Skip to Main Content
OASIS Writing Skills

Webinar Transcripts:
What Is Academic Writing?

Transcripts for the Writing Center's webinars.

What Is Academic Writing?

Presented September 4, 2019

View the recording

Last updated 10/1/2019


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Housekeeping

  • Recording
    • Will be available online within 24 hours.
  • Interact
    • Polls, files, and links are interactive.
  • Q&A
  • Help
    • Ask in the Q&A box.
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right-hand corner of the webinar room

Audio: Great, the meeting has started recording. So, we can get started. Thank you all so much for joining us for our webinar today. My name is Kacy Walsh and I’m a writing instructor here at the Walden writing center. And I am going to be facilitating our webinar on academic writing. But before we get started, I just wanted to go over a few housekeeping items. So, first of all this webinar is being recorded and, in a day, or two you’ll be able to access it through our website. So, if you need to leave early or if you want to go over portions of this webinar again later, you’ll be able to check out that recording. Along with it you’ll find many other recorded webinars on various writing related topics. There are going to be several chances to interact with your colleagues, and with our presenter Melissa, so please be sure to participate during the chat section in the large chat box, just like you did before the webinar started today.

Also, all of the links in the slideshow are active so you can click directly on them for access to more information either now or later if you watch the recording. We also have a few helpful files in our files pod, including a copy of the slideshow and you can download those by clicking on the download files button at the bottom of the pod.

There is going to be a lot of information in this webinar and if you have any questions you can use the Q&A box. I’m going to be watching the Q&A box throughout the webinar and I’ll answer your questions as quickly as I can. If we run out of time however, or if you have questions later or while watching the recording you can send those to, and you will receive a response through e-mail.

Finally, if you encounter any technical difficulties during the webinar, you can also reach out to me through that Q&A box, but there is a help button in the upper right-hand corner of your screen, and that is Adobe Connect help button, so that oftentimes is going to be your best bet if you are having any technical issues.

So, again, I want to thank you for joining us and now I will turn things over to our presenter Melissa Sharp.


Visual: Slide changes to the title of the webinar, “What is Academic Writing?” and the speaker’s name and information: Kacy Walz, Writing Instructor, Walden University Writing Center

Audio: MELISSA: Ooops sorry about that. Thanks Kacy. Hi everybody my name is Melissa Sharpe and I just realized I did not update this with my name on here. So, you’ll see Kacy’s, but Kacy is facilitating tonight and I am presenting. We are both writing instructors here at the Walden University writing center. And today’s webinar is all about academic writing and answering that question, what is academic writing?


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Learning Objectives

After this session, you will be able to:

  • Articulate differences between academic writing and other forms of writing
  • Identify conventions of academic writing
  • Understand effective writing habits for academic writers and ways to incorporate them into your writing process
  • Find useful Walden resources that can help you with academic writing

Audio: At the end of the session you'll be able to articulate the differences between academic and other forms of writing. You’ll also be able to identify conventions of academic writing and you’ll be able to understand effective writing habits that academic writers can use in ways to incorporate that into your own writing. And then, you'll also be able to use helpful Walden resources that will support you throughout your academic writing career.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Academic Writing Overview

A type of writing used specifically in academia that uses particular conventions that differ from other kinds of writing.

Chat Box:

What are your impressions of academic writing? How does academic writing differ from other types of writing you’ve done at work or seen in books, newspapers, magazines, and online?

Audio: So, first, we have to do an overview of academic writing and define it as broadly as we can. So, I want you to start us off here by letting me know in the chat box, what are your impressions of academic writing, how does it differ from other types of writing you’ve done at work or maybe other types of writing that you’ve seen in books, newspapers, magazines or online? We opened the session by letting everybody know where we were coming from but also with the name of our favorite author. In that list I noticed a lot of novelists. So, I know that we have people who like to read fiction and so maybe you could think how does academic writing differ from fiction? Or how does academic writing differ from what you may read in a newspaper. I’ll give you a minute to talk this through in a chat box.

[silence as participants respond]

I’m sure you’ll notice already that there are a lot of keywords coming on in that chat box, which is about research, evidence, fact-based, let’s see factual. All of these refer to the idea that we need to have some research and sources and things that inform and support what we have to say, that’s definitely something we see a lot in academic writing. And now I see some of those APA terms coming in, that we use APA format, that we cite our sources, that we include a reference list. All of these things are about the form and style of academic writing. Academic writing is a type of writing that is used in academia, if you’re a student or if you work professionally, that uses conventions that differ from other forms of writing. The type of writing we do here in our course work and as part of your final study, is going to differ from what you read in a newspaper or what you would read in a novel or blog post.

Sometimes academic writing can seem difficult or foreign because we just don’t engage with academic writing as readers very much. Until we are in an academic setting. So, if you’re returning to school, after having spent some time away, you probably are not familiar, you don’t sit down and read academic writing. You don't sit down and read academic journals until you have entered into your program, as you have now.

If you’re a person who reads a lot of mystery novels you probably would feel comfortable writing your own mystery novel. If you are a person reads a lot of food blogs maybe you would feel comfortable writing your own food blog. As you begin to read other pieces of academic writing as a student, you’ll become more familiar with the norms and more comfortable producing your own academic writing. All forms of writing have their own set of conventions and style and guidelines. Academic writing is one of these.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Academic Writing Conventions

  • Clear, consistent, and formal style
  • Formal organization and presentation of ideas
  • Cited evidence + analysis

Audio: When we talk about academic writing conventions, these are things that we’re going to touch on throughout the webinar tonight. It is all about having a clear, consistent and formal style. Here at Walden, we use APA as our style guide, which means we follow the rules APA sets for us in terms of our citations, references, the font used and some of our word choices. We also maintain a formal style in terms of we present a professional sound in academic writing. There's a lot of things we do when we speak to one another, sometimes we start sentences with "So" or we end sentences with “So” and we don't necessarily do that in academic writing. So, there's definitely a formal style.

