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Webinar Transcripts

What About Me? Using Personal Experience in Academic Writing

Presented Thursday, May 5th, 2016

View the webinar recording

Last updated 5/12/2016


Visual: The webinar opens with a main pod for the slideshow and captioning, Q&A, and files pods stacked on the right side of the screen. The slide is titled “Housekeeping” and details how to use the webinar features that Beth discusses.

Audio: Beth: Hello, everyone, and thank you so much for joining us in this webinar today. My name is Beth Nastachowski, I am the manager of multimedia writing instruction at the writing center and I'm going to get us started by going over a couple of quick housekeeping notes before I hand the session over to our present area today, Julia.

So one thing to note as you'll see on the top right-hand corner, I have started the recording for this webinar and we always record our webinars and post those in our webinar archives so if you haven't seen that archive, I encourage you to take a look and poke around a little bit. We have all of our sessions in that archive so you're more than welcome to take a look at this session after we post it, which I will be doing tomorrow, or you can look at any of the other sessions we've done in the past, as well.

Also note that there's lots of ways for to you interact with us today. We had those poll questions kind of get you in the mindset or the focus of this webinar in the lobby and then we'll also have other polls and chats and more questions for to you kind of test what you're learnings at the end of the session, as well, so we encourage to you interact with us as much as you can throughout the session.


Also note there are links through the webinar in the PowerPoint slides so if you find something interesting or you would like to learn more about it, you're more than welcome to click those links.

And then also note that there is a Q and A box on the right side of your screen so that Q and A—Q and A box is monitored by myself and my colleague, Veronica, and we're happy to answer any questions or comments that you have throughout the webinar.

Also note that if we don't get to all your questions at the very end or if you think of a question after the webinar, you're more than welcome to e-mail us at, the general e-mail address and we'll display that at the end of the webinar.

It is last thing to note if you have any technical issues, please feel free to let me know in the q and a box. I'm happy to help although also note there is only so much we can do during the live session so there is also a help button at the top right hand corner off your screen and that's Adobe Connect's help option so the best place to go for any significant technical issues. With that, I'll hand it over to you, Julia.


Visual: The slide changes to show the title of the webinar, as well as Julia’s information.

Audio:  Julia: Perfect, thank you very much, Beth. How do I sound?

Audio: Beth: Great. Great, perfect.

Audio: Julia: Hello, everybody, and thank you for joining us for the webinar. Like Beth said, my name is Julia Shiota, I'm one of the writing instructors at the Writing Center. If you come to a lot of the webinars, you might recognize my name or my voice because I do tend to do about once a month some sort of webinar but usually I'm in the Writing Center doing papers, so you might also know me from papers if you've ever had an appointment with me.

So today we're going to be talking about personal experience and academic writing and this is something that I think many people struggle with, and, you know, struggle with figuring out if it's appropriate or if it's something that maybe will get them docked points off. So today we'll cover any of those questions that you might have or any of those concerns that you might face when you're considering this topic.


Visual: Slide #3 “Session Objectives” opens and has four bulleted objectives listed that Julia reads and discusses.

Audio: So hopefully by the end of this webinar, you'll be able to meet these objectives. So for the first one, we want you to be able to identify the benefits and the drawbacks of using personal experience in writing. So figuring out when it would help your argument to use personal experience and when maybe it would be detrimental to your argument.

And second, we're going to determine the situations when using personal experience is appropriate, again, figuring out when it's a good idea to use personal experience or when it might not be so good. Then if it turns out it is a good time to use personal experience, we're going to also show you how to integrate personal experience effectively in your writing, and then we're also going to taking on some additional resources at the end, if you guys want some more help with that, as well.


Visual: Slide #4 “Caveat:” opens. A large textbox in the middle of the screen states the caveat that Julia reads and discusses.

Audio: So one thing to keep in mind before we go any further is for this webinar, we're going to be speaking specifically about personal experience in your course work, and that means your discussion posts or your weekly assignments. Not going to touch on doctoral studies because that's a different beast to tackle altogether and I don't want to give you incorrect information. And one final thing that we don't have on our slide but also will talk about it later, I do just want to mention it now so it's in your mind while we're going through, something like personal experience, you're also going to want to double check with your instructors, too, so I will be telling you some basic rules about using personal experience in papers but at the end of the day, it is your course instructors who will be grading your papers and looking at your work so that is something to keep in mind. I'm just giving you basic rules but if you're ever concerned or if you ever are concerned, you can definitely always go to your course instructors.


Visual: Slide #5 “Walden Students” opens. A silhouette of men and women in business attire is on the left and a bulleted list of characteristics of Walden students is on the right. Julia discusses these characteristics.

Audio: So when it comes to personal experience, I have found that Walden students have a really great advantage over maybe their peers in other situations or other institutions. And that's because you guys probably have a lot of experience and I see this a lot of times in the papers that I read. I see a lot of students who come with years of experience, for example, in nursing or administration or education, both as teachers or as people who have a lot of previous education. So from all of that, you have a lot of experience built up.

