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Webinar Transcripts

Prewriting Techniques: Taking the First Steps

Presented August 10th, 2016

View the recording

Last updated 10/14/2016


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

Audio: Beth: Good afternoon, or morning, or maybe even evening depending on where you are, everyone. Welcome to the webinar today. My name is Beth Nastachowski. I’m the manager of multimedia writing instruction here for the Writing Center and I’m just going to get us started here with a couple of quick housekeeping notes before I hand it over to the presenter for today, Jes.

So, a couple quick things here. The first is you'll note that I’ve started the recording for this session and actually all of our webinars are recorded and then posted in our webinar archive in the Writing Center's website. So if you have to leave for any reason or you would like to come back to this session and review it at a later date, you're more than welcome to do so. I’ll probably be able to post the recording by this evening so you should be able to find it there.

Also, note that there's lots of ways for you to interact with us today. We had that chat going on beforehand in the lobby which was great to see everyone participating and I hope you'll participate in the polls and other chat boxes that Jes is going to be using throughout the session, as well.

I also want to note that we have links to other resources throughout the PowerPoint slides that Jes is going to be using and you can click those links to open them up and then save them to take a look at after the webinar. But you can also did you know download the slides that Jes is using in the files pod in the right-hand corner so that will be available throughout the session.

The other thing I want to note is we have a Q and A box on the right hand of the screen and you're welcome to submit any questions or comments you have throughout the webinar. Myself and my colleague Brittany will be monitoring the box and we'll be happy to respond to you. In fact, I would say to you, we welcome any sort of ideas or comments or suggestions throughout the session, in particular, we know with this particular content of pre-writing, we often get lots of ideas and suggestions for resources and other software and things like that from students so we encourage you to use the Q and A box to submit those idea, as well.

Do note that if you have any questions after the session, and you just don't get the chance to ask them or sometimes we do have to end at the top of the hour and we don't get to all the questions that are submitted in the Q and A box, you're more than welcome to submit those questions to I’ll display the email address at the end, as well.

If any technical issues, let me know in the Q and A box and I’ll try to do as much as I can during the session itself but there is a help button at the top right-hand corner of the screen and that's the best place to go for any significant technical issues. So with that, I’ll hand it over to you, Jes.


Visual: The title slide opens with Jes’s name, job title, and photo.

Audio: Jes: Thanks, so much, Beth, and hi, welcome to everyone coming from all over the world. It was so nice to see you all chatting in the introductory pod and hear how things were going. So my name is Jes Philbrook, a writing instructor at the Walden Writing Center, and I’m really excited to be presenting this seminar prewriting techniques: taking the first steps today.


Visual: Slide #4 “Learning Objectives:” opens. It has four bullet points listing the objectives that Jes reads and discusses.

Audio: Getting us started here, learning objectives for today. After the session, here's our hope, that you'll be able to understand what prewriting is, so have a basic definition. Identify the stages of prewriting so the different steps that you might go through as you're prewriting. Understand which prewriting techniques are useful in which context so we'll discuss kind of how different techniques might be relevant for a discussion post versus a paper versus a dissertation. And then also identify a prewriting technique you will try, so it's my hope each of you will leave the session with something you can use to develop your own writing practice and to implement in your own prewriting as you go along.

So one thing to emphasize, too, and keep in mind is with everything that I’m presenting today, all of this is flexible. It's not that you have to go through every single one of these steps every time. It's not that you have to write notes on a note card. All of this is flexible and all depend on you and your learning style and your preferences, and also the assignment you're writing, and what kind of assignment it is, what kind of paper it is, what time constraints you're working within.

But also, so while it's flexible, it's also always going to be reflective. So prewriting is reflecting on what you know, what you need to present to your reader, what your assignment is about, and doing a lot of that reflection. So let's just keep that in mind, it's flexible and also reflective.


Visual: The next slide opens and has a chat prompt. The screen layout also changes. The slide is on the left half and the Q&A and transcript pods are side-by-side in the top right corner. A chat box is below them. The files pod is not available. Jes reads and discusses the chat activity.

Audio: So to get us started, here's another little chat question. It's how do you define prewriting, and what prewriting activities do you currently practice as you write? So there's two questions there. I’m going to give you all a couple of minutes to do some reflection here and do your best. How do you define prewriting and what prewriting activities do you currently practice as you write? I’m excited to hear your responses.

This is great, keep them coming. I’m going to talk through a little bit of what I’m seeing as the rest of you type. So I like that I’m seeing a lot about brainstorming, mapping ideas. We see here that the definition is the beginning stages of constructing a paper. That's really true. That's the beginning part of what you do before you sit down and say I’m going to write this paper now.

I’m seeing things about reading, outlining, organizing, formulating thoughts and ideas, or like this one, that prewriting is critical thinking and outlining your thoughts. Yeah, absolutely. I think, too, yeah, I’m seeing here it involves a broad literature search and that certainly depends on the paper but if your paper involves literature review or just needs some research as evidence, yes, absolutely, a big part of prewriting is that research. I like this, too.

Prewriting is like free writing, just write without corrections to get the ideas flowing. Yes, absolutely, we're going to have a whole slide about that later on, about free writing. I see here, too, an initial analysis of what the writing object is and how you want to get there. I like that definition and those examples. I’m seeing other example of making notes on the assignment document, starting collecting journals, highlighting essential ideas.

This is great, you all have really fantastic ideas for prewriting and also some good definitions of what it involves. A lot of what I’m seeing written here are different things that we're going to be covering in today's presentation so hopefully by the end of this, we'll be able to share these idea and everyone will have kind of a common ground to come from. I hope, too, that you'll share your ideas with us as we go along. We'll have a point where we'll pause and you can ask questions or give suggestions.


Visual: Slide #6 “The Writing Process: opens. This slide shows six parts of the writing process each within a circle. The first two circles, labeled “reading” and “prewriting,” are larger than the rest. The circles are arranged clockwise in a circle around two arrows that look like clock hands. These arrows point “reading” and “prewriting.” Small arrows connect each circle to the next clockwise. Jes discusses this graphic.

