August 2019 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

September Live Webinar Events!

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The Walden University Writing Center Writing Instructors and Dissertation Editors are keeping busy with our normal slate of Paper Reviews, Form and Style Reviews, blog posts, website content, podcasts, residencies, and all the other tools we use to support Walden University writers. As we turn our calendars to the next month, it's shaping up to be a busy September. 

Amidst all of this busyness, we're still producing, presenting, and sharing a full schedule of live webinar events throughout the month. If you join us for one of our live webinars, you will join a like-minded group of Walden writers who are interested in building community while building writing skills. During the session, one of our professional instructors or editors will present a specific writing topic to you, including plenty of examples, activities, and opportunities to learn and communicate with each other. 

If you're unable to join a live session, all of our live webinar sessions are recorded and posted to our webinar archive. Click here to access the webinar archive to find out what topics've been covered. 

Enjoy this month's live webinar offerings

Title:What Is Academic Writing?
Date:Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Time (Eastern):8:00PM - 9:00PM
Audience:All Students
Title:Successfully Writing Doctoral Capstone Abstracts
Date:Thursday, September 5, 2019
Time (Eastern):12:00PM - 1:00PM
Audience:Doctoral Students Working on Final Capstone Draft
Title:Plagiarism Prevention: The Three Components to Avoiding Plagiarism
Date:Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Time (Eastern):1:30PM - 2:30PM
Audience:All Students
Title:Practical Writing Skills: Paraphrasing Source Information
Date:Monday, September 16, 2019
Time (Eastern):2:00PM - 3:00PM
Audience:All Students

Title:NEW Webinar: Before You Write: Critical Reading Strategies for Academic Writers
Date:Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Time (Eastern):2:00PM - 3:00PM
Audience:All Students

Walden University Writing Center

The Walden University Writing Center
 is home to a staff of trained, professional Writing Instructors and Dissertation Editors. The Writing Center's staff works with Walden University students' writing in one on one sessions, but also creates resources that can be used by students to enhance their own scholarly writing skills. As students come to the Writing Center with a variety of learning styles and preferences, the Writing Center's staff supports these students with a resources that appeal to the diversity of Walden U's body of students. 

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Can You Persuade Your Audience Like a Jedi? Appealing to the Forces of Rhetoric

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As I was brainstorming this article, my husband David peeked over my shoulder and asked what I was up to. I explained that I was writing a blog post about the rhetorical triangle. His eyes glazed over and he looked at me with a blank stare. “Oh sure, sure” he replied. 

It was clear he did not know what I was talking about. Lucky for him, I was happy to geek out and breakdown the rhetorical triangle—a visual diagram that organizes Aristotle’s three types of appeals for persuading an audience. These appeals are:

Logos: The text's use of evidence and organization to support the writer's argument; Ethos: the writer's authority or credibility; Pathos: The audience's emotional connection to the text

Ethos (ethics) - By using ethos, a writer or speaker builds credibility and authority with the audience through the inclusion of evidence that supports their argument.

Logos (logic) - Arguments that use logos rely on reason to persuade the reader. Logical arguments are built on facts and use clear and concise language.

Pathos (emotion) - A speaker or writer uses pathos to appeal to a reader’s emotions. These types of arguments may draw passion, anger, or sympathy from the reader, thus persuading them to use their feelings to guide their decisions.

David nodded along as I explained the three appeals, and when I asked if the triangle made sense, he replied nonchalantly, “Yeah, it’s like Star Wars.”

Now it was my turn to give him a blank state. “Go on,” I told him.

He proceeded to breakdown how the three main characters in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope: Luke, Han, and Leia, provide excellent examples of ethos, pathos, and logos. In the film, the trio journeys through the galaxy to destroy the evil Empire’s Death Star, a massive spaceship that can detonate a planet with one shot.

Luke as Ethos
As they overcome many obstacles in trying to complete their mission, Luke relies on ethos, or ethics, to establish his credibility as a moral expert and persuade his friends and guide his actions. As a Jedi,—a “type of peace keeping space monk” according to David—Luke ‘s decisions are based on what he views as right or ethically sound for the good of others. Throughout the film, Han, Leia, and other characters fighting the Dark Side come to believe in Luke and value him as a leader because of his trustworthy character and moral actions. 

