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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

APA How-To: Use of Secondary Sources

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Sometimes, writers will come across a source within another source that is perfect for whatever argument they are attempting to make. If writers are not careful, this situation can lead to confusing APA-style citation situations. So much so, APA style contains special formatting guidelines for citing this type of secondary source.

APA Style How To: Use of Secondary Sources

According to APA Publication Manual, 6th edition, p. 178, §6.17: “Use secondary sources sparingly, for instance, when the original work is out of print, unavailable through usual sources, or not available in English.” With all the full text available these days, there is an expectation that, if a quote is preferred, its original source should be obtained and read. Otherwise, you are asking your readers needlessly to trust an unknown intermediary. 

If you must use a secondary source, however, you can't cite it alone; it’s not that simple. You need to “give the secondary source in the reference list,” according to APA Publication Manual (6th ed., p. 178, §6.17). Then, “in [the] text, name the original work and give a citation for the secondary source. For example, if Allport’s work is cited in Nicholson and you did not read Allport’s work, list the Nicholson reference in the reference list. In the text, use the following citation: Allport’s diary (as cited in Nicholson, 2003).” All of this information is needed because readers need to know your sources; they also need context for the quote from the original, in this case, Allport’s diary.

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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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May Webinar Preview

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It's almost May, which means it's almost time for our May webinars! Spring is invigorating in so many ways. With the blossoming flowers also seem to come new, budding inquires about APA style, paragraphing, and more. We love the unique questions that students present during our live, interactive webinars, and we hope you'll join us to present your own questions. You may even hear the chirp of a bird or two if our nearby windows are open. 

Webinar update
Join us this month for some exciting webinars!
Upcoming Webinars

The full list of May 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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The Write Mindset: Managing Time Mindfully

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If you’re working on your degree alongside other work or family obligations, you’re probably looking for ways to make the most out of your limited time, right? Read on for a mindful time management strategy that’s working for me as I write my dissertation while working full time and taking care of a toddler. I promise I’ll keep it short!

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A lot of academic advice recommends a project management approach in which you break down a large project into as small of tasks as possible and schedule a time to complete each one of these tasks. This seems like a great way to stay on track and motivated, but I found I was constantly failing to stick to my plan: just one night when my kiddo wouldn’t sleep would throw the whole thing off, making me feel guilty and frustrated. I needed to adjust this approach for it to work for my lifestyle.  

First, I make a list of tasks that I plan to complete each week. I then divide that list in half, marking half of my list as “must do” tasks for the week and half of the tasks as “bonus,” tasks that would be great to get done, but that I won’t beat myself up for not finishing. Once I have that list in place, I categorize the tasks in another important way: by energy level. I’ve found that some tasks are “high energy” tasks that require the ability to focus, while other tasks are “low energy” tasks that I can probably manage to finish even if I’m feeling a little tired or distracted that day. 

Here is an example of what my to-do list might look like:

  • Freewrite for 10 minutes at the beginning of each day on a topic related to my current chapter
  • Respond to email from my mentor
  • Transcribe notes from book I read last week, and add it to my literature review matrix
  • Read and take notes on next books in my literature review
  • Email lead about a research question I have
  • Read and take notes on next book in my literature review

In this list, I have bolded my “must do” tasks for the week, and the “bonus” tasks are in regular font style. The “high energy” tasks are highlighted in yellow, and the “low energy” tasks are highlighted in blue.

At the beginning of each writing session, I take stock of my current energy levels and the amount of time I have scheduled for that session. Then I look over my list and select a task or two that is reasonable to accomplish with the time and energy levels that I have that day.

Integrating mindfulness into my project management has helped my writing process tremendously. I’ve become better at prioritizing my time and making sure I’m focusing on what’s important each week. Knowing that I have a list of tasks I can work on even when I’m tired makes me more likely to sit down at my desk and get a little bit done rather than blow off a dissertation session entirely. Finally, because my task list is more manageable, I actually accomplish it, which makes me feel better about the project overall.

If other time management systems aren’t working for you, think about giving this one a try! And please share your favorite strategies in the comments—we’d love to hear from you!

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Cheryl Read is a Writing Instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. She’s so interested in time management that she sometimes finds herself procrastinating by dreaming up the next “perfect” schedule. When she’s not helping student writers at Walden, Cheryl stays busy playing with her son and working on her dissertation.

