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Webinar Transcripts

Practical Tips to Successfully Write in Academic American English

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Presented October 9, 2018

Last updated 11/26/2018

 

Visual: The webinar begins with a PowerPoint title slide in the large central panel. Housekeeping rules:

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Housekeeping

  • Recording
    • Will be available online within 24 hours.
  • Interact
    • Polls, files, and links are interactive.
  • Q&A
    • Now: Use the Q&A box.
    • Later: Send to writingsupport@waldenu.edu or visit our  Live Chat Hours.
  • Help
    • Ask in the Q&A box.
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right hand corner of the webinar room.

Audio: Michael:  Okay, hello everyone. My name is Michael Dusek and I'm a Writing Instructor joining from Duluth, Minnesota. Thank you for joining us today for this webinar about practical grammar tips.

Before we get started and I hand things over to Amy, I just want to mention a few housekeeping items. First, this webinar is being recorded, and in a day or two you’ll be able to access it through our website. So, if you have to leave early and you want to go over portions of this webinar again later, you’ll be able to check out the recording for that. Along with that, you will find many other recorded webinars on various other writing related topics, so if there is something else that piques your interest, we encourage you to check that out.

There are several chances to interact with your colleagues and with our presenter, Amy, so please be sure to participate during the chat sessions, in the large chat box just like you did before the webinar started today. So, you’ll type your answer to the chat in that same box. Also, all the links in the slide show are active, so you can click directly on them for access to more information now or later if you watch the recording.

We also have a few helpful files in our Files pod. You can download them by clicking on the download files button at the bottom of the pod. There's going to be a lot of information in this webinar, and if you have any questions you can use the Q&A box. I will be watching the Q&A box and will answer your questions as quickly as I can. If we run out of time however, or if you have questions later on, please send them to writingsupport@waldenu.edu and you will get a response through email.

Finally, if you encounter any technical problems, there is a Help button in the upper right corner of the webinar screen. You can also reach out to the Q&A box. If you have technical difficulties there’s a couple of things that I can kind of point you in the right direction on. But really the help box there is the Adobe connect help, or tech support link, so that would be the best place to go. Okay again, thank you for joining us and I’ll turn things over to our presenter, Amy Bakke.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the title of the webinar, “Practical Tips to Successfully Write in Academic American English” and the speakers name and information: Amy Bakke, Senior Writing Instructor & Multilingual Writing Specialist, Walden University Writing Center.

Audio: Amy:  Thanks, Michael. And again, welcome everyone. I’m Very happy to be here with you today. As Michael mentioned, my name is Amy Bakke. I'm a Senior Writing Instructor in the Writing Center and am also Multilingual Writing Specialist, so I get to spend a good amount of time focusing on materials and student and faculty support regarding those who are writing in English when English might not be their first or primary language. So that kind of where I fit in in the Writing Center, and kind of how I ended up presenting this webinar.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Overview

  • Follow faculty expectations
  • Write in a linear structure
  • Develop arguments with evidence and analysis
  • Cite sources
  • Use clear, concise language
  • Spend time on revision and proofreading
  • Use Writing Center resources

Audio: So, what we have today is a few strategies, really, to help you succeed in the academic writing environment. I will be talking to each one, we will have some chances to practice in today's session. As Michael mentioned, there are a couple of chat activities and a couple of polls. And I will be providing various resources about each strategy that I mentioned. So, each time I provide a resource or maybe a slide with resources and strategies, I tried to provide a variety of formats so maybe I will provide a webpage, a video or a webinar, a blog post. So, as you see these resources, you might consider your preferences and your learning style as you decide which resources to check out for further information.

Also, of note, because the PowerPoint presentation includes all of the links to the resources I will mention, it would be a good idea to download the slides so you can access them later. And as Michael mentioned, the Files pod is at the bottom right-hand side of the page. You can click on the file that says Slides and then click on download files and you can save that for later use. During the session, you can also click on the links and maybe bookmark them while we are going through the presentation. So that is another option.

So, we're going to talk about faculty expectations; writing in a linear structure; developing arguments with evidence and analysis; citing sources; using clear, concise language; spending time on revision and proofreading and more about our resources. So, we have all of that to cover, so I will get started.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Follow Faculty Expectations

  • Expectations may differ from what you are used to because of varying educational backgrounds
    • Approach with questions
    • Ask for models and samples
    • Follow the grading rubric to be sure you have all the required parts of the assignment

Audio: All right. So, the first strategy is to follow faculty expectations. And I bring this up because faculty expectations, and maybe even more generally, expectations for academic writing, may differ based on different educational or cultural backgrounds. For example, in some cultures, power distance between the teacher and the student is rather high, and one result of this is that students may be kind of discouraged from asking the teacher questions or interacting with the teacher, other than to provide an answer to a question that the teacher asked. However, in the United States, the power distance is typically lower. And in fact, students are expected to ask questions for clarification. Students are very much expected to be an active participant in the class.