We just have a list here, similar to what I said, so previous education institutions, you know what it's like to be a student. You know what it's like to get different degrees. You also have a lot of experience with careers. A lot of times, like I mentioned, I get nurses who are writing papers and they've already had many, many years of experience in the nursing field but they want to help further their education and maybe get this degree to get into a different maybe more administrative purpose but even though they're going in for like a different degree, they still have a of experience that definitely fits within their course assignments. And then finally, this might not always seem obvious as a place to draw from for personal experience but a lot of members of Walden are from the military or they have family situations or family experiences or even volunteer background that might be appropriate to use for your papers. So all this is stuff to keep in mind.


Visual: Slide #6 “Walden Students” opens. It shows two comment bubbles. One says “Where does that experience go? And the other says “What does that experience count for? Julia reads and discusses these.

Audio: Now, on top of that, you have all this experience, you have all this stuff that you can work with to put in papers, but what does it mean? What does it count for? How can you use it?


Visual: The layout and slide changes. The PowerPoint slide moves to the left half of the screen. The right half of the screen has the Q&A and captioning pods side-by-side at the top and the poll at the bottom. Slide #7 “Poll: How Convinced Are You?” Two paragraphs are shown side by side for students to review and respond in the poll. Paragraph A says: 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 says: 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.

Audio: So before we go further, I just want to point out these two examples to illustrate the potential problems with using personal experience ineffectively. So I want you to look at these two paragraphs. You don't have to read them all, you know, carefully, but just kind of take a glance and between the two, which do you find more convincing? Is it Paragraph A or is it Paragraph B? You can just take a moment and peek through and you can go with your gut on this one, which one do you think is more effective?

I'm seeing an interesting breakdown in numbers. So I'm seeing a lot of people who are voting for Paragraph A, and that's the one I also would think is more convincing in a certain situation. So Paragraph A is made of mainly of outside resources, made up of a lot of fact and a lot of third-party ideas so it's not something that this student, for example, experienced on their own, this is something that they read somewhere else, studies done by other people, using that to support their argument.

However, Paragraph B is built on more of a personal experience so this, you see, this person is using "I," so I know this is a problem and it's based on their work as a school paraprofessional. That's convincing in a different way. It's not that one is less effective but it's interesting to note that these things might work differently in different situations, so, Paragraph A might be more effective for certain course assignment you have. Maybe one where your instructor is saying something like, here's a problem that is happening in the United States, talk about the research behind it. Then maybe you do have to rely more on what you read in research and less on personal experience.

However, in Paragraph B, if you have an instructor saying, reflect on a problem you have seen in your professional environment in the United States, then Paragraph B might be better. So this poll is not necessarily one that was a right or wrong answer, this is one to show that your personal experience can be good but you do have to use it the right way for it to really work for you.


Visual: The layout reverts back to the previous setup with the slide in the main pod and the captioning, Q&A, and files pods stacked on the right. Slide #8 “Academic Writing” opens. It lists two things readers expect of academic writing that Julia reads and discusses. At the bottom is an asterisk reminding participants that research-based evidence is “information from course readings, books, scholarly journals, and trusted websites.”

Audio: And this goes back, as well, to what we just saw in those two paragraphs. So that first paragraph is probably what we would consider more of an academic style of writing. So when you approach something that is expected to be academic, what do you expect? You expect to see research-based evidence supporting statements, even if the writer has expertise in the area, so that means even if someone is a nurse who has 20 years of experience, even though they have that much experience, a lot of firsthand knowledge in that area, in academic writing, we would still expect that student to look at other research to help support their argument. That's not to say that that nurse's experience does not count as research or does not count as something important, it's just not what's expected necessarily in academic writing.

And another point, that kind of builds off that idea of research, is that in academic writing, you want to be persuaded through logic and in order to do that, a lot of times you do have to draw from outside resources. And so this would include things like course readings, books, scholarly journals and then trusted websites, so websites that are not run maybe by just someone who isn't as knowledgeable bit something like the CDC websites or the World Health Organizations websites, something like that.


Visual: A new textbox appears over the asterisked statement. It states “BUT: the need for research doesn’t mean your own knowledge is unimportant or wrong” and Julia briefly discusses this.

Audio: But like I said, very important to note that just because you need research to support your argument and your paper, that does not mean that your knowledge or your experience is unimportant or wrong. This is just part of what is expected in this style of writing.


Visual: Slide #9 “When Is It Okay?” opens. It starts with one bullet point “In the research process” and below that is a large purple arrow pointing to the right.

Audio: And then you might think, well, when is it okay then to use research as opposed to your personal experience? So in the research process, we have a great -- we have a great illustration come up here.


Visual: A picture of a woman looking up to her left towards a thinking bubble appears on the left side of the slide.

Audio: So, first, you think. You start thinking about what you want your topic to be, you started thinking about maybe what your stance on that topic would be.


