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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Quality Academic Writing Is a Process

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Thinking back on your experience learning to write in elementary and secondary school, what kinds of tasks and activities did you do? Did you learn about different steps in the writing process? Did you do things like outlining and visual brainstorming? Did you analyze writing models and talk about what was considered a “good” or “bad” approach? How much of learning about writing was focused on reading? What did you learn about where the main point or argument of the draft should be located within the draft? 



As an English as a Second Language researcher and teacher who has taught in diverse institutions, I know there is much variation in educational approaches, curriculum, and norms for writing genres like academic writing. I also know that how you learned to write and what kinds of educational approaches you experienced probably had a lot to do with where you grew up, and they may influence how you approach the writing process as a Walden student.

The U.S. K-12 school system offers considerable variety in educational approaches and curriculum, yet one characteristic that is seen rather consistently across the system is the approach to writing as a process. This means that writing is often taught as a task that requires planning and that has distinct prewriting, writing, and revising steps. For example, in the younger years of a child’s education, teachers may guide students through the process of brainstorming, outlining, writing a “sloppy copy,” getting some feedback, and then making revisions or edits. Completing one writing assignment may happen over a period of days or weeks.

As students progress through their educational careers, the specific strategies for each step may change, but there is still an emphasis on the prewriting, writing, and revising steps of the process. In high school or college, the writing process may look more like this:

  1. 1. Read and take notes
  2. 2. Brainstorm
  3. 3. Outline
  4. 4. Read more and take notes
  5. 5. Write first draft
  6. 6. Get feedback from faculty or a writing instructor
  7. 7. Revise
  8. 8. Read more and add ideas to underdeveloped paragraphs
  9. 9. Proofread

The approach to writing as a process can be juxtaposed with the approach of writing as a product, meaning that the purpose of the writing is to accomplish a goal or task with the writing in a one-time sitting. The product approach aligns with situations in which grades and assessment may be heavily reliant on high-stakes, essay-style testing (e.g. placement tests, precollege testing, essay-style final exams). In this approach to writing, the goal may be to conform to some type of structure while also communicating as much content as possible in a short period of time. Opportunities for content revisions are less frequent under this approach, but there may be a strong emphasis on how the final product looks at the surface level, including mechanics of writing and the overall form that the writing takes (i.e., standard essay format). While this approach may enable the writer to communicate ideas, it may not leave the time and space for revision and refining that could improve clarity and flow for the reader. The product approach also does not allow time and space for important deep critical thinking and reflection on the topic, which is valued in the process approach.

While both approaches have their places in U.S. academic settings, the process approach tends to be favored and promoted from the early years through higher education and is the ideal approach for most Walden writing assignments because of the greater opportunity for critical thinking and reflection, which can enhance the idea development and overall argument of the paper. Students coming from educational and cultural settings in which the product approach is common may benefit from familiarizing themselves with and practicing some strategies for the prewriting and revision steps, as high quality academic writing is, indeed, a process.



Amy Bakke
 is a senior writing instructor and multilingual writing specialist at the Walden Writing Center. She enjoys researching cultural differences in education and considering how people with different perspectives and histories experience education at Walden. She also enjoys learning about child development as a student in Walden's M.S. in Early Childhood Studies Tempo program. 


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Thursday Thoughts: Maintaining Motivation

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Where I live, we are in the middle of winter. The weather is cold, the sky is gray, and we have a whole lot of time left before things warm up again. At the beginning of the season, everyone was excited for cozy sweaters, sledding, and building snowmen. But at this point, not even halfway through the season, everyone is feeling disillusioned with the cold. We have to scrape ice off of windows, bundle up, and shovel snow. It just isn’t as delightful as it once was. At the beginning of a season it can be easy to feel excitement. Near the middle of that season, it is harder to maintain that interest.

Maintaining Motivation


The same is true for projects we work on professionally, academically, and personally. When something is new, we are more likely to feel motivated and energized by the project. As time goes on, keeping this motivation and interest can become more difficult. As students, maintaining the energy to make it through a large project in a course, or a capstone document, is important – but tough!