Additionally, expectations for the assignments may differ in these different educational contexts. So, there may be differences in expectations for organization of a draft, for how to use evidence and supports ideas, for the quantity and quality of analysis that's required. So, to learn these differences and fully understand what is expected, know that you can ask faculty questions. You can interact with them in the modes that they have recommended, usually in the Blackboard classroom they will tell you what that means. So that might be email or through the Blackboard classroom. Maybe even phone or Skype.

Then, another tip is to ask for model and sample assignments or papers to look at, because seeing a completed project or the big picture of what you need to do can really help guide you along the way. Sometimes these models may be embedded in your classroom so make sure to look for them before asking.

And then the last part is to follow the grading rubric provided so that you can check that you have included all the required parts of the assignment. The grading rubric should be available to you and often gives you some guidance about what to include and what to focus on in your draft.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Follow Faculty Expectations

A Few Writing Center Resources:

Audio: All right, here are those resources I recommended. I will have a slide after each strategy that I mentioned. So, if you want to learn more about this topic, you can see a couple of resources from our Writing Center archive, so we have a podcast on meeting requirements of an assignment, and a webinar on Walden writing prompts and learning the requirements. So, these are great resources to check out to kind of find out what is going to be expected of you as a student in one of the Walden programs.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Write in a Linear Stucture

  • Linear versus circular
  • Expectations for the reader versus the writer

Audio: All right, so our second strategy is to write in a linear structure. And really follow the expectations for the reader and the writer. I guess there's a theme here so far, it's about expectations. As students and as writers, there are expectations of us. And we need to be familiar with them in order to meet them.

American academic writing tends to follow a linear structure, where the writer is responsible for the clarity and cohesion of the writing. Relationships between ideas are explicitly stated. The reader should not have to work hard to understand the ideas and to understand the relationships between them when reading the text.

In this type of writing, there should be a clear thesis statement, topic sentences, and then also, transitional phrases, and other cohesive strategies to kind of guide the reader, to tell the story, to show the reader how one idea kind of connects to the next or how they flow.

In some cultures, more of a circular structure is followed. In this structure, the reader is more responsible for deducing the meaning of the text, and when the reader needs to really work to understand the meaning of the writing, it can reflect strong writing. In this type of structure, there might not be explicit topic sentences. Maybe the thesis, maybe there is a thesis, but maybe it doesn't come until the very end of the text. So, it's a very different structure of what's expected in the American academic environment.

So, maybe if you come from a culture that writes in a circular structure, it could be a challenge to make this shift. I have sometimes had students approach me, surprised that they would need to explicitly point out relationships between ideas, especially when they think it seems obvious.  Do I really have to say that this idea agrees with this idea, or isn't it already clear from reading the document? Just remember that this is a progression of ideas American readers in an academic context expect. And you will just have to make sure that you really show the reader what you found during your research and how the ideas are connected or overlap, or how the ideas are different. So, it's really about kind of guiding the reader through the draft, the ideas.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Write in a Linear Structure

A Few Writing Center Resources:

Audio: Now, hopefully my explanation made some sense and was clear.  But, if you would like more on this topic, if you would like to learn more about what a linear structure means and what it is, here are a few Writing Center resources that can help. We have a webpage, blog posts, a podcast, a webinar. Like I mentioned, you might think about how you learn best as I recommend these resources. Do you like to learn by reading and by seeing? Do you like to learn by listening? That can help you decide; the podcast is great for those who like to hear the topic talked about by experts in the field. That's a great option, as well.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Develop Your Arguments With Evidence and Your Own Analysis

  • Expectations may differ from what you are used to because of varying educational backgrounds
    • Beyond summary
    • Expected to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize

Audio: So, our third strategy. Develop your arguments with evidence and your own analysis. Again, the expectations for developing and supporting arguments and ideas may differ based on educational backgrounds. In some educational systems, it's expected to do a lot of summarizing of previous work to demonstrate understanding. You know, to kind of restate what other authors have already stated. In American academic writing, summary is often part of the expectation, but not the end point. So, you may do a lot of summarizing when you are taking notes and you are starting to understand an idea. But students are usually expected to go beyond summarizing, to analyze, to evaluate what they’ve read, and to bring their own, informed interpretation to the text.

So, as you become more expert in your field and you build up your knowledge, that's where your informed interpretations come into play. Students are also expected to provide evidence for the assertions that they make in their drafts and expected to synthesize the material. And by synthesis, I mean to kind of show how the ideas are connected, how different authors agree or disagree, or maybe how the work of one author has built on the work of another author, to kind of, as I mentioned, tell the story about what has happened, what has been published, what has come to be known in the field of study.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Develop Your Arguments With Evidence and Your Own Analysis

            A Few Writing Center Resources:

Audio: So, analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing. These are all rather advanced skills and it will be a good idea to start practicing them now if you're not already doing some of them, at least, in your writing. We have quite a lot of information on this in the Writing Center, so you will see the links here. Maybe just doing some initial reading about synthesis would be helpful and then checking out some of the other resources as well.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Following the MEAL Plan to Write in a Linear Structure Supported With Evidence and Analysis

Paragraphs can be organized like this:

M  = Main idea/topic sentence. Written in your own words.