Audio: I’m going to keep going to keep us moving but thank you so much for sharing all those ideas. So, to talk about prewriting, I think it's good to think about the whole writing process. So the writing process is very cyclical, and it involves a lot of different things. We've got this little circle here that shows it kinds of starts with, like, reading and prewriting and then from prewriting, you move into writing and then you share it to get some feedback, maybe with an instructor or a peer or a friend or I share my writing a lot with my husband and he gives me feedback. Maybe you send it to your professor and get feedback and then he revise and you reflect and the process starts again. As you know, being a Walden student, you're writing papers every week for the most part so this really is cyclical. You go through this process for one paper and then you start right back up with another one the next week.

So today we're going to focus mostly on this reading and prewriting section, and if you want to learn more about writing and revising and reflecting, we have other webinars that you can tune in for. So, yes, that's what the writing process involves.


Visual: Slide #7 “Prewriting:” opens. At the top is the definition “Everything that you do before or as you start writing your draft.” On the left is a picture of stacks of papers in a file horizontal organizer with the label “Researching, brainstorming, organizing, planning.” On the right is a picture of a group of small, green, wooden, house-shaped blocks surrounding a slightly larger red house shaped block. This picture is labeled “Individualized: people learn and think differently, and different papers require various prewriting strategies.” Jes reads and discusses these two.

Audio: So prewriting, a lot of you gave definitions earlier which were fantastic. Here's the one we're sharing today. Everything that you do before or as you start writing your draft. So it's all that work that comes up to the point where you say, all right, I’m writing this paper or I’m writing this discussion post or I’m writing this blog post.

So it involves things like researching, brainstorming, organizing, planning. If you're going to do kind of adequate prewriting, you want to do that. Chances are before you skip the prewriting and you've just sat down and written the paper but sometimes that's a lot harder to do because you need to do that prewriting to integrate the research and the brain storming and to have an organized paper.

Another thing to note it's very individualized. People learn and think differently. For me, I like to have kind of a written outline and do my research and fill it in on the outline so I know where all the sources are going to go. That's what works for me. Something different might work for you. Like a mind map, might write note cards and put them out in your living room and figure out where they go.

It's good to keep that in mind, that people learn and think differently but also different papers require different prewriting strategies. So the prewriting required for a discussion post is going to be pretty short. Like, you probably don't have to do a whole lot of research. Chances are your faculty member tells you what to research, so maybe the prompt says read these two sources and write this paper. To some degree, you already know what the outline looks like and you've done a lot of the brainstorm because it's a smaller assignment so the prewriting might be short.

However, if you're writing your capstone paper, the prewriting might take a year, it might take a year to do all the research and to do the brainstorming and to organize and to plan. I’m actually writing my dissertation right now and I still feel I’m in the prewriting stage and I’ve been working on it for about nine months because so much of it is reading and finding new research and figuring out how the chapters will be outlined and where the sources are going to go. So, again, it depends on you and your learning style what prewriting works for you but also depend on the paper you're writing and what's appropriate for that paper. All right.


Visual: Slide #8 “Stages of Prewriting” opens. This slide has a large, curved arrow that starts in the bottom left corner and arcs up to the top right corner. The arrow is labeled with three points, researching, generating, and planning. Jes reads and discusses these. As she discusses this, a textbox appear in the bottom right corner that says “AND throughout the writing process.”

Audio: Stages of prewriting, this is what we're pitching to you today. There's other ways you can organize it and this is what we thought would make sense and be useful tough. First is to start with the research figure out what's out there around what's being said and how is that useful for me and my research. Then generate ideas, figure out, you know, what do you have to say after reading all that research? What can do you? What's your intervention? And then also the planning and that involves more of the organizing.

So, again, researching, figuring out what's being said, generating, creating your own ideas and then planning for the writing of the paper, and we're going to kind of use this stages model as with go through today's presentation. Another thing to keep in mind is that this is throughout the whole writing process.

So, for example, with the capstone example, in my own dissertation, I might do some research, and generating, and planning and write a chapter but then I have another chapter that I have to write so I have to go right back and do the research again, and generating, and planning. So again depend on the project and how big it is and how much time you have but this might be very cyclical, as well, where you're going back to the research a lot and generating new ideas and planning, especially if you're doing a project over a long period of time.

New research comes out and so you need to do research to figure out what else has been said in the last year since I put this to the side and since many of you, I’m guessing, work full time while you're going to school, your dissertations, you might be choosing to take a little bit longer to work on them so that you can support your families and work. So it's good to go back and to look at the research again, if you've been away from it for a little while. But, again, in a discussion post, nothing is going to change much in a week so you might just have kind of these three stages at once. All right.


Visual: The next slide has the same curved arrow with the labels Researching, Generating, and Planning. Research is now encased in a box.

Audio: So, first, let's focus on researching.


Visual: Slide #10 “Researching = Critical Reading” opens and has a picture of a stack of hardback books in the bottom right corner. A large textbox fills the body of the slide labeled “Read actively rather than passively” and lists five points for critical reading that Jes reviews and discusses. As she discusses this information, a textbox appears at the bottom directing participants to a hyperlinked Academic Skills Center webinar.

Audio: So researching really is about critical reading. It's about reading actively rather than passively, so it's not enough to just say, okay, I’ve found these seven journal articles about this top-in, I’m going to read them and the paper. Reading them isn't enough. You can't read it like you do a book where you sit back in the chair and read it for fun.

You need to read it actively and reading actively involves things like asking questions, so as you're reading, maybe you see a citation or an example and wonder, huh, I wonder how they gathered that data. Or I wonder what this would mean if you were to sample this other population, or I wonder how this has changed over time if it's an older article.

Paraphrases you go, too, so as you're reading, you might read something that you think oh, this might be really useful for my research. It would be helpful to paraphrase that as you go and include citations so that you can use that material in your own work.