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Let's Get Personal: Utilizing 1st Person Point of View in Academic Writing

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After spending so much time reading course materials, digging through library databases, and reflecting on the expertise of others, it can seem odd when the time comes to include personal experience in academic writing. However, sometimes we have to include this personal experience. Perhaps it is a reflective discussion post or final project based on original research. Maybe it is a piece of professional communication or even a prospectus. Any of these documents may end up including first person point of view or personal experiences. 

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A little something to remember: Even when we include our personal experiences, we have to follow APA style guidelines and general best practices in academic writing. Here are some of the resources you may find useful when including first person point of view and personal experiences in your academic writing.

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The Walden University Writing Center creates and organizes material related to all aspects of scholarly writing. Explore our blog posts, modules, webinars, website content, and more by starting at our homepage: https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter 

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The Write Mindset: Creating Mindful Writing Spaces

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As a Writing Instructor, a large part of my workday is spent writing emails, academic resources, and paper reviews.  Because I work from home, some mornings the desire to hit snooze three times, roll from my bed to my couch, and write in my pajamas all day is too real! To avoid making a permanent indent in my couch, I’ve created a mindful writing space where I look forward to spending my day. I shaped this space by asking myself three questions.

Plant and computer: A mindful workspace

What helps me to stay productive?        
I know from experience that I cannot remain productive if I plop down with my laptop in front of the TV. I do my best work in a bright, organized space, (away from distractions) where I have everything I need. To create this space in my tiny apartment, I turned the dining room into my office. Out went the dinner table, and in went my over-sized, industrial work desk—one of my treasured, vintage finds. I have dual-monitors, which allows me to keep my email open on one screen and my paper reviews on the other. Spread out in front of me are my agenda, phone, to-do lists, and all of my favorite office supplies. With everything in arm’s reach, I never have to track down a pen or my phone. The light coming in from the windows and lamps keeps me alert, and if all else fails, I am only a couple steps away from the coffee maker.

What makes me feel comfortable?
For me, part of staying on task is making sure I am comfortable; otherwise, it is too easy for me to become distracted by the smallest things in my environment. For example, I get cold easily, so in the winter I set up a little space heater near my desk, and I always have a sweater handy. I enjoy working in a clean space, so I tidy up every morning before I even open my email. Also, I have a sensitive nose, and certain smells help me stay alert. For example, diffusing grapefruit essential oil throughout the day keeps me happy. These little steps make my workspace pleasant to work in, and they are comforting if I am having a particularly busy or stressful day.

What is and isn’t in my control?
While I have taken a number of steps to prepare my workspace for productivity and comfort, all of the preparing in the world may not solve a bad case of writer’s block. Some days, I write a new email and the words pour onto the screen. Other days, I can get stuck for hours writing a grammar tutorial. My thoughtfully curated workspace does not always help me write at 100%. On these occasions, I have to check-in with myself to figure out what’s going on. I ask myself if I’m hungry, or cold, or under-caffeinated, but if these basic needs have been met, then maybe something else is getting in my way. I could be stressed about another project or distracted by a personal matter. If this is the case, I actually step away from my writing space. I may take my dogs for a walk or head to the gym. I find that if I move to a completely different location, I can usually clear my head. On days where I am just stuck, and the only things I can control are my actions and thoughts, walking away from my writing and my desk helps keep my workspace a positive, productive place.

A Mindful Workspace
A Writing Space of One's Own 

Share your writing space with us!
I hope sharing my writing space with you inspires you to create (or return) to your own mindful spot. Do you have a special nook set up in your home? Or, do you hunker down in your local coffee shop? Please share pictures of your writing space with us on our Facebook page, or describe your writing space for us in the comments below! 

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Tasha Sookochoff is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. Along with earning degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Stout and Depaul University, Tasha has written documentation for the U.S. House of Representatives that increases government transparency, blogged for DePaul University, copy-edited the Journal of Second Language Writing, tutored immigrants and refugees at literacy centers, and taught academic writing to college students.

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The Write Mindset: A Three-Part Blog Series

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On our blog, we’ve written about breaking writer’s block by finding a suitable writing environment, turning off your internal editor, and carving out writing time despite a busy schedule. However, as writers and humans, sometimes what blocks us—writing or otherwise—is a lack of mindfulness and self-care. While none of us in the Writing Center are self-professed experts on the subject, some of us would like to share with readers some mindfulness and self-care tips we have for getting into the “write” mindset to ensure we aren’t our worst enemies when it comes to creating and sticking with writing goals and our busy schedules. We’ll be sharing these tips over the next few weeks here on the blog.