E = Evidence. The evidence is supported with outside sources.

A = Analysis. Explanation, commentary, or informed opinion about the evidence.

L = Lead out or conclusion.

Audio: So, one way to combine the two, the strategy: strategy 2 strategy 3, that I mentioned- linear structure and supporting with evidence and analysis. One strategy to combine those two is to organize your body paragraphs or most of the paragraphs in the middle of your essay or your draft, following what we call the MEAL Plan. MEAL Plan paragraphs begin with the M or the Main idea, which a lot of time we call that a topic sentence. And this kind of introduces the topic or the focus of the paragraph. It's something in your own words.

It's then followed by the E, or the Evidence. Evidence is supported with outside sources. So that's where you bring in those ideas that you read about in the literature.

Paragraphs also often include, A, Analysis. This is where your informed commentary or explanation or opinion comes in about the evidence.

And then, the paragraph may end with a sentence or a phrase, even maybe, which is the L, the Lead out. It might be a wrap up. It might be a transition to the next paragraph, but it's wrapping up the current discussion in that paragraph and maybe moving on to the next one.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Example Paragraph in MEAL Plan

Another component of doctoral writing evidenced in this dissertation was the author’s use of summary or paraphrase, demonstrating her ability to critically assess the material from several sources and make a unique contribution by synthesizing the material in her own voice. Instead of directly quoting sources, Hackshaw (2012) summarized the literature, citing only one page number, indicating a paraphrased passage. The absence of direct quotes contributes to the paper’s flow and readability because there is consistency in the author’s voice opposed to multiple voices from direct quotes. Specifically, Hackshaw used paraphrase and summary to directly relate relevant aspects of other works to her own study, rather than using direct quotes followed by explanations or analyses. In this way, the author explained and contextualized her research using her own voice.

Audio: So, let's take a look at an example of a paragraph written in linear structure -- which is our second strategy -- and supported by evidence and analysis is our third strategy. And this follows the MEAL Plan. We have the four different components. And just so we're all on the same page, I will read this aloud: Another component of doctoral writing evidenced in this dissertation was the author's use of summary or paraphrase, demonstrating her ability to critically assess the material from several sources and make a unique contribution by synthesizing the material in her own voice.

Instead of directly quoting sources, Hackshaw summarized the literature, citing only one-page number, indicating a paraphrased passage. The absence of direct quotes contributes to the paper's flow and readability because there is consistency in the office was opposed to multiple voices from direct quotes. -- Apologies, it looks like there might be a missing word there -- Specifically, Hackshaw used paraphrase and summary to directly relate relevant aspects of other works to her own study rather than using direct quotes followed by explanations or analyses. In this way, the author explained and contextualized her research using her own voice.

So, you can see that there are, let's see ... five sentences here. And we have those main pieces in red in normal text. We have that topic sentence. So, it's kind of introducing the idea in italics and kind of that blue/purple text is where it shows evidence from the literature. In the green underlined text, there's kind of an analysis from the author's perspective of maybe explaining how this evidence was relevant or related to the general focus of the paragraph. And then at the very end is kind of a wrap-up sentence.

This is just a very helpful strategy, it's not a requirement. But if you, maybe, think you have trouble with writing in a linear structure or you found that paragraphing is a challenge for you, maybe if you're missing some of the evidence or if you're missing analysis in your writing, this strategy for paragraphs can help ensure that you are that you have kind of all the pieces, and it also helps make sure that you have this evidence is not only that, you put this evidence into context and began to synthesize it.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice: Rearrange these sentences to follow the MEAL plan.

(1) Hewett (2013) reported that 45% of writing centers are connecting with students via social media, as compared to the 10% Kubista (2007) reported from her 2006 survey. (2) This large increase may be due to the increasing familiarity both students and writing center staff have with social media. (3) Additionally, Kallman (2014) noted that writing center directors described their writing centers offering a variety of seven kinds of services, including workshops, course development, and websites.  (4) In conclusion, Hewett and Kallman’s findings show writing centers not only offering other services besides tutoring, but a wide diversity in services. (5) Writing centers are beginning to offer students more than one-on-one tutoring services.

Audio: So, the next step, then, we're going to take a look at this paragraph. Based on what I talked about with the MEAL Plan, how would we rearrange this paragraph to make it follow the MEAL Plan?

So, we have a poll available here. So, I'm going to read through the paragraph and what you to consider, how could we rearrange these sentences to create a MEAL Plan structure for this paragraph? I will read it aloud just so everyone can easily kind of analyze it. So, "Hewitt reported that 45% of writing centers are connecting with students via social media, as compared to the 10% Kubista reported from her 2006 survey. This large increase may be due to the increasing familiarity both students and Writing Center staff have with social media. Additionally, Kallman noted that writing center directors described the Writing Center's offering a variety of seven kinds of services, including workshops, course development and websites. In conclusion, Hewett and Kallman's findings show writing centers not only offering other services besides tutoring, but a wide diversity in services. Writing centers are beginning to offer students more than one-on-one tutoring services."