Visual: A picture of a woman reading appears slightly overlapped to the right onto the thinking picture. Pictures of the thinking woman and reading woman continue to overlap as Julia discusses this process. The final picture is of a woman’s hand on a keyboard.

Audio: And then you read. You try to find sources that either agree with your point or disagree and you try to find the problems with your thesis and then you might come across some answers that make you question what it is that you were originally going to argue, and you maybe change the thesis or you change the approach, change your methodology. And then you go back to reading. You want to find maybe some more sources that support these changes that you wanted to make, or maybe you find a brand-new article that then makes you think again. So as you can see, this is just a continual process of thinking, going back to the research, thinking, going back to the research and then finally, at the end, you start being able to write down what your argument is going to be.


Visual: Slide #10 “When Is It Okay? Types of Assignments” opens. It has two bullet points for types of assignments that rely on personal experience. The first is a reflection paper. As Julia discusses this example, a textbox appears below the bullet point with a sample assignment prompt. The second bullet point is a prior learning narrative and a textbox with another example appears below that Julia discusses.

Audio: And so when is it okay to use, then, personal experience, because you might say, well, Julia, in that process, seems like it's more about research than it is about personal experience. That is very true. However, in some types of assignments, as I kind of touched on before, maybe personal experience is more useful so, for example, in a reflection paper or a post, something like the instructor would say, reflect on a time you experienced this, or something similar there. In that situation, the instructor and the assignment are asking you to reflect on something you have experienced, and so then it is going to be more about your personal experience, and maybe you'll have research that helps build on your experience.

So like in Paragraph B, we saw that was a paraprofessional who has witnessed something in their school, so maybe they'll use that experience as the base for the paper but then they'll add research on top of it to try to explain what it is that they're witnessing. In that situation, you're using personal experience very effectively. Another assignment that you might often see, especially more for students in the undergrad or who have just started classes at Walden, you might see something called a prior learning narrative. And that's questions like, think of a time where you have encountered problems with technology or where technology has helped your education, what was that like? And in that kind of an assignment, once again, the assignment is requiring you to look at your specific experience, so, obviously, in that situation, you would draw from personal experience and then maybe string he will in some other research to help support your point, if you would like.


Visual: Slide #11 and continues the previous slide. The first bullet point is about a professional development plan and the second is for some research papers. Both have textboxes with example assignment prompts that Julia discusses.

Audio: Another place where you might see a lot of personal experience is doing to be in the professional development plan. And that's going to be basically about you and so you do have to rely on your personal experience because it will be you going through your educational and professional background. In that situation, personal experience is perfectly fine, and expected, as well.

Also in some research papers, you will see some assignments that begin, as we have the prompt here, that say select a topic based on something you have seen, heard or experienced. So going back to that example I mentioned previously, that paraprofessional, in paragraph b, was basing her paper on something she had witnessed but they didn't just stop there.

On top of that, you, again, could compile maybe some ideas about the location of the school, is there some sort of socioeconomic situation that happens in that area that causes certain things that you witness in a school. Is there something about the common core standards that this person is witnessing that maybe has an effect on students and so from that angle, you will have to include research. So you can kind of see that it's a balance here that's happening, right? It's not just about research only, necessarily, and it's not just about personal experience only. It's about balancing the two to make a wholly effective argument.


Visual: Slide #12 “When Is It Okay? To Illustrate a Theory” opens. The slide shows two examples that Julia reads and discusses.

Audio: So another time where you might find personal experience useful is when you want to illustrate a theory. So sometimes you might have noticed, too, in your own course readings, some of this theory can be pretty dense and it can seem very abstract, and a lot of times, that makes it difficult, maybe, to grasp some of these ideas. So having an example from your own experience might help illustrate your point better.

So we have this example here. We'll look at this first one. It says, "according to the theory of caring, nurses should be sensitive facilitators of a healing environment." Okay, and as a reader, who maybe isn't familiar with this topic, I might think, oh, that's interesting but what does that mean or what does that look like in a practical sense? So then this student goes on and says, "I demonstrate this when I talk to patient in a calm voice, listen attentively to their need, and limit the amount of visitors and noise." So that whole second sentence is just what that person has done in the past so that's their personal experience. But, they're using that experience to support and provide an example of this bigger idea. That is a beautiful example of when you can use personal experience in a way that will really help propel your argument forward.

And then the second example is when it's a little bit shorter but looking at systems theory and then providing an example of this particular theory in their own organization. Again, another good example of when you could use personal experience and it actually would be very, very helpful.


Visual: Slide #13 “When Is It Okay? As a Hook to Engage Reader” opens. It shows one example that Julia reads and discusses.

Audio: Another time that you might find personal experience useful is as a hook to kind of draw the reader in to what you're talking about. So for this example, it begins with "my husband died of heart disease in 2013." right away that's something that's very evocative, that's very powerful and that would make me as a reader want to keep reading to see what's going to happen. And it also makes me as a reader think that this author has direct experience with the idea of heart disease or with this issue because they faced it on a personal level. In this situation, personal experience turns out to be very, very helpful and so important that they decide to begin with it.


