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Webinar Transcripts

What About Me? Using Personal Experience in Academic Writing

Presented April 26, 2017

View the recording

Last updated 5/12/2017

 

Visual: The webinar begins with a PowerPoint title slide in the large central panel. A captioning pod, Q&A pod, and files pod are stacked on the right side.

The slide says “Housekeeping” and the following:

  • Recording
    • Will be available online a day or two from now.
  • Interact
    • Polls, files, and links are interactive.
  • Q&A
    • Use the Q&A box to ask questions.
    • Send to writingsupport@waldenu.edu
  • Help
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right hand corner of the webinar room.

Audio: Beth: Hello, everyone. And thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Beth and I'm gonna get us started by going over a couple of quick housekeeping notes, and then I'm gonna hand over the session to our presenter today, Claire. So, a couple of quick things just to orient yourself to the webinar. The first is that I am recording this session and we'll be posting the recording in your webinar archive, so you're more than welcome to access it there if you have to leave early or if you’d like to come back and review the session. And I always like to note here that we record all of the webinars in the Writing Center, so if there's ever a session that you miss or you can't attend, you are more than welcome to find it in the webinar archive and view it at a later date. And also, you don't have to wait for a live recording, or a live session, to find the recording. We have all of our webinars, unless it's a new one, in the webinar archive right now, so if you're ever looking for some help on a particular topic, you're more than welcome to go in the archive and find that topic and view the recording on it at any time.

Additionally, there's lots of ways for you to interact with us today. So, we encourage you to do so. And I know Claire has some polls and some chats that she's going to be using. We also have the files pod in the bottom right-hand corner, and we have a couple of documents there that you can download, which includes the PowerPoint slides Claire is using here. So just click the name of the document or the file you’d like to download, and then click download files. And then also note that the links throughout the slides that Claire has here are also interactive. So, if you click those links, they'll open up in a new tab on your browser, so they won’t take you away from the webinar, and then you can look at them had throughout the presentation or after the presentation. So, feel free to do that as well.

There's also a Q&A box on the right side of the screen. I'll be monitoring that box and I'm happy to answer any questions or respond to any comments you have throughout the session as well. So, do let me if I can be of any help or if, you know, you need more information or if I can be helpful in any way. Do let me know in the Q&A box. However, we also like to note that we also have our email address which is writingsupport@waldenu.edu. So, if you come to the end of the webinar and maybe it’s at the very end and I don't get a chance to answer your question or if you think of a question after the webinar, you're more than welcome to email us those questions and we’re happy to help there and we'll make sure to display this email address at the end of the session as well.

And then finally, if you have any technical issues, let me know in the Q&A box. I have a couple of tips I can give you. But there's also the help button at the top right-hand corner of your screen. And that's the best place to go for any significant technical issues from Adobe. Alright. And so, with that, Claire, I will hand it over to you.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the title of the webinar, “What About Me? Using Personal Experience in Academic Writing” and the speaker’s name and information: Claire Helakoski, M.F.A, Writing Instructor, Walden Writing Center

Audio: Claire: Thanks, Beth. Hi, everybody. I'm Claire Helakoski. I am coming in from Grand Rapids, Michigan today where it is very sunny and the flowers are blooming, so I’m really enjoying it. I'm going to be presenting "What about me? Using personal experience in academic writing” today.

 

Visual: Slides changes to the following: Session Objectives

After this webinar, you will be able to

  • Identify the benefits and drawbacks of using personal experience in writing
  • Determine the situations when using personal experience is appropriate
  • Integrate personal experience effectively
  • Access additional resources

 

Audio: All right, so our objectives for this webinar are that after the webinar, you'll be able to identify the benefits and drawbacks of using persona; experience in writing, determine the situations when uses personal experience is appropriate, integrate that personal experience effectively, and access additional resources to go through at a later time concerning personal experience.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Caveat:

We are specifically talking about personal experience in coursework, meaning discussion posts or weekly assignments.

Doctoral studies are a whole other thing!

Audio: I do want to make sure to mention, though, that we're specifically talking about personal experience in course work, meaning discussion posts or weekly assignments for this webinar. Doctoral studies are a completely different thing. And the specifications and expectations for those are really different and much more specific. So, you're gonna want to talk to, you know, your faculty member or your chair about those and take a look at your rubric, and we're not gonna touch on those today because they're so different and specific. So instead, we're gonna be focusing on personal experience in that course work, meaning those discussion posts and weekly assignments.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Walden Students

  • At an advantage!
  • Most likely have years of experience
    • In previous education institutions
    • In careers in their chosen field of study
    • In military, family, or volunteer situations

 

[Slide shows an image, outlines of several men and women in business attire.]

Audio: All right, so Walden students are at an advantage for using personal experience and having personal experience related to the subjects of their study. Because all a lot of Walden have years of experience in their fields, and that's why they're here. Right? So, you guys are really passionate about your topic. A lot of you are here because you believe in social change. And you want to enact that social change because you're already active in your field. So, you're seeing what can be changed and what power social change can have every day. So, you might have experience from your education, from that career, or even from military, family, or volunteer situations that are motivating you to come here to Walden for your degree, and that means that you have a lot of personal stake, and a lot of personal stories or anecdotes that are related to your course of study. So that's a great advantage because that passion is what's gonna, you know, drive you through your program and it's gonna come out in your writing.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Walden Students

Where does that experience go?