All right, and it looks like a number of you have voted in the poll so I will broadcast the results here. And it looks like the consensus is B. If we bring sentence five to the beginning, that would make a great topic sentence.  And then just a little bit of rearranging in the middle, ending with number 4, and our key include there is not number 4 starts out with "in conclusion." That's our clue that that is the wrap-up to the paragraph. Great. Thanks everyone, for participating.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Answer:

(5) Writing centers are beginning to offer students more than one-on-one tutoring services. (1) Hewett (2013) reported that 45% of writing centers are connecting with students via social media, as compared to the 10% Kubista (2007) reported from her 2006 survey. (3) Additionally, Kallman (2014) noted that writing center directors described their writing centers offering a variety of seven kinds of services, including workshops, course development, and websites. (2) This large increase may be due to the increasing familiarity both students and writing center staff have with social media. (4) In conclusion, Hewett and Kallman’s findings show writing centers not only offering other services besides tutoring, but a wide diversity in services.

Audio: And you might also consider using a similar breakdown to how I did on the previous slide, or the color coding. That's a great strategy if you're trying to figure out, what do I have in my paragraph, what might I need to add or how do I rearrange it? You could try color coding, where is my main idea? Where is the evidence? Do you have some analysis? Do you kind of wrap up? Visually seeing color coding can help she think about possibly reorganizing or rearranging the paragraph.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Cite All Ideas That Come From Sources

  • Collective versus individual approach to writing
  • In APA, use paraphrasing instead of direct quotes whenever possible

Audio: So, strategy Number 4 is to cite all ideas that come from sources. An important consideration when discussing citing sources is the spectrum of perspectives on approaches to using information from sources in writing. So, this is identified in the first box on the slide, collective versus individual.

Some cultures have a more collectivistic approach to writing. In these cultures, the writer may use ideas and quotations from other seminal sources without citation. So, sources that kind of, widely have been agreed upon as important and meaningful in a field. So, this shows that the writer is well read, that the writer, the writer in this academic culture, the writer assumes that the reader will have the same background. Or, in other words, it's assumed that the reader has read the same sources and that these ideas are more or less common knowledge. Maybe specifically in the field, but maybe even more generally. So, if these sources were cited, it might almost be considered an insult to the intelligence of the reader. And furthermore, the way in which the writer is able to take and combine these previous resources into their own writing really demonstrates sophistication in the writing.

Kind of contrast that with other cultures such as the academic culture in the United States, we have a more individual approach to writing. The ideas of authors are seen as their intellectual property therefore they must be cited in the text. In this culture citations show respect to initial author, they show the reader what the writer has researched and whether it's credible. If the sources are not cited or not cited properly, this is plagiarism. And in the United States, as I think many of you know, there is a lot of emphasis on the individual, and plagiarism is a serious offense. In educational context, it can result in serious consequences for student writers, which makes it especially important to understand how to avoid it.

There are two ways to present and cite material within the text -- and I am talking from the perspective of APA, which is what Walden uses. So, you can use a direct quotation or a paraphrase. In a direct quotation, the original words of the author are used and are copied into the new document. And in a paraphrase, the words in the sentence structure are changed from the original, but the ideas, the general idea stays the same, and that comes from the source. So, a citation is still needed to show where that idea came from.

Keep in mind that APA style prefers paraphrasing over directly quoting. So, when possible, paraphrase. Basically, use direct quotations sparingly or not at all. Also remember that both direct quotations and paraphrases must be cited, which means, at Walden that means using APA's author and date format for citations.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice: Is this correctly cited?

No. Language is the same as the original. There are no quotation marks or page number.

Original: “Participants expected the school district to provide a quality education to their children, while reinforcing the conservative beliefs and values of their parents and grandparents; they also expected small class size, close student-teacher relationships, and strong sports programs” (Baade, 2016, p. 99).

Revision: Participants expected the school district to provide a quality education to their children, while reinforcing the conservative beliefs and values of their parents and grandparents; they also expected small class size, close student-teacher relationships, and strong sports programs (Baade, 2016).

Audio: So, we're going to do a little analysis here to a little practice, about whether or not these things are correctly cited. So, practice Number 1, is this correctly cited? Let's take it look at some attempted paraphrases. I've got the original on the left and you might notice that there are quotations around it and a parenthetical citation with author, year, and page number at the end. I will be their original. "Participants expected the school district to provide a quality education to their children, while reinforcing the conservative beliefs and values of their parents and grandparents; they also expected small class size, close student-teacher relationships and strong sports programs."