Visual: Slide #14 “Benefits of Personal Experience” opens. It lists three benefits for the writer and two benefits for the reader that Julia discusses.

Audio: And so from all this, you'll see that there actually are benefits to using personal experience in your papers. We'll do a little round-up here. So what are the benefits for you as the writer? It might give you a better understanding of the topic. You might be looking at something and at first this theory might seem very difficult to grasp or very confusing but if you're able to attach it to something you have experienced in the past, or maybe if you know someone else who has experienced something, you might understand this topic way easier than you would if you had no experience at all.

Another thing that would definitely help is you develop a stronger connection with the material. I'm sure all of us have experienced a time where we had, maybe, like a paper, a reading, or even an entire class that just didn't have any sort of emotional resonance with us, and so the material felt a little bit boring, maybe. And so you didn't feel very connected with what it was that you were studying. But if you use personal experience, you'll develop a stronger connection with the material that you're looking at. Like we saw in that heart disease example. That person has a very strong connection with the material because something happened so close to them, that made them understand that material.

And finally, it might give you more confidence. Like we said at the beginning, Walden students have so much experience to draw from. Whenever I'm reading the papers in the writing center, I'm just floored by how much all these people know, how many years of experience all these students are putting in to these papers. And I always tell students, more power to you for knowing all of this stuff and having all this experience to draw from. So definitely make sure that your use of personal experience is helping you be more confident, and make sure that you realize, as you're writing that, yes, I have the ability to write this because I know what I'm talking about.

And then what are the benefits for the reader? The first point, it's more interesting. Again, if we go back to that heart disease example, that did draw me in because right away, I see the stakes of that paper. I see the heart disease is something that matters to this person because they lost a loved one to it. That probably will draw me in as a reader more quickly than if I just read a very dry third-person separated article that looks more like a dictionary entry about heart disease have the that's true. I would be more interested in something that has a type of personal experience.

And also, it's helpful for the reader to see an example from an insider perspective. I keep going back to nursing but that's just because today especially I saw a lot of nursing paper but as someone who is not a nurse and has never worked in that type of capacity before, it's helpful for me when I’m reading a paper to hear about these experiences and to hear the theories that they're working with, within the perspective of a nurse who's actively working, because that just gives me a sense of what it is like to be in that situation, that I will never be able to have. So you see from this list, there is a lot of benefits to using personal experience.


Visual: Slide #15 “Questions?” opens. It is a large textbox with a question mark in the center of the slide.

Audio: And here before we go further, I'll stop for some questions because I have been talking a lot. So, Beth, let me know, do we have some questions?

Audio: Beth: Yeah, we've had some great conversations going on in the Q and A box and one question we had was about using the third person so, using "we" or "our." Could you talk a little bit about how that fits into the discussion here, whether students could use "we" or "our" or the appropriate times to use those?

Audio: Julia: Perfect, that's an excellent question. That's another topic that can be very confusing because it's not always clear where the line is for that so I'm glad that came up. So the problem with "we" and "our" is that if you use them too much, you end up placing your reader in a group of people that they're not sure who they are. So I might sit here and I could say, "we at the Writing Center," but then you as the reader might say, well, am I part of the Writing Center or how am I supposed to relate to this pronoun? So we tend to say, at the writing center, to avoid using "we, our, us," because it doesn't really clarify who you're referring to when you're the writer, it's usually better to say something more objective. So the instructors in the writing center or if you are talking about Walden student, instead of saying "we think this about writing," "we think writing is cool," you could say “Walden students think writing is cool” and you're giving your reader more information, you're giving them more context and you're being more specific. And, Beth, please feel free to add more.

Audio: Beth: Nope, I think that's a great point and in general, "we" and "our" would only be used if you're writing like a group paper or something like that, in some classes, students are writing group papers so you could use we or our or if you're writing a journal article with other authors, that might be appropriate, too. Does that make sense, Julia?

Audio: Julia: Yes, I would completely agree.

Audio: Beth: We had another great question about how to cite personal experience and I wonder if you could talk about that a little bit, too.

Audio: Julia: When you say "cite," do you mean for example like in text and parenthetical and then referenced?

Audio: Beth: Yeah, yeah, so maybe a little bit of a [Audio Indiscernible]

Audio: Sorry.

Audio: Julia: The reason Beth said that's a trick question, you do not need to use cite in personal experience when you're speaking from your own personal experience. The only time you would cite something maybe that is personal would be maybe if you interviewed a family member about something you both went through, or if you sent an email to someone and that would be a personal communication which is a little bit different than personal experience, but when you're writing from your own perspective, because the reader expects that you, as the writer, will be writing about your own ideas, your own argument, your own experiences, you don't need to cite yourself, since your name is already on the cover page of that paper, your reader will assume that when you say "I," or when you speak about an experience that you had, that you are speaking from your own perspective. Was that the right answer?


