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Webinar Transcripts

Writing Process for Longer Research Projects

Presented August 22, 2017

View the recording

Last updated 9/14/2017


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
  • Help
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right hand corner of the webinar room.

Audio: Beth: Alright. Well, hello, everyone. And welcome. Thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Beth and I'm gonna go over a couple of quick housekeeping notes before I hand the session over to our presenter today, Sarah. So, a couple of quick things. The first is that you might have noticed that I have started the recording for this session. So, I will be posting that recording in our webinar archive probably by this evening, so if you have to leave for any reason, or you'd like to come back and review the session, you're more than welcome to do so. And I always like to note at this moment that we record all of the webinars in the Writing Center. So, if you ever see a webinar being presented live and you can't make that live presentation, you're more than welcome to find that recording in the webinar archive. And you'll note that we have lots of recordings specific for doctoral capstone students but then also other webinars to help you with general things like APA, grammar, and scholarly writing as well.

Also note that there are lots of ways for you to interact with your fellow classmates, with Sarah, and with the webinar today. So, I know Sarah has a couple of polls and a chat she's going to be using. Also note that the links within the slides are interactive, so if there's more information that you'd like to see or Sarah talks about a website or a web page, something like that, feel free to click those links during the webinar and they'll open up in a new tab on your screen. So, feel free to do that.  But also note you can download the slides that Sarah will be using here in the files pod. You can just click on any of the file names and then click "Download files," and those will download to your computer, so you can have access at a later date.

Finally, also note that there is a Q&A box on the right side of the screen, and then my colleague Sara Witty will be helping me monitor that Q&A box. We are happy to answer any questions or comments you have, throughout the webinar. So, if Sarah is talking about something and you have a question please feel free to let Sara Witty know. If you have any technical issues, I'm also happy to answer those. So, feel free to let me know if you're having trouble with audio or slides or anything like that. Do let me know. And then also note that if you have other questions after the webinar or we don't get to all of your questions during the webinar, you're welcome to email us at and we are happy to answer those questions via email as well.

And then the finally thing, if you do have technical issues and you're welcome to let me know in the Q&A box, but there is also the help button at the top right-hand corner of the screen. That's Adobe Connect's help option and that's the best place to go for any significant technical issues. All right, and so with that, Sarah, I will hand it over to you.


Visual: Slide changes to the title of the webinar, “Writing Process for Longer Research Projects” and the speaker’s names and information: Sarah Matthey, EdD, Senior Dissertation Editor, Walden University Writing Center Staff

Audio: Sarah: Thanks, Beth. Just a mic check, you can hear me okay?

Beth:Yep. You sound great.

Sarah: All right, thank you. Well, good morning. Or maybe afternoon, depending on where you're at geographically. Thank you for joining us for this webinar. I'm Sarah Matthey, and I'm a senior dissertation editor in the Writing Center. I want to talk a little bit today about "Writing Process for Longer Research Projects." Now, I saw in the sign-up sheet, or not the sign-up sheet, but the chat box, a lot of you seem to be working on your capstone, or just beginning to work on your capstone, and that is a great place for you to be to view this webinar or attend this webinar. Hopefully we’ll give you some insight on how to make that transition from course work to writing, researching, and reading at a capstone level and truly becoming an independent scholar.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Learning Outcomes:

After this webinar, you will (be able to)…

  • Understand specific ways to approach the writing process for longer research projects
  • Identify elements of good writing and distinguish between strong writing expectations for short assignments and strong writing expectations for longer documents
  • Develop appropriate expectations for longer research projects and what to anticipate in the writing process
  • Access support resources for longer research projects, specifically the doctoral capstone

Audio: So, in this webinar specifically, we're gonna be talking about ways that you can approach the writing process for longer research projects. Obviously, we're referring mostly to your dissertation or doctoral study here. Also, want to identify the difference between writing expectations for course work and writing expectations for longer research documents or the doctoral study and dissertation. Like to talk about how to anticipate -- or what to anticipate when you begin writing your capstone, some expectations that you should have of yourself as the writer, the researcher, and maybe also from your faculty. And then also finally provide you with some resources that can help you to prepare to write the capstone, but also resources that you can use while you're writing the capstone to ensure that you are writing at a doctoral level.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Poll:

What is the longest written assignment you have completed so far AS A WALDEN STUDENT?

  • 1-10 pages
  • 10-25 pages
  • 24-50 pages
  • 50-100 pages
  • 100 pages or more!

[The webinar changes to open up a poll box for students to use to respond to the poll question.]

Audio: So, without further ado, we're gonna begin with our very first poll. What is the longest assignment you have completed so far as a Walden student? You can just go ahead and indicate in the vote what you have written thus far. And I'll just give it a minute here.

[Pause as students respond to poll.]

Okay. It looks like the majority of you have written somewhere between 10 to 25 pages. Some 25 to 50 pages. Mostly, I'm assuming these are final papers for courses that you have taken at Walden. I know that some of the course work and preparation to the doctoral study or dissertation does ask for a lengthier final project or paper. And this is where you may have experienced these larger writing projects. So, for the majority of you, you will actually be writing for your dissertation or doctoral study 100 pages at least, and very likely more. So, we want to, in this webinar, give you some, you know, expectations to have of yourself and some resources and just some tips on how to transition into writing these much longer research-based writing projects.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Approaching Longer Writing Projects

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Lao Tzu

Audio: We'll move along then. So, I like this quote. "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." And I also, in addition to working with students in the form and style, I also chair students in the DBA program, and a lot of students approach me when they first begin writing their proposal, and they just say, oh, my gosh, Sarah, I just can't even imagine how I'm going to write this lit review, much less this entire study. It just seems so long and so big, and just so overwhelming to me. How do I do this? And so, I think this quote is a good way of looking at your study. And this is along with some of the advice I give to my students. It literally is, I think, one of the most successful ways to complete your dissertation or doctoral study or to think about it is -- it's a series of small goals that you accomplish on a daily, sometimes weekly, basis. And if you just look at it as a series of small goals, it stops seeming so overwhelming, and more able to obtain.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Significant, original scholarly contribution

  • Long-form research writing allows scholars room to explore complex issues and ask more sophisticated questions.
  • A doctoral capstone study represents
    • an “original contribution” to scholarship,
    • depth and breadth of knowledge in your field, and
    • months of writing, rewriting, and more writing.