Academic writing also prefers very clear sentences and phrases. If you can say something in fewer words, do it. We don’t want to get into long flowery sentences. We don't want to include a lot of adjectives and have the sentences go on and on. The clear and the shorter the better. The reason is because, not that we want the writing to be dry or boring however we want to ensure every reader walks away with the same understanding. That’s very important. We do not want to leave room for confusion which can happen if the writing is not clear. Academic writing also follows a formal organization pattern and presentation of ideas. Academic writing is based on strong paragraphs, that means an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion and they flow in a logical order, that is the norm for the paper you are writing. This may differ from an analysis or an annotated bibliography. Or if you’re doing, if you’re working on a premise or prospectus, this a very standard organizational patterns to follow. So academic writing does follow formal organization.

As you noted in the last chat, academic writing includes cited evidence, whenever we use research to inform our own ideas, we need to cite it. It is definitely important in academic writing. And we want to include our own analysis. As an academic writer you are developing your expert voice. In order to have that expert voice we need to hear it in your writing and that is where your analysis comes in.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: APA Style and Academic Writing

  • APA style includes many various aspects of academic writing:
    • Narrative and parenthetical citations
    • Reference pages
    • Paper formatting and headings
    • Bias-free language
    • Rules for lists, capitalization, punctuation, boldface, underlines, abbreviations, etc.


Audio: One of the first things we’re going to talk about, because this is the thing that a lot of students have questions about is, APA style. And what does it have to do with academic writing? APA style is the stylebook that we follow here at Walden, in different programs at other schools you may use MLA or Chicago manual. If you’re writing for publication in some popular mainstream newspapers, they all have their own style guides that you have to follow. A style guy just tells us how the writing looks and feels, sometimes how it is punctuated or even the spelling of certain words, what things are capitalized. APA is the same way. They have all their own rules. So, they tell us all about different types of citations and what they look like, they give us rules for how to create a reference pages, they have guidelines for formatting the paper. This includes the font we use, the line spacing, the size of the margins. APA also tells us how to maintain bias-free language. It has rules for lists, capitalization, punctuation, what gets bolded, italicized, underline and what gets abbreviated and so on. APA has all of these things in order to help create that formal academic tone.

Is that a lot of things you have to keep in mind? It is. And that is why there is an APA manual to refer to and we have writing center resources to ensure you are following these guidelines. Academic writing definitely follows APA style here at Walden.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Organizing Ideas in Academic Writing

Audio: The next thing I talked about a couple slides ago was that we see formal organization in academic writing. To dig into that a little bit more, you are probably familiar with the basic essay structure, that there is an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion. This is really important in academic writing because we like a certain amount of consistency. In that introduction we’re going to present you with background information and finish with a thesis statement that previews the main idea of the rest of the document. In academic writing we want to know where the rest of the essay is going right from the very beginning. There are no plot twists, turns or surprises in academic writing. Your final conclusion, your point and purpose, are named in the introduction. And that is something that is consistent in most forms of academic writing.

Then after that we have body paragraphs. These dig into the main idea you shared in the thesis. We would like to see these paragraphs developed according to the MEAL plan. Which is a guideline that helps us ensures that our paragraphs have everything in it they need to. That they open with a topic sentence, that there is evidence and your own analysis and that the paragraph is wrapped up in some way. That’s a very consistent way to organize body paragraphs. So that goes in with this idea of consistency and formal organization in academic writing.

And then of course, we ended with that conclusion paragraph where you tie everything together. Within the essay, academic writing allows for the use of headings, in those heading in APA style, all level I headings are centered and bolded, those headings can be used to group like ideas together. Maybe if you are talking about a problem and presenting solutions, you’ll have a heading for the problem and a heading for each solution.

You can use prompts to help outline your words. Headings are completely acceptable in academic writing because they foster that strong organization.

With all that being said, note that organizational specifics depend on the type of assignment and paper that you are writing, sometimes including your program and where you are in your degree. So always follow the prompt and look to the prompt for clues as to how to organize your writing. And if you ever have questions, ask your instructor because they are best able to help you with that.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Evidence in Academic Writing

  • Books
    • Written by scholars
    • Sometimes published by scholarly presses (for example, Yale UP)
  • Journal Articles
    • Peer-reviewed publications
    • Not New York Times, Newsweek, etc.
  • Web Pages
    • Government websites
    • Websites by scholarly or professional organizations

Audio: Then we need to talk about evidence in academic writing. Evidence is the source material that we use to inform our ideas, we use it as the root for our analysis. In academic writing, we need to have evidence, otherwise. what we are saying, the reader doesn’t have any reason to believe it is true. Right? If there isn’t any research backing us up, giving us specific statistics, presenting history on a topic, defining key terms, the reader does not know that we have actually done the work to verify the things we're saying rooted in truth. Evidence does this for us.

And because we are using to evidence to support all of the things that we have to say on a given topic, all the ideas and opinions and analysis we have in our fields, we want that evidence to be really strong. Some examples of strong evidence are going to include books. These are books written by scholars, experts, professionals in the field. A lot of times these books are going to be published by scholarly presses, and those would be ones that are run out of universities, that is usually a good sign that the book itself is written by an expert in the field, although you still have the discretion to determine that. But as long as a book has a reliable author, then it can be used as a strong piece of evidence in your writing.

