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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

September Webinar Preview

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September feels like back to school season! Join us for one of our many live, interactive Writing Center webinars in September to learn more about academic writing and APA Style.


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Webinar Calendar

Title:APA Formatting & Style: Beyond Citing Sources
Date:Thursday, September 6, 2018
Time (Eastern):7:00PM - 8:00PM
Audience:All Students
Title:Writing and Responding to Discussion Posts
Date:Monday, September 10, 2018
Time (Eastern):1:00PM - 2:00PM
Audience:All Students
Title:Demonstrating Critical Thinking in Writing Assignments
Date:Thursday, September 13, 2018
Time (Eastern):8:00PM - 9:00PM
Audience:All Students
Title:Master's Students: Revising and Proofreading Your Coursework Documents
Date:Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Time (Eastern):11:30AM - 12:30PM
Audience:Masters Students
Title:Top APA Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Date:Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Time (Eastern):10:30AM - 11:30AM
Audience:Masters Students
Title:Writing at the Graduate Level
Date:Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Time (Eastern):6:00PM - 7:00PM
Audience:All Students

Can't make it to one of our live webinars? No worries! We record all of our webinars and publish them in our webinar archive for you to view at your convenience.



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The Walden University Writing Center
 produces a live webinar each and every week. Walden University students are encouraged to participate and practice their scholarly writing skills with one of our instructors or editors. 

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Handling the Hot Thoughts: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Writing

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Although I am a professional writer and educator, writing does not always come easy for me. When I am facing a bad case of writer’s block, I rely on a psychotherapy technique I learned from a therapist: cognitive behavioral therapy.



Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy developed by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960’s (Greenberger & Padesky, 1995). This therapy treats stress, depression, and anxiety by helping a person to identify and challenge their negative thoughts (Greenberger & Padesky, 1995). With practice, CBT can help a person to automatically identify negative thinking and turn thoughts from negative to positive.

Note: This blog provides just a summary of CBT, but you can find more information on the topic from Greenberger and Padesky’s book Mind Over Mood (1995). Before I jump into using CBT for writing anxiety, please know I am not trained in any kind of therapy or mental health care. These are just tips I have found to be helpful when I’m battling my own writing anxieties.

Step 1: Identify your situation and mood (Greenberger & Padesky, 1995)

The first step in using CBT for writing is to identify the situation and how you are feeling (Greenberger & Padesky, 1995). For example: Last week I was struggling to write a work assignment that asked for my personal opinion. In this example, the situation was a work assignment, and I felt nervous and insecure about providing my personal opinion. Because of these feelings, I found myself procrastinating on the assignment.

Other examples of situation and mood may include:

  • You’re writing a major assessment for a course and you have no idea where to start. You pored over research, but you are putting off writing because you feel overwhelmed.
  • You’re almost done with an annotated bibliography. The annotations and entries are done, but now you are stuck on the introduction. You’re feeling anxious about finishing this assignment because it is worth such a large percentage of your course grade.


Step 2: Identify your automatic thoughts and the hot thought (Greenberger & Padesky, 1995)

As you are identifying your situation and mood, where do you find your thoughts going? For my work assignment, my automatic thoughts included: “I will have to turn this assignment in late. My coworkers will be upset with me. Everyone will think I am terrible at my job.” Yikes! My thoughts went to a pretty extreme place. In my automatic thoughts, “Everyone will think I am terrible at my job” is definitely the hottest or scariest thought.  
Using the same situations and moods as above, here are some examples of automatic and hot thoughts:

  • “I have no idea how to start this paper, because I am not good at writing. Hot thought: Whatever I turn in will be terrible.”
  • “I have no idea what to write for this introduction. What if I finish this assignment and I get a terrible grade? Hot thought: If I get a terrible grade, my overall course grade will drop.”