While you may not be able to use your moral code to save the galaxy, you can provide examples of yourself as an ethical writer and researcher in your scholarship, in order to best appeal to an academic audience. When you’re writing an academic paper, citing research shows the audience that you value the work of other researchers and that you also care about the accuracy of your own content. In turn, the audience trusts the claims you make because they know you are a trustworthy source.

Han and Pathos
Han is the opposite of Luke. Whenever a dangerous scenario begins to unfold, Han acts on his feelings with passion and anger, rather than trying to justify an argument with reason or a moral code. He is also an expert at appealing to others’ emotions and throughout the film he flirts and flatters his way out of a many risky situations. What you can learn from Han is what not to do in scholarly writing. 

Emotional appeals of anger or approval convey to an audience that you have not critically considered peer-reviewed research. These types of appeals usually rely on biased language and emotional reactions, depending on the type of audience, rather than concision and clarity to relay facts. While you shouldn’t rely on pathos to support an academic argument, you could effectively use pathos in marketing copy or fundraising to reach an audience more open to emotional appeals.

Leia’s Logos
Leia would never rely on emotions to make an argument. Han’s reactions and Luke’s moral code are illogical to the analytical Leia, who uses facts and possible outcomes when making decisions. Leia is a high-ranking official in the resistance to the Empire because she can present organized facts to the other officers. While her logic doesn’t always persuade Luke and Han, she is able to analyze the facts in front of her and make logical appeals to the appropriate audience such as generals and commanders. 

Making a logical argument may not work in arguments with a friend or partner, but in an academic or professional context, the audience will be more receptive to factual evidence you can provide in support of your argument.

At different points in the movie, Luke, Han, and Leia find success when their rhetorical choices appeal to the right audience. When writing a paper, the arguments you make must also convey your ethical choices and appeal to your reader through logic, while avoiding emotional and possibly biased claims. In persuading me that Star Wars was an excellent example of Aristotle’s triangle, David used logic to present evidence from the film; ethos, because he is a self-proclaimed expert and Star Wars nerd; and pathos to appeal to my love of the franchise. 

David, on the other hand, just claims he used the force.

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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Point of View Matters

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I was nearing the end of my undergraduate program when an instructor recommended that I add a sentence to an analysis that said what my goal was. With those exact words: “My goal is…” I was floored. Throughout my entire academic career, I had it repeated over and over that academic writing is always done in the third person, which means I would never say I will do this, or my goal is that. But here was this type of document that allowed for use of first person, and I had an instructor who preferred it. I shrugged my shoulders and added it in.

Later, feeling comfortable using first person in my writing, I tried the same thing in a different course and was met with a fury of red pen: NO FIRST PERSON! Whoops. I guess not every instructor feels the same. This is why it is important to consider the points of view available to us as writers and the process in choosing which to use and when. So how do we consider which point of view is best to use in scholarly writing? Let’s walk through them each to learn more.

Point of View Matters

First Person Singular (I, me, my, mine)
As the writer, if you choose to use first person singular, you are referring to yourself and only yourself. But in scholarly writing, if you use first person in “I think” or “I believe” statements, you are actually weakening your writing. It is better to present your opinions without the use of first person. Take this for example:

Before: I think that legislation banning specific dog breeds is unethical.

After: Banning specific dog breeds is unethical

With the simple removal of the “I think” phrase, this sentence says the same thing but comes across with more power. Why is that? When a sentence begins with “I think” the subject and action of the sentence are you thinking. That means the main idea is just that you have an opinion. However, when a sentence begins with the actual main idea, banning specific dog breeds, that means the main idea is your actual topic and not yourself.

Walden has an official statement on the use of first person, and when it comes to choosing when to use first person or not, I recommend reserving it for times when you (and the actions you take) are the subject. For example, if you are conducting original research, we would want to see I will do A, B, and C. Additionally, if you are writing about your personal work and academic experiences, first person is required.

First Person Plural (we, our)
First person plural is less of a gray area. As we know, first person means you are referring to yourself, but the plural here means you are referring to yourself plus other people. In most academic writing situations, I advise against using first person plural because it assumes that your reader is in the same group as you, and we can’t guarantee that. For this reason, it is better to name who you mean.