Then also it involves following leads you find in sources and making connections. Say you're reading one article and it cites three or four authors and you're like, huh, these author are writing about something that's really relevant to me. Part of researching and critical reading is going to find those articles in the databases and reading those and making connections between sources.

It also involves considering how this source contributes to your research. So something for all of you to keep in mind is as you're reading this research, you're approaching it as a researcher. All of you are getting, for the most part, probably, higher graduate degrees unless we have some undergrads here and then you can do your thing. And as a researcher, when you're reading research, it's important to think about how it relates to your research and contributes to your understanding, maybe how this can be used in literature review or how you can respond to it and have it as a jumping off point for your own research.

And then also reading actively means taking notes and pulling out quotes into another document. So it's a good idea when you're reading academic journal articles that are for a paper to have like a word document open or a notebook or something like that where you can write down quotes or paraphrases and then include citations so it's easy to find those sources later on.

And if you want to learn more about critical reading, the academic skills center has an excellent web page on critical reading and you can click this link and get there and if I move too fast and you haven't had a chance to click it, you can download the slides and click it later. All right.


Visual: The next slide opens with a poll question. The layout changes so that the slide is on the left half of the screen. The Q&A and transcript pods are in the top right again. Below them is a poll pod with seven options for participants to check. The bottom right has a chat pod for other responses not included in the poll responses. Jes reads the question and then discusses the participants’ responses.

Audio: So here's a poll question before I move into taking notes. How do you currently take notes when you research? I’ll give you a minute to fill it out and you should be able to see your peers' responses as you go. Feel free to select more than one response if you do different things.

Great. I’m seeing a distribution. Nobody has said I don't usually take notes. That's pretty cool.

We've got a good chunk saying I write comment in the margins of my sources, that's good. It's a start. I highlight key words and ideas. I would be curious to know here, too, if people print out their sources and highlight. I know that as online students, I wonder how often we just read things on the computer rather than reading them on a piece of paper, so if you want, you can add that into the other box. So we've got a lot who highlight. We've also got -- I write down important ideas and information in a notebook. That's good. I take notes in a word document. Awesome, that's what I try to do, too. I include notes on note cards. This is what I did when I was taking my exams, the Ph.D. That I’m pursuing, I had to take a comprehensive exam on, like, 100 different works so I did a note card for every work where I wrote the citation on one side and then important ideas and kind of the thesis statement and important supporting points there. That was helpful more for an exam than a dissertation, I think.

And then I have a computer or phone app. Those of you who said you have a computer or phone app that you use, I would love to see if you could share in the comment box. One person says they use Evernote. That's really neat. I have not tried using apps yet. Someone is saying they used Mendolay. I explored that for a minute. You can google these if you're not familiar with them. I have a link to Evernote later on in the presentation. Highlights and comment in the pdf version of articles. That's smart, so you can highlight in the pdf and then save it to your computer. I see Microsoft OneNote is great for notes if you're doing an app. Yeah, I want to investigate Evernote, too. I’m curious about will these different technologies, I wonder if that would help. Good. Now, one nice thing about having a computer or phone app or each just a word document that wherever your computer is, you have your notes so I just moved across country and I have not yet unpacked my box labeled "dissertation." I’m going to have to do that to get to my notes. It would have been nice to have them all on my computer so I could get started right back up after moving. Excellent. Well, thank you all for responding to this poll and we're going to have a chance a little bit later to talk about similar things. I’m going to keep moving, though.


Visual: Slide #12 “Critical Reading Requires Note Taking” opens. On the left is the reminder “Many different methods.” The main part of the slide is a graphic with four textboxes arranged in a 2x2 square. The textbox in the bottom right is hyperlinked to a Writing Center blog post on note-taking apps. Jes reads and discusses the four methods.

Audio: All right, so critical reading requires note taking. There's many different ways that you can do this. There's journaling, pen and paper, electronic, we just kinds of talked about that. There's annotated bibliographies, which I’ll discuss in a minute. There's notecards like I described, where I wrote a source on each card and the important ideas and thesis statement. Those of you who are more technological curious, you can click the link to this blog post, demystifying prewriting, it talks about Zotero and OneNote and another one that I can't remember but there's things in that blog post, too, so if you want to explore some of these and you need a reminder, this is the blog post to go to.


Visual: Slide #13 “Note Taking: Journal” opens. It shows a screenshot of notes in Evernote. A textbox is superimposed on the screenshot and contains a hyperlink for Evernote. Jes discusses the app.

Audio: So to get us started with journaling, so this is an example from Evernote, I believe, and, again, I haven't used it yet so this is just my best knowledge. So one method of taking notes in a journal is using an app like Evernote, where you can load your different sources and take your notes and then it's all electronic, all stored in the cloud and you can revisit your sources whenever you want to. Zotero, for example, is really good for collecting sources and it can generate reference page for you, which you have to check because you don't know if the APA is accurate. But there's like all these different note-taking apps on the internet and the perk is if you go on vacation or if you move or if you lose your papers, all of your notes are still in one place.


Visual: Slide #14 “Note Taking: Note Cards” opens. The body of the slide shows a picture of a handwritten notecard with quotes citations from two different sources. Jes discusses how to use notecards.

Audio: But then there's also kinds of the good, old-fashioned note cards and this is what I have chosen a lot in the past but you can include, like, the author's name and the page number and relevant quotes. This is just an example for one. Another idea would be to write down the thesis statement or write down main points or even just write down page numbers of important places to look if you have the document saved as a pdf on the computer, you have the note card to remind you, go to page 12, page 26, these are things that might be useful for my research.


Visual: Slide #15 “Note Taking: Annotated Bibliography” opens. A screenshot of an annotated bibliography entry is shown with textboxes pointing to the different elements: reference, summary, analysis, and application. A hyperlink appears at the bottom left for additional Writing Center resources on annotated bibliographies. Jes reviews how to use an annotated bibliography for note taking.