Audio: Beth: Oh, yeah, definitely and I was just going to say, just to add to that, too, Julia, it's also helpful to make sure you're clarifying the context so make sure within the sentence or within the context of the sentence that it's clear that it's from your personal experience, as well, so phrases like in my organization, at my hospital or, you know, things like that can help signal to the reader that you're starting to talk from personal experience.

Audio: Julia: Right, exactly, so as long as you show that you're speaking from personal experience, so instead of citing, putting your name in some sort of parenthetical citation or in text citation, use something like what Beth said as, quote, unquote, your citation. So in my hospital, or in my research group, something like that. So instead of a citation, you still need to signify as Beth so eloquently put it, you still need to signify you are talking from personal experience but you don't need to cite it the way you would some of your other resources.

Audio: Beth: And I was going to say because I know sometimes students have said, oh, my faculty is asking me to add citations here when I'm talking about personal experience and it might be those signifiers are missing so the reader or faculty member might not know it's coming from your personal experience so that's always something to keep in mind.

Audio: Julia: That was a really great question.

Audio: Beth: Yes. I think that's it for now, Julia.

Audio: Julia: Okay, perfect, thank you, Beth, and thank you everyone for your questions.


Visual: Slide #16 “When Is It Not Okay?” opens. Two bullet points remind participants when to avoid personal experience. Julia reads and discusses these. Two examples are listed that Julia reads and discusses.

Audio: So we've been very positive up until now and we have been on team personal experience but that's not to say that you can just throw personal experience around all the time and always use that as a way to justify your argument. Like we've kind of touched on and hinted at, there are situations when it's not quite okay, or it's not as effective to use personal experience.

So when is it not okay to use personal experience? Number one, it's not okay to use only personal experience in an argument. And in parentheses, we have uncorroborated, that just means unsupported by another resource. And the reason for this I think is pretty clear, when you think about it. So, for example, I could say anything from my personal experience. I could say, I think cats are the worst pet because, in my experience, the cats I've met have been not very nice. And you -- and that is true, I have been around not nice cats and in my personal experience, cats are the worst. However, that's only personal experience and I think there are a number of people here and around the world who would say that that's not a fact, that's not true, that's not a really compelling argument. So you should avoid using personal experience when that's the only thing you're going to do to support an argument because your argument won't be as effective in that way. It won't be wrong but it won't be as effective and your reader could easily brush that off as opinion.

And then second, you want to avoid generalizing. When you peek from your own personal experience, it's really easy to assume that's the way things are. Again, it's a silly example but going back to my experience with cats, it's really easy for me to say all cats are horrible if, from my experience, I've met horrible cats. But there are plenty of very nice cats in the world. There are plenty of mean dogs in the world but I haven't encountered them so it's really easy to generalize when you're only looking at your own situation. So that's why oftentimes we ask you, or your instructors ask to you step back a little bit and look at other opinions and other point of view to make sure you're not just looking through one narrow lens.

So we have a couple examples here. First one, our schools are failing. Parents want more individualized support for their children in the classroom. Okay. Second one, my daughter texts constantly which shows that teenagers use cellphones more than they did in the past. Both of these are coming from personal experience and they only draw from personal experience. There's no facts, there's no research backing this up to show that, for example, all teenagers do this.

And you'll see in these examples, it's not quite clear, my example was a little silly and it was a little obvious that it was not the best argument but you can see, these are a little bit more difficult because, especially for me, I read that second one where they're talking about text and I think to myself, yeah, that's probably true, teenagers do use cellphones more than they did in the past. But there is no research backing that up so that's still based on personal experience and still not as effective as it could be.


Visual: Slide #17 “Problems with Using Only Experience” opens. On the left is a picture of a woman reading a text. The image is labeled “the skeptical reader.” On the right is a list of three problems with personal experience that Julia reads and discusses.

Audio: So what are the problems? We kind of touched on these but what are the problems with using only experience? Like we've said, it's just not a very convincing argument and the whole point of writing an APA paper is that you want to make an argument and you want someone to believe that argument, right? You're writing so that someone, either -- even if it's just your course instructor or if you're writing a discussion post and you want maybe some of your peers to agree with you, you want someone to be convinced by your argument. Otherwise you're just shouting into the void and it doesn't mean anything.

Another thing to think about is there is no foundation in terms of knowledge, so you're not backing up with any research to show your readers that, yes, I do know what you're talking about. I could say anything about any discipline and just have an opinion based on maybe something I experienced and I have no background knowledge in it. Again, nursing, I could say something about nursing and I could probably write a decent paper on nursing but I don't have any background knowledge, so am I really as convincing as someone, say, who has 20 years of experience of nursing and also is using research? Probably not. And as you see, in this picture, which is helpfully captioned as "the skeptical reader," a lot of readers tend to be skeptical and especially a lot of academic readers tend to be skeptical, you want to know where someone is getting their ideas from. You want to know why they're approaching it from this angle. You want to find the holes in the argument so that way you can find out if the argument is solid or not.