Here are some of my favorite Walden Writing Resources to help you maintain motivation:

  • Finish something – anything because it will make you feel accomplished and will re-energize you



Walden University Writing Center

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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Planning for Writing Center Sessions at Residencies

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Whether you are planning to attend a doctoral in-person or virtual residency, the preparation process can be daunting. In terms of logistics, you may have to plan to take time off from work, find accommodations for family members or pets, or arrange a ride to the airport (just to name a few!). Not to mention, you have to emotionally prepare to interact with peers, faculty, and staff in a synchronous environment, which, for Walden students, is not the normal, everyday educational experience.

Planning for Walden U Residency


The preparation process can be a lot to handle, but as a doctoral student, you are used to preparing. For some, your entire doctoral career could be viewed as a preparation process for the next step in your professional career! So you know that preparing can pay off and result in a more productive experience.

Here are a few steps you can take to prepare for residency sessions led by Writing Center staff to improve your experience:

Bring Your Laptop
Now, if you are attending a virtual residency, you are likely not going to forget to bring your computer to residency sessions. But if you are preparing to attend an in-person residency, do make sure to bring your laptop to all Writing Center-led sessions. At both in-person and virtual residencies, you’ll be asked to complete activities, some of which require internet access. You might be asked to format an online journal article reference list entry, find a DOI number for a source, or add analysis to a MEAL Plan paragraph. Having the ability to view supporting materials and activity instructions from your laptop during residency sessions can be very convenient, especially if you’re nearsighted, like I am!

Bookmark the Writing Center’s Website
Speaking of the benefits of bringing a laptop to Writing Center-led sessions, bookmarking the Writing Center’s website home page on your primary web browser before the residency can save you a lot of time. In many Writing Center-led sessions, staff will guide you through the Writing Center’s website to find helpful resources, such as information about paper review appointments and what it means to synthesize. If you are able to easily access the Writing Center’s homepage, you can then follow along with the staff member as they navigate the Writing Center’s website. And once you know how to bookmark a webpage, you can bookmark webpages of specific interest to you as the Writing Center staff member shows you where to find answers to your APA and writing-related questions.

Write Down Your Questions
Have a burning APA question you want to ask an expert? Or maybe you’d like to know more about scholarly writing. Write it down! Create a Microsoft Word document or a note in your phone and type up all of your questions. Chances are we’ll answer many of your questions during the Writing Center-led sessions you attend at the residency, but if we don’t, feel free to ask! Writing Center staff are happy to answer your questions during residency advising sessions, during presentations, or after residency sessions (if your question is a little more intricate). As a bonus for those of you attending a virtual residency, if you have all of your APA and writing-related questions typed up, you can simply cut and paste them into the chatbox of the virtual environment in which we meet!

Even though, as a residency presenter, I find I am able to answer the majority of students’ questions without having to look up the answers, I still learn something new at every residency. So if you stump me with a question, good for us! We can locate the answer together. In any case, if you record your questions somewhere, you’re less likely to forget to ask them. And if you come up with questions after the residency ends, send them our way at writingsupport@waldenu.edu.

Your time is valuable, and spending some of your valuable time prepping for Writing Center-led residency sessions can help you get the most out of our sessions! We so look forward to seeing you at your next residency. 


Ellen Zamarripa author photo

Ellen Zamarripa
is a Writing Instructor and the Coordinator of Residency Planning for Walden University's Writing Center. She loves to teach and especially enjoys working with students asynchronously through paper reviews and then meeting them synchronously at residencies.

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Thursday Thoughts: Writing Goals for the New Year

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Happy New Year! What are your 2019 goals? Maybe your goals are related to old goals you’ve been putting off for years, goals that weren’t met last year, or new goals. Goal setting can be both exciting and stressful, especially when it comes to academic goals. The Writing Center understands this, especially in terms of writing goals, as students often have several responsibilities outside of their academic ones. 

To help you with your 2019 academic goals, the Writing Center has tips for How to Achieve Your Writing Goals

Man looking out at horizon with a telescope

Let us know what your 2019 writing goals are and what Writing Center services you plan to use to help you achieve them!


The Walden University 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. The center supports students through all stages of the writing process and develops the writer as well as the writing.
 


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