Audio: But then there's also the annotated bibliography and this is another one I have enjoyed a lot. Here's a link if you want to learn more about annotated bibliographies on our website. One of the nice things about them is they're an organized way to take notes online. You can do this in a word document. And what you get from it is you get the complete APA reference entry. You can see up here, it's Hewitt, the online writing conference, a guide for teachers and tutors, so if I were to use this source in a paper later on, all I have to do is copy-paste that into my references page for that paper. But then the annotation includes a summary so Hewitt's book focuses on detailing the various ways, dot, dot, dot. One paragraph of analysis, this is your chance to plot, critique it and analyze it and figure out what's going on with it. It could be a place where you talk about issues with the source or contributions that the source can offer. The last paragraph is application. So this is your place to make it personal, to figure out how does the source relate to me. This is that part of critical reading where you're being active and thinking about how is this source useful for me. Could I use this in the background section of this paper? Could I use it as evidence to support a certain point? Is this really just question generating and helpful for me to think about? But this combination of summary, analysis, and application is a really good opportunity to not only solidify what's this about but also to do this scholarly thing of critiquing it and do the personal thing of applying it to your own research.

This is a really good one, especially for when you're writing a dissertation or a longer course paper or application paper, where you have a lot of sources because it's a way to keep track of your information over time.


Visual: The next slide “Questions about researching, critical reading, or note taking?” opens. This slide has a stack of books in the bottom left corner with a magnifying glass sitting in front of them.

Audio: So before I move on to the next step, I want to pause and see, Beth, are there any questions yet about researching, critical reading, note taking, those kinds of things that I can answer?

Audio: Beth: You know, we haven't had any questions yet, Jes, but I just wanted to let everyone know, if you have any ideas or suggestions you would like us to share with your fellow students on the webinar, let us know in the Q and A box and we'll be happy to share those.

Audio: Jes: Thanks so much, Beth. So the Q and A box today can be for questions but also for suggestions if you have things that you want to share and Beth and Brittany can share that with everyone else. Excellent, I’ll keep going then.


Visual: The next slide shows the curved arrow with “Researching, Generating, and Planning” again. This time, “Generating” is enclose in a rectangle. Jes introduces the section.

Audio: So moving on to generating. So you've done your research, you've found your sources, you've done whatever it is you would like to do, maybe it's write your note cards, maybe do your annotated bibliography, whatever it is, and then you move on to generating.


Visual: Slide #18 open and has two side-by-side textboxes. The left one is labeled “Critical Reading” and the right one is labeled “Generating Ideas.” A curved arrow at the top point from the left to the right and at the bottom, another curved arrow points from the right to the left. Jes discusses the connection between critical reading and generating ideas.

Audio: So critical reading, that researching and generating ideas are really connected. It's hard to generate ideas if you're not engaging with sources because you don't know what's being said or you don't know if what you're doing has been done by someone else yet. So they're very interconnected.


Visual: Slide #19 “Generating” opens. On the left half of the slide is a large circle with the reminder “You need to develop ideas for your writing.” The right side has two columns of words. The first is labeled “How?” and the second is labeled “From?” Jes reviews and discusses the information.

Audio: So generating means you need to develop ideas for your writing, so here we're going to talk about the how and kind of the from, where you get these ideas. So you can do this through free writing, taking notes, visualizing or mapping, asking questions or making assertions and I’ll talk about all five of these a little bit more in the next five slides.

But then another thing to consider is where do you get this information? So part of it is you get -- you take notes from your research, that's part of it. However, one of the wonderful things of being a student here at Walden and, again, likely working a full-time job, though that's not a requirement, it's just what many of our students do, is you might have experience from your work that's useful to the research you're doing. For example, I just reviewed a paper the other day where the student was talking about issues with accidents and teens, using four wheelers, those, like, all-terrain vehicles and her reason for doing the research was because she'd seen many people come into the emergency room as a result of the accidents. So her work is what prompted her to do the research. So you might think about how -- what has your work shown you and how does that impact what you might want to research or what ideas you have.

Another place you can get information is from family, friends, community. Another one is through personal experience, so maybe you've experienced something again at work or out in the world or also from world event and things that are happening, so it's -- I guess the point here is it's not just the research that helps you develop the ideas, it's these other things that make you who you are as a researcher and a person, like your work, like your family and friends, like your personal experience, and you can consider those, too.


Visual: Slide #20 “Generating Ideas: Freewriting” opens. Right under the slide title is a textbox “Write your way in.” The main body of the slide has a large textbox with bullet points for “What,” “Purpose,” and “When.” Jes reads and reviews this information.

Audio: All right, so let's get into the how a little bit. So free writing. Someone mentioned free writing earlier in our initial chat slide. So I’ll just kinds of go over this quickly. So free writing is a way to write your way in and a way to get comfortable. So the idea is that you write without censoring for a specific period of time. I like to do about 10 minutes so if I’m starting a new project and I don't know where to begin, I’ll take out my notebook. I have a designated composition notebook for free writing for each project that I’m working on and I’ll spend 10 minutes free writing. A lot of that might be I don't know what I’m doing yet. I need to do some research. Maybe I’ll start my research on this database or maybe start by reading this book, or maybe I will, you know, do something else. So, you know, that might be what you're writing at the beginning.

However, if you've done some research already, my free writing might be, okay Smith really relates to Chamberlain and I can make these connections and I think these sources might relate to this idea so I could write a paragraph about that. So free writing can really be useful at any stage in the project. And the purpose is to generate ideas, give yourself free rein, and overcome writer's block. I don't know how many of you experience writer's block, I do. I sometimes feel like a project is too big and I can't even take it on. When I feel that way, I try to free write and usually I come to a place where I might start saying "I can't do this," but at the end, but, oh, I have this idea and I can do that. And then maybe doing that idea will get me somewhere else.