What does it count for?

Audio: So where does that experience go? When you have all this experience coming in to your course work here, where does that experience go? And what does it count for? Why does it matter? What does it add up to?

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Poll: Which Option are You More Convinced By?

Paragraph A

            By and large, substance abuse in the United States begins during adolescence. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2013) stated that on an average day 881,684 adolescents smoke cigarettes, 646,707 smoke marijuana, and 457,672 drink alcohol. Adult addicts typically report beginning substance use in adolescence. In fact, one in four Americans who started using addictive substances in their teens are addicted now, compared to one in 25 who began using after the age of 21 (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2011). When teens engage in substance use, their behavior impacts their adult lives.

Paragraph B

            By and large, substance abuse in the United States begins during adolescence. As a school paraprofessional, I know this is a problem. I see teenagers every day in the high school library who are drunk or high. Just this past year, five separate students got into serious car accidents (with injuries) due to substance use. We actually have to employ drug-sniffing dogs in the school as well. These teens do not get the help they need, and so addiction becomes something they struggle with as adults as well.

[Webinar layout changes to allow students to participate in the poll.]

Audio: So, we're gonna go through some examples and see what that can look like. I want you guys to take a moment to read both of these paragraphs, and I'll read them aloud as well. And in the poll box, choose which option you're most convinced by. Which one do you think is more convincing?

So, I'll read paragraph A first. “By and large, substance abuse in the United States begins during adolescence. The substance abuse and mental health services administration stated that on an average day, 881,684 adolescents smoke cigarettes.” We have some more numbers that I'm not gonna read all through, but there's a lot of specific numbers there. “Adult addicts typically report beginning substance abuse in adolescence. In fact, one in four Americans who started using addictive substances in their teens are addicted now, compared to one in 25 who began using after the age of 21. When teens engage in substance use, their behavior impacts their adult lives.”

And now I'll read paragraph B. “By and large, substance abuse in the United States begins during adolescence. As a school paraprofessional, I know this is a problem. I see teenagers every day in the high school library who are drunk or high. Just this past year, five separate students got into serious car accidents with injuries due to substance use. We actually have to employ drug-sniffing dogs in the school as well. These teens do not get the help they need, and so addiction becomes something they struggle with as adults as well.”

All right, so it looks like most of you have completed that poll. If you haven't, I'll give you another moment to fill that in. Which of these seems most convincing to you? It looks the majority of you are choosing paragraph A. And that is -- well, there's no right or wrong answer, but in academic writing, we want to strive for what's going on in paragraph A.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Academic Writing

Readers expect

  • to see research-based evidence* supporting statements even if the writer has expertise in the area
  • to be persuaded through logic and reasoning

 

BUT: the need for research doesn’t mean your own knowledge is unimportant or wrong

Audio: Because readers expect to see research-based evidence, supporting statements even if the writer has expertise in the area. Readers want to be persuaded through logic and reasoning. So, they want those examples like in the first paragraph that I read aloud, where it's a logical conclusion that you can make from understanding all this evidence that X leads to Y, or if X, then Y. So, you want to really rely on, you know, that's what readers are expecting in your work, more than that personal experience, because we're in academia, right? So, we're in fields that are supported with research. And it's wonderful to have those personal experiences, but we don't want our whole paper, our whole, you know, kind of point of view to be structured around those because that's not what our readers are gonna be expecting. And the evidence that I'm talking about could come from course readings, books, scholarly journals, or trusted websites.

But the need for research doesn't mean that your own knowledge doesn't matter or that it's wrong in any way. So, we're gonna go through kind of how you might be able to use some of that, but not have it just be the sole focus.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: When Is It Okay?

  • In the research process

Thinking à Researching à Thinking à Researching à Writing

[As Claire is speaking, pictures come up on the slide showing a woman with a thought bubble above her head alternated with pictures of her holding a book. The final image is a picture of a woman’s hand on a laptop keyboard.]

Audio: So, when is that personal experience okay? Personal experience is great to think about during the research process. Because it's gonna give you those ideas as you're working. So, you know, the research process is back and forth, right? So, you want to think about ideas, and when you start thinking about, you know, this topic, you might start with, oh, here's my experience on that topic. And then you want to do a little bit of research on that topic to look more into it. And then as you're reading, you might think more about some personal experiences or just conclusions or how it relates to things that you've experienced. And then you can research based on those conclusions and ideas. And then you can think some more, reflect, and start writing. So that personal experience is a great springboard. It's a great starting place to fuel your research, and you probably already have ideas and thoughts about these topics because you're invested in your field, because you care about your field, because you have a job in your field already, and that's great, because the conclusions that you have or the experiences that you had can probably be supported by that research. Because very likely, if you've had these particular experiences, there's gonna be research to back up that that's pretty common in your field or what that means. Oh, there's the writing image which I forgot to click forward. All right.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: When Is It Okay? Types of Assignments

  • In a reflection paper/post

Assignment instructions:

  • Reflect on…
  • In a prior learning narrative

Assignment instructions:

  • Demonstrate your learning…
  • Refer to specific experiences…

 

Audio: So, what types of assignments are okay to use this personal experience in? And this is an important thing to think about, because some assignments are going to want you to really just talk about, you know, your own experience. Some of them may not want that extra evidence that we were talking about. Some assignments might just be focused on, what's your experience? Why are you at Walden? You know, what's -- how -- how did you come into your field? Things like that. That's not gonna need that supportive evidence, but you'll be able to tell from the way that the assignment is written usually. So, you know, if you're reading your assignment prompt and it says, what do you think about this? What's your experience with this? You know, compare and contrast to your own experience, whether you agree or disagree with this evidence. Those -- if it's gonna use the word, you know, "You," or if it's talking about your experience, words like that are good indicators that it's okay and even expected to use that personal experience in that particular paper or post.