Finally, the big problem, and one that I think is actually quite important, it might seem less important than these first two but you don't get any practice with library skills, with research or using outside sources if you only talk from your own personal experience. That's -- and that's something that, as you continue working with Walden libraries, with the research writing center, there's just so many resources available, and if you don't challenge yourself to use research or use library skills for various assignment, then you're really not going to be able to build up your skill set as much as you could.


Visual: The next slide opens “Examples of Effective Integration” opens. The slide shows an example of two paragraphs written in APA style.

Audio: And one problem we see, this is -- a little bit of a big jump but next we're going to talk about ineffective integration and I think I'm going to pop back really quickly to here.


Visual: Julia flips back through the slide #16 “When Is It Not Okay?” to discuss.

Audio: So here we had these examples at the bottom. Those are examples of ineffective argument, ineffective use of personal experience because we're not really showing how research maybe supports this and we're just talking from personal experience. And that's a short little segment, though, so now we're going to look at a slightly bigger one.


Visual: Julia flips back to the slide with the two paragraph example: 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: Here's an example of good integration, so this is something that worked well, for example, we have this big paragraph at the beginning talking about a lot of the different issues with substance abuse, they give a lot of statistics supporting why this is a problem for various different substances. They talk about backgrounds of adults and how it ties to adolescence, and at the very, very end, you see that then they go into personal experience. Then they say, at my high school in suburban Atlanta. This is a perfect example of how to integrate personal experience because, first, you're starting by talking about the bigger picture. You're talking about research that has been done, you're talking about something that's not just focused in on this specific high school, for example. You're looking at a bigger problem and then you're narrowing your focus down to something more personal to you.

So I read this as a writing instructor and I think, oh, this person did a lot of really good research. Yeah, this is clearly a problem in the United States but I'm also interested because it goes to the personal. At my high school in suburban Atlanta, I helped create Clean Matters. That makes me want to keep reading because I want to know how this personnel dealt with this big problem. So this is an example, a beautiful example of effective use of personal experience.


Visual: The layout and slide changes. The left side of the screen has the PowerPoint slide at the top and a summary pod at the bottom. The right side of the screen has the Q&A and captioning pods side-by-side at the top and the chat pod at the bottom. Participants add responses to the chat pod but the summary pod is unused. The files pod is not visible. Slide #19 “Chat: Is it Effective Integration?” opens. It shows a paragraph from a reflection paper for participant response: 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.

Audio: And here is -- we're going to stop for a moment again and this time I would like to hear from you all. Here is an example, what do you think? Is this effective integration? Does this work for you? And you can take a little bit of time. You can say maybe why, why do you think this is effective or what is missing from it, what could they do better? And because this is going to probably require more than just a yes or no answer, you can take a little bit of time. I'll give you all some time. You can write in the chat box.

As you're thinking about this, too, remember what we talked about earlier on how certain assignment may be required more personal experience than others, so in this situation, we have at the beginning, it's from a reflection paper. Does that maybe change the way you look at this? Is it more effective because of the assignment or is it less effective because of this assignment prompt?

So far I see a lot of people are saying "yes," and seems like a lot of people are latching on to that idea that there is a citation there, so we clearly see as readers right away, there is some sort of research being done here to balance out some other information. It's true.

I think Delores is bringing up a good point in the last example, we saw someone who began with outside information and then they maybe became more personal at the end and this one, this person starts with personal experience and then moves out to outside resources. Does that work better? Does that seem to work well for this person's assignment? I see some people who would prefer to have the other way around, start with research and then move on to the personal.

I'm going to give everyone one more second in the interest of time but for the most part, it seems that a lot of people -- the majority seem to think this is effective. And I would agree with that, too. I think that they do a good job in this situation because it is a reflection paper so this is one that will probably be more personal than another type of course assignment. And I think that they do a good job of supporting what they have experienced with research, so you know that they're getting a little bit more broad, they're not being too general, and I see some people saying, also, it's not as effective too -- and that's the thing about reflection papers and also with personal experience, that it differs from person to person what is best. Some people liked this set-up where it was personal to research. Other people preferred the research to the personal. This is great. Thank you for participating, everybody, we had a lot of good ideas in the chat but, again, for time, I will keep moving.


Visual: The layout and slide change. The layout reverts back to the main slide pod and with the smaller pods stacked to the right. Slide #20 “Tips: DO” opens. The top right corner has a large textbox with a capital “I” in it. The first tip is to use first-person and has an example of how to use it appropriately. Below that are cautions to avoid third person or passive voice. Julia reads and discusses all of this.

Audio:  So we have a lot of information here about when you can use personal experience, when can't you. It was a lot of information so we're going to kind of boil it down a little bit to some tips. What should you do for personal experience?