So my recommendation is to do free writing every day to keep the project fresh but especially during prewriting and if you get stuck. That might seem like a lot every day but, again, free writing can be five minutes, 10 minutes and if you're working on a project that takes a week or a dissertation that might take a few years, however long you choose to take, going back to that project every day until it's done keeps it fresh in your mind so that that writer's block doesn't sneak in and so that you're constantly having new ideas and generating new ideas about your source.


Visual: Slide #21 “Generating Ideas: Visualizing/Mapping” opens. The left side of the slide has the textbox with the What, Purpose, and When for this strategy. The right side has a picture of a handwritten idea web on a sheet of butcher paper. The writing uses different colors of ink and a few post it notes are attached in various places. Jess reads the information and discusses the strategy.

Audio: So another idea is to visualize or map. You can see this diagram here. This is something they teach a lot in the high schools here in the United States so those of you who went to school here might have seen something like this. But the idea is to draw out ideas and make connections. You might put a topic in the middle and then have lines coming out of it with different subtopic and lines out of that with different subtopic and maybe sources coming off that. It allows you to spatially generate ideas and find connections via association and good for prewriting, outlining, any time you're stuck. It might be useful for figuring out I have this big topic and maybe I have these four, five minor topics that I can use so it can help with starting that outlining process.


Visual: Slide #22 “Generating Ideas: Notes” opens. A chalk picture of a lightbulb is in the top right corner. The main body of the slide has a textbox with the What, Purpose, and When for this strategy. Jes reads and discusses how to use this strategy.

Audio: Another way to generate ideas is through notes. So this can involve comments, questions you recorded while reading and as we chatted about earlier, you can do this technologically with Evernotes or one notes but being also do this on a piece of paper or on a word document or a note card but writing down these notes will help you generate ideas and one of the things you can do is to identify patterns, identify interesting ideas, make connections to your research and find topics you can explore further. Again, this is good at prewriting but also as you research and outline and, again, I’ll notice a lot of these -- any time you're stuck.


Visual: Slide #23 “Generating Ideas: Asking Questions” opens. The What, Purpose, and When textbox is on the right side of this slide. The left side has a picture of a blank computer keyboard with a question mark on the “enter” key. Jes reads and discusses the information.

Audio: Generating ideas involves asking questions, too. So as you're reading or as you're writing, a good idea is to focus on the questions you have making a list of main and subquestions. So thinking about as you're reading or writing, what questions do you have? How can you answer those? Where do those fit in with the larger context? And then you can find topics that interest you and identify questions you can or need to answer for your paper.

So one way to kind of approach certain papers is to figure out what question are you answering and then develop a thesis in response to that question, and this can be helpful for that. Again, this is good in prewriting, researching, and outlining.


Visual: Slide #24 “Generating Ideas: Make Assertions” opens. The What, Purpose, and When for this strategy is on the left. On the right is a picture of a hand holding a red pen and making a large check mark. Jes reads and discusses this information.

Audio: Making assertions, then. So it's really important to ask questions but at some point it's also important to make assertions because you're the authority. You are getting a degree here at Walden and you are going to be an expert on a topic, so as you're writing, it's important to think about what assertions can you make. And this allows to you establish the ideas you know by making a series of statements and statements that you can back up with evidence. The purpose is to identify your interest, identify what you already know, what you need to figure out and it's good for pre-writing and outlining and oftentimes the assertions can be a response to a question so if the question is, you know, do online classes benefit students. Maybe you do some research and you can make the assertion that, yes, online classes benefit students and then you have the evidence to back that up.


Visual: Slide #25 “Generating Ideas: Learning Styles” opens. Three side-by-side textboxes span the main body of the slide. Each textbox has a different learning style. Jes reads and discusses the information.

Audio: So here's another idea with learning styles. So generating ideas, I’ve given a bunch of different techniques here but this is going to vary based on learning styles so auditory learners might want to talk their ideas with someone or someone else to get them out him so you might need to find a buddy, a classmate, peer, friend, a family member who you can talk your ideas out with over coffee or in your office to generate those ideas. Kinesthetic learners might need to take a walk, so maybe sitting at a computer and doing an outline doesn't work, but they can take a recorder and take a walk and generate ideas.

For everyone, it's important to take a brain break so don't write your whole life, you have other things to do. You might have families, jobs, you might have things that you enjoy. So while it's important to get your work done, it's also important to take a brain break and keep that in mind. I’ll just advocate for this idea of talking your ideas out with someone else and taking a walk. Even if you don't know what your learning style is, chances are that talking with someone and moving around is going to help you so one of my favorite ideas when I’m brainstorming, and I did this a lot for my exams for my Ph.D., is I would go with a friend on a walk and we would talk about our -- the sources we'd read and she would ask me questions about those sources and by the time that I got to my defense, I felt really prepared because not only did I remember the sources I remembered that is was in Cosmo Park while talking about that source and I remembered that I was in Steven Lake Park talking about those sources. So for some people, being in those spatially different places can help you remember things, as well.


Visual: A textbox appears in the bottom left corner with a hyperlink for the blog post that Jes discusses.

Audio: And if you want to learn more about different learning styles, we have this excellent blog post written by one of our instructors, Veronica Oliver called can you doodle your way to better writing. If you feel like you have an alternative writing style that doesn't involve sitting down and writing things, this would be a great blog post to read to think about different ways you can learn to develop your writing styles.


Visual: The slide and layout change for a chat. The Q&A and captioning pods move side-by-side to the top right corner. The chat pod opens below them. The files pod is not available. Jes introduces the chat and reads the prompt. Then she reviews participants’ responses.

Audio: All right. So we'll move on to another chat. I would be curious to know what other ways of generating ideas do you currently practice. We've talked before about researching and about different ways that you take notes but I would like to know what ways of generating ideas, getting those ideas out, doing what you do after the research is done do you currently practice and suggest and I’ll give you a minute to write those down.

Excellent. I’m going to talk through this. I’m loving what I’m seeing here. Google talk, that's a great idea. Internet searches, absolutely. The library, that's a good way to generate ideas and find sources.