Now, I will have you each read and take a look at the revision and decide, is this correctly cited? Yes or no? I will give just a minute for people to read. Alright, I see a number of you have voted. I'm going to broadcast the results. And so, no. This one is not correctly cited. Even though there is a citation at the end, this is still considered plagiarism, because the language in the revision is the same, pretty much matches, I think it's identical, to the language of the original. There are no quotation marks around the revision, and there are no, the citation is also missing a page number. So, while the citation at the end shows an attempt -- which is a great start -- it's not correctly cited, because it is copied and it wasn't indicated that it was copied.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice: Is this correctly cited?

No. The language is too close to the original and follows the same general structure. No citation is included.

Original: “Participants expected the school district to provide a quality education to their children, while reinforcing the conservative beliefs and values of their parents and grandparents; they also expected small class size, close student-teacher relationships, and strong sports programs” (Baade, 2016, p. 99).

Revision: Participants wanted the school district to provide their children education, while reinforcing conservative beliefs. They also expected small classes, close student-teacher relationships, and good sports programs.

Audio: Okay, second time around. Same original excerpt, and then, a revision attempt. So, I want you to take a look, again, and decide, is this correctly cited? Alright, we have quite a few votes in here, which is great. And I will broadcast the results. And it looks like most of us agree on the fact that no, it is not correctly cited. There are actually a couple of things going on with this revision attempt. The first is that, a lot of the wording is actually copied from the original. So, the wording in the sentence structure is very similar with just a few small changes. Right? For example, instead of "expected," there is the synonym "wanted." Same general meeting, but just like swapping out a word here or there. Instead of "strong sports program," "good sports program." But the overall structure is almost the same. So, it's still kind of copied almost word for word. And also, of course, there is no citation at the end, so it's not showing where the idea came from.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice: Is this correctly cited?

Yes.  Language and sentence structure vary from the original and the ideas are cited in APA.

Original: “Participants expected the school district to provide a quality education to their children, while reinforcing the conservative beliefs and values of their parents and grandparents; they also expected small class size, close student-teacher relationships, and strong sports programs” (Baade, 2016, p. 99).

Revision: Participants had various expectations of their school, including that the administrators maintain small class sizes, provide sports, and maintain good student-teacher relationships, while also supporting their conservative values (Baade, 2016).

Audio: Okay, we've got another one here. Is this correctly cited, yes or no? Again, it's the same original on the left end, and a different revision attempt on the right.

Great, I will broadcast the results here, it looks like there's a majority of you who say yes. And I would agree. That yes, this is correctly cited. So, the language and the sentence structure vary from the original. It's not a matter of, just taking out a few words and finding synonyms. It's actually that the sentence structure is significantly changed. It still explains the idea from the source, and because these ideas come from a source, there's a citation to show where the ideas came from. That's what we need. We need an effective paraphrase and a citation to show where the idea came from.

One thing to note is that some phrases may need to stay consistent from an original to a paraphrase. So, depending on, maybe, the type of language typically used within the field, like what terms and phrases are typically used, or proper names are typically used in a field, just for clarity and consistency, you may want to use those names and those phrases. For example, if the phrase "small class size" is typically used as a phrase in education, it might seem strange to say something like "petite class-size" or "mini class-size." Or something like that.

Also, if someone is writing about legislation such as No Child Left behind, it's necessary to use that name consistently throughout the draft rather than changing it to something like "No Kids Left Behind." While there's an expectation to change the sentence structure and the wording, proper names of organizations and other entities should not be paraphrased. They need to stay in their original so that they will be widely understood.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Cite All Ideas That Come From Other Sources

A Few Writing Center Resources:

Audio: Great. So, for more information and some practice, as well, on citing sources, check out these resources that I have on the slide. I especially encourage you to try out our plagiarism prevention modules. They give some hands-on practice, some activities that you can do, some more examples that you can see. They are really great.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Write Using Clear, Concise Language

Eliminate empty phrases

Example: Regardless of the fact that he just graduated, he is quite skilled.

More concise:  Although he just graduated, he is quite skilled.

Wordy                                              Concise

As a matter of fact                  In fact

At all times                             Always

Due to the fact that                Because

For the purpose of                  For

For the reason that                 Because

In the event that                     If

Audio: All right. So, onto our fifth strategy using clear, concise language. So, concise writing is clear, precise and direct and the goal of concise writing is to express the intended meaning in as few words as possible. So essentially, academic writing should not be overly wordy or flowery or quite complex. The focus on simplicity does not mean, necessarily, that you should use only short sentences. But, using concise language is really about precision and about precise word choice, rather than length.

So, I will show a few examples of what I mean in the next slides. So, one way to write concisely is to eliminate empty phrases or unnecessary phrases. And I have some examples here on this slide. And all of these examples, there is a multi-word phrase that could be replaced by just one or two words, making the writing more concise, easier to read, and just more appropriate for academic writing. So, in my example I have, "Regardless of the fact that he just graduated, he is quite skilled." I can replace "regardless of the fact that" with just a word like "although." So, "Although he just graduated, he is quite skilled." So that's actually the preference and academic writing is to keep it precise and concise.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Write Using Clear, Concise Language

Replace nominalizations and long phrases with strong verbs

Example: The registrar’s note is a clarification of the school’s policies.