Step 3: Identify evidence that does not support the hot thought, and instead, develop an alternative thought (Greenberger & Padesky, 1995)

I could have let my automatic thoughts continue to spiral, but I was able to stop and counter my negative thinking by looking for evidence to support my hot thought. Did I have any proof that my coworkers thought I was terrible? My coworkers had always been very supportive of my work. They had given me praise and encouragement on many projects. There was no evidence to support my hot thought. I had never turned in an assignment late before, and I knew I could still make the deadline because I had performed this kind of task in the past! My alternative thought or my positive, rational idea was, “I might have to ask for an extension, but I have to try first.”

Here are some examples of looking for evidence that does not support hot thoughts and alternative thoughts:

  • I have never turned in a terrible paper before. While I may have done poorly on some writing assignments in the past, I was able to revise my writing and learn from the experience. Alternative Thought: I am confident in all the research I have done. I can freewrite my first draft and then get help from the Writing Center.
  • So far I have not received a bad grade in this class. In fact, my instructor has been happy with my writing. Alternative thought: I may be stuck now, but I will begin by outlining my introduction. If I am still struggling with writer’s block, I will reach out to my instructor for feedback.

Ultimately, CBT is about addressing the negative thoughts that hold us back, and turning them into positive thoughts that move us forward. By working through this process, we have to slow down and rationalize our worst fears. More often than not, these fears are unfounded. With time and practice, applying CBT to your writing anxieties may happen automatically. 

Reference

Greenberger, D., & Padesky, C. A. (1995). Mind over mood. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. 


Tasha Sookochoff author image

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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Thursday Thoughts: Restorative Writing for Social Change

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Social change is one focus that sets Walden University apart. Here in the Writing Center, we're excited to support writers as they work towards social change by offering several resources related to the topic.


restorative writing for social change
We are excited to add a new webinar to our webinar archive. Using Restorative Writing to Enact Social Change explores how you can use writing to work through difficult experiences and events and move towards social change in your community. In this hour long webinar that you can watch at any time, you will learn what restorative writing is and be able to practice it with several guided writing exercises.





Check out these other great resources related to restorative writing for social change:
How are you using restorative writing to enact social change? We would love to hear what you're doing in the comments!

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The Walden University Writing Center helps student writers at all points of the writing process by providing one on one writing instruction, modules, webinars, a podcast, and blog.


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Top 10 Preproposal and Proposal Fixes for Capstone Writers: Part II

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Last week, we began our presentation on top fixes for those working on capstone projects here at Walden University. We made recommendations to writers about streamlining language use to capture an effective scholarly voice. Today, we are pleased to present the rest of our suggestions that cover topics like how to consider your reader as you write and how to review APA errors as you revise. The strategies we present today come from years of working with Walden capstone writers in the preproposal and proposal stages of their programs. We're happy to share what we've learned with you today!

Top 10 Preproposal and Proposal Fixes

Fixes 4-6: Keeping Your Reader In Mind

4. Try to avoid ending sections with a citation (unless explicitly required by your program). Instead focus on your project. Claire often notes that in preproposal documents the significance or other sections end with a piece of evidence. However, since the purpose of your work should be unique (no one else has done this particular study before), inclusion of a citation at the end of a section gives me as a reader the wrong emphasis. For clarity and flow, I always recommend trying to refocus readers on your project at the end of sections where possible.

5. Students writing a doctoral study or dissertation should make sure that key terms are defined appropriately and helpfully. Readers (and you!) need to be clear about the operational and conceptual definitions used in your document. When composing and revising this section of your study, first ask yourself whether the list includes all of the terms a reader needs to understand to follow your argument. Then, scrutinize the definitions to make sure that they are succinct and sufficiently descriptive and that they provide readers with clear definitions of terms as they are used in your study. Support your definitions with appropriate citations. Remember to arrange definitions in ascending alphabetical order (A, B, C, D, etc.) and indent them like paragraphs. In addition, definitional terms should be italicized and in sentence case and followed by a nonitalicized colon.

6. Be sure to follow APA guidelines for abbreviations. This fix relates to keeping your reader in mind because abbreviations are meant to help out your reader—you want to abbreviate terms you’ll be using over and over and find a helpful and clear abbreviation to use to assist readers. You want to be consistent and to follow APA style specifications. Sometimes, inclusion of abbreviations can be distracting and unhelpful to readers, particularly if many abbreviations are used within a sentence or paragraph. Readers are also distracted by the inconsistent use of abbreviations in a text (e.g., an abbreviation is introduced, but the full term is used in subsequent sentences). See also: our webpage on APA abbreviations. 