Audio: So, let's look a little bit about scholarly contribution. So, long-form research writing allows scholars to explore complex issues and ask more sophisticated questions. So, what exactly is a dissertation or doctoral study, and how does it differ from other maybe longer research course work that you have completed? Basically, the doctoral capstone or dissertation is an original contribution to scholarship. So, if you're doing a PhD or a research-based degree, you're going to be filling in a gap in the literature or the scholarship. Okay? Original research. If you're doing a practice-based degree, like a DBA or EdD, you are contributing original research to fill in a gap in practice or something that's occurring within the local business or within the local school district. So, either way, whether you're doing a research-based degree or a practice-based degree, you're still contributing an original, never-before-had data or ideas to fill in this particular gap.

You are also demonstrating your breadth and depth of knowledge in your field. So, while the dissertation or doctoral study is not a representation or a report of your personal and professional experience, your ability to write a literature review about your specific topic and to gather data as well to fill in that gap in practice or gap in research presents your ability to understand and work with the current literature within your field.

In addition, you are demonstrating hopefully capstone or doctoral-level writing, which is months of writing, rewriting, and more writing. So, this is a particular skill set that in addition to presenting your data and, you know, presenting -- or filling that gap in research or that gap in practice, you also should be demonstrating your ability or your skill to write at the doctoral level.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Writing as part of the process versus writing as the final product

  • Longer research projects are too big to keep in your mind all at once
  • Writing is thinking when it comes to your study
  • Most of what you write, you will not use
  • Writing helps you track your thought process
  • Writing is like having external memory

Audio: When you're writing your dissertation or your capstone, I want you to think about writing as a process versus writing as the final product. Now, this is a little bit different than perhaps what you're used to in course work. Where we usually get, you know, maybe a weekly paper, maybe a mid-paper, and then maybe a final paper that's a little bit larger. But the writing is sort of the outcome, and you use it, you know, quickly to demonstrate your accomplishment of a task. Or an outcome. So, in the capstone, while eventually, of course, you will complete the capstone, it's -- because it's such a longer process or project, the writing itself should be seen as a process and not as the quick outcome to achieve.

So, as we were kind of talking about a little bit before, the longer research projects are just too big to keep in your mind all at once. So, don't think about when you're sitting down, maybe in your first 9000 course or 8090 if you're in EdD, thinking about oh, my gosh, I just have this huge overwhelming research project, you know, to do. How am I going to do this? Start breaking it down into smaller goals that you can kind of keep in your mind and are easily accomplishable either on a day-to-day basis or on a weekly basis.

So, writing is thinking when it comes to your study. So, practice writing as much as possible about your study. And just understand that most of what you write you will not use. So, writing is going to be a way for you to start getting out your ideas, a way for you to indicate your gaps in knowledge or understanding about your topic, how, you know, maybe even what your topic will be. But a lot of this preliminary writing or even writing as you go through because it's an -- the writing dissertation is an iterative process, you will not use a lot of what you're writing.

However, please do not think that this is wasted writing or wasted time or experience. The writing helps you keep track of your thought process, and it's like having an external memory. So, the writing, the preliminary writing and the revising of the writing and maybe even the deleting of some of your previous writing from your capstone actually helps you to understand your topic and refine your scope and your study more. So even though you're not using maybe a lot of what you write, it's definitely not a wasted exercise.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Linear versus iterative process


Collect è Organize è Outline è Write è Submit


[The following items are presented in a circle on the slide, with the step pointing back to the first.]

  • Collect /generate information è
  • Organize information into sections and subsections è
  • Outline content in sections & subsections è
  • Write a draft è
  • Read draft (have someone else read it) and revise è

Audio: So, when you're writing a dissertation or doctoral study, think about the process as iterative rather than linear. So, as you can see, a linear process just follows a straight line with a certain set of steps that you complete in a certain order. And once you have completed those steps, you know, you're finished. That's not the case for the dissertation or doctoral study. The iterative process means you might go through many -- well, you will probably go through many different revisions of your study, you know, with feedback from your committee, right? Your chair, your second member, your URR. You know, eventually, you will get feedback from a form and style editor, and you will also get feedback from the CAO on your abstract. So, thinking about that, you may be asked to at certain points go back in the process and redo something or to add something or to delete something, and it's just a continuous process of revising and revising and revising. So, it's not linear. It's iterative in nature.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Personal organization

Completing a longer research project is one way scholars demonstrate they are independent researchers.