I like this one, I talk a lot to whoever will listen to my ideas. My mom is real good with sensible ideas. Absolutely, take your friend out to coffee and talk out idea with them, you know, go -- give your dad a call, if you can, and talk to him. It's interesting how even non-academics can help us with our ideas.

I love this one because my husband is actually getting his Ph.D., too, and I relate to it a lot. My husband who is also working on a Ph.D. Go to sushi night with our note books and talk about different things we've read, that's brilliant and how lucky to have that idea. Those of you who don't have that opportunities, maybe you have a peer or maybe you who made the connection that you're in Canada, maybe you can be buddies and talk over things applying readings to currents work situations, yes, that is really smart, to take the reading and apply it. That's one of those steps of annotated bibliography is taking the source and seeing how it applies to your situation.

I really like that, that's less about you asserting your ideas and more about you listening to others and thinking about what they have to say. Asking questions, sharing with colleagues online. Workplace can be helpful, observing practices and policies around you. Attending seminars and workshops, professional development. This is excellent. Thank you all for sharing your ideas. I’m going to move on to the next slide but you can download this presentation or look at it later and see your peers' suggestions here and read through them if you would like.


Visual: The layout reverts back to the main setup. The next slide opens and shows the section introduction slide with the curved arrow. Planning is now enclosed in the rectangle. Jes introduces the section.

Audio: All right, now on to the planning stage.


Visual: Slide #28 “Planning: Purpose, Thesis, Scope” opens. This shows six textboxes arranged in pairs horizontally across the body of the slide. The first top box “Determine your purpose” is paired with “Thesis statement.” The next box “Find your audience” is paired with “Who do you want to reach?” And the last box “Establish your scope” is paired with “How in-depth do I need to be?” Jes reads and discusses these elements.

Audio: So when you're planning, this is largely about organizing. So as you're organizing, it's important to think about your purpose. So what's the purpose of the assignment that you're writing? And often that purpose will translate into a thesis statement and if you're not quite sure what a thesis statement is, we have a webinar on that and you can also just go to our website and search for thesis statement, or maybe Brittany or Beth, could one of you put the link to the thesis statement in the Q and A box, if you could? Thank you.

So, determining your purpose. What are you arguing? What is the main idea that you need to share, what is your thesis statement? But also your audience is important. Who are you writing for, who do you want to reach, who needs to hear the information? Thinking about that, who are you writing for will often shape what information you need to provide because, for example, if you're writing for a more general audience, you might need to provide more backgrounds information but if you're writing for very specific academic audience, you might not need to provide as much background because you might be able to presume they know that stuff.

Establishing your scope, how in depth do you need to be, what are the page restrictions and requirements. What are the parameters that you're working in. For some things, like the capstone, you to some degree get to choose so, you know, how long do you want it to be, but for a paper, you're often given a specific page range and you need to work within that.


Visual: A textbox appears at the bottom that says “Don’t forget your paper’s requirements!”

Audio: And don't forget your paper's requirements. If you're writing an assignment, a really good idea to read through it very closely and to think about what's your thesis, who's your audience, how in depth do you need to be?


Visual: Slide #29 “Planning: Give yourself time” opens. The body of the slide has four bullet points. A textbox pops up at the bottom right that has a hyperlink for a Writing Center blog post. Jes reads and discusses these points and directs participants to the blog post.

Audio: So, another part of planning, then, is not just about planning and organizing the paper but planning your time. So I would like to advocate for giving yourself time and planning time within the week to work on your project. So if this is a drugs post, maybe planning three days where you can work on it so you can come back to it. And if it's a dissertation, maybe it's planning every day to work on it for at least 30 minutes to keep the ideas fresh. The idea is to give yourself time so you're not binge-writing, so you're not sitting down and writing for eight hours once a week but instead spreading it out over several days with shorter periods of time so you can enjoy your life a little more.

During that time, I advocate for researching, taking notes, outlining, free writing, drafting, doing whatever you need within the larger writing process and going back and forth as necessary to find whatever research. This idea of binge writing is something I learned in grad school, the idea of sitting down and writing all day to try to get something done. Sometimes you do have to do that but my guess is that you'll enjoy your life a little bit more if you don't have to do that and if you can just break up your writing projects over time so that it's easier to go about your life.

If you want to write more, if you feel like you're crunched for time and you don't have time to work every day, I recommend reading this blog post called writing against the clock, five tips for writing when you have no time. This is a really helpful blog post, especially for Walden student with the busy schedules you have to think about how do you develop a writing practice and how do you carve out the time in your life so that you can do things you need to do to be a successful student and scholar.


Visual: A textbox pops up at the bottom left to remind participants to use the assignment planner in the files pod.

Audio: And then in the assignment, in the files pod over here, we also have this assignment planner and it goes through kind of the different parts of the writing process and gives you a blank to put in a deadline and a timeframe where you need to get different parts done. So you can use this assignment planner. It says in the document that it's for undergraduate students but graduate students could use it, too. But the idea is to break up the writing process and give yourself different deadlines for things, like complete the research and complete the outline and get a first draft done and get feedback and then revise.


Visual: Slide #30 “Planning: Outlining” opens. A hierarchical outline is shown in a screenshot on the left with hanging indents for topics and subtopics. A special outline is shown in a screenshot on the right with a tree diagram to show the topics and subtopics. Jes discusses outlining.

Audio: Another part of planning is physically outlining. So some might like more of this one on the left which is the hierarchical. You have the topic, that is, a main point, another main point, some evidence. This is the kind of outline I like to do. I like to have it written out in a word document. However, some are spatial learners so you might like a map as you do it. You can do this on a computer or on a piece of paper.


Visual: A textbox opens across the bottom of the slide that reminds participants to be open to change. Five bulleted reasons are listed for changing the outline. Jes reads and discusses these.