The first thing is kind of like what Beth said before, always think about how you can frame your writing so that you're making it clear to your readers when you're speaking from personal experience. What's the easiest way to do that, to use the first-person point of view. So for this example, we have someone writing "in my role as an executive assistant, I compile the reports on financial transactions." this is clearly written from the writer's point of view so this is them talking about what they do in their job. This is much better than writing, "this writer" or "this author."

I do see that in a lot of student papers and I understand the impulse to do that because a lot of times we're told not to use "I." Walden does let you use "I" in situations like this when you're being more clear on who you're talking about. However, as we touched on in the very beginning, this will all depend on your course instructor. So some course instructors may not think that that is the right thing to do, or they might not want you to use "I," and in that case, then that's totally fine and then you have to follow your course instructor's guidance. But, for example, using "I" here helps clarify who's talking because if did you use this writer or this author, the problem then is when you're writing a paper on multiple authors or multiple writers, it becomes confusing for the reader to know who is being referred to in this situation. You know, is it the writer of this paper, or is it the writer of this research? It becomes a little bit confusing.

And then using "I" also helps you avoid the passive voice because if you didn't use "I," a lot of times you would write something as this example states, reports are compiled by, which is not quite as straightforward and as clear as if you had flipped that into the active voice. So that's something to keep in mind. Again, it depend on your course instructor but using "I" does help.


Visual: Slide #21 opens and continues the tips. This tip is to stay on task and has two personal questions to help the writer. Julia reads and discusses these. Below that are two examples: 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 Julia briefly discusses the examples.

Audio: One other thing to think about with tips to do effective integration well is to stay on task. It can be really, really, really difficult to stay on task, especially when you're drawing from your own experience because you want to share more information. You want to show why you think a certain way. You want to show why you understand this concept really well. So it can be very easy to continually stack on more and more information until maybe you're not addressing the original question anymore. So whenever possible, stay on task. And how can you do that? You could ask yourself, is this experience really directly related to the assignment? Another question you could ask is how much does the reader need to know?

So here you have two examples of someone writing, you know, why do you want to pursue a degree in social work at Walden? The first one is a little bit inappropriate, not because of anything that they wrote, it's not inappropriate thing to share this but it's just doesn't align directly with the question. This is just too much information, and it's not information that relates directly to the question at hand. The second experience, or the second example, excuse me, is appropriate use of experience because they're paring it down and boiling it down to the basics of why they wanted to pursue a degree at Walden.


Visual: Slide #22 opens and continues the tips with reminder to use objective language. There is a personal question for reflection and two examples: 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 … Julia discusses all of this.

Audio: Another thing to keep in mind is you should use objective, formal, nonjudgmental voice. You want to make sure you're maintaining scholarly voice at all times, even when you're talking about things that are very personal to you. That's an expectation in APA and that will help your personal experience come across as more useful and more effective for the argument. So one thing to ask yourself, is this voice appropriate for a professional context.

So we have an example. The first one I think is pretty clear it may be a little inappropriate so this person writes, "in my opinion, the students were behaving like brats. I couldn't even get their attention to take attendance." a little bit harsh, even if that's how the person was feeling, even if that's how the students were behaving in an APA academic context, not what you should be writing.

On the other hand, you could still express that idea in a more objective formal and non-judgmental voice as the second example does. One day at preschool, the students were particularly rambunctious. It was difficult to take attendance. You're saying similar things, getting the main idea across but in the second one, you're maintaining a much more professional, objective voice, so that is something to keep in mind, as well. Personal experience should always still be written in that scholarly tone that you always hear about from your course instructors and the writing center and that will also help your personal experience seem he will indicated to the level of research -- seem elevated to the level of research, it will seem less like you're sharing information about yourself. It will seem like it fits more seamlessly into your argument.


Visual: Slide #23 “Tips: DO NOT” opens. It has two reminders of what to avoid. Julia reads and discusses these tips.

Audio: All right, and so then now, what shouldn't you do? You should not wear experience blinders, and by that we mean, again, you don't want to be so narrow in your focus, just because of where you came from personal experience that you don't consider other possibilities. So you should always remain open, remain open to other experiences, open to other people's ideas, other people's life, all those things should still remain open. And in order to do that, usually we like to tell students to consult other sources and viewpoints, even contradictory ones because even contradictory viewpoints will help you strengthen your argument because they'll help you maybe see spots in your argument where there are holes that you didn't notice before. So it's always useful in an academic setting to just remain open and to look at other people's point of view.

And then, here we go, hey, this is -- someone asked this question already. You do not provide a citation for personal experience for the reasons we discussed earlier.


Visual: The layout switches to show the chat box at the bottom right with the Q&A and captioning pods above. The slide changes and moves to the top right and the “your sentences” pod opens below. Slide #24 “Chat: Your Turn!” opens. The chat prompt and example are: 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).