You will need to be

  • Self-directed
  • Self-sufficient
  • Self-aware about your writing skills and your writing process

Audio: Personal organization. Oh, goodness, I cannot stress the importance of personal organization. When you become -- when you start your first 9000 or 8090 classes, you start becoming what's called an independent researcher or independent scholar. This means that your learning and your writing and your researching and your reading, and your overall completion of the dissertation or doctoral study lies completely with you. The responsibility is completely yours. You will need to make sure you're self-directed, you're self-sufficient, and you're self-aware about your writing skills and your writing process. So, you know, personal -- the responsibility for the completion of something or even the initiation of guidelines or deadlines or goals all lies with the student, which is very different from course work, where, you know, within the actual courses, guidelines, rules, and deadlines were implemented as a part of the course. So now as the independent researcher, you're responsible for providing those own goals, your own goals, and for achieving them. And if you don't achieve them, the responsibility lies with you. So really make sure that you self-reflect on where you are at in your reading, writing, and researching goal -- goals, and also abilities, and be sure to use resources if you need to bolster any of those skills to complete the capstone.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Time management

  • Establish a preliminary timeline from the outset
    • List the different stages of the whole process
    • Estimate how long each stage will take
  • Set aside official time in your daily and weekly schedule
    • Treat your research like a full- or part-time job
    • Be honest about how much time you can commit each day or week
    • Remember to set aside time for breaks
  • Keep different sets of lists
    • List the main tasks for the whole project
    • Make daily or weekly “to do” lists, working toward one main task at a time

Audio: Time management, also extremely important to be successful. Make sure that you establish a preliminary timeline from the outset, okay? So, like, think about, you know, at your very first 9000 or 8090 class, start putting out some larger goals of when you want to complete certain aspects of the study as certain, you know, times. So, make sure, however, that your overall goals are realistic in nature. And that they also represent or they include or incorporate, you know, the time period of review that each person on your committee requires in order for you to, you know, move on to the next stage.

So, make sure you list the different stages of the whole process so you think about, okay, if you're at the prospectus level, you want to complete the prospectus in this many terms. If you're at the proposal stage, you want to complete the proposal at so many terms, so on and so forth. And then estimate how long each stage will take, thinking about how long you think you will take to write those components. And then I suggest to students that you also add one more term after that to include the review time that it takes for each person of the committee to review your study and give you feedback. So, estimate how long it'll take you to write something or to research something, and then add a term to that. And that should be a good goal of when you should complete that task.

Make sure you're setting aside official time in your daily and weekly schedule to work on your study. This is really important. Treat your research like a part-time job. I think most of us usually have full-time jobs, so treating it like another full-time job may not be realistic, but it can be a part-time job. And make sure you're honest about how much time you can commit each day, each week, and with that time, make sure you also avoid the long marathons of, like, say, oh, well, I'll just work on my study on the weekends, and I'll just work on it for eight hours on Saturday and eight hours on Sunday. While you may think, oh well, I'm devoting 16 hours to my study, you know, that's a good amount of time. That is a good amount of time, but honestly, our brains don't work very well after about the third hour of engaging with something at this high of an academic level. So, I would say honestly to my students, work for about one to two hours each day on your study, and that's good quality time that you are working on your study, because after those marathon sessions, after, like, three hours, you're not really producing quality at that point. So, it's kind of like time wasted. So, avoid the marathons, and work on your study for a small, you know, pieces of time each day. And make sure you negotiate that time with your friends and family so that, oh, okay, so mom's in the -- in her study from 9:00 to 10:30, or dad's in his study. We can't bother mom during that time or bother dad. Or no one can call you so that you can really focus and everyone understands how they can support you.

Make sure you keep different sets of lists. So, lists, you know, we talked about the overall main tasks for the whole projects, you know, your larger goals of when you want to complete things, but I also suggest that you keep daily lists, and you start writing those daily lists at the beginning of the week of what you want to accomplish each day. So, for example, if you're setting aside an hour and a half each day to work on your study, maybe you say, okay, I want to read two articles on Monday, read two articles on Tuesday, and then I want to write three pages on Thursday, okay? So, keep those small goals and hold yourself accountable to making sure that you get -- achieve those goals.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Note-taking and reference tracking

  • Be clear
    • Take notes you will be able to reread and understand a month later
  • Be systematic
    • Date your notes, your drafts, and your library searchers
    • Save everything you write, even if you don’t plan to use it
    • Standardize file and document names so you can find things easily
  • Be consistent
    • Develop your preferred organizational method early on and stick to it
    • Keep like items together (e.g., do not save references in separate documents)

Literature review matrices

Zotero and other citation management software

Audio: So, note-taking and reference tracking, really important for students to be clear, systematic, and consistent with keeping track of where you found your sources or where you obtained your ideas from. So, any time that you start a research, a new search in the Walden Library or any other library, make sure you detail exactly how you -- or what encompassed in that search and how you obtained your sources. So, for example, you would write down -- if you're doing a search in the Walden Library, you would write down, you know, used the Walden Library. Then you write down all of the databases, the names of the databases that you accessed. And then you write down all of the keywords that you entered into those databases. And then the time parameters in which you did that search. Like, you know, if you only are looking for articles in the last three years, you know, you may only have your search from -- parameters from 2014 to 2017. Make sure you keep track of that information because it will help prevent you from doing -- redoing searches that you have already done, and it will also help you, you know, knowing when you need to move on to a different database or use different key terms, and finally, you will have to report that information on how you obtained your sources in one of the paragraphs in your literature review. So, make sure you keep detailed and systematic notes about how you obtained your sources.

In a different -- in addition, be sure that you also keep careful track of where you obtained your ideas from, you know, sources from, right? So, if you're writing about topic A, and these three authors also talked about topic A, make sure you are clearly indicating the -- you know, where you received your ideas from. And helping you keep track of that is easy if you have a good note-taking and reference tracking process.

Make sure that you save everything that you write, even if you don't plan to use it, because you never know when you may need to revisit that, especially if your chair or second member says, you know what? I think you should talk about this. And you're like, oh, I did actually write about that in some prewriting, but I decided not to keep it. Well, now you don't have to start from scratch. Go back to your prewriting and commence from there.