More concise:  The registrar’s note clarifies the school’s policies.

Wordy                                                          Concise

To give examples                                            to exemplify

To give consideration to                                 to consider

To have an understanding of                         to understand

To put emphasis on                                        to emphasize

To make an analysis                                       to analyze

To conduct an interview                                 to interview

Audio: Here's some more related examples. So, another way to write concisely is to replace nominalizations and long phrases with strong verbs. So, nominalizations are some of those wordy examples where there's kind of a whole phrase with a word that could actually be just used as a verb. So, in the main example, "The registrar's note is a clarification of the school's policies." A more concise version and just as clear is "The registrar's note clarifies the school's policies."

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Write Using Clear, Concise Language

Replace “there is” or “it is” with the real subject

Example: There are many people who believe…

More concise:  Many people believe…

Example: It is imperative that these guidelines are followed by students.

More concise: Students must follow these guidelines.

Audio: A third way to write concisely to avoid beginning sentences with phrases like "there is" or "it is." And you can just replace "there is" or "it is" with the real subject, a lot of times. So, rather than "There are many people who believe," shorter and more concise and preferred version would be "Many people believe." Similarly, in the second example, "It is imperative that these guidelines are followed by students." We can move the subject Students to the beginning of the sentence and avoid three, four, five words that we really just don't need to include.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Write Using Clear, Concise Language

Eliminate redundancies and unnecessary words

The work is basically done. 

The parking lot where people park is always full.

Marco is now employed as a violinist in the Detroit Symphony.

He was offered a free gift.

Important essentials are …

Audio: Another strategy is to eliminate redundancies and unnecessary words. So, this is, a lot of time, when some of those describing words are used when they just aren't needed. Sometimes those are adverbs like "basically." A lot of those words that end in -ly could be eliminated without affecting the meaning. And then describing words or phrases that might already be implied in the sentence are typically best to be avoided.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Write Using Clear, Concise Language

Replace relative clauses with adjectives or phrases as appropriate

Example: The procedure that is most common is….

More concise: The most common procedure is….

Visit reduced relative clauses for more information and examples

Audio: Then, one of the last point here is to, another option to make writing more concise is to replace relative clauses with adjectives or phrases as appropriate. So, relative clauses are the ones that sometimes come after the word "that." So, in the example, "The procedure that is most common is," we could be more concise by shifting that describing phrase to write before procedure. And then, eliminating just a word or two, but a kind of flows a bit better. So, when possible, we can use those relative clauses as adjectives.

And if that's a lot of grammar speak for you, do know that we have some grammar webinars that kind of breakdown what some of the, some of these terms mean, when we talk about relative clauses, things like that.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Write Using Clear, Concise Language

Avoid pretentious language

  • Example: Engaging in the profusely exciting intellectual endeavors commenced, perpetuated, and achieved by this highly praised institution of higher learning, its constituents, pursuant of wisdom and insight, are worthy of our most profound sentiments of support—as it is they who ultimately will raise our hopes of ameliorating the miserable and disadvantaged conditions experienced by society’s economically disenfranchised and underprivileged participants.
  • More concise: The university encourages students to engage in continual intellectual discussions because it is these students who can help achieve fairness and equality in society.

Audio: In my final example, my favorite one here, avoid pretentious language. This is when, maybe, the writing is intended to sound especially intellectual, but it’s kind of ends up coming off as pretentious or maybe obscure. So rather than trying to impress, something like this is maybe more likely to confuse the reader and the audience. So, in the example, it says "Engaging in the profusely exciting intellectual endeavors commenced, perpetuated and achieved by this highly praised institution of higher learning, its constituents, pursuant of wisdom and insight, are worthy of our most profound sentiments of support – as it is, they who ultimately will raise our hopes of ameliorating the miserable and of his disadvantaged conditions experienced by society's economically disenfranchised and underprivileged participants."

So, after reading, I as a reader, am left thinking to myself, what was that even about? Right? There was a lot going on, a lot of describing words. So, really, in an academic context, the idea to be more concise, more precise, in this case more concise, the explanation, "The University encourages students to engage in continual intellectual discussions because it is these students who can help achieve fairness and equality in society," has a very similar meaning and is much more available and understandable to the academic audience.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice: Revise this sentence for concision.

I believe that it is necessary to revise the No Child Left Behind policy on account of the fact that a lot of students are still failing the standardized tests. (30 words)

Audio: So, here's our opportunity for a little practice. Based on some of those strategies that I've talked about so far, how could we revise for concision? How could we make this more concise? We are at 30 words. What could we maybe leave out? Maybe adjust so that it aligns with that idea of concise writing recommended by APA and in academic writing. I will give everyone a couple of minutes to take a look, to read, and to type in a revision.