Fixes 7-10: Review APA Errors as You Revise

7. Ensure that “References” at the beginning of your reference section is centered, flush left, but not bold. Per APA, References is treated as a title rather than a heading for formatting. See APA, p. 62, for a helpful overview of how to format headings in APA. For doctoral capstone writers, the Form and Style Review Checklist also includes a quick and easy-to-grasp overview of headings.

8. Don’t list the library or a database as your source URL. A reader who isn’t a Walden student or who does not have access to a certain database can’t use a database URL. Instead, first search for the doi number. If there is no doi number, then type the name of the journal/source into Google. Find that source’s Internet homepage and copy and paste the homepage link after “retrieved from” in your reference (be sure to undo the automatic hyperlink).

9. Make sure your reference list and sources in your document match. You’ll work on these documents over a long period of time, so having some sources that are cut or never used is understandable! But not having a reference entry for a source a reader wants to look up, or listing a source you never reference, is confusing to the reader, so be sure to double check.

10. Check that you’ve used & and “and” correctly in your citations. If a citation is in parentheses (or in your reference list), always use “&”—think of it as a shorthand. If you’ve referenced the authors as part of the meaning of the sentence, spell out “and” as this is part of your larger text. See also: additional citation resources.

We are confident that making the fixes we’ve identified will strengthen your doctoral study and make your experience more enjoyable. The preproposal stage is a great time to start using this list. In the comments box, be sure to share whether you have your own list of easy fixes for capstone proofreading and revising.


Claire Helakoski author photoTara Kachgal author photo

Claire Helakoski is a Writing Instructor and Tara Kachgal is a Dissertation Editor in the Walden University Writing Center. Both are dedicated to supporting writers as the begin, progress, and complete their capstone projects. 

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Meet the Walden University Writing Center's Plagiarism Prevention Kit

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Academic writers have a lot of style considerations to acclimate to. What does an academic voice sound like? What information appears inside the citation? When do I use the ampersand sign vs. the word “and?” What is anthropomorphism again? In addition to that, academic writers have to ensure that they have focused on a strong central idea, have developed it in organized paragraphs, and have remained rooted in research. With all of these things going on, academic writers also have to ensure they avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism is defined as using, or presenting, someone’s ideas or work as your own. However, there are a variety of things that actually are considered plagiarism. Actions that can constitute plagiarism range from submitting someone’s writing as your own to misplacing a citation. Because writers start their academic careers with different experiences and understandings, we created a Plagiarism Prevention Kit to house information students can sort through to find a specific answer regarding how to prevent plagiarism or to learn more about the topic in general.

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The Walden Writer Center’s Plagiarism Prevention Kit is a resource full of materials, tools, and tips to help you avoid plagiarism in your writing. All of the materials can be found in the menu on the left-hand side of the page, but highlights include:




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The Walden Writing Center supports students during all phases of the writing process, offering one-to-one paper reviews, webinars, modules, live chat and WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast.


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Top 10 Preproposal and Proposal Fixes for Capstone Writers

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Today we’ll be presenting some easy fixes and things to revise in your preproposal documents to help prepare your work for submission and, later, to transition to your doctoral documents. Both Claire as a Writing Instructor and Tara as a Dissertation Editor will be weighing in today with our ideas about doing some up-front work to help enhance your documents as you prepare for your capstone, which at Walden University is a term we use to describe the premise, prospectus, proposal, and dissertation. Note that we will not be discussing content today, as this is particular to your discipline and project. Instead, we’ll go through 10 tips to streamline wording, keep your reader in mind, and review APA errors as you revise.

Tip 10 Preproposal and Proposal Fixes


These easy fixes we’ve identified below fit with proofreading and revising strategies for the capstone. Based on our experience, these are the some of the most important, but often overlooked, things that preproposal and proposal writers can do to make their capstone writing experience as seamless as possible.