Make sure you also standardized your files and document names, so you can find things easily. And make you're also keeping track, not just of your drafts, like what you write, but also all of the feedback that you receive from your committee members, always save that feedback, in a separate file. And then you know, when you work within the draft that the committee member gives you to make your revisions, you will still have a copy of their original feedback.

And be consistent. Make sure that you use the same organizational process that -- and note-taking process that you're using throughout the entire study so that you know where things are at, and you know how to access them easily, even if you, you know, start accumulating large amounts of paper or large amounts of files, which you will, inevitably. So also, some students like to use software programs to help them organize their information, like the literature review matrices. We have examples of that in the Writing Center.

And some students also use Zotero and other citation management software. I personally have not used any of the citation software, so I can't really give a recommendation for any. I will say, however, that it is important that if you do choose to use a citation software, you always double-check the work. Of the citation software. I will honestly, I've been at Walden almost 11 years, and I have yet to see a dissertation or a course paper in which a student used a citation software and have the references or citations be correct. The machine -- the machine is only as good as the human behind it, so make sure you don't just rely on that to do something accurately for you.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practicing discipline

  • Get in the habit of writing every day, even when you feel like you have nothing to write.
    • Commit to writing for a set amount of time every day, even if it is just  for 15 minutes
    • Try different prewriting exercises if you are stuck
  • Find ways to stay productive, even when you just can’t put words on the page
    • Organize your writing space
    • Read, read, read!

Audio: Practicing discipline. So, we get in the habit of writing every day, even when you feel like you have nothing to write, okay? So, make sure -- I would say, not even just getting in the habit of writing every day, but make sure you get into the habit of working on your study every day so that your ideas and your topic and sort of your passion in a way, stays fresh for you. Avoid those weekend marathons, as we talked about a little bit earlier. If you don't feel like if you have anything to write, I like to read instead. Sometimes the reading of an article or reading of a source will help me -- help trigger something that I wish to write about in my study. So, if you find that you just can't get anything on the page when you sit down to write, start reading a little bit first and see if that helps.

And find ways to stay productive. So, reading, again, organizing your writing space, some students also -- I have some students who like to talk about their study, and they will actually tape-record themselves, you know, making sort of auditory notes about their study, and that can also help trigger some writing as well. It all depends on, you know, your writing process and what helps you prepare for writing. So, I say whatever works for you, go ahead and do it.



Visual: Slide changes to the following: Staying motivated!

  • Find ways to celebrate even the smaller milestones
  • Rest when you need to—don’t burn out!
  • Let yourself adjust your timeline if you need to
  • Write with other people!

Audio: Stay motivated. Definitely, find ways to celebrate even the smaller milestones. So, oh, my goodness, you completed the introduction portion of your study, you know, celebrate. Let people know that you have done that. And pat yourself on the back, because it's the accumulation of these small milestones that will lead, you know, to the overall completion of your study. So, rest when you need to. Don't burn out. And I think one way to do that is to avoid the marathon writing and reading sessions.

And allow yourself to adjust your timeline if you need to. So sometimes you find out, oh, you know what? I just -- I wrote this, and then my second member asked me to rewrite this portion of the study or, you know, include this other topic that I hadn't thought about before. Now I'm off my, you know, proposed timeline for completing the proposal. Well, that does happen. And when it does happen, or if it does happen, don't beat yourself up about it, because, you know, as we talked about before, the dissertation, doctoral study, is an iterative process with many different stops and starts and many revisions throughout. So, you know, allow yourself to be accepting of new directions of research and writing and perhaps new timelines as well.

I also recommend you write with other people. You know, if you don't know of anybody who is currently getting their dissertation or doctoral study or someone else who is, you know, maybe getting -- working on some kind of scholar -- scholarly project, please do join the writing community at Walden University. And that's just a bunch of other students who are writing their dissertation or doctoral study. And some editors who are there to help you and answer your questions. No faculty allowed in this community. And it's just a way for you to motivate each other and not to maybe feel so alone during this process.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Poll:

How much time do you normally set aside for revision once you have a complete draft?

  • I usually don’t revise.
  • Less than 5 minutes.
  • 5 – 60 minutes.
  • A few hours.
  • A day or so.
  • More than a day.

[The webinar layout changes to open a poll box for students to use to respond to the poll question.]

Audio: Let's do a quick poll. How much time do you normally set aside for revision once you complete a draft? Go ahead and indicate, and be honest. About how much time you set aside for revision.

[Pause as students respond to the poll.]

Okay. So, I'm seeing a lot of people saying, majority of you are saying that, you know, you spend about 5 minutes to an hour, maybe a couple of hours revising. That would -- might be effective for the course paper, but it's going to need to change for the dissertation or doctoral study. When you're revising in the doctoral study, you actually should be using multiple days to revise so that you can come back to your manuscript with as fresh of eyes as possible when you're revising. So that revision process will need to change in order for you to be successful in writing at the doctoral level.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Evidence of Good Writing and Strong Composition in Longer Documents

“Don’t miss the forest for the trees” – English language idiom

Audio: So how do we know that your writing is good, you know? How do we know you have good writing? And especially within the longer documents like a dissertation. So, don't miss the forest for the trees. So, remember, it's not -- good writing at the doctoral level is not just about making sure that your grammar is correct on the sentence level, right? Do you have a noun? Do you have a verb? Do you have a direct object? That, you know, of course it's very important to have -- to have those aspects of your study or your sentence structure as well. But also make sure you don't miss the overall organization and cohesion and flow of a larger publication-ready document that needs to be focused on just as much as the smaller things like grammar on the sentence level.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: The “5-paragraph essay”