So, think about those when you're sort of thinking about what types of assignments are gonna, you know, be okay to use that personal experience. And if you're ever, ever not sure, write to your instructor and just ask them. But here's some examples of the types of assignments and what they might sort of look like in that reflection paper or post, like I was saying you know, reflect on your own experiences as a professional in your field, or reflect on why you came to Walden or your experience as an online student, things like that, “reflect on” is a good indicator that maybe you're gonna want to talk a little bit about your own experience and things that have happened to you. In a prior learning narrative, they'll say things like "Demonstrate your learning," or "Refer to specific experiences..." so those ones have a lot to do with what are you doing in your current classroom? What have you done before? How could you demonstrate this through examples of things that you've actually done? And of course, you're gonna need to use those personal experiences to back that up and to complete that assignment successfully.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: When Is It Okay? Types of Assignments

  • In a professional development plan (PDP)

Assignment instructions:

  • Describe your educational and professional background…
  • In some research papers

Assignment instructions:

  • Select a topic based on something you have seen, heard, or experienced

 

Audio: In a professional development plans, you know, there's always a section in there about -- about you, right? Describe your education behavior and professional background. So again, we have the word "You" here so we know that it's gonna be about us and that they’re asking us to talk about ourselves, which is great. And in some research papers it might be relevant to do that too. Select a topic based on something you've seen, heard, or experienced. So again, there's that "You" use in there so that you know that it's talking about your own experiences, that that's what the instructor's gonna be looking for. And I've seen a few lately that, you know, are kind of like, read this article. Think about whether you agree or disagree with this author and then talk about why based on your own experience. So, something like that too is going to, you know, use that personal experience. I've also seen it just -- it tends to be more common to have these kind of assignments where you're gonna include personal information in discussion posts. That seems -- you know, because that's a little more casual depending on the course that you're in. So, I tend to see those come through the Writing Center more often as a discussion post. But I just went over several examples that aren't discussion posts and are those larger course papers. So, you're always gonna want to look out for those, you know, sort of specific words like "Reflect," and "Your." And then again, always reach out to your instructor and say, hey, when it says this, should I talk about, you know, this personal experience? Is it okay to talk about personal experience in this paper if I want to do it in this way? So just always reach out to them if you're not sure.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: When Is It Okay? To Illustrate a Theory

Example:

According to the theory of caring, nurses should be sensitive facilitators of a healing environment (Watson, 1979). I demonstrate this when I talk to patients in a calm voice, listen attentively to their needs, and limit the amount of visitors and noise.

Example:

Systems theory looks at a system holistically, with the parts working together (Janson, 2015). An example of this interdependence in my organization is…

Audio: All right. So, again, when is it okay? We've illustrating a theory. So, here's an example. “According to the theory of caring, nurses should be sensitive facilitators of a healing environment. I demonstrate this when I talk to patients in a calm voice, listen attentively to their needs, and limit the amount of visitors and noise.” So, this paper is probably about, you know, you're learning about different theories and maybe the prompt is asking you to reflect on those in your practice. So that's a really good place to kind of connect with the source information really directly.

Here's another example. “Systems theory looks at a system holistically with the parts working together. An example of this interdependence in my organization is...” All right? So, might want to give an example to sort of explain how that works in context. So, where you're explaining the context to the reader, if it's a paper about you or a paper about your organization, then using that evidence and then that additional supplement personal information can really help demonstrate the theory and show how it matters, what it means in the larger context there.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Benefits of Personal Experience

For you:

  • better understanding
  • stronger connection with the material
  • perhaps more confidence

 

For reader:

  • more interesting
  • helpful to see an example from an insider perspective

 

Audio: So, some of the benefits of that personal experience are that, for you, you're gonna have a better understanding of the material, because you're gonna draw from that. You're gonna have a stronger connection to the material because you'll be thinking about, you know, different things that are going on and what this means to you and how maybe you can make changes to your practice or things, you know, that you've seen in your work that relate to that source material you're reading. And it might help you give you more confidence because maybe you'll read something and think, oh, I understand this, because when you have that personal experience layer, it can really help you internalize and connect with the material more deeply. Also, some benefits of personal experience are, you know, for the reader, the reader's gonna be interested in that personal experience, in that contextualizing of these examples, and it's really helpful for readers to sort of see those examples from an insider's perspective. And to get that, you know, additional supportive statement.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

Audio: All right, so let's take a minute or two for any questions that have come in.

Beth: Thanks so much, Claire. Really the only question so far was just about a student was saying -- we've been talking a lot about professional experience and maybe they don't have professional experience but they have experience in something volunteering or previous education or something like that. When we're talking about experience here, are you referring to sort of any general experience? Yeah, that was the main question. Does that question make sense? Did I explain that clearly?

Claire: Yes, it does.

Beth: Okay.