I think the vast majority of sources that I see used in student writing here when I review work in the writing center comes from journal articles. Journal articles are ones that appear in these peer-reviewed publications. You probably hear that term peer-reviewed a lot in your courses because it is considered the standard of strong published material. When an article goes through a peer review process, it means that many people or peers in your field who are experts have looked at your writing with your name removed off of it, so there is no bias there. And they've determined that it is good enough to be published in this publication.

In some publications that are not peer-reviewed, that process, we do not always know what it is. Maybe a single editor approved the article, maybe the person who published it is her cousin and they publish everything that the writer has to say. When things are peer-reviewed it just means that we know the process the article went through to be published. There are some very reputable newspapers and some journals that aren’t peer-reviewed out there, but we want to use our discretion to ensure that what we are pulling from that source is something reliable and what we can use to rest our own work on. So, we want to not group things in like the New York Times and News Week in here unless we have verified that the article, we are using is reliable enough to support our work.

We also use webpages as evidence in academic writing. And typically, when we do this, we use government websites because we need information about specific government programs or from government bodies, these tend to be rich places to find statistics. Government websites appear a lot as a source of evidence. We also may use websites that are put out by scholarly or professional organizations. For instance, the American nursing association has a website, and we can trust that as being a reliable source. So that’s one place to go to get information.

When it comes to evidence, we want to make sure we use things that are reliable and credible and that is what matters most so we don't want to have any shady self-published books, we do not want to rely on articles out of people magazine or Wikipedia web pages. We want to have really solid resources that we know have been informed by experts in the field, or else our work is not informed by experts in the field. And that is important in academic writing. That reliability, that credibility, having trust.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Evidence in Academic Writing: Examples


  • Identical to original
  • >40 words
  • Quotation marks
  • Cited
  • Author, year, page/paragraph #


  • Your own words & sentence structure
  • Shorter than original
  • Cited
  • Author & year

See Using Evidence for more on summary, paraphrase, quotation, and citing sources

Audio: Now when you have your evidence you have to put it in your writing somehow. And there’s two ways that evidence is going to appear in your essay or your discussion post or your master’s capstone. One of the ways is that you’re going to quote it. This means you are using the exact same words as your original source in the same order. These quotes can either be fewer than 40 words or greater than 40 words. I always suggest a quote should be below 40 words because when you hit that 40 word mark you have to follow block quote formatting. And it takes up a lot of space on the page. And so, I always tell student’s, listen, there’s nothing wrong with the block quote but the problem is your giving up so much space, such a high percentage of your discussion post to this other writer, we really want to see that minimized.  When you do choose to use the same words as another author, we surround that with quotation marks. One set of marks at the beginning of the direct quote and one set at the end. Immediately following the quote, we cite it so the reader knows where the quote is coming from. When we cite a quote APA tells us to include the authors last name, the year it was published and page or paragraph number where the quote can be found. That is in case your reader wants to go find that quote again.

The other way to include this evidence in your writing will be to paraphrase it. When you paraphrase the research, you are putting the big ideas in your own words and using brand-new sentence structure, it tends to be shorter than the original. Even though it is your own words we are still citing it at the end of the paraphrase. The citation only needs to include the authors last name and year. The reason for this is because we want to give credit to any work and research that other people have done. If I am including a sentence presenting statistics and graduation rates, I want to put in a citation where I found that statistic. This is polite because it’s giving credit to the person who originally reported that statistic. But it’s also making my work stronger because it shows that I have researched it and when you look at that citation you will see that my statistic is coming from a reliable source. If you wanted to, you can go look at the article and say, yes, this came from a peer-reviewed journal or this came from a government website. If my citation was some random Wikipedia page you would say, well, this statistic came from we don’t know where.

When you include the evidence in your writing you are welcome to quote or paraphrase it. What matters is that the evidence is in your writing and that you have cited it each and every time that you use it. There’s a lot to get into when you are citing evidence, so I have a link on this slide we can find more information on summarizing and paraphrasing and quoting and how to cite those.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Analysis in Academic Writing

              Fit yourself and your ideas into the conversation!

Analysis = Explaining your evidence for your readers and linking evidence to the main idea.

Summary = Restating the basic argument and essential points of your evidence.

See the blog post Breaking Down the MEAL Plan: Adding Analysis

Audio: In addition to the evidence I mentioned that we want to have an analysis in academic writing. An analysis is where you enter the conversation. It’s your ideas, your thoughts. It is where you explain the evidence to your readers and connect it to your point. It’s your voice and your ideas.

If you are recently returning to school, you may wonder why anybody wants to hear your ideas on a topic at this point. Isn't it more important just to repeat what you found in the research and present the facts and what other experts have to say? We do want to hear what you have to say because you are the writer, you are the developing, advanced professional in your field and your coursework is the chance for you to think through some of the most important topics in your field and develop your ideas and opinions and preferences and beliefs and recommendations for fixing and improving the field that you currently work in.

Those ideas and opinions you have appear in your analysis. We want that analysis to be based in the evidence. You would never want to present a recommendation that is not based in reality. But we still want to hear your own voice. So, analysis differs greatly from summary, which is where you just restate what the evidence had to say. Before I mentioned how paragraphs were organized, I mentioned the MEAL plan. And part of the meal plan is adding analysis. And I have a link to a blog post that will help you think about ways to include more analysis in your writing, if you’re interested in that.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Let’s Look at a Sample

Academic Writing Sample

[Available in Files Pod]

What characteristics of this sample demonstrate that it is an example of academic writing?