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For the purpose of this blog series, mindfulness can be understood as the mental space between our rational mind and our emotional mind—like a happy union between our logical thinking selves and our feeling selves that helps us make wiser decisions which, for instance, can help us reach our goals. 

For many of us, mindfulness is a skill and not something we are automatically born with. For instance, your rational mind might remind you Saturday morning that you need to begin working on drafting that paper that is due next week, whereas your emotional mind might convince you that you can put it off another day for x, y, or z reasons. This is not to say that the emotional mind is wrong; rather, if our emotional mind greatly conflicts with our rational mind, or if it takes center stage in our actions and decisions, we might tend to find ourselves in situations that may eventually lead us farther away from our goals—education, career, or otherwise.
You can read all of our posts in this series as they're published.
Finding Your Drishti: A look at how the mind and body work together, as well as tips for how a yoga practice can enhance your writing practice

Creating Mindful Workspaces: A glimpse inside of the workspace of one Walden Writing Center Instructor and how mindfulness can influence physical spaces

Managing Time Mindfully: A Writing Instructor's strategies for balancing work, writing, and family using simple time-management techniques 

With this in mind, we hope you enjoy our Instructor posts on tips for getting into The Write Mindset and we hope you share with us your own tips for harnessing this mindset as well! 

The Walden University Writing Center
 strives to support student writers in all of their academic writing pursuits. The Instructors, Editors, and Leadership of the Writing Center recognize that learners and writers have different needs. As such, we produce a variety of resources intended to support writers where they are, when they need them.

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The Write Mindset: Finding Your Drishti

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Admit it—it can be easy to let your mind wander while working on a paper—maybe you get distracted by bills, work, or something else. While this can be inevitable, it can also lead towards more distractions where you aren't working in the present in ways that move you forward towards your future goals. In this blog post, I’d like to share how I used the practice of yoga to decrease distractions and increase productivity while writing my dissertation. 

A hand positioned in a mudra pose

What does yoga have to do with writing? Well, not much really—not directly anyway. For me, though, yoga has served as one way for me to practice mindfulness by working on my drishti—where I focus my attention. In other words, it has helped me learn to stay focused on the present moment, so I could, for instance, sit down and focus on writing my dissertation instead of worrying about x, y, or z—in other words, whatever else was going on in my life.  

When I was working on my dissertation, I was also going through other “stuff” and that other “stuff” tended to take the front seat to the dissertation (seriously, I will save you the details of the “stuff”). Life happens, of course, and sometimes tending to that does need to come first. That said, it’s important to be able to strike a balance among life, work, school, and other “stuff” so everyday life (and not-so-everyday life) doesn’t distract us from working towards our current and future goals, such as writing that dissertation, graduating, and moving on and up in our careers. 

One thing that has helped me find that balance is the practice of yoga. More specifically, yoga has helped me de-stress and practice self-care so that when unexpected “stuff” happens—when just everyday life happens—I feel more calm and mindful so I can focus on both the present (such as writing that dissertation) while also dealing with life and “stuff.”  To be clear, this increased focus has helped me consider what actions I need to take in the moment, so I can both take care of things as they come, move forward through them, and continue towards my future goals so I don’t become “stuck.”

While learning writing skills is important, as both a student and a teacher, I noticed that other skills are equally important—skills such as mindfulness—that we may or may not have naturally acquired. 

For me, like the skill of scholarly writing, mindfulness is something I had to learn and, like writing or any other skill, it takes continual practice. Admittedly, any type of exercise can likely help, but for me, yoga, with its focus on the mind-body connection, has been about working on grounding myself in the present. That said, I wanted to share this strategy that isn’t so much about a direct writing skill, but about self-care that fosters the development of other skills, such as writing.

Have any mindful writing tips of your own? We would love to hear what helps you get into the “Write mindset"! 

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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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Thursday Thoughts: Scholarly Voice and Tone

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Have you been told that your phrasing is too casual in tone and you need a more formal tone? Are you confused about what scholarly voice and tone mean? New and returning students often struggle with creating the “right” voice and tone for academic audiences—voice and tone that differ from a lot of what people read on a more daily basis, such as blogs, social media feeds, and news or magazine articles. 

Check out the Writing Center’s sources on scholarly voice and tone to learn more about what this important aspect of scholarly writing entails.  