Claire: Yeah, so that's a great question. And I -- I know that in a lot of examples I was talking about professional experience. But using personal experience does apply beyond just professional experience. The reason I was talking more about professional experience is, mostly because that's the most common thing that I see come up, you know, like in those examples we had of the different assignments. It's gonna say, reflect on your experience or something like that. But there are other ones like the professional development plan that tell you, you know, I want to hear about your learning, your prior learning narrative, or, you know, where you are currently in sort of your studies and your understandings of concepts. That's gonna be personal. I know there are a few out there about just, like, who are you and why are you here at Walden? So those are great places to use that, you know, personal experience in your life that's gonna come up. And we're gonna go through some examples in the next section too that I think will kind of help clarify, because those experiences that aren't necessarily personal experience in your field can be a little bit trickier to manage, right, because you have so much to say about your own story. So, I think we have some examples in the next section too that will hopefully help clarify that a little bit.

Beth: Thank you, Claire. We had another question about a student saying that, you know, what if they can't find support for their experience in the literature? So, what if they had an experience, but they can't find sort of support or they can't find evidence that same experience in the literature? Do you have suggestions for students for how to approach that kind of situation?

Claire: Yeah, that's a really great question. So, I mean, I think with something like that, it would really depend on what the assignment is, you know, because if the assignment is to talk about, like, course readings and how they relate to your own experience, then if you're having experience that doesn't relate to the course readings, then that might not be the best place to discuss that experience. You know, and it's possible that the experience that you're talking about in some cases, while it might not be in the course readings, it might be in another field. Like it might, you know, actually be being discussed in, like, business or leadership courses, if it's something that's happening, let's say you're a nurse and it's something happening in your hospital, and there's not a lot in the nursing literature about it, but those kinds of experiences might be discussed in the business side of things, or they might be more in psychology. So, think about the different fields as well. And, you know, if you're really, really having to stretch to include that experience and to support it, then it might not fit with that assignment. And it might be something that you want to, you know, save and think about and maybe it's a really good topic for research when you eventually have to do a, you know, kind of research project and you can branch out a little bit more.

Beth: Wonderful. One other question, time for one more question?

Claire: Yeah. Absolutely.

Beth: Awesome. I think you touched on this a little bit, but I thought -- I wondered if you could talk a little bit more about how students make sure that their personal experience doesn't sort of turn into their opinion and how they balance those two things in their writing.

Claire: That's a great question. Because it's so easy, right? Because you're bringing up this personal experience because it, you know, supports an idea that you already have, right? So, it's very tricky to kind of, you know, keep that from being your own opinion. So, you have to kind of be sneaky about it. And think about, what is my opinion on this? And then find some research that supports whatever your opinion is. Have that research, have a sort of, you know, supportive, contextual evidence from your own experience, and that will help sort of support the idea or the opinion that you're having so you want to just frame everything in the context of that evidence unless it's asking, just straight out asking for your opinion, which I've seen some assignments, you know, that do that, in which case it's fine if your personal experience is shaping your opinion. I know there are some, you know, when you're doing research, sometimes there are prompts that ask about your bias and things like that. So, if it's asking you to reflect on your bias, then that's a great time to say, you know, to really explore that and think about what your bias might be and talk honestly about it too.

Beth: Wonderful. Thanks, Claire. I think that's all we have for now.

Claire: Awesome. All right, and I'm hoping that some of the examples in the next section will help solidify some of the things I've just been talking about a little bit too.

 

Visual: When Is It Not Okay?

  • Avoid using only personal experience as evidence in an argument (uncorroborated)
  • Avoid generalizing

 

Examples:

  • Our schools are failing. Parents want more individualized support for their children in the classroom.

 

  • My daughter texts constantly, which shows that teenagers use cell phones more than they did in the past.

 

Audio: All right. So, we're gonna go through sort of when it's not as acceptable to use that personal experience. So, using only personal experience as evidence in an argument. So that's what I was just kind of talking about, you know, you want to think about what your experience is, and then go find research that supports whatever your opinion is about that so that it's not just you saying what your opinion is. Because while that is very valuable as, like, a starting point, in academic writing, it's important to support our work and our ideas. And you want to avoid having just these sort of generalizations, you know, just based on your experience. That's no good, right? That's having a conclusion from one participant in a study instead of looking at the whole. So, to make generalizations based on something you experienced can be a little, you know, it's very -- it's very opinionated and it's not as supported as we want our academic work to be.

So, here's a couple examples. The personal experience evidence, “our schools are failing, parents want more individualized support for their children in the classroom.” You know, that's sort of a generalization. So, we're kind of, like, okay, these are, you know, interesting statements, and if we go on in the paragraph to support that with some research, that would be great. But right now, without that support, it's just sort of your opinion, or “My daughter texts constantly, which shows that teenagers use cell phones more than they did in the past.” Right, that's kind of a big generalization and it's not really relevant, right? Just having one experience lead to a conclusion about all teenagers is a little bit much, right? It's not an official study. So, you definitely would want to, you know, find some studies about that, and then maybe support it with that your own experience supports these conclusions that these researchers have had.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Problems With Using Only Experience

  • Not a very convincing argument
    • How does one person’s experience compete with verified and reported research involving many people?
  • No foundation of knowledge
  • No practice with library skills, research, and using sources

 

[Slide includes an image of a woman holding a book. She has one hand on the side of her forehead and an agitated expression on her face. There is an arrow pointing at her, from the words “the skeptical reader.”]