Audio: We are going to take a look at a sample piece of academic writing to see if we can find what makes this an example of academic writing. What is good about it. And I'm just going to go, I’m going to make sure you can scroll through it. I will give you a couple minutes to scroll through the document on your own. You will have complete control over scanning those pages. I want you to look for the things that make this an example of academic writing. And then put some of those in the chat box. In then in about two minutes, I will join in the conversation and walk you through some of the things that I see that make this sample an example of academic writing.

[silence as participants respond]

Alright I want to thank everybody for looking at this. I’m going to take control of the document, so you'll be able to scroll along with me. And I want to point out some of the things that I see. Which are things that you noted. Right away, people started saying, Hey, I see citations in this and yes, I see citations as well. I see that the summaries or paraphrases along with some of the quotes here at the end are cited. Have been cited and they are cited in APA format. Similarly, we do have a list of references and those references also appear in APA format. As somebody pointed out however, the document itself is not fully in APA format, as these lines are not double spaced and the paragraphs are not indented in the beginning and that’s a great observation.
Something else that we see here, which is because we see the citations, is that there is research used throughout this piece writing. The student has based their definition and analysis of academic writing on research. That way we know that what the student has to say is reliable too.  And this does more than define academic writing. You’ll see the student is focused on the two most important and common characteristics. Now if we were all to write about the two most important characteristics of academic writing there would be, let’s see there’s 125 people in this room right now and including Kacy and myself there’d be 127 potentially different thesis statements, because we’re each are going to determine what the two most important characteristics are that we see, that we believe are most important. And that is what would make our writing differ, and that’s where our analysis comes in.

Why do we think that those are the two most important characteristics of academic writing? And here we see that the student has done that. In fact, they’ve written one paragraph about each of those characteristics. We definitely have an introduction paragraph, and we have two body paragraphs, one about each main idea and then a conclusion. So here we see that strong organization I was talking about earlier. And if we really dig into the paragraphs, you’ll notice that each one has a topic sentence that introduces the main idea of that paragraph, which is again, really consistent. One of the things that a few of you have pointed out in the chat box, including I see Daphne has noted it out right now, is the use of first person. In this paper the student does say I periodically, and this is something that’s worth talking about.

In academic writing a lot of us fear first person, that we need to always avoid it. Generally, if you’re able to write without using the first person, it’s probably a good idea. It just helps support that objective feel, that academic writing that we like to have. However, if you’re writing about your own personal experiences you should definitely use first person. And Walden actually has a policy that states that first person is acceptable to use under certain circumstances. And here maybe because this is a more casual discussion post, that first person fits in here well with the purpose, and audience, and style and tone this writer has. So, when in doubt again, always ask your instructor if first person, fits in with the requirements of particular assignment. So, a question came into the chat box, I’ll answer real quick, that this does not have a title. And that’s because this is a discussion post and some discussion post you may title. But a lot of times because you’re putting them in a forum, there may not necessarily be room for a title to be included. Okay I want to thank everybody for doing this activity with me, and we’ll…


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Q&A

Questions about the conventions of academic writing?

Audio: Let’s jump back to the slides. And keep going. So, we looked at the sample of academic writing. Now that we've touched on some of these key components of academic writing before we move forward with how you can integrate them into your own writing practice, I do want to pause and see if any questions came in to the Q&A box that I should address.

Kacy: One question is about, you are talking about using evidence and some students have noted that they have been directed to use paraphrasing as opposed to direct quotation, can you talk a little bit about why for APA style in particular and Walden coursework paraphrasing is considered a stronger version of academic writing than direct quotation?

Melissa: Yes, and this is really important to take a moment to talk about. When we look at the purpose of academic writing, what we are looking for is that student writer to begin to develop their voice and their ideas related to the most important topics and conversations that are currently happening in their field. If an essay is a lot of quotes in it, meaning we are using the exact same words as our sources, it just does not leave a lot of room for the student to do that writing and thinking and talking. Even though there is nothing exactly wrong with including quotes, it is far better to paraphrase for that reason, even though you’re repeating the ideas of other professionals in your field, you are getting to practice writing and thinking and speaking and developing ideas in your field as the scholar and as the expert yourself instead of relying on quotes from other people. Also, if you look at a piece of writing that has a lot of quotes throughout, not that the way a piece of writing looks on the page is most important but a lot of quotes on the paper just kind of looks a little sloppy or weird. The reason for that is you want to see what the writer has to say. When there's a lot of quotes, we know we are not hearing what the writer of the paper has to say, but what the other people have to say.

Perhaps one of the things students really want to avoid is no one wants to be accused of accidental plagiarism or academic integrity issues. If you have a paragraph that’s all quotes from different sources glued together, even if you have properly quoted and cited, it’s an academic integrity issue because you pieced it together but you still have not written that. So, these are all reasons why we prefer paraphrasing over including quotes.

Kacy: That is all we have so far.

