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Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Learn by Writing; Learn by Listening

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Faculty Voices: Writing Advice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjgUvtcxGMc&feature=emb_title  

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When I am 
learning something new, I try to seek out someone who has the skills and abilities that I’m trying to learn and ply them for advice. For example, when I was learning how to plan for my first wilderness canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, I made dinner plans with my old school chum Chris so I could ask them for advice on how to pack, what to bring, where to go, and how to stay safe in the wilderness. Chris was extremely helpful and kind, and he explained a lot of ideas and techniques I didn’t know. But as the saying goes “you don’t know what you don’t know.” For something as important as wilderness survival, canoeing, and camping, what I didn’t know could lead to discomfort, injury, or worse.  

I’m not going to compare scholarly writing to wilderness camping
, don’t worryBut they are both complex skills that take time and persistence to learn and perform well. Since scholarly writing is a whole language in and of itself, there are likely a lot of things you don’t know that you don’t know.  

When it comes to writing, like any complex skill, self-study and practice are invaluable. But I recommend you get in the habit of asking for help and advice so you might know what to study and practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent. If you practice wrong or in a counterproductive way, you’re going to repeat those missteps every time you writeThat’s why you should seek out successful writers and relish in their advice. Now, we can’t all get face time with Stephen King (although his Twitter feed is fire), but luckily for Walden students, we have access to a whole team of successful, skillful, and helpful writers: our Walden faculty.  

You may not have the same career and research goals as your faculty. However, there is still a lot you can learn from taking their advice. Being able to learn from someone who has reached great success in a field that you are interested in could be one of the most important benefits of your Walden education. That’s why I’ve found the Faculty Voices video series to be such a wonderful source of writing advice as I continue to develop my own writing skills and habits. 

The advice from Dr. Critchlow
 in “What writing advice do you wish you could give all students” taught me something that I didn’t know I didn’t know: It’s better to get the ideas down first and then go through and shape them into something formal and beautiful. I especially appreciate Dr. Critchlow’s advice to “take your time writing. Write it all out, and don’t edit while you’re writing.”  

I’ve always written under the assumption that the finished product of my writing was most important. What Dr. Critchlow’s advice helped me learn is that the ideas are most important, and brainstorming, prewriting, and development are necessary to enhance those ideas. The shaping and forming of my prose should come later once there is something to work with. 

For example, something that has always derailed my writing momentum is that persistent internal editor that just won’t be quiet. Even as I write this sentence, I’ve revised it already three timesReworking the subject first, then replacing the verb with one that is more active, then flipping the entire sentence structure around to highlight my own act of revision.  My writing process is arduous because I have trouble finding that writing “zone” where ideas flow and writing is a joy, not a chore. My writing takes forever, and it is a struggle. It’s also hard for me to hold an argument together for any length of time because I’m constantly fiddling and tinkering with the prose. The beauty of my writing is never allowed to flourish because it is always so mediated and edited.  

As scholarly writers, Dr. Critchlow’s advice gives us permission to put aside that internal editor and focus instead on the ideas that underpin our writing. The ideas are what matter. No one is studying at Walden University to get an advanced degree in scholarly writing. We use scholarly writing as a vehicle to do something else: Something beautiful that will improve our communities and enrich our own personal and professional selves.  

Turning off the internal editor is n
ot easy, but it is something I will strive to do in my future writing.  Why? Because there is always time later to edit the individual mechanics of each sentence. For now, though, when I’m trying to get in the writing zone, I’m going to remember what Dr. Critchlow said and seek the beauty in my writing. The beauty that comes from engaging with complex and important ideas. 


Hopefully the writing advice in these Faculty Voices videos will give you some concrete, helpful tips that you can use today. When you’re done viewing, reflect on what you learned and consider these questions 

  • What is the most helpful piece of advice that I’ve ever received about my writing?  
  • What did that advice change about my writing process? 

Image of Writing Instructor Max Philbrook

Max Philbrook
 is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. Max’s instructional approach is to help writers of every background develop their voice among the many competing requirements of scholarly writing. Outside of supporting the social change mission of Walden writers, Max enjoys hiking in the forest with Zoie and Kirby: Max’s Australian Shepherd buddies. 

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Forget You Read This: Your APA Bookmark

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When new students (either undergraduate or graduate) begin their academic work at Walden, the one thing they I always hear about is APA. Some students are already familiar with APA, while it’s completely new to some. If so compelled to search on Google or within some of Walden’s own websites, APA is revealed to be a “set of rules” one must usually apply to academic papers to ensure they are written “properly” within the guidelines of all of Walden’s coursework. Beyond this brief introduction, there are also tales (horrific tales?) that APA contains hundreds of rules about formatting, headings, citations, and other strange rules that every student – especially you! – must commit to memory if you’re to succeed in your coursework. APA, you may have also heard, is impossible to learn, containing so many rules no one person can ever know it all.

 If this is what you’ve heard, you now have my permission to forget all of it. I might even encourage you to forget this blog post. 

While a small portion of it is true – Walden students do need to be familiar with APA – the horror stories of having to commit all of it to memory couldn’t be further from the truth. The happy ending to this story - the big reveal before the curtain goes down – is that everything you need to know about APA is located on the Writing Center website. 
Now, it is true that APA gets easier the more you apply it to Walden coursework, committing the rules of APA to your memory is a naturally occurring process that occurs gradually over time. There is no APA-Olympics that will ever require you to take a timed “APA test” on which you will write down every APA rule under penalty of being removed from Walden. If this is an academic nightmare you’ve ever had, it is finally time to wake up. Your teachers at Walden absolutely understand how and why APA may be new to many of you, and the inherent challenges associated with applying (and thinking in) this new style of writing. 

More than anything, APA is a tool designed to help you achieve your academic goals. As a structure of organization
, it helps you to think about your coursework in an even, streamlined manner, applying the same kind of thinking and writing to all your assignments across all courses. While it is true that making small, incremental steps in learning one new APA rule at a time may provide you with a steady diet of energizing blips and whizzes, every new rule you learn is something you can save and apply to every new assignment you write. Once you learn and apply a new rule, it’s yours forever, which is why APA is a tool to help you grow. 

So, before you forget you ever read this blog post, here’s one final thought. Yes, APA will be a part of your academic writing while at Walden, and it contain rules you’ll need to learn over time. The good news is you never need to worry about learning all the rules or having them crammed in your brain all at once. The Walden Writing Center website is designed to be your “APA brain away from home.” We wrote all the rules down for you so they’re there when you need them.  

When applying APA to writing Walden papers there are a few basic rules one needs to remember: the basic template of APA papershow to use headings, and how to use citations, all of which are clearly revealed on our website. Bookmark our site (https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/homeand commit its URL to memory.  

And if you can’t do thattry a Post-It for your wall!

James A. Horwitz
 is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. James received his MA and MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, having first earned undergraduate degrees in both English and Psychology. James has taught at the college-level for over 13 years and is passionate about student-learning, mentoring, and student writers developing their work. 

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