Audio: Problems with using only experience, only personal experiences are, like I was kind of just talking about, how does one person's evidence compete with that verified and reported research involving many people? Right? They -- researchers work really hard to, like, make these conclusions and to study these different things that are going on. And it requires a lot of, you know, controls, a lot of time, and a lot of participants to come to these conclusions. So, comparing works like that with just one person's experience isn't as powerful as taking that larger experience and then confirming that, you know, that aligns with what you're experiencing as well. Again, you're missing that sort of foundation of knowledge that you're gonna draw from as a scholar in your field. One of my favorite things about academic writing is that it's all these foundations, it's all these large collections of knowledge that are just building on each other over time and continuing this big conversation, and if you're just using your own experience, then you're not really adding to that conversation. You're not using it to go somewhere new.

And you don't get practice with those library skills, research, and using sources, which, if you're completing a higher education degree of any kind, you're gonna eventually need those skills, right? So, it's good to practice them. And get used to sort of, you know, figuring all that stuff out because it takes time and it takes practice.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Example of Effective Integration

            By and large, substance abuse in the United States begins during adolescence. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2013) stated that on an average day 881,684 adolescents smoke cigarettes, 646,707 smoke marijuana, and 457,672 drink alcohol. Adult addicts typically report beginning substance use in adolescence. In fact, one in four Americans who started using addictive substances in their teens are addicted now, compared to one in 25 who began using after the age of 21 (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2011). To address this pattern, school districts should implement prevention and intervention programs.

            At my high school in suburban Atlanta, I helped create Clean Matters. The program follows the National Institute on Drug Abuse principles of …

Audio: All right, so here's an example of some effective integration of personal experience with supporting evidence. “By and large, substance abuse in the United States begins during adolescence. The substance abuse and mental health services administration stated that on an average day, 881,684 adolescents smoke cigarettes, 646,707 smoke marijuana, and 457,672 drink alcohol. Adult addicts typically report beginning substance use in adolescence. In fact, one in four Americans who started using addictive substances in their teens are addicted now, compared to one in 25 who began using after the age of 21. To address this pattern, school districts should implement prevention and intervention programs. At my high school in suburban Atlanta, I helped create Clean Matters. The program follows the National Institute on Drug Abuse principles…”

So, you can kind of see how, you know, we have all this great source information and we're saying, here's this information. Here's the logical understanding of what that means and what we should do about it, and here's how I'm doing something about it. So, you can see the really clear connection and logical progression of thought here, which is why it's a really effective integration.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Chat: Is It Effective Integration?

From a reflection paper:

            Being an active listener is probably the most challenging part of my face-to-face communication. Although I choose my responses wisely and use skills such as validation and empathic listening, I struggle to be an active listener and easily get distracted by mental noises and perceptual biases. Active listeners are “people who focus on the moment, are aware of interactions as they unfold, respond appropriately, and are aware of distractions” (Dobkin & Pace, 2006, p. 98). To strengthen this skill, I must practice clearing my mind and eliminating distractions so I can fully focus on the messages I am receiving.

[The webinar layout changes to open a chat box for student to type into in response to the chat question.]

Audio: So, I want to do a quick chat. Is this example effective integration? And I will read it aloud, and then I'd like you guys to write in the chat, is it effective, and please add why or why not. I think it'll be a most helpful discussion if we talk about why or why not as well. So – “Being an active listener is probably the most challenging part of my face-to-face communication. Although I choose my responses wisely and use skills such as validation and empathic listening, I struggle to be an active listener and easily get distracted by mental noises and perceptual biases. Active listeners are people who focus on the moment, are aware of interactions as they unfold, respond appropriately, and are aware of distractions. To strengthen this skill, I must practice clearing my mind and eliminating distractions so I can fully focus on the messages I am receiving.”

So, is that an effective integration of personal experience? Why or why not? I'll give you guys a minute or two to reply, and then we'll talk over some of the responses.

[Pause while students type.]

All right, I'm seeing a lot of different responses here. It sounds like there's several different opinions. So, keep them coming. I'm gonna give you guys another minute. And then we'll talk over some of those responses.

[Pause while students type.]

All right, so if you are still typing, go ahead and keep typing, and I'm gonna talk over a few of these responses that are coming in. So, I see, you know, in the "No" camp, about this not being effective integration, I see some people saying that, you know, that there's too much personal information, that the evidence that's being used is only defining a term, and it's not, you know, enough to kind of continue talking about this. It's not enough evidence to support these ideas. And that maybe it's unbalanced in that way. You know, it's mostly "I" statements and just one sentence of source information. So that's what people in the "No" are saying about it.

People in the "Yes" are saying that this is probably a personal reflection -- this is a personal reflection paper, right? So, it's okay to use "I" that much. And that they've integrated the citation really effectively by kind of talking about how it relates to them. It's not just sort of plopping it in there. Right? And I agree with those folks, because it really depends on the type of assignment, right? And we know that this is a reflection paper which I think I forgot to say aloud, so I'm sorry for that. But this is a reflection paper, so the prompt is probably, you know, you probably took an assessment about what type of learner or listener you are, and you're supposed to reflect on that. And in that case, this is a great example because we're talking over, you know, this person is talking over what's difficult for them, how they respond, and then they're supporting that they fit into that category by sort of adding that definition in there, and then explaining, you know, how that connects.