Melissa: Okay great, thank you. Keep those questions coming into the Q&A box and we should have time at the end to address more if we need to.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Effective Habits for Academic Writing

  1. Embrace the writing process
  2. Make time
  3. Focus and set goals
  4. Take notes about readings
  5. Plan through outlining
  6. Engage your faculty
  7. Use Writing Center resources
  8. Use campus resources
  9. Revise
  10. Edit and proofread
  11. Reflect

Audio: Now we're going to take a look at how we can integrate some habits and practices into our own writing that will help us become academic writers ourselves. And here you’re going to see that there are 11 effective habits for academic writing and we’re going to look at each of these in detail. So, starting off with number one which is embrace the writing process.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: #1: Embrace the Writing Process

  • Prewrite
  • Outline
  • Draft
  • Revise
  • Proofread
  • Reflect

Watch the Lifecycle of a Paper webinar recording for more on the writing process

Audio: The writing process is not linear, so you’ll notice that this diagram is not an arrow moving us from step one-step six. You may find yourself back tracking and jumping around between these different parts of the writing process and that’s okay because every person's writing process is their own so whatever works for you, works for you. What matters is that you have a writing process that typically includes these six things. The prewriting phase, which is where you’re going to do all of your research and your reading and you’re thinking about what you want to say. Developing that idea or argument. Prewriting can happen a lot of the time in your brain and you hold it there but it’s really good if you put it down on paper and take notes of some sort as you go. Something that happens in the prewriting phase that’s really important is you are reading resources, as I said at the top of the hour, when you read academic writing you will feel more comfortable writing it yourself. So, you’re a reader of academic writing you'll get a feel for the tone and style of it. It is also a good idea to also create an outline. There are many ways to do this. There are a variety of formal and informal outlines. I do a quick bulleted list of the major ideas I want to write about and I kind of organize those into something. My outlines are messy but they outline my writing.

Then there’s always a draft which is where you just get it on the page. Then we like to see multiple revisions where you go back to those ideas and the organization and the development and you make sure that when it comes to sharing your idea you are doing so in a way that is most effective. Once you have those big pieces where they need to be, it is time of course to proofread to ensure everything is spelled right and the grammar looks good. Same with punctuation. And then of course at the end we take time to reflect, this could be feedback from your instructor to see what you can do the same in the future or what you could do differently. You may also want to reflect on yourself on what went well and what didn’t. Maybe you did not leave yourself a lot of time and you want to change that or maybe you had a really good writing habit that assignment went smoothly and you want to do that again in the future. All of these things are important in creating academic writing because they are important in creating any form of writing but really in academic writing because some academic writing feels heavy and big and some of the papers are long. And this is our academic and professional career that is all wrapped up into it. Knowing there's an entire process that we go through and nobody gets it right on that first draft is really helpful in producing a piece of academic writing.


Visual: Slide changes to the following:  #2: Make Time

  • Set aside time to work on projects regularly
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes a day of writing
  • During that time, research, take notes, outline, freewrite, draft, revise à It all counts as “writing”
  • Break up your project
  • Avoid “binge writing”


Audio: The next habit is to make time. I’m sure you know that there’s a lot of work here to do no matter what program you are in. So, it’s helpful for you to build it into your schedule. To set time aside to work on the projects, and your course work and your discussion post regularly. We have a tip here to aim for 30 minutes of day of writing. I think any amount of time a day of writing is important. If you do it every day it will become your habit. The things that we don’t do every day clearly are not our habits of ours. So, if there is something you want to do you have to make room for it every day. And we all have these schedules that are full and packed tight and if it is important, we make time for it. So as long as there is a little bit of time set aside for writing each day, it will become, being an academic writer will become more natural to you.

During that time, you can do any part of the process, it all counts as writing even you’re doing research and taking notes. That’s still writing your paper. It also helps to break up your project. If you have an end date at which point you want to be done you mark that in your calendar and work backwards to see how much you have to do each day to meet that goal. This can really help you pace larger assignments and projects. We also recommend avoiding binge writing which is where you do nothing maybe for two weeks and then you sit down and for five hours, probably from like 11 o’clock at night to 4 in the morning you pour a bunch of stuff out. The reason for this is that even though it can be really productive because you will produce a lot, it can be very draining on your brain that maybe what comes out will not make perfect sense. And it does not make it a habit if it is not something you're practicing regularly, there is the old adage that practice makes perfect. So, building it into your schedule and making time for this to be something regular that you do every day is a really helpful way to become a stronger academic writer.

We do have some tips, because we understand, even as I share these with you, do I set aside time for writing every day like I should? I try and I fail so I understand what it’s like to try to squeeze that writing and when you feel like you have no time and is so much going on. So, we do have resources including this blog post, writing against the clock, 5 tips for writing when you have no time. And an assignment planner that will help you with that backwards planning that I had mentioned.


Visual: slide changes to the following: #3: Focus and Set Goals

  • Environment

Find what works for you:

Busy coffee shop or quiet room at home?

Mix it up:

If you aren’t working well, figure out the problem and change it.

  • Set Goals

Small & achievable:

Write a list to keep track

Reward yourself:

Take a break, get coffee, watch TV

Stay on task:

Keep accountable to your outline and timeline

Audio: The next habit is to focus and set goals. When we talk about focus, so much of that is the environment, what works for you. Would you like to be in a place that’s a little bit busy with some background noise or do you need to be in a quiet room. Do you work best in a specific room in your house or time of day? Or maybe there is another location where you tend to focus most. So, you want to find the physical space, the actual time, what you need in your environment so you can focus. Do not be afraid to mix it up. If something’s not working well, try something new. Try until you find the thing that works. It is okay to not know.

And it is okay to feel things out before you determine what your environment is, and if something has worked for you for seven years and suddenly it is not, that's okay, it just changed, so find the new environment.

Then it’s also important to set goals. When you set goals it’s nice because it gives you something to check off and mark is being done. In order to do that, those goals need to be small and achievable. If you take a major task and you break it up into smaller pieces, you’re able to mark that off as you go, where if the only item on your list is the finished product, you might be waiting a long time to cross that off and that’s discouraging. So, give yourself credit for what you do every day.