Audio: This one also will take a little bit more time so now it's your turn. How would you pair personal experience with this quote in an article? You can write one to two sentences. How would you integrate your personal experience with this piece of information? And you do not have to type out this whole quote here. You could do the sentence before, the sentence after. You can just write your creation in the box because otherwise that might take a little bit of time.

I'm seeing a lot of great responses here. I like that a lot of people are kind of phrasing -- kind of providing context by saying, "as a visual learner," for example. I think that's a great way to show your personal experience and also tie it to what we have here. That's excellent. And then we have a lot of other people saying things like as someone who had experience with this or as someone who is an online student, someone who has taken online classes. Yeah, this is excellent.

And it's interesting to note, too, that some people are beginning, again, with the research and then following up with their personal experience and other people prefer to begin the other way around. You see from this activity and the one we did before that something like personal experience doesn't really have a clear-cut black-and-white rule book.

Besides the stuff mentioned before, you know, that there's inappropriate and appropriate ways of using it but the way you use it to integrate it effectively, in this situation, like what everybody is doing in the chat box, there isn't necessarily a better way. There isn't -- I wouldn't say to a student, you always have to begin with research and then you can do personal experience, right? Because that's not always the case and we see that all of the examples in the chat box are working quite well but no one is doing the same thing. So it is dependent on the situation a lot of times which can make writing a little bit difficult with trying to maintain a balance between your personal experience and then research. I'll just give a couple more seconds for people to finish up. But this is great. Everybody has been handling this very, very well.

Awesome, thank you everybody. We're doing to keep moving now just in the interests of time because I want to make sure there's time at the end for questions in case anyone has something they want to ask.


Visual: The layout reverts back to the main pod with the slide with the captioning, Q&A, and files pods stacked on the right. Slide #25 “Additional Resources” opens. It has five hyperlinked resources listed: Avoiding Bias web page, All About Audience podcast episode, Why You Shouldn’t Wiki blog post, APA blog post on personal experience, Prior Learning Portfolio web page (UG students). Julia discusses these briefly.

Audio: So one last thing before we go is we do have some extra resources for stuff we didn't necessarily talk about. We touch owned idea of generalizing, we touched on the potential problems of having experience blinders on, right? And another way of saying experience blinders would be bias.

So we have some resources on here about avoiding bias. You have a couple on the posts about using personal experience effectively, and we also have something on there about knowing your audience because using personal experience effectively will also depend on who you think your audience is in a given document. All right. And so that wraps up the slide portion of it and I will hand it back over to Beth.


Visual: The layout and slide changes. The left of the screen shows three post-webinar quiz questions. The right side has the captioning, PowerPoint slide, Q&A, and files pods all stacked. The final slide shows the Writing Support email address and webinar Twitter account information. The bottom also has webinars for What is Academic Writing and Writing Effective Academic Paragraphs hyperlinked.

Audio: Beth: Thank you so much, Julia, that was fantastic and thank you, everyone, for your great questions in the A and A box. We'll give you a minute or two here to respond to our questions, to test your knowledge, see what you learned and then we will be sending out the answers in our Q and A box. So we'll go silent for a minute here to let you guys think and then we'll come back and we will post the answers and do some final Q and A and last thoughts from Julia, okay? So we'll go silent for just a minute here. Here. We'll give you another 30 second or so here, there is another question at the very bottom, as well, don't forget that third one.

I don't see as many answers coming in so I’m going to post the answers to the questions. If you haven't answered the questions, don't look at the q and a box, and at this point, Julia, I wanted to double check with you to see if we could kind of go over a couple more questions -- looks like -- I don't know that we have any last questions.

I wonder if we could go over some last thoughts, Julia, for sort of take-aways for student to keep in mind when thinking about personal experience and we can end with that.

Audio: Julia: Perfect. Before I give my last thought, I do want to once again thank you to everyone who came and participated. This webinar was a little bit more participation heavy and you actually had to write longer responses to my questions than you might usually, so thank you for participating. That definitely makes it easy for me to feel more energized and more engaged because I’m seeing everybody's answers coming in and everyone is giving such good answers, so thank you again for that.

What I would like everyone to come away with, if I had to sum up the webinar, this hour-long time we've spent together in a short, shorter concept, is that, yes, you can always use your personal experience in your Walden course work but the degree to which you can use it will be different depending on the context, so, remember to keep in mind all the tips that we covered. Make sure that you're being scholarly and objective and remember to always pair your personal experience with research. Just because then you're going to be safe, you're going to know that you have an outside source supporting your idea but you're also going to be able to draw in the experience that you have hard earned for yourself. I don't want anyone to think that your personal experience doesn't matter in your academic career because it most certainly does, but, remember that you also have to tie in research. And that's all I have to say. Beth, if you would like to wrap up, that would be great.

Audio: Beth: Fantastic. That's a great way to wrap up, I think, Julia. Thank you. Thank you, everyone, for coming. We hope to see you at another webinar coming up the rest of the schedule for May is posted so take a look at that, if you haven't already. Have a wonderful evening, everyone, and thank you so much for attending.