  • Also known as “keyhole” essay
  • Standard approach to short essay writing
    • 1 introductory paragraph, ending in a clear thesis statement
    • 3 (or more) body paragraphs, each presenting a specific claim directly supporting the thesis statement
    • 1 concluding paragraph, restating the thesis statement and
  • Suited for straightforward, arguable positions, not for showing depth or breadth of knowledge on a topic

Audio: So, the five-paragraph essay, I'm sure most of you are familiar with this, hopefully from high school or undergraduate work. And, you know, this is something that most of you are probably practicing or using in your course work, right? So, you have an introduction with a thesis statement. You have a body of the -- of the paper. And then you have a conclusion to the paper. Okay? So, this is a standard five-paragraph essay if you're writing a shorter essay, but of course it would be larger if you have a larger essay. But the same components in the same order hold true. So, this is -- this five-paragraph essay is suitable for straightforward arguable positions, but this is not the format -- the larger format that you use for the dissertation or capstone, because you're not writing the traditional straightforward arguable position.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Knowing your goals, writing with purpose

Short essay

  • Presents a clear position and supports it with specific evidence
  • “Argues” for or against a position, using specific points supported by evidence
  • Draws a conclusion based on establishing validity of the thesis statement



  • Defines a specific area in need of further research
  • Demonstrates depth and breadth of knowledge in the field
  • “Argues” to establish the need for a specific type of study
  • Draws conclusion based on findings and their significance to the current scholarly discussion


Audio: So, knowing how to transfer your writing style from the short essay or course work to the dissertation or doctoral study. So, kind of see the difference between the two, right? So, for your short essay, you have a clear position and you include evidence to support that position. In the dissertation you define a specific area in need of further research, okay? So that's two different starting points for the two different types of writing. The short essay argues for or against the position using evidence, points supported by evidence. And then the dissertation is a demonstrating a depth and breadth of knowledge in the field. So, you're not arguing for or against a position like say, in your lit review. You're presenting all of the current literature and scholarly sources about this small slice of the pie of your topic, okay? And then of course, the short essay, draws a conclusion based on establishing the validity of the thesis statement. And in the dissertation, you argue to establish the need for a specific type of study, you know, so your methodology and design. And then the conclusions are based on your findings or your results, okay? And they're related back to the current research, you know, in your that you present in your lit review. Does it align with the current research or not and what does that mean for future research ramifications? So, as you can see, the purpose and the goal or outcome of the short essay is very different than the dissertation or doctoral study.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Thesis statement versus research problem

Thesis Statement

  • Appears at the end of the introductory paragraph
  • Usually a single sentence
  • Takes a stand on an issue or puts forward a single main idea



Research Problem

  • Appears near the beginning of Chapter 1, after introductory and background sections
  • Usually between a single paragraph and a few pages long
  • Defines a specific area in current scholarship that requires further research


Audio: So, thesis statement versus research problem. In the course paper or traditional essay, you will have a thesis statement which appears at the end of the introduction portion of the paper. Usually a single sentence. Sometimes two, if it's a longer paper. And takes a stand on an issue or, you know, presents a single main idea that will be supported and alluded to throughout the rest of the paper. However, research problem is different. So, appears at the beginning of chapter 1 or if you are in DBA or EdD, it appears at the end portion of the introduction. Okay? And this is usually a single paragraph to maybe even a few pages where you outline to the reader, you know, based on the gap in research or the gap in practice if you're doing a research-based degree, you know, sort of presenting the reason for your study, right? You know, you need to, you know, fill in the gap in research, you know, either with this methodology and design or collecting this type of data. Or you need to fill this gap in practice by, you know, connecting this type of methodology and design to get the data that you need to fill in that gap in practice. So very different between the thesis statement and presenting the research problem.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Structure and organization

  • Longer research projects include more levels in the hierarchy of ideas
  • These extra levels support the length and depth required for a longer document

[Slide includes a clipart image of a bridge.]

Audio: Structure and organization. So longer research projects include more levels and hierarchy of ideas and these extra layers support the length and depth required for a lodger document. So, I like to think of -- I like to actually the APA style of writing versus other styles, like maybe MLA or Chicago Manual of Style, because APA has great was ways for the writer to organize his or her ideas, and then signal that organization and signal topic changes to the readership. And that's through the use of APA headings. APA headings are great ways for you to signal or organize -- first of all, organize your ideas into main topics and sub-topics. You know, presenting your hierarchy of ideas. And they're also great ways for you to signal to the reader, you know, when you're transitioning between one topic to another. So please use those APA headings, especially for the lit review, where you're presenting such a large variety or realm of topics and themes presented in the literature that relate to your dissertation topic.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Structure and organization, cont’d

Think about how the important elements of a short essay correlate to the content in a longer document

Short Essay




Thesis statement

Problem Statement and Purpose Statement

Topic sentences

Section headings

Sentences with analysis and supporting evidence

Sections and subsections

. . .

Topic sentences

. . .