Somebody that I used to work with, instead of creating a to do list, she called it a ta-da list or the to-done list, it was a list of things she actually did that day.  So instead of a list of the things she had to do every time he did the task, no matter how large or small, personal or professional, she wrote it on a list and at the end of the day she saw how much she did. It’s also good to reward yourself. Whatever it is that motivates you, if that takes a break, drinking coffee, watching some TV, all three of those work wonderfully for me.

But it will help you reach that goal if you know that you're able to stop and reward yourself. These things help you to stay on task and keep you accountable to that timeline that you have created to help meet the deadlines you have. So, finding ways to focus and finding a goalsetting technique that works well for you will also help keep you on track to become an effective academic writer.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: #4: Take Notes About Readings

  • Read

Engage with your reading as you do it by taking notes

  • Sort

Review and organize notes throughout the writing process

  • Tools

Electronic (searchable!): Word document, Zotero, Evernote, OneNote

  • Notebook, index cards

Audio: Because you are working on being an academic writer and producing pieces of professional and academic writing, you are also reading pieces of professional and academic writing. And as you’re reading, it is important you engage with that source. That probably means taking notes in some way. You want to ask questions if they come up as you are reading. You want to jot down things you think of or you are reminded of. It’s not just repeating things the article has to say, it’s about taking notes as to what you are thinking as you are going through it. Those are the notes that may become part of your final writing. Because we know what you want to say on your topic. You’ll need to find a way to help organize your notes throughout the writing process. There are so many ways to organize notes as you are writing. So, this again is a trial and error where you may want to test things out and pick what works best.

There are a lot of tools you can use as you take notes and there are electronic ones. You can just open a Word document but there's also some actual note taking apps and programs out there and there are some listed on this slide. There might be things you really like. Of course, go ahead and use paper or use a notebook or use index cards.


Visual: Side changes to the following: Chat #1:

How do you take notes? What note-taking strategies do you use that you’d like to share?

Audio: We’re going to pause for a quick chat because I want to hear how some of you take notes or notetaking strategies. There are so many notetaking strategies and so many ways to keep track and organize the notes. If there is something you do that works for you, go ahead and put it in the chat box so that way everybody can be inspired.

[silence as participants respond]

I will pull out some of the things I'm seeing that sounded interesting or reliable to me. I like the idea – some of you are noting that you use your cell phone just to keep track of things when you are out and about, because you’ll always know where it is, won’t you.  Looks like we have a lot of people who like to use physical notebooks. Anthony noted the use of Google docs so you are able to embed the links and resources. I think that can be really helpful. There’s a lot of add-ins you can use with Google Docs that can help you with notetaking and even moving the notes to an outline. I see a lot of people like to annotate as well which taking notes in the margins or underlining, highlighting, and then I see again, a lot of the use of Microsoft Word, just typing up notes as you go and also because you are able to put links to your sources there, which is a great idea. Anytime you take a note and you are not doing it on the article itself you want to make sure you know what you are taking notes on. So, a great thing to do is to create the reference entry either in your notebook or in the word document or Evernote, that way you have the reference entry formatted but you definitely know what the notes are about. If you take notes in a notebook and don’t include what article it is your reading or what website you looked at, you are going to feel a little bit lost when it comes time to draft and to cite because you probably will not remember where that originally came from.

Thank you everybody for the wonderful ideas.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: #5: Plan Through Outlining

  • #5: Plan Through Outlining
    • Use your notes, compiled by topic, to draft an outline before you write.
    • Outline your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
  • Timeline
    • Estimate how much time each section of your outline will take you.
    • Make yourself a writing calendar with each component listed.
  • Tools:

Audio: The fifth strategy to help you become an effective academic writer is to plan through outlining. Outlining is when we determine what we are going to say in our writing and in what order. An outline should be based on your notes and your ideas and you’ll want to group those into like ideas. So, here we say compiled by topic. We want to talk about similar ideas and points that near each other, either all in the same paragraph or in three paragraphs that are close to each other. So, look at your notes and determine those major ideas and group them together in like ideas in order to outline that entire piece of writing. However, you can also create a plan for your writing with an outline which is just called a timeline. When you produce your timeline, this is where you start with that end date and back up to determine how much time you need to set aside to complete that writing and keep that in your calendar. So, you can both outline your paper and outline your outline.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: #6: Engage Your Faculty

  • Faculty – Your Writing – You!
  • Successful students know how to engage faculty in meaningful dialogue about their writing, research, and the feedback they receive
  • You are the person who cares the most about your writing education—so take ownership! Ask for help and seek our resources when needed.
  • Responding to Feedback is Hard—Here’s Why You Should Do It Anyway

Audio: The next tip and habit to become effective at academic writing is to engage with your faculty members. Successful students know how to engage their faculty in meaningful dialogue about their writing and research and feedback and that means a student is able to talk to faculty member, to their instructor, to their chair or their committee, in order to improve all of the work that they are doing as a student. You are the person who has most at stake here in your academic career. It is important that you own that and ask for help when you need help. Ask for clarification, and of course use our resources to support you throughout that process. Responding to feedback can be hard and you’ll see there is a link at the bottom of the slide that will explain to you why you should do it anyway, receiving that feedback is important, you can use it as a place to improve your work as a scholar but sometimes we have to respond to it. And actually, go back to our instructor for some follow-up.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: #7: Use Writing Center Resources

  • Writing Center

Paper reviews


Social media

Reach out via e-mail at

See the recorded webinar Welcome to the Writing Center

Visit our Writing Center homepage

Audio: The next tip here is to use our writing center resources. We have so many different resources and in fact, there is a webinar called, “Welcome to the Writing Center” which really breaks down all of the things we can offer. Here’s a quick list. We do offer one to one paper reviews; note that these are asynchronous so even though you need to schedule a date to submit your paper to us, we never meet live. We also have webinars as you know, because you’re here in one right now so you know. We have modules, self-paced many courses on a variety of writing related topics. And we have our entire website with so many pages. Also, as a student here at Walden, you do have free access to Grammarly. The writing center also has chat, which is open periodically throughout the week where you can stop in live and ask a quick question live of a writing instructor. We also have social media pages and accounts where you can interact with us and also it is nice to follow just because we share writing tips and some of our resources along the way.