Audio: And another thing to keep in mind is to be open to change. So as you're outlining, you don't want to outline and stick to it forever and ever, especially with longer projects like a capstone. The outline is probably going to change a little bit so make sure that you determine how you organize ideas and ensure that your ideas relate to the thesis and find places that more evidence might be needed. You can check your scope, consider your audience, so as you create an outline, remember that that outline should be flexible and you should be able to adapt it and move around as needed with your project.


Visual: Slide #31 “Planning: Seek Feedback & Consider Goals” opens. The body of the slide has an array of six hexagons in a honeycomb arrangement. The center three hexagons are labeled “Instructor feedback,” “Writing Center feedback,” and “Your own goals.” As she discusses this information, a hyperlinked textbox appears in the bottom left for paper reviews.

Audio: And then another part of planning, again this is related to time a little bit, is seek feedback and consider goals. Make sure that you have some time within that to get some instructor feedback or get some Writing Center feedback or get feedback from a peer but tell us something about your own goals. Do you want to work on develop a thesis or work on effectively paraphrasing a source. So as you work on your papers, keep your writing goals in mind so that you can adapt your assignment and your paper to fit your goals and to get the feedback that you need. And if you want to learn more, if you see this Writing Center feedback part in this and you're like what does that mean, the Writing Center gives feedback, you can click on the link to paper reviews and learn more about our paper review serves where instructors like myself and Brittany review student papers and offer feedback, individualized feedback on assignments and that's a good way to get some feedback and consider your goals as you're writing.


Visual: The section title slide with the curved arrow opens again. This time, the title “Review” is at the top left. As Jes reviews the information in the three sections of the presentation, two textboxes appear side-by-side at the bottom. The left box reminds participants to be flexible and the right box reminds them to be reflective. As she finishes discussing this slide, a final textbox appears in the bottom left reminding participants to check the resources in the files pod.

Audio: All right. So in review, we're getting to questions really soon here. Keep in mind that prewriting involves researching. All of those different parts of researching that we discussed. Generating, so getting ideas and questions out and planning, things like planning your time but also planning your outline. And it's also flexible and reflective. So all of these things are going to adapt and change as needed, depending on the assignment you're working on and your own individual learning goals and learning styles but also all of it is reflective so you should always be thinking about how can I improve my writing, how did this feel last time and what could I do differently to make it feel better this time. Or, you know, what are my goals this time and how can I accomplish those. So, again, prewriting, flexible, reflective and involves those activities like researching, generating and planning. And you can check out the prewriting cheat sheet in the files pod for more about different ways that you can do some of these activities.


Visual: The slide and layout change again to the chat layout. Jes reads and discusses the chat activity and then reviews and discusses participants’ responses.

Audio: All right. So we've got one last chat here before we move into questions. Again, just kind of doing some reflecting. So after today's webinar, I’m curious to know what, prewriting techniques and activities do you plan to try after today's webinar? So what today kind of spoke to you and what do you think you might want to try with your own practice? I’ll give you a minute to do that as we collect what questions there are. Feel free to put them in the Q and A box and I think we'll have about 10 minutes to answer questions.

All of this is so wonderful to see. I’m seeing a lot of people say they're going to try to write 30 minutes a day and avoid binge writing. That is wonderful, I’m really glad to hear that. I really think you'll find this is successful and I recommend, too, doing your free writing in like a word document that you can save or look back at, like I do in a composition notebook if you want to be away from your computer for a little bit. I do a lot of my free writing sitting at my picnic table outside in a notebook so I have a little bit of time away from the computer. I’m seeing a lot about note-taking, visual board, trying Evernote.

So some people are going to try out the different technologies. There's that blog post that I linked to earlier, the one called "there is an app for that" and that has information on some of the different technologies if you want to learn about them.

Yeah, I see someone say I’ve been missing giving writing time, I’m going to try the 30 minutes a day. It's funny how that happens, you get busy with life and don't go back to writing and I totally relate to missing having writing time. I think that 30 minutes will be really good. Setting a schedule for writing each day can be helpful, too.

I know a lot of people who do it first thing in the morning so they'll get up and they'll brew their coffee and sit down and write for 30 minutes or an hour and then they feel that sense of accomplishment throughout the day. For some people that doesn't work. For me, I prefer to do it after I’m done with work and do my writing in the evening as kind of a reward, I guess, for working through the day. Just depend on the individual.

More organized way of writing, taking notes, excellent. I’m seeing lots of fantastic stuff here. Good, good. All right. I’m going to move us on, then, so we can get to questions because I know we have a bunch of good ones.


Visual: The layout reverts back to the main setup. Slide #34 opens and shows contact information for the Writing Center. At the bottom are two hyperlinked webinars and one podcast.

Audio: So here, if you have any questions, I can field them but I also wants to let you know that if you ever have any questions, you can email writing support and if you want to learn more about the writing process, I’ve put some links here that will get you to other webinars and a podcast that is helpful. Actually this life cycle of a paper, I did that webinar a few months ago so you get to hear from me again. A lot of it would probably be somewhat connected. And then we'll have the twitter conversation after today's presentation and you can get started will, if you want. So, Beth, I know there are some fantastic questions. Can I respond to some of them?

Audio: Beth: Yeah. We've had a couple of questions about reading, Jes, and I thought I would pose both of them at the same time. So one student was asking about sort of pointers or tips for critical reading but also, you know, strategies or ways to go about getting through all the riding that has to happen as a doctoral student, just having so much to read and how to kind of get through it as quickly but also as usefully -- that's not a word, how to get through the reading quickly but still be able to get as much out of it as you can and be able to critically read. Does that make sense?

Audio: Jes: Yes, absolutely, excellent questions. I’ll field the first one about pointers for critical reading. If you go back to that slide from earlier, if you've downloaded the PowerPoints, you can go to the ASC success strategies and they have an in-depth discussion of critical reading. So one of the ideas was to pre-evaluate the source. So before you even read it to think about, will this be useful, how might it contribute to my knowledge. Who's the author? Is the author a credible person? Is it each word reading? Is this work scholarly? Where was it published? Is it a journal, a news article, a blog post, Wikipedia? When was the work published, is it recent? Are there biases, does it have a bibliography.