Sentences with analysis and supporting evidence


Audio: So, think about how, you know, when you're determining how you should structure and organize your paper, this is actually I think fairly helpful for the lit review, think about how important elements of a short essay correlates to the content into the longer document. So, think about on a paragraph level in a short essay, the organization of the paragraph, you know, you think about that organization on a chapter level, or a section level if you're writing a DBA or EdD study. And then you think about the transfer of thesis statement to the problem statement and purpose statement. And then topic sentences with kind of like the APA section or chapter headings, okay? And then sentences with analysis and supporting evidence are like the sections and sub-sections, and so on and so forth. So, you can see when you're transitioning the ideas from the short essay to the dissertation, you start -- kind of start from the smaller version or view of organization, and just put it on a larger scale in the dissertation or doctoral study.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Incorporating evidence: MEAL plan

Main Idea Evidence Analysis Lead out

            Multiple studies indicated a strong link between transportation availability and student engagement in extracurricular activities. Author X (2010) argued that the cost of public transportation in the Midwest affected student participation in after school activities, which was similar to findings in studies across the country. Author Y (2012) reported that 60% of high school students in the United States relied on school buses to get home, meaning that the majority of students had no alternative means of getting home if they decided to stay after regular school hours. According to Author Z (2009), in a study of after school program attendance most of the participants (74%) received rides home from parents or friends. In addition to transportation availability, researchers have noted a strong correlation between student participation in extracurricular activities and parental involvement . . .

Audio: So, once you have your APA headings down, you know, which will help you organize your ideas into main components, and then signal to the reader when you have a subject change, you want to think about incorporating evidence and including a complete academic argument on the paragraph level. And the Writing Center suggests that you use the M.E.A.L. plan. Oh, I'm sure if you have attended residencies or maybe if some of you have attends dissertation intensives, you have heard of this, this information. If not, I believe there is a link for the paragraph construction down in the files pod. Or we can put one there.

This is just a way, using the M.E.A.L. plan is just a way of you ensuring that, number one, you're including a complete academic argument on a paragraph level. Number two, you're incorporating synthesis in the lit review, you know, which is the goal, rather than summary. And number three, you're also organizing your ideas in a way that makes sense and that has good cohesion and flow for the reader. So please do read up on using the M.E.A.L. plan as a possible paragraph construction for your dissertation or doctoral study.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Incorporating evidence: PEAS

  • Point of the paragraph
  • Evidence
  • Analysis
  • Summary

Keep in mind that there is not one right way to organize a paragraph.

The point is to make the purpose of the paragraph clear to your reader.

Audio: You can also P.E.A.S., which is very similar, just kind of a different acronym, to the M.E.A.L. plan, so keeps the same four elements of the paragraph as the M.E.A.L. plan, and this is another great way to organize your paragraphs as well.


Visual: Slide changes to the following:


What kind of feedback do you prefer from faculty on your writing?

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

Audio: Okay. Let's pause for, I think, our final feedback or chat -- poll, I should say. What kind of feedback do you prefer from faculty on your writing? You can go ahead and just type into the Q&A box or the chat box, and just kind of put down your ideas, you know, what -- I should say actually the chat box, not the Q&A box. What kind of feedback do you like to have?

Honest, yes. Constructive, specific feedback, mm-hmm. Examples for clarity. Yep. Truthful. Mm-hmm. Supportive and honest. Okay. Examples, balanced, mm-hmm. Guided feedback. Uh-huh. [ Laughter] Stan, I don't want to argue. Discussion. Honest, uh-huh.

Yeah, I see a lot of you saying kind of the same I think main I would say four points. One is honest feedback, right? We want honest feedback on your writing. Just getting full points with good job when actually there needs to be maybe some improvement or expansion upon ideas doesn't help in the long run, right? You want to have that honest feedback on what you're doing well, so you can continue doing that, and what you need to improve upon so you can improve upon that.

In addition, I see constructive and specific feedback. So, you know, like I said, the good job is just isn't gonna cut it, right? We want something specific like, oh, okay, you're doing really well with your, I don't know, topic sentences, but your paraphrasing, you know, you're using too many words from the original source which is an academic integrity violation. Here are some resources on how to ensure you're paraphrasing correctly. That's the kind of feedback you want, something very specific with examples that you can incorporate or even resources you can use to improve upon something, right?

And then also, yes, Sylvia said it. We said honest feedback, specific feedback, lots of examples, and then also suggestions -- oh, suggestions for alternatives. I will put that as a fourth category, and include resources, I think, are also really helpful to get. I provide my students with a lot of resources when I give them feedback. So, I'll say, okay, you know, going back to my previous example on the paraphrasing, if I find a student is struggling with paraphrasing, I'll send that student, you know, links for these three webinars on paraphrasing, and here's the paraphrasing toolkit from the writing center. And my expectation of course for the student is that, you know, they use those resources, you know, to bolster their skills so that they can properly paraphrase their upcoming submissions. So, hopefully you're getting that information as well with resources and suggestions, specific suggestions on how to improve. Okay?


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Things to Anticipate in Your Writing Process

“Proper prior planning prevents [pathetically] poor performance” – the 7 Ps, by Dr. Lou Milanesi

Audio: So, things to anticipate in your writing process. Dr. Milanesi, who is head of CRQ, or Center for Research Quality, so he has a great, I think a great quote here, and that is "Proper planning -- proper prior planning prevents pathetically poor performance," the seven Ps. So, you know, that's great. That's great information, and a good guideline to sort of live, you know, live and breathe by as you're writing your dissertation or doctoral study. We had talked about, you know, the importance of planning on a larger level and also on an individual level, and sometimes it's a student's lack of planning that can lead to poor performance or an inability to complete. So, planning is extremely important. And please do so.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Feedback for longer research projects

  • You will spend at least as much time revising your draft and incorporating feedback as you did writing it
  • Expect “layers” of feedback
    • A faculty member will make different comments on the same passage at different times
    • Faculty read for different things at different stages
  • If you want feedback about something specific, learn to ask for it

Audio: Please plan for feedback on longer research projects. And the feedback, once you -- once you receive feedback on something, please plan on getting additional feedback as you go on along in the process, about the same thing from different people. I keep on saying that writing the dissertation or capstone is an iterative process. And this is really shown in the feedback stage. So, plan on getting different feedback. Sometimes feedback that is different. So maybe your chair says that you should do it one way. Your second member might say, you know what? I really like it this way. And then that's when you all have a conversation and talk about, you know, what you should decide.