We have arranged the fixes into three main categories: Streamlining your wording, keeping the reader in mind, and reviewing for APA errors. These categories were collaboratively created by us after some discussion of what we most often see both in the Writing Center’s myPASS preproposal schedule and in the form and style review process. We found that our top quick fixes all fit into these categories, so if you are in the preproposal stage start now! If you are already in your capstone work, these are still useful as you revise prior to submitting at any point in your process.

Fixes 1-3: Streamlining Your Wording

1. Work to have clear citations with “I” statements. We often see phrasing like: I will use qualitative methodology (Barnes, 2018).  Since Barnes didn’t write about your choice--the researcher wrote about the methodology itself--readers will likely be confused about why a citation is being included in the sentence.  Only include citations when you have summarized, paraphrased, or quoted from source materials.  A more expansive explanation of evidence or narrative citation can help clarify things. See also: Creswell Did Not Write About You blog post

2. Be consistent with your use of verb tenses, and make sure that they reflect the current status of your research. In the preproposal stages, that means you will likely write in the future tense “I will interview”. On the Writing Center instructor side of things, Claire often sees confusing language here in the past tense when at the preproposal stage, your study hasn’t been approved yet so everything is hypothetical at that point. In the preproposal stage, make sure it is clear that you have not yet completed the study itself.

Another important note from Tara is that you will have to revise your verb tenses as you complete your study (e.g., change future tense in the proposal to past tense in the final capstone study to reflect the fact that you have completed your study). Just because you get that initial approval doesn’t mean you should be done revising or ensuring your work is clear and correct.

3. Ask yourself whether you’re writing as concisely and economically as possible. Read your work aloud. Shorten and connect sentences with effective transitions and synthesis. Tara often recommends that capstone writers try to keep sentences to about three lines, maximum, and paragraphs to about 5-7 sentences (or, about half a page). This may vary slightly depending on your project of course, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind since your readers have a lot to get through.


Join us next week as we continue our post and give you the final seven fixes for capstone writers. We'll cover topics like how to keep your reader in mind and how to check your writing for adherence to APA style. Happy writing, Walden writers! 


 Claire Helakoski author photoTara Kachgal author photo

Claire Helakoski
is a Writing Instructor and Tara Kachgal is a Dissertation Editor in the Walden University Writing Center. Both are dedicated to supporting writers as the begin, progress, and complete their capstone projects. 


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APA Style Refresh: Using Multiple Sources with the Same Author and No Date

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As you read our APA Style Refresh series, you’ll start to wonder (if you haven’t already) how in the world anyone remembers all of these rules. The dirty little secret? We don’t! Even Writing Instructors, who help students with APA Style every day, have to look up the finer points of APA with some regularity. 

APA Refresh:  Using Multiple Sources with the Same Author and No Date


One rule that I’ve had to look up more than once is what to do when you have multiple sources that have the same author and no date. The answer comes out of the rule for referencing multiple sources with the same author and year of publication. In that case, lowercase letters are placed immediately after the year and within the parentheses in both citations and reference entries: (2018a), (2018b), (2018c), etc. 

If multiple sources have the same author and no date available, the formatting is just a little different. In this case, follow “n.d.” for “no date” with a hyphen and lowercase letter. 

Here are the example references entries for these types of sources:

Walden University. (n.d.-a). Citations: Citation variations. Retrieved from https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/apa/citations/variations


Walden University. (n.d.-b). Reference list: Common reference list examples. Retrieved from https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/apa/references/examples

How do you choose which source is letter “a” and which source is letter “b”? Simply place the sources in alphabetical order by title, disregarding any initial articles like “A,” “An,” or “The.”

Be sure to use these letters in not only the reference entries, but also the citations so that your reader knows where to find each piece of information

I have to say, I’m glad that this blog post is now published so I can go back to it the next time I forget this rule—which I surely will! What new APA rules have you learned lately?


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Cheryl Read
 is a Writing Instructor in the Walden University Writing Center who seems to learn something new about APA Style just about every week. 

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