So, although there's not a lot of supporting evidence, this is a little bit different because it's that personal reflection paper which means that they probably did the reading for it, you know, and so they have all that sort of base information to go from. If this was a paper more about, you know, active listeners in general, then, yeah, we would definitely want more source information, right? We would want that definition of active listeners. We would want to talk about, you know, what's effective for active listeners, what, you know, tools to become a more active listener, and support those ideas, but because this is just a personal reflection paper, it's gonna focus more on that "I" and more on that personal experience. But you guys did a great job, and its challenging right? It really depends on assignment. And the points that everybody made who didn't think this was effective integration are certainly correct for other types of papers – so, it's a really good awareness to have.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Tips: DO

  • Use the first-person point of view.

Helps you avoid referring to yourself in the third person or passive voice.

     Inappropriate: In this writer’s role as an executive assistant, this writer compiles reports on financial transactions.

     Appropriate: In my role as an executive assistant, I compile reports on financial transactions.

Audio: All right, so now that we've talked a little bit about what not to do, let's go over some things to do. Use the first-person point of view. So instead of writing things like, "This writer...," you know, “in this writer's role as an executive assistant,” that's kind of confusing to the reader, and it can often create passive voice which APA states to avoid, because it’s unclear, you know, kind of who is doing the action. So instead, go ahead and use "I" when you’re talking about things that you've done or experiences that you’ve had. That is a perfectly acceptable place to use "I" or "My." So, in my role as an executive assistant, I compile reports, right, that's much clearer and cleaner for the reader.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Tips: DO

  • Stay on task.

Ask yourself: Is this experience directly related to the assignment? How much does the reader really need to know?

     Inappropriate: I want to pursue a degree in social work at Walden. My stepfather kicked me out of the house when I was 14, and I became homeless. On the streets, I was scared and hungry and had to steal or beg to get by. I don’t want other teens to suffer like I did for many years.

     Appropriate: I want to pursue a degree in social work at Walden. The experience of being homeless as a teenager has made me empathetic toward other people in similar situations.

Audio: All right. So, make sure you stay on task. And I know a few of the questions we had earlier were a little bit related to this. So it can be really hard, you know, to hone in when you have these personal experiences that are really, really important to you, and it can be tough to figure out, what does the reader need to know, how much they need to know, and how much is too much.

So, here's an example of something that you might see in a paper where the writer is including personal details. “I want to pursue a degree in social work at Walden. My step father kicked me out of the House when I was 14 and I became homeless. On the streets, I was scared and hungry and had to steal or beg to get by. I don't want other teens to suffer like I did for many years.” So that's very moving, right? It is. It's very passionate and personal, and as a reader I'm very moved by it, but I don't know how it all relates. Right? These details are important to the writer, but as a reader, I'm reading all this information and I'm not totally sure what to do with all of it or how it connects to that degree at Walden.

So, a revision might look like this. “I want to pursue a degree in social work at Walden. The experience of being homeless as a teenager has made me empathetic towards other people in similar situations.” So that’s really boiled down, that second sentence, right, that's boiled down the whole back half of the top example there. So, you really want to focus on explaining to the reader every time why exactly, like, what the connection is. You don't want to pile on those personal details without telling the reader what they mean or why they matter. And what's really important here, right, the core of the idea that we're talking about is that this writer is motivated to pursue social work at Walden because being homeless had a profound effect on them, and they want to help other people, right? So, we may not need to know exactly how they became homeless or exactly why. Or what that experience was like for them to understand that this is the motivating factor of why they're here at Walden.

And I don't want you guys to feel like your personal experiences aren't valuable and important, because they are. It's just in academic writing, the focus is usually on, you know, it's less on telling all the details of your life and more focus towards something that's moving forward. And so, you want to make that connection clear for the reader. But if you have an amazing story that you want to tell, you know, there are other formats. There are other forums for you to share that. You can, you know, start a blog or write some nonfiction essays. And it's just, you know, you got to figure out what belongs here in this sort of academic environment and how does everything connect, just like you would with researched evidence. You want to make it clear exactly how it connects and what the reader should understand about that information.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Tips: DO

  • Use an objective, formal, nonjudgmental voice (even if the content is very personal).

Ask yourself: Is this voice appropriate for a professional context?

     Inappropriate: In my opinion, the students were behaving like brats. I couldn’t even get their attention to take attendance! I had to…

     Appropriate: One day at preschool, the students were particularly rambunctious. It was difficult to take attendance, so I…

Audio: All right, so you want to use an objective, formal, and non-judgmental voice. Even if the content is very personal, which is really hard. But here's an example. So, ask yourself, is this voice appropriate for a professional context? Imagine yourself telling this information aloud or writing it to an esteemed professional in your field. You know, or sending it to your boss. Would that be appropriate? Ask yourself those questions to kind of visualize what tone you should be aiming for.

Here's an example. “In my opinion, the students were behaving like brats. I couldn't even get their attention to take attendance.” Versus a revision which could be, “One day at preschool, the students were particularly rambunctious. It was difficult to take attendance.” So, we're trying to, you know, step back and be a little bit more objective. And one of the things you can do, you know, is kind of think about that formal tone, think about that cause and effect, just like you would do with kind of, you know, a more researched idea. You would say, you know, because X, Y. So, because the students were, you know, acting up, it was difficult to take attendance, rather than that personal sort of emotional component, like, we're using "Brats." The writer clearly is frustrated in the top one. Whereas the bottom one, the reader's gonna understand that this was frustrating just from the information and they don't need that sort of emotional component for it to make sense to them and removing the emotional component helps the reader understand clearly, you know, what is happening and where we're gonna go from here.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Tips: DO NOT

  • Wear the “experience blinders”
    • Remain open
    • Consult other sources and viewpoints, even contradictory ones
    • Provide a citation for personal experience

[Slide includes a picture of an outline of a man wearing blinders.]