Remember, ultimately, that you as the student is responsible for your dissertation. Or doctoral study, right? So, you know, if you have a good reason for writing something in a way that you write it or if you have a good reason for including or not including something and it meets with the rubric for your program and it meets with APA and ProQuest publication guidelines as well as university guidelines, then you know what? You should argue your position, because this is your -- this is your baby, you know? So, think about, you know, what you want to do, and, you know, your committee is there to help you through feedback, but, you know, make sure, if you want to do something a certain way, and you have justification for it, make sure you share that with your committee.

You will spend at least as much time revising your draft and incorporating feedback as you did writing it. So, the revision process is, I would say, mostly longer than the actual writing process. Because you're gonna get a lot of different feedback and rewrites from different people at different times in the process. And the majority, I think, of writing the dissertation is about incorporating feedback.

The feedback is going to come in layers. So, you know, we talked about feedback -- the faculty members make different comments on the same passage at different times. And sometimes, you know, the faculty may have different ideas about how it should be revised. Also, be aware that faculty read for different things at different stages. So usually I will, you know, if I read something for the first time from a student, and I see that the content really needs to be revised, you know, maybe to align with the rubric or the standards for the methodology and design, so before I look at even the little things like APA, you know, like citation rules, comma rules, I might focus more on the content and say, okay, you know, you need to rewrite this and include these four aspects. Here are the resources on how to do it and here's why you have to do it. And then I won't really focus on the smaller portions. But once the student has solidified his or her content, then I'll start looking at the writing style and APA and the larger cohesion and flow issues. So, expect that you might get different layers of feedback at different times depending on what needs to be revised.

And if you want feedback about something specific, learn to ask for it. So, you know, if you're like, oh, I'm not sure, you know, am I citing this source correctly, or, you know, am I justifying my methodology and design correctly? If your chair or your second member doesn’t comment on it, don't assume that, you know, oh, everything's great. Make sure you ask and say, you know, I had a question about the methodology and design. Is, you know, in your opinion, you know, is everything okay with this section? Can you comment on this section? So that you can really make sure you're getting the feedback that you need to also answer your questions and bolster your skills as a researcher and writer as you go along.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Academic integrity: Avoid accidental plagiarism!

  • Plagiarism Prevention Modules
  • Cite, cite, and cite again
  • Double-check references and citations from draft to draft
  • Be careful with secondary sources
    • Cite analysis as well as content that is not your own
  • Know what your similarity percentage means in a longer document

Audio: Academic integrity. Avoid accidental plagiarism. Now, this could be an entirely different webinar all by itself on academic integrity, and the Writing Center does conduct those webinars, but briefly, make sure that you are citing whenever you are including someone else's ideas that are not your own. Make sure you're double-checking your references and citations from draft to draft. Okay? And make sure -- I'll just put in here, this isn't in here now, but double-check close paraphrasing, which is a form of plagiarism. That occurs when the words of your paraphrase too closely match the words from the original source. And to avoid this, I recommend not paraphrasing on the sentence or even the paragraph level. Make sure you're reading an article. You set it aside, not look at it, and then, like, literally write down and reflect, what are the five -- four or five main themes or ideas that you came away with? And if you are making sure you're paraphrasing on that level, and you're not looking at the source, you will prevent accidental plagiarism through close paraphrasing.

Also, be careful with secondary sources. So generally speaking, at the doctoral level, you should not be using secondary sources unless the original source is out of print. This really doesn't occur in social sciences. So, you know, if you read an article and, like, you know, say the article is by Smith, and Smith, you know, cites Johnson and you want to cite Johnson, you need to go to the library, find Johnson's original article, read it, and paraphrase it for yourself. So, just make sure you’re avoiding those secondary sources.

And finally, make sure you know your similarity percentage and what it means in a longer document. So, if you use plagiarism software tools like TurnItIn, make sure you don't just look at the percentage and determine whether or not that indicates plagiarism. You need to actually read the report. And we have resources in the Academic Skills Center that you can use to make sure you understand how to properly read a TurnItIn report.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Build your own support system

  • Know the Walden resources and centers there to help you
  • Start a writing group!
    • Meet regularly, either in-person or online
    • Hold one another accountable
  • Ask for help when you need it
    • Let your friends and family know how things are going
    • Tell your overseeing faculty hen you run into problems
    • Connect with colleagues and alumni who have made it through the process

Audio: Build your own support system. Know the Walden resources, and the centers that are there to help you. And one of those, of course, is the Writing Center. Writing -- writing -- writer's hangout which Sara Witty, my colleague who's facilitating this webinar, hosts as well. And so, if you're interested in any of those Walden resources, to help support you, please join them. Or start your own writing group. You know, if you have some peers in your 9000 or 8090 class, you know, that you've kind of gotten to know over the years in your cohort, you know what? Hey, why don't you guys set up a group, and some students even like to write together online to hold each other accountable.

And then ask for help when you need it. So, you know, I talked a little bit about making sure you let your family and friends, you know, know when your time is when you're working on your study, and you should not be interrupted. But also give them progress updates so that they can support you, you know, while you're going through this process as well.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Walden Resources for Doctoral Capstone Students

Doctoral Capstone Resources Website

Compilation of resources from all centers and departments

[Slide includes a screenshot of the Doctoral Capstone Resources website.]