As you’re scrolling through your phone, if you’re encountering things about academic writing, it just sort of built to up even more as an academic writer. And you can always reach us at our e-mail, which is


Visual: Slide changes to the following: #8: Use University Resources

Reference services

Course materials

Research help

Ask a Librarian

Academic Skills Center:

Statistics & math help

Word tutoring


Courses & workshops


Audio: The University as a whole also has resources that can help you with your academic writing. We have a library and our librarians also offer reference services, there’s also course specific materials in the library and help with research. The library has a lot to offer, and so it is good if you keep their homepage bookmarked along with the writing center's homepage, so that you can explore both of these sites – both of these site also have an area you can type in a question or just do a quick search of anything and find your answers that way. The academic skills Center offers the exact same experience on their website however at the skill center you can get help with statistics and math with using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint if they are sticking points. You can also check your work for any potential plagiarism concerns by using a Turnitin draft submission box and the academic skills center offers courses and workshops that can help you throughout your career, that is another site worth bookmarking and following just to ensure you do not miss any of those awesome features and support.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Chat #2:

What Writing Center, library, or Academic Skills Center resources have you used so far? How did you find them helpful?

Audio: Alright, here in the chat, I want to hear what writing center library or academic school center resources have used so far? And how you found them helpful. This is a great way to share some of the things that have worked for you with everybody else in the room tonight. I will give you a minute or two to let us know what resources you have used and how they were useful.

[silence as participants respond]

I see a few people noting you've used webinars, yes, because you are here. And I think webinars are helpful because they give us a moment to dig deeper to a topic or to explore resources broadly, which is what we are doing here. A few of you have used Grammarly. I’d like to know if Grammarly helped you in case any students have not checked that out. One of the things with Grammarly you should sign up to the link on the writing center website and use your Walden e-mail address, that is how you can access it. The templates, yes, we offer APA templates which will help you set up the basic formatting of your paper. Which is helpful because as you know we need a specific font and line spacing and margins and the templates do that for you.

I’m trying to see if anybody has used… Yeah, somebody has visited the library to work with the library to gain access to articles that were unavailable, which is great. If you are struggling to find research, you do not want that to hold up your writing process so the librarians can definitely help you with that. Some people have actually used the physical APA manual, which is excellent because that APA manual has all the information that you need. And mine is 2 feet away from me right now.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: #9: Review and Revise

  • Reviewing your writing for organization, idea development, use of analysis and evidence, paragraphing, and flow
  • Occurs during and after writing
  • Used to develop and clarify ideas


Audio: Thank you everybody for sharing those tips on the resources you have used.

We have a few more habits of the effective writers. And habit number nine is making sure you get in the practice of reviewing and revising your work. Reviewing your writing, looking at your organization, your idea development, how you have included analysis, what you have done with evidence, how your paragraph has shaped the overall flow, all of these things give you time to determine what you are doing well so you can do more of it in the future, and where you can improve so you can improve as an academic writer.

The process of reviewing and revising your work occurs while you are writing, probably all throughout it. Sometimes you will type up a sentence and then you’ll backup and then you will change it or get halfway down the page and come back up and move something around. All of that is part of the revision process. Once you have a full draft, of course we take some time and go back and read it into more revisions. So, what happens both during the actual writing but also after, once you have submitted it and it has been graded, maybe even a year after you wrote something you can still learn something from your writing process. Reversion is used really to develop and clarify ideas. The biggest parts of your writing, the central argument, the way you organize it, how you support it, how you draw conclusions and how you state those conclusions.

To help you with this process, I have some links here to show you how to create a reverse outline which is a great way to see if everything you're saying is focused on your thesis and is in a logical order. And we have the MEAL plan to make sure that your paragraphs are developed in a strong way. And at the writing center we offer feedback and help in many ways.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: #10: Edit and Proofread

  • Write/Revise

Keep track of your progress

Complete your final draft

  • Wait

Give yourself a break

  • Proofread

Past suggestions

Read out loud


Tips for Proofreading

Audio: The next habit of effective academic writers is to edit and proofread. Edit and proof reading is where you really polish the piece of writing. Of course, you need a piece of writing to work with. After you have written and revised and you have completed your final draft, all the ideas and organization and develop and are in place, give yourself a break. Pause. Wait and step away from it. Then come back and do proofreading, which is where we are looking at spelling and grammar and punctuation--, to help you with proofreading I always suggest reading out loud because you will hear things that sound off. Also, if you stumble, trip or pause as you are reading, that is typically a sign that something is a little bit off and perhaps you should go back and edit that sentence. You can also proofread based on past suggestions you received. Have you gotten feedback from the writing center that included a note about comma usage, then make sure you really focus on your comma usage in your next piece of writing. Grammarly can help you with proofreading. It is a computer program so it does not always get it right but if it flags a sentence for something, at least you know where to stop and look to see if an edit is necessary.