Audio: All right. Don't wear experience blinders. Meaning that because it's an experience that you've had, you know, and things that seem really relevant to you, and it's hard to tone it down and sort of, you know, think about other opinions or ask yourself, am I being opinionated? Try to not do that. Try to remain open. And consult other sources and viewpoints, even if they're contradictory to what you're feeling or what your initial response is. You know, try to be more objective by looking at those other sources and ideas and removing that sort of, you know, personal stake to come to a larger understanding of the concept as a whole. And do not provide a citation for personal experience. So, you know, you don't need to cite, yesterday, I talked to Tina at my hospital and we're having trouble with using electronic health records. You don't really need to cite that, right? Because that's not research that you did. It's not an official interview or anything of that nature. So, you don't need to cite those personal experiences. You own them. So, you don't need to cite them. Whereas, you know, for research you do outside of that, you don't own that, so that's why you'd need to cite it.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Chat: Your Turn!

How would you pair personal experience with this quote from an article? Write 1-2 sentences.

“About 75% of the online students surveyed indicated that they were more engaged in courses that included images, video, and audio” (Sherman & MacKenzie, 2015, p. 31).

[The webinar layout changes to open a chat box for student to type into in response to the chat question.]

 

Audio: All right, so we're gonna have an exercise as we wrap things up here. “How would you pair personal experience with this quote from an article? Write one to two sentences.” And then we'll go through some together and talk about them and share them. So, here's the quote. “About 75% of the online students surveyed indicated that they were more engaged in courses that included images, video, and audio.” So, how can you connect this to some personal experience? How would you pair this with a couple sentences of personal experience? And take your time. You know, we've got some time. So, I'm gonna give you guys a few minutes to go through and work on that and submit those, and then we'll talk about some together.

[Pause as students type.]

I'm seeing some wonderful responses so far. I'm gonna give you guys another minute or so before we start talking through some of those.

[Pause as students type.]

All right. So, if you're still typing, go ahead and keep going, but I'm gonna talk through a few of the responses that I pulled here as a group. So, one of them is, “I would be one of these students because I recognize that I learn best when colorful images are used.” So that's a really great use of, you know, that personal experience, tying in, and sort of supporting this information, right? So, they're saying that, you know, most students feel this way, and you're confirming that you personally have had that experience as well. So that's a great example.

I have one here. “When I've taken courses that included visuals, I found that my understanding was more clear as opposed to the courses that only included text. It adds another learning dimension which aids in my comprehension.” That's again, like, we have this source information and we're sort of confirming that it's been true in your case as well. And, you know, maybe this paper is about, that's why you want to include more, you know, visually engaging aspects to the online course you're teaching. We don't know exactly what the context of this paper is, but it could be really helpful.

All right, we have one here that is, “being a social media user, I get a more clarified understanding when images, video, and/or audio is connected with my online experiences. LinkedIn is one example of high quality use of images that work for me as a learner.” So, that one’s really interesting. I think that it definitely could connect with this source information. I think that that paper might be a little bit different than some of the other ones with the examples I've read so far. You know, maybe it's a little bit more about social media and how that connects to online engagement and our experiences as online learners which sounds fascinating. I would like to read that paper. You know, so you have to keep in mind, right, what’s gonna be the specific context here. And this is just an example. But that context is definitely gonna -- you know, maybe the paper's gonna focus a little bit more on social media and how it impacts these results.

Here's a nice short one. “As a student myself, I've had success learning in the classroom where visual aids were used.” So that's nice and simple and it's showing, you know, I support this. This is true for me as well.

All right. Here we go. And this one is, “A multilayered approach utilizing the various forms of learning are vital to the online experience. There are those that are visual learners and auditory learners. A class is said to be more engaging when that course includes slides, video, and audio presentations. I am very much a visual learner and achieve greater understanding through the visual mediums of instruction.” So that one's really -- I really like that one because they paraphrase this quote for us, right?. So that's an option too that you want to think about when you’re sort of incorporating that personal experience. You don't have to just plop in a quote. You can integrate it. You can paraphrase it and use it a little bit in that larger context more.

Which this next one did as well. “I learn better when able to have visual connections within the scholarly experience. Since about 75% of the online students surveyed indicated that they were more engaged in courses when that included images, video, and audio, and since I'm a more visual learner, having these aids available enhances my learning.” So, I liked how that one used the quote, but it was incorporated within the larger sentence. Right? So, you don’t have to have separate sentences just because you are using these experiences. They can connect really directly like that in the way that they're integrated together.