Audio: So here are some -- the Walden resources I talked by the doctoral capstone resources website, okay? So, this talks about, you know, depending upon your -- your program here, provides all the specific resources for each program. So please do check that out, Mark it as a favorite, if you haven't already.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Walden Capstone Writing Community

  • Virtual writing community exclusively for doctoral capstone students who have reached the proposal stage
  • Students connect with Writing Center editors and colleagues for writing support
  • Find out more, including how to join!

[Slide includes a screenshot of the Walden Capstone Writing Community website.]

Audio: And then the Walden capstone writing community, which I referred to earlier, and then Sara Witty, who does the writers' hangouts, join those. Totally free of charge. And just you, other students, and some editors hanging out, and talking about writing. And answering your questions. And writing together online, at the same time, to help make us accountable to each other. So, if you're interested, please click on that link to join the Writing Center website, and I think you also get links then for the writers' hang out there as well.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions?

Audio: So, I'd like to pause here quickly for questions that may have come up throughout the presentation. That my colleague Dr. Witty has been keeping of, that you would like me to talk a little bit more about. Sara?

Sara: Hi. I think one of the most interesting questions that came in that's probably applicable to all writers is, during the collection of information stage, how do you know when to stop? Collecting and start writing?

Sarah: So, when you say collection of information, do you mean at the lit review or do you mean at the results -- I can talk about both, but –

Sara: At the lit review, primarily.

Sarah: At the lit review? Okay. So, basically, when you sit down to write your lit review, you're going to be reading a whole bunch of stuff, okay? A whole bunch of stuff. You're going to need to learn how to determine when you've read enough and it's time to start writing, and when you start writing, what to include in the lit review and what to exclude.

So, beginning first, I would say, with knowing when to stop reading. So, you want to -- you read and read and read and read about your topic. So, when I say topic, though, make sure you have narrowed your topic down. So, let's pretend, you know, you're writing an education dissertation. You don't just start with, like, K-12 education since the beginning of the 16th century and the very first, you know, schoolhouse in western society, right? That's not where you start. You look at your specific problem, okay? Maybe your specific problem is, you know, 8th grade math scores are low in southern -- the southern school districts. So, you start only with literature that pertains specifically to that very topic, okay? So, you should be looking at, you know, math instruction, different ways of instructing math. You should be looking at middle school instruction, the pedagogy strategies, you know, but don't begin like I said way back with the very first schoolhouse. Just focus specifically only on the elements and the time period that relates specifically to your study.

Once you've determined that, you're gonna start reading all of the literature that relates to that tiny, small, little piece of pie related to your topic. And you're going to read and read and read and read until you find that the sources that you're reading are referencing all the other sources that you've read already. This is called something -- this is called saturation, like in the lit review, of when you know, okay, I'm starting to kind of get to the end of the line here where you've read, you know, the relevant literature related to my very specific topic, when they start citing each other and I've -- each other and I've already cited those sources before, you know what? I'm kind of coming to the end here. So that's when you sort of know when you should start finalizing the writing portion of preparing for the lit review and start transferring -- or the reading portion and start transferring to the writing portion, I should say.

So, once you begin the writing portion, you think about, oh, what do I need to include, right? So, remember, as going back it my first example, we don't go back to the very history, the very first, you know, historical note of the very first schoolhouse, right? We only talk specifically about the themes and sub-themes that relate to the specific topic. So, making sure, you know, ask yourself, would I need to know this information in order to understand how to implement effective 8th grade math pedagogy and instruction in my classroom? If the answer is no, if you're talking about the first little red schoolhouse, and the answer is no, you don't need that information, then it should not be included in the lit review, okay? You can assume that your readership has a general understanding of your topic, so you don't need to start at the very, very beginning. You know? So, I hope that helps answer your question a little bit. Sara, W., was there an additional question?

Sara: This one's really simple but I think it's something that is difficult for a lot of writers, and that's how to select a topic.

Sarah: Okay. Well, I think there's a lot of ways to select a topic. You know, you want to do something of course that's of interest and important to you. Right? So, start thinking about those things that you've learned about in your course work that's interesting and important to you. And maybe something that you have some professional or academic experience with. If you really are not sure at all and you have a general idea but you're not sure, you know, how to narrow down your topic, I would start looking at the completed dissertations or doctoral studies from Walden University that are related to your topic, and for dissertations, start looking in chapter 5 where they talk about recommendations for future research. And if it's a DBA study, it'll be in section 3, section 3. And if it's an EdD study, it'll be in section 4. So, look in those sections under the headlines, recommendations for future study, and see, hey, does this of this recommendation for future study sound interesting to me? And if it does, then start going into the library and start seeing if you can find sources about that topic.

And if you're a PhD student, determine, is there actually a gap in research? And if you are a practice-based degree student, determine, is this related to a gap in practice, either at my local business or my local school? So hopefully those are some good ways of thinking about topics. When you're starting to narrow it down, what you want to write about. Any other questions? Dr. Witty?

Sara: Nope, that about wraps it up.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions after this webinar:


Looking for more help with your capstone? 

Check out our doctoral capstone webinar series for help on the literature review and other sections of your final study.

You may also like: Transitioning from Coursework to Capstone Writing

Audio: Sarah: Okay. Well, then thank you very much for listening. And of course, if you have questions about form and style or the capstone, you may reach out to us after this webinar at the And we also have some recorded videos on the doctoral capstone on our website, the form and style website as well. So, I'm gonna turn this over to Beth now who has been helping us facilitate. Beth?

Beth: Thanks so much, Sarah. Thanks for a fantastic presentation. Sara, thank you for all your help facilitating those questions. We’re gonna go ahead and end for the evening. I know we're at the top of the hour, but thank you everyone for coming. And as Sarah said, do reach out if we can help. We're happy to help and that's what we're here for. So, thank you, everyone, have a great day.