So doing a lot of this critical reading can even help with the second question of how do you get through all the reading. If you find that the source isn't credible or it's -- has really apparent biases or it doesn't have a bibliography, that kind of stuff, you might be able to skip that source or like vaguely skim it because it's not very credible and it's clearly not going to be something that's very useful for your in-depth academic work, so doing some of that pre-evaluation can help with the critical reading but also with the making choices about what's worth reading.

Another idea for critical reading is to examine the evidence, so as you're reading the source to think about what kind of evidence is here. Is that evidence credible? Who are those authors? Where was that published? Is it recent? Is it relevant? And maybe even, too, how is that evidence useful for you? So looking closely at the evidence as you're critically reading is a good idea.

Context can be helpful, too. So as you're reading a source, I mean all sources are written in a specific context based on the author's needs and desires and work background, all of that, so thinking about the context. Why was this source written? What's happening with this source? And then thinking about the connections being made in the source and how that's useful for you, and then also, the last tip in the ASC website is articulating your assessment. So it's thinking about what do you think about this source? Is this useful, not useful, credible, not credible, how is it useful? Those kinds of activities can be really helpful with critical reading.

As for the second part of the question, some of the ways to read quickly, that's an excellent question, my guess is if you're taking multiple questions, you're probably having maybe even a dozen articles that you need to read each week. Now one of the beautiful things about APA is that most sources are written extremely clearly so you can read the abstract and get a pretty general idea of what the whole source is about so I would recommend starring there, read the abstract. Does this seem like this will be a useful source and if so, what parts of it will be useful? And then oftentimes, you can kind of skim like the method section unless you're -- what you're curious about is the methods and kind of skim through that stuff, run your eyes over it to do your evaluation and figure out what's happening but then read kind of the results section more closely because chances are that's the part that will be most useful for you.

I guess my tip is there is before you approach the source, think about what are you trying to get out of it and was parts do you need to read closely in order to get what you need out of it and that will help you make those choices about the large number of sources you need to read and also it will allow to you only engage with the material that's actually useful for you. Beth, do you have any other suggestions in that area?

Audio: Beth: No, I think you did a great job. That all sounds great. Thank you so much, Jes.

Audio: Jes: Yeah, you're welcome. Do you have any other questions?

Audio: Beth: I was going to let you know, we're going to send out some of the links to a couple of resources related to critical reading, as well, so I’ll send that out in the Q and A box. But while I do that, we had another question asking more about mindful writing and wondered if you could talk a little bit more about mindful writing and what that means and the approach to writing that entails.

Audio: Jes: Yeah, absolutely. I’m happy to talk about this. So mindful writing is actually something that I learned as a graduate student. My dissertation advisor does research and practice in mindful writing and so this is really changed my life and my approach to writing. So the idea is that just like with other things in life, you can approach writing mindfully, meaning being aware of your body, being aware of your surroundings, being aware of how you feel about it and being okay with those things, like accepting what they are because the idea of mindfulness is being in the present moment as you are.

So that idea of 30 minute a day kind of comes from mindful writing and the idea of being intentional about your writing and making a choice to spend time and in that time to reduce distraction. So when I do my 30 minute of writing, I try and do it mindfully where I take a moment beforehand to kind of breathe and relax, and maybe if I’m feeling stressed, I notice that and say, okay, I’m going to adjust how I’m sitting or take a walk around the house quick so I can reduce the stress. And then I’ll sit down, turn off my phone, turn off my Facebook or whatever it is I have on my computer that might distract me and for those 30 minute, I do what it is I set out to do. I do my writing on the project that I’m working on.

And that approach, that mindful approach of being intentional about your writing and making a choice and setting an objective for that time can be really effective for a lot of writers who have busy lives and often feel like there is a million things going on at once. So, yeah, being intentional, being mindful, setting objectives, setting times for your writing and committing to those and knowing that's just part of your day, just like the 10 minutes that I spend at the end of the day doing dishes and pulling out the laundry and pulling the shades and locking the doors, I mean, that's necessary, I must do that every day or at least I feel like it is. I also must spend my 30 minutes of writing on my dissertation. So it's being intentional, being mindful, setting those objectives, and then adhering to them. Yeah, yeah. Any other questions, Beth?

Audio: Beth: I don't see any other questions coming in, Jes. I wondered if we could end with any last thoughts or tips or overall suggestions you have for students?

Audio: Jes: Oh yes, absolutely. First of all, thank you all so much for coming and attending the presentation today. It has been a joy to hear your ideas and the different ways that you generate things and the different ways that you take notes and research. I’m so impressed by the Walden students that we have here and so pleased I get to work with you. So, my big tip is to just remember that this is all flexible and it's reflective and that you – chances are you have a lot going on in your life and you are balancing school and you might be balancing work and you might be balancing family and other kind of requirements and that, you know, all you can do is what you can do and prewriting can really be useful to make you feel like you're accomplishing things and to help you carve out time to work on your projects, and to ensure that you're able to be a successful scholar and student in the midst of all the other crazy things happening in your life.

I know that sometimes it might feel like prewriting is extra busy work but if you're doing it right, it's the work that helps your writing go smoother so it might even speed up the process. There is no guarantee on that but there is a chance. So just remember, it's flexible, reflective, you're doing the best you can in the midst of everything else going on and prewriting is there as a method all the different techniques that we shared today to help you on that journey as you're working to develop prewriting skills and pursue your goals. But, again, thank you all for coming so much.

Audio: Beth: Thank you so much, Jes. I’ll echo her thanks to you for coming and thank you, Brittany, for your great help in the Q and A box. We'll go ahead and end the session. Please do look out for the rest of the webinars we have scheduled in august and happy writing, everyone.