriteCast Episode 44: Jeannie's First Residency

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Jeannie Croichy is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center, but she is also a student in the Walden Ed.D program. Like many of our students, Jeannie balances work, life, and her academic program. Also like many of our students, Jeannie attended an in-person residency, which provided her with a different type of academic experience. In this WriteCast episode, Jeannie shares some details from the residency she attended, including what it was like to meet other students in her program and the lessons she learned.

If you have never attended a residency, this episode can help prepare you and highlight the positives of working in-person with peers and Walden staff. If you have residency experience, you may find it nice to hear a fellow student's reflection.

Listen below by pressing the "play" button, or access the podcast transcript here.

A full list of WriteCast episodes and transcripts can be found here.

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The WriteCast Podcast  is produced by the staff of the Walden University Writing Center and delves into a different writing issue in each episode. In line with the mission of the Writing Center, WriteCast provides multi-modal, on demand writing instruction that enhances students' writing skill and ease. We hope you enjoy this episode and comment in the box below.

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Effective Use of Abbreviations In APA-Style Scholarly Writing

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One of the unique but very important choices you will make as a scholarly writer concerns whether you should abbreviate certain terminology in your writing. A general APA guideline (see Section 4.22 of the 6th edition manual) is that use of abbreviations should be limited. The reason is that use of abbreviations may make passages unclear and even undecipherable for readers who do not know how to interpret them.
Writing Tips from the Walden Writing Center

However, there is no proscription against using abbreviations in APA. Used appropriately, they may help to improve the flow and clarity of your writing, especially in longer documents such as capstone studies. Today, I want to share some general guidelines for the use of abbreviations in APA. I will share APA’s recommendations for when and when not to abbreviate terminology as well as the organization’s guidelines for how to correctly abbreviate such terminology (please see APA Publication Manual, sixth edition, p. 106-111 for a more extensive discussion).

First, consider the following example from p. 106 of the APA Publication Manual:

  • Sentence with abbreviations: “The advantage of the LH was clear from the RT data, which reflected high FP and FN rates for the RH.” 
  • Sentence without abbreviations: “The advantage of the left hand was clear from the reaction time data, which reflected high false-positive and false-negative rates for the right hand.”

Use of abbreviations definitely saves space and makes this sentence more compact. However, the sheer number of abbreviations makes the sentence harder to interpret. It would be better for readers, then, to avoid use of these abbreviations and, instead, write out the terms in full in this case.

According to APA, abbreviations should only be used when (a) the reader is already familiar with the abbreviation or (b) a writer can save a considerable amount of space or avoid significant repetition (e.g., in the case of inventories or other instruments with long names). Furthermore, a writer should only use an abbreviation if it will be used at least three times in a document after being introduced. If not, the term should be written out the term in full each time it is used. This guideline is particularly important for writers of long documents, including capstone studies, to consider. Will their readers be able to recall an abbreviation that is not familiar to them and is not used extensively in the document?

Provide the full name for a term that you will abbreviate the first time you use it. Follow with the abbreviation in parentheses. (Use brackets instead of parentheses when introducing an abbreviation inside a parenthetical citation, however.) Then, use the abbreviation throughout the rest of your document. Avoid switching back and forth as this defeats the purpose of using abbreviations and because it can be confusing for readers.

A few abbreviations (e.g., HIV, REM, and IQ) do not need to be introduced (see APA 4.24 for a list). Also, see APA 4.26, 4.27, and 4.28 for helpful guidance on use of Latin abbreviations (e.g., e.g., vs., e.g., and etc.); scientific abbreviations; and statistical abbreviations, respectively. APA 4.23, along with APA 5.12 and 5.16, has helpful information on use of abbreviations in tables and figures.

Lastly, note that abbreviations should not be used in headers, study titles, and reference entries.

Tara Kachgal is a dissertation editor in the Walden University Writing Center. She has a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and teaches for the School of Government's online MPA@UNC program. She resides in Chapel Hill and, in her spare time, serves as a mentor for her local running store's training program.

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WriteCast Episode 41: Meet Your Reviewer: Kacy Walz's Review Approach, Writing Advice, and Recommended Resource

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Kacy WalzNearly a year ago, the Walden University Writing Center welcomed two new writing instructors to our team. If you are a student with us at Walden, you may meet, or have already met, Kacy Walz through paper reviews, the blog, webinars, our newsletter, or the doctoral writing assessment.

Take some time to get to know Kacy better by listening to her interview on our podcast, WriteCast, where she reflects on what she learns as an instructor and shares writing tips that she follows herself.

Walden University Writing Center

The Writing Center employs professional writing instructors and editors to help with all parts of the writing process. We offer paper reviews, a blog, webinars, modules, live chat, and WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast.

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APA How-To: Formatting Dissertations in the References List

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A common question that often comes up from our Walden University student writers is about using dissertations as sources in course papers and capstone studies. While dissertations are not considered peer-reviewed literature, they do have a place in a dissertation. And if they are cited in the narrative, they must be cited in the reference list.

Text over a checklist. Text reads: Formatting Dissertations in the References List

The following list of four citation styles covers the patterns: the basic information, the style for dissertations that were not published, and the styles for two outlets: those published on an institutional database and those published on the web. As you can see from the examples, access to dissertations varies considerably. Hence the variation in citation styles.

These examples were taken from APA Style Guide to Electronic References (2012, p. 23). As part of a 5-year update from the 2007 edition, they favor uniformity and simplicity. But they’re still references and references are extremely fussy about things like the placement of periods, italics, and capitalization.

Basic Information
Author. (Year). Title of dissertation (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://xxxxx

Unpublished Dissertation
Patterson, G.W. (2003). Mathematical modeling and decision analysis for terrorism defense: Assessing chlorine truck attack consequence and countermeasure cost effectiveness (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://xxxxx

*Note from the APA electronic style guide: "Either the name of the database and the accession number or the URL of the dissertation or thesis is acceptable in the retrieval statement" (p. 23). 

From an Institutional Database
Patterson, G.W. (2003). A comparison of multi-year instructional programs (looping) and regular education program utilizing scale scores in reading (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

From the Web
Rivers, J.H. (2008). The best dissertation that ever was written: An experimental study of graduate school. (Doctoral dissertation, institution). Retrieved from http://www.uf/edu/~asb/thesis/

Tim McIndoo author picture

Tim McIndoo is a Senior Dissertation Editor in the Walden Writing Center. He came to Walden University in 2007 with over 30 years of editorial experience, including work as translator and photographer. He lives in Minneapolis with four cats.

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November Webinar Preview

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It feels like October passed far too quickly! We hope that November slows down enough for everyone to enjoy the many services that our writing center has to offer. Why not start by registering to attend a webinar?

Webinar update

Here are the November webinars:

Date: Thursday, November 2, 2017
Time (Eastern): 3:00 - 4:00pm
Audience: All students

Date: Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Time (Eastern): 6:00 - 7:00pm
Audience: All students

Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Time (Eastern): 12:00 - 1:00pm
Audience: All students

Date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Time (Eastern): 7:00 - 8:00pm
Audience: All students

The full list of November webinars can be found on this page. Should these dates and times not work for you, remember that we record all sessions. The webinar recording archive houses all past webinars. Happy webinar viewing!

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The Walden University Writing Center presents weekly webinars on a range of topics related to scholarly writing, APA style, and the writing process. In addition to webinars, the writing center offers paper reviews, live chat, and a podcast to support writers during all stages of their academic careers.

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