Great, I am seeing a number of great possibilities for revision here. And all of them, I think, are making this idea much more concise. So, the original is 30 words. In the correct revisions pod, I copied and pasted a couple of the answers that you provided. The first one is one that I kept up with. Just a limiting some of that wordiness, I'm seeing a few strategies here, but what I came up with is about 17 words and I think some of you brought it down to even less than that and still maintains the meaning, which is important, and which is great.

So, some strategies that I see a lot of people used, taking out a phrase like "I believe that," "I believe" or "I think" or "I feel" is often unnecessary in academic writing because it is implied that you are writing about what you have maybe researched and believe to be true. So that's one easy way to get rid of a few words, to eliminate "I believe "or "I think." Then "It is necessary to" I saw some people revised that longer phrasing by saying the policy should be revised or needs to be revised or you could even say "necessitates revision." Something like that. Also, one of the phrases in the middle, "on account of the fact that" – so that six-word phrase could be replaced with "because," or just a shorter phrase that has that same meaning.

So, thank you, thank you everyone for including some revisions here, they all look really good.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Write Using Clear, Concise Language

A Few Writing Center Resources:

Audio: Alright. So, for more on that, there are three links here on more information about writing concisely, if that was a topic that seemed extra important to you, check some of those out.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Spend Time on Revision and Proofreading

  • Writing as a process
  • Multiple drafts are expected
  • Might be most time consuming part of the process
  • Revision

Audio: Alright, and then, the sixth strategy I will talk about is to spend time on revision and proofreading. So, writing in academic American English is often considered a process in the American educational system, students are taught the different steps of writing and there are some distinct steps. There is brainstorming, thinking about ideas. There is drafting, writing a first draft. As a student in elementary school, we would refer to them as "sloppy copies," in a sense that they are kind of like the first go at it and we know that it's going to change as we spend more time on it.

So, after you have kind of gotten something on the page, there's revising. Thinking about maybe moving things around, do I want to keep everything that I wrote, or do would I want to delete parts of it? Do I want to switch two paragraphs around? That kind of thing.

And then, proofreading, so that last, final check of everything. A lot of time, as I mentioned, is spent on these different steps in the process through school. And students are often given feedback at different stages through the process. Some teachers may give feedback on those outlines or on the rough draft. Maybe class time is devoted to peer review or revision.

I mention this because in some cultures there is more of a focus on the product approach to writing, where the final copy of the writing is turned without feedback or without much time for revision. If you came from an educational system where the product is used, you may be surprised by that process we tend to follow in the American educational system. A lot of times, multiple drafts are expected in writing, and that revision is an essential part of the process. And in fact, revision may be the most time-consuming part of the process.

Revision is also iterative, it may happen at different parts of the process, especially at the graduate and doctoral level when drafts are longer in length and will be added to and refined over many weeks or many months. So just understanding the importance of the time commitment, in revision in your own writing process will lead to a better overall end product.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Spend Time on Revision and Proofreading

  • Adjust your expectations
  • Plan for revision time
  • Think big picture
  • Think critically about your revisions
  • Use a Revision Checklist
  • Become a peer reviewer
  • Read your writing out loud
  • Save each draft as its own separate document

Audio: So, some things to just think about when it comes to revision and proofreading is to think about and maybe adjust your expectations. So be aware that the first draft of your writing will probably need to go through the revision process. Even experienced, professional writers are not able to produce their best document the first time. So, when you get feedback from faculty, or maybe from a Writing Center instructor, this is an opportunity to make those changes, make revisions and its expected actually this process will happen. Another tip is to plan for revision time, so give yourself time away from the document. After you have written a draft, if you can give yourself an hour, a day, a week, 20 minutes, so that you can come back and look at the document again with fresh eyes. That's a great strategy.

Think big picture. Remember that the process focuses on your overall ideas, your overall organization. I have linked to a revision checklist on this slide, and you might try that out or adapt it for your own purposes. Think critically about your revisions. So, become aware of your own strengths, your weaknesses as a writer. If you often have difficulty with your conclusions, keep this in mind as you write a new document, so you can focus on this in an earlier draft or if you think you have difficulty with that, get a [indiscernible] word choice, keep this in mind so you can use strategies to improve. For grammar errors, you might use a grammar revision journal which I will show in just a little bit here.

Another strategy is to become a peer reviewer, maybe you could start a writing group or exchange drafts with some of your classmates, peers. Becoming a careful reader and respond or to other people's work help you be more critical as you read and revise your own writing. You might read your own draft aloud. Alternatively, you might have someone else read it aloud to you and this will give you a chance to hear the words outside of your own head, give you an opportunity to listen for how the words and ideas flow together or maybe where they become confusing.