You guys all did a really great job. And, you know, like I've kind of been talking about, it's gonna depend on what the larger context of your paper and your prompt is, but I'm really getting that you guys get this, right. Nobody put, like, a really opinionated, you know, sort of non-scholarly response in here. You guys are all doing a really great job of sort of not only internalizing and interpreting this in your own way, but incorporating it really effectively, and that's a really important part of using any kind of evidence, right? Whether that's source evidence or personal evidence, which would be the case here. So, you guys did a really wonderful job there. All right, I'm gonna move on.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Additional Resources

 

Audio: All right, so we have a long list of additional resources that I think will be really helpful to you based on what we've talked over today. There's the avoiding bias web page. The all about audience podcast episode so that's kind of, you know, thinking about who am I writing for? What do they need to know? How can I put myself in their shoes? Why you shouldn't Wiki blog posts. An APA blog post on personal experience. And a prior learning portfolio web wage which is for undergraduate students, but I think as I mentioned there's a section in there kind of all about you and how you came to be there, and that is -- I'm on the undergraduate schedule, if you've ever submitted a paper to me. I don't know if have any of my students here today. But I'm on the undergraduate schedule and I read a lot of those prior learning portfolios, and a lot of times I do see that sort of, where the information is really great, but it's not incredibly clear how exactly it's relevant. So, the web page will be helpful for you there too.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions:

Now: Let us know!

Anytime: writingsupport@waldenu.edu

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New to Walden and academic writing? 

Check out the recorded webinars “What Is Academic Writing?” and “Writing Effective Academic Paragraphs”

Audio: All right, so let's see if we have any questions with the last five minutes here.

Beth: Thanks so much, Claire. We’ve had a couple of questions about citing previous work or citing themselves. So, I wonder if you could talk about those two situations which are kind of different but somewhat related. And I can send out a couple of links in the Q&A box too.

Claire: Awesome. Yeah, okay, so let's do citing previous work first. So, if you're gonna cite previous work, in your Walden course work, you need to double-check with your instructor that that's okay, because a lot of times, they want you to be creating new ideas, right? And in a lot of your course work, previous work that you've written, may not be relevant or, you know, it just might be kind of a stretch to include it, or your instructor just wants you to, you know, have a fresh look at this and try doing it from start to finish with something, you know, that's just gonna be supported with new resources or those learning resources from the course. So, if you feel like, you know, maybe some of you are published, if you feel like you've published something or written something that's really, really relevant, reach out to your instructor and say, hey, I published this thing or I wrote this thing and it has this great idea, but I don't want to plagiarize, so is it okay to reference myself and, you know, that'll kind of be up to their discretion.

As far as citing yourself, that's sort of similar. In general, in Walden course work, you're not gonna want to cite yourself for some of the reasons that I was just talking about. And mostly because, you know, you guys are a lot of you are new to your fields and, you know, you're not an established authority in your field yet, so you probably haven't already done a research project of some kind that builds on the knowledge in your next research project which is when, you know, some of those bigger authors, those bigger name authors in the field usually are gonna cite themselves. It's because it's something that they wrote about already, and maybe they did in another study, so they're gonna reference that. But because we're working on such a smaller scale here at Walden, we really want to focus on coming up with new stuff and supporting that that way. And I would also, you know, if it's something from your course work where, you know, you wrote something earlier in the course, in like maybe in a discussion post or something, and you want to use it or expand on it in a paper later, again, reach out to your instructor, because sometimes the instructor might be like, I really want you to cite yourself, but it's fine to include that, and sometimes they might say, well, this course is a building exercise of ideas, so anything in this course, you know, as long as you're integrating it in the new format is fair game and you don't have to worry about citing yourself. So, it's a little bit different when you're kind of in that course work stage.

Beth: Thanks so much, Claire. We had one other question that was about sort of students wondering sort of what are some strategies that you'd recommend for knowing whether they're including too many details about their personal experience? So maybe they're including experience from their workplace. And they're not -- it's hard for them to always, you know, see from an outside perspective what information is relevant and what isn't. Do you have some strategies for trying to determine that?

Claire: Yeah, that's a great question. And it's really, really hard. And until you sort of, you know, get used to it, I suggest coming into the Writing Center or having a friend or colleague read it. You know, because it's very hard to know where the gaps are or what's too much information as your own -- when you're writing about yourself. But somebody at the Writing Center or somebody else in your class, maybe you're, you know, reaching out to your -- to your co-students, they're gonna have a better viewpoint because they're more removed from it. I also suggest taking a little break from it and going back and looking at it, and really thinking, okay, you know, what point am I trying to make here? Is this detail absolutely necessary to make that point? Like, do they need to know how many years I lived on the street? Is that relevant to understanding that I am motivated to help prevent homelessness? Maybe it is. But maybe it's not. So, it's a little bit of a balancing act, and I do suggest having somebody else read your work.

Beth: Wonderful. Thanks so much, Claire. Do you have any final thoughts for everyone before we wrap up for the evening -- or for the afternoon?

Claire: Yeah, just that you all so much for coming. And I do suggest those other webinars now that you kind of have an idea of, you know, this personal experience idea, and sort of integrating ideas together to check out the academic writing and effective academic paragraphs webinars because those will help you build from your understanding that you gain today and really construct those larger papers.

Beth: Fantastic. Thanks so much, Claire. Thanks for a fantastic presentation. And thank you, everyone, for coming. It was wonderful to have you this afternoon. And we hope that this was useful, but if you do have any questions as a follow-up, do e-mail us. We're happy to respond to those. And we hope to see you at more webinars. Coming up in May, our May schedule is now up so please take a look at those webinars and register and attend if you are interested and available. Have a great day, everyone, and we'll see you soon.