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The Walden Writing Center provides information and assistance to students with services like live chat, webinars, course visits, paper reviews, podcasts, modules, and the writing center webpages. Through these services they provide students assistance with APA, scholarly writing, and help students gain skills and confidence to enhance their scholarly work.

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Use the Paramedic Method to Resuscitate Your Writing

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The point of this blog post is to introduce a method of revising writing that will include a discussion of the paramedic method to help writers reduce the wordiness in papers.

An ambulance with the title text surrounding it

Does something seem a little off about that first sentence, but you just can’t put your finger on it? The sentence is grammatically correct, and the idea progression is logical. However, the length of the sentence doesn’t seem to match the simplicity of the topic. I used 32 words to introduce the topic of this blog post, but it’s possible that not all of those words were necessary to the meaning of the sentence. Let’s look at a sample revision:

Using the paramedic method can help writers reduce wordiness.

Whoa. I reduced the word count of the sentence from 32 words to 9 words and clarified the topic of the blog post in the process. Some of the words in the first sentence definitely weren’t necessary! This brings to light the importance of writing concisely—readers need to be able to easily decipher the topic of each sentence without having to read through it multiple times. Writing concisely can help writers clarify the ideas in their writing for readers. However, how can writers decide what to remove from their sentences when a course instructor or writing instructor suggests improving concision in writing

One method for reducing wordiness is to apply the paramedic method, which Richard Lanham introduced in Revising Prose. The paramedic method can help you reduce word count, eliminate passive voice, and clarify your prose with a simple underlining and italicizing method. To begin using the paramedic method, open a paper that you’re revising and apply these steps to your first paragraph:

1. Italicize the prepositions (e.g., in, on, of, to, from, at, with, etc.).

2. Underline the is verb forms. These verb forms, which Rachel called the buzzing to be’s in her blog post about passive voice, include a “to be” verb (e.g., am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, have been, will be, etc.) added to the beginning of another verb (e.g., was researched, will be provided, is featured).

3. Once you have completed steps 1 and 2, look at each sentence and determine the actor for the action in the sentence. Ask yourself, “Who is kicking whom?” If the actor of the action is missing, add it to the sentence. If the actor is placed after the verb rather than before the verb, move it to before the verb to highlight the actor of the action rather than the object of the action.

4. Change the action into a simple verb. Eliminate those buzzing to be’s whenever possible. 

5. Eliminate any slow wind ups. In other words, eliminate any information that the reader doesn’t need to understand the sentence. 

6. Eliminate any repetitive words or phrases.

You can repeat this process as necessary to reduce wordiness in your paper. Let’s return to the first sentence of this blog post and apply the paramedic method to it:

  • The point of this blog post is to introduce a method of revising writing that will include a discussion of the paramedic method to help writers reduce the wordiness in papers.

I count six prepositions and two “to be” verbs in this sentence. In addition, I begin with a slow wind up in this sentence; I don’t need to say what the point of the blog post is when I can just show the reader the point of the blog post. Using the paramedic method also helps me to see that some of the words are redundant. I don’t need to use “method” twice in the sentence, and I can tell readers how to reduce wordiness in their papers without referring back to revision.

To recap, using the paramedic method helped me to see areas of redundancy within this sentence, and I was able to remove all “to be” verbs and prepositions in my revision: Using the paramedic method can help writers reduce wordiness.

While the paramedic method is a radical way to rethink revision that you can use in any paper, please keep in mind that passive voice is sometimes useful and necessary. You may need to conceal the actor in a sentence, or you may want to emphasize the object of the sentence rather than the actor. As Brittany and Beth discussed in WriteCast Episode 22, passive voice and concision are both grey areas in APA style, so you should use your best judgment as well as the feedback of your instructor in revising your writing for clarity and conciseness.

I’d like to leave you with another chance to practice before I sign off:
In the research there was a discussion of the different variables by the researcher (Doe, 2016). The variables were provided by the researcher in order to better illustrate in what manner the research was to be conducted (Doe, 2016).
The sentences above could use resuscitation, so I invite you to use the paramedic method or your preferred method of revision and then share your results below by leaving a comment. There isn’t one right answer, so we’d love to see how you would revise these sentences, along with any tips or suggestions you have for writing concisely!

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Katherine McKinney is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. She received an M.A. in English from Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education at Walden. Katherine's goal as an instructor is to show students that the best writing results from practice, and she aims to provide feedback and resources that will guide students through the invention, composition, and revision process.

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