Visual: Slide changes to the following:

Audio: The last habit of an effective academic writer is to take that reflection time. This is where we use some questions to guide our reflection, to let us think about our writing, both before we begin, while we are writing, and after. And here on this slide we have questions for each phase. We have before you start writing you might want to ask yourself; do I understand the assignment? Right before this webinar, I was working a chat shift and I had several students come in needed help understanding and assignment prompt. The best person to ask is your instructor, however, if you are wondering if you are wondering if you are filling a prompt or if you are getting started in it the right way we are always here to help. I can usually look at a prompt and help a student determine the keywords that will guide that discussion post or that essay.

While you are writing you may want to ask yourself, am I becoming distracted? Check in with yourself while you are writing, are you all in, are you paying attention, do you have the focused environment that works for you? After you have completed the piece of writing, maybe you’ll want to stop and ask yourself what worked well, what did not work well, what will I do the same next time and what will I do differently? So taking some time to reflect is an important part of the writing process and it will help you become a more effective academic writer.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Chat #3:

What conventions of academic writing do you plan to work on developing?

What habits of academic writers would you like to include in your writing process?

  1. Embrace the writing process
  2. Make time
  3. Focus and set goals
  4. Take notes about readings
  5. Plan through outlining
  6. Engage your faculty
  7. Use Writing Center resources
  8. Use campus resources
  9. Revise
  10. Edit and proofread
  11. Reflect

Audio: I believe this is our final chat of the night here. In this last chat I want to know what conventions of academic writing do you plan to work on developing. That would be those things like organization, including evidence, analysis, following APA style. And perhaps what habits of academic writers you would like to include in your writing process, those habits are listed on the left-hand side of the slide if you need a reminder of those. I just want to know what you are going to incorporate in the future? What are you going to do to develop your academic writing?

[silence as participants responds]

I like the nice blend of things coming into the chat box. There's a lot of sentence-level things, like talking about style and tone and APA. Then there’s also things are really about the writing process, such as practicing writing daily or focusing or making it a habit. All of these things are a part of becoming an effective academic writer. I like to see some of you are going to use the writing center to review your work before submitting. This is something I cannot recommend it enough. We do offer one to one paper review services which you can find if you go to our homepage -- this probably a link to it somewhere in the slides. If you create an account in MyPass you will be able to schedule time for writing instructor to look at your work and provide feedback. It’s important to note that sometimes the schedule fills up fast but you can reserve a spot up to two weeks in advance. And then attach your work the night before. As long as the work is attached by 5 PM Eastern standard Time we will be able to review it that they. As our schedule fills up and, of course as yours fills up, you can go ahead and just reserve a spot in the future if that helps. And you can build that and as part of your scheduling and planning of your writing process working back from that due date.

I would like to see that Amber will read more from different genres, this is one of my top suggestions, which is to read academic writing if you want to improve your own academic writing.


Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions: Ask Now or Later •  Live Chat Hours

Learn More:

Building and Organizing Academic Arguments and Writing and Responding to Discussion Posts

Make a Paper Review Appointment!

Assist students in becoming better academic writers by providing online, asynchronous feedback by appointment.

Audio: All right. We are at the end of the webinar with a couple minutes left it so I’m going to stop to see if there are any questions I can answer before Kacy wrap this up.

Kacy: We had a question come in about how you know when you are not necessarily paraphrasing or using a direct quotation, so for example, commonly used phrases or acronyms, how do you know when you don’t need to use those quotation marks or that direct quotation, even if you are not exactly changing the wording. Some of those commonly used phrases.

Melissa: Yeah, it does. I'm going to lean on an example or two from education because my background is in the field of education. There are some phrases that we use a lot in education like differentiated instruction, there is professional development, there are professional learning communities. All of these little phrases and terms, even though there based on research and ideas from experts, they are just terms at this point. They are just terminology. So, when I refer to those I would not necessarily need to quote and cite them taking it back to the person that invented them in the professional learning community. Those are commonly used terms. And I’m welcome to put those in my paper without citing them. However, if I am to say something about professional development that I learned in an article I definitely do need to cite that. However, the term itself does not need to be cited.

One of the things I recommend to students, if you are looking at an article and using more than three words in the same order, it is probably no longer just a term that is used a lot in the field. It is probably getting closer to a quote. That is not a hard and fast rule because I'm sure some of us work in the field where we have terminology that is five words long, that is just the name of what something is and that does not necessarily need to be quoted. However, if you find yourself using more than three words in the same order, just pause and use your best judgment as to whether that will ultimately need to be quoted and cited.

Kacy: Thanks Melissa. Can you also mention quickly about when you would site yourself, the rules when using your own work?

Melissa: Yes, we have a couple of resources about citing yourself, which I think are interesting to dig into. Because it's a sort of -- has a different feel to it. Obviously, we know we need to cite the sources we have read but what happens if you wrote a discussion post and now you want to use that as the basis of an essay in the same or different class. First of all, always check with your instructor, are you able to reuse any of your work from a previous assignment or a previous class? Many times, you're not allowed to reuse your work, even though it is your own. We are building on the skills we want to see new things produced each time. However, if you are allowed to refer back to things you've written, you will need to cite yourself. And so, if you are allowed to use previous work, you will want to follow the guidelines for citing yourself in which Kacy is linked in the Q&A box. And the most important thing when it comes to citing yourself is to first see if you can so always ask your instructor before using previous coursework.

Kacy: Thank you all so much for joining us. We are going to close out the webinar but I do want to remind you that if we were not able to get your question, you can e-mail us at or you can check out the live chat hours that Melissa talked about during the webinar. On this page, this final slide, you will also see a link for a paper review appointment, those are the one-on-one paper reviews that Melissa was talking about where a writing professional like Melissa or myself is able to respond directly to a draft or any stage of writing you might be at, at that moment. So, thank you again so much for joining us. And we hope to see you at another webinar soon.