Before: We must implement these leadership changes.

After: Organizations in transition must implement these leadership changes.

In the original version, the writer assumed every reader was part of a transitional organization. The edited version names who must implement the changes, and it is much clearer for that. As you can’t know the specifics of all your readers, it is best to always avoid first person plural in academic writing. Other forms of writing that are more casual, like blogs, or audience-specific, like an email to your team, benefit from first person plural.

Second Person (You, yours)
Using second person means you are speaking directly to your reader/s as if they were there in front of you. This can be powerful when giving a speech to an audience or proposing an idea to your supervisor, but it is trickier in academic writing when your audience isn’t in front of you. Second person, like first person plural, assumes things about your reader which might not be accurate.

Before: When conducting rounds, you should assess the care environment.

After: When conducting rounds, a nurse should assess the care environment.

In the original sentence, the writer assumed that all of their readers are nurses who conduct rounds. That can’t be guaranteed, so it is preferred to name who you are writing about. The revised sentence accurately identifies who should assess the care environment.

As we want to avoid assuming things about our reader, it is best to avoid second person in most formal forms of academic writing like course papers, major assessments, and any capstone document. However, you will probably find it useful to use second person when responding to a discussion post. If you know exactly who your “you” is, then it is appropriate to use it, which tends to be the case for a lot of writing outside of academia.

Third Person (it, he, she, they, them, their, theirs)
Third person singular and plural is the most preferred point of view in academic writing. This is because it is the most specific and accurate point of view. As we looked at, first person plural and second person can be unclear, so readers may wonder who is the “we” or “you” if it doesn’t refer directly to them. Clarity and accuracy are key in academic writing, and third person requires these things as writers must name the groups of people they are referring to. Third person also removes any assumptions a writer may make about their audience. As scholars, you should be striving for objective and research-based conclusions. While choosing a third person point of view should be your starting point for all academic writing, do note the times and situations where first person singular or second person may fit in.

As each assignment and situation differs, it is important that you think through your choice behind point of view. If you have any questions about what point of view would be most appropriate, ask your instructor for clarification and their preferences. Before you leave, consider going through this blog post to see what points of view I used throughout and why I may have chosen to use those.

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Melissa Sharpe is a Writing Instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. Her favorite part of working with writers is helping to facilitate the writing process. 

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August Live Webinar Events from the Writing Center

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Starting tomorrow, August 6th, the Walden University Writing Center has an entire month of exciting live webinar events planned. Our webinars are created and presented by Writing Instructors and Dissertation Editors who work closely with Walden U scholarly writers of all degrees, programs, and levels. We know what you're going through, and we create our live webinar sessions to deliver the most learning impact possible. 

Live webinars are a great way to learn about a specific or general writing concept. But what makes these events even more enjoyable is that you are learning, in real-time, with a group of like-minded individuals who are also eager to further their writing skills. Writing and learning within a community of people can increase your motivation, your enjoyment, and your skills, all at the same time. 

If you're unable to join us for any of the live sessions below, don't worry! We record all of our sessions and you can access them from our Webinar Archive any time. Click here to access previous recordings of live webinar sessions

Here's the menu of our live webinar sessions offered this month from the Walden University Writing Center. Enjoy!

Title:Citations Part 1: Methods to the Madness
Date:Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Time:1:00PM - 2:00PM EST
Audience:All Students
Title:Grammar for Academic Writers: Identifying Common Errors
Date:Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Time:7:00PM - 8:00PM EST
Audience:All Students
Title:What About Me? Using Personal Experience in Academic Writing
Date:Monday, August 19, 2019
Time:3:00PM - 4:00PM EST
Audience:All Students
Title:Practical Writing Skills: Using and Integrating Quotes
Date:Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Time:1:30PM - 2:30PM EST
Audience:All Students
Title:Successfully Writing Doctoral Capstone Abstracts
Date:Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Time:12:00PM - 1:00PM EST
Audience:Doctoral Students Working on Final Capstone Draft

Walden University Writing Center

The Walden University Writing Center supports undergraduate and graduate students throughout their programs with paper reviews, webinars, modules, a podcast, and a comprehensive website.

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