Finally, save each draft as its own separate document. So, each time you revise a draft, save it as a new file, you might say version 2, version 3, something like that. That way, if you want to go back and check out something that you previously wrote, maybe something you had deleted from your current draft, or some things like that, you have access to that previous version.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Spend Time on Revision and Proofreading

Audio: Beyond revising in general, you can also revise for scholarly voice, and I have included some strategies to do that here on this page. So, we have a lot of information on scholarly voice, and that’s where we talk about things like concise writing, maybe varying sentence structure or academic vocabulary. Also, while reading your coursework and other literature in your field, take note of commonly used phrases in your field. Maybe formulaic academic language, so what kinds of phrases are often used in writing in your field? You can use a thesaurus in Microsoft Word or in an online dictionary to search for synonyms of less formal words. So, if you want to make it seem a bit more formal. Do be cautious, however, of accepting a new word without fully understanding its meaning. Not all of fthe options are true synonyms. And the link on this slide leads to a short video with dictionary and thesaurus tips that's definitely worth checking out.

Finally, multilingual writers might find Merriam-Webster's Learners Dictionary especially helpful to provide level of appropriate definitions and definitions about words.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Spend Time on Revision and Proofreading

Audio: Another option to check for phrasing is to use a corpus. A corpus is a large, electronic collection of texts and its searchable. So, you can use it to search and learn about academic phrasing and those formulaic expressions, I mentioned. Basically, to check to see if a phrase sounds natural or appropriate for academic writing or if it seems a bit odd in the context. So, clicking on the link in the first slide will bring you to a video about using a corpus. I have a couple other tips on this slide. The Internet is probably the easiest corpus to use. You can check if a particular phrase is used by just searching for it on the Internet. If you are trying to decide is it "on the other hand" or "in the other hand," you can try searching each one and see what it says. Which one has the most hits?

Google Scholar, you can search for standard phrasing in academic books or articles if you're trying to come up with a title for something to kind of figuring out what's typically used in my field is a good idea.

Then, the final point here, Professor Davies from Brigham Young University designed an academic vocabulary corpus and that focuses just on academic writing. So, this corpus includes definitions, synonyms, example sentences, of the 60,000 most common words in US academic language. That is one with a particularly an academic focus.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Use a Grammar Revision Journal

Grammar Revision Journal:

Let’s take a look!

Download from the files pod!

Audio: All right, I do see that we are running low on time and I was going to show an example of the grammar revision Journal, but I think we’re going to just, we do cover that in some of our other webinars, so I think that I will just pass over that one right now, but you can find it in the Files pod if you would like to check that out.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Proofreading Tips

  • Print out a copy of your writing
  • Proofread backwards
  • Use a ruler/blank sheet of paper

Audio: And then finally, after you're done writing and revising, the last thing you want to do is proofread. So, this is a very important step in the writing process as eliminating those minor errors in your writing will help improve how you present yourself to your readers. It will help improve your credibility. So, I'm going to go through a few proofreading strategies you could use. The idea is not that you should use every one of these, but that you should try a couple, see what works best for you. One is to print out a copy of your writing to proofread, rather than trying to read it on the computer screen, it can kind of give you a different viewpoint. Another idea is to proofread backwards. So, began with the last sentence of your work or your paragraph and then move up. And that will force you to look at the surface level elements, like the grammar and syntax, rather than focusing on the meaning, which is helpful for proofreading.

If you think it's something that would help you, you can place a ruler or a blank sheet of paper under each line as you read it. This will give your eyes a manageable amount of text to read.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Proofreading Tips

  • Know your own typical mistakes
  • Proofread for one type of error at a time
  • Take a break between writing and proofreading

Audio: Know your own mistakes, typical mistakes, maybe based on feedback you have received from a faculty member or a Writing Instructor. Before you proofread, look over your papers you’ve written in the past, make a list of errors which you have made repeatedly so you can look out for them in your current draft. You can also proofread for just one type of error at a time. So, if commas are you most frequent problem, go through the paper checking just for commas. Instead if you have another top error, go through and focus on that.

Try to take a break between writing and proofreading. So, you might set the paper aside for the night or for a couple of days or even for 20 minutes, if that helps maybe give you a fresh brain to look at it again.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Proofreading Tips

  • Proofread at specific time of day
  • Proofread once aloud
  • Be wary of spellcheckers on your computer

Audio: You might also proofread at the time of day when you are most alert to spotting errors. So, for you, is that kind of, right away in the morning? Is it after you've had your coffee? Is it later in the day? When would you be most likely to catch errors?

You might proofread aloud, as I had mentioned previously. So, this might slow down your process. You might be able to hear the difference between what you meant to write, what you actually wrote. And then, just do be wary of spellcheckers on your computer. Use them, of course, but do so carefully, and maybe don't entirely rely on them. They do sometimes make errors. They might suggest a word that isn't what you wanted to say at all. So, kind of use them maybe with a little caution.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Spend Time on Revision and Proofreading

A Few Writing Center Resources:

Audio: And here are some further resources that you might check out on revision and proofreading.

 

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

Audio: Then, I will just highlight very quickly some Writing Center resources. Hopefully you have checked out our homepage. We do also have a page for multilingual students, so that's all of the resources that might be particularly helpful for students who have learned English as maybe a second or subsequent language. And then also, the paper review service is really great for getting some individualized feedback on your work. We have a whole team of Writing Instructors who are very kind and interested in helping you better understand the writing process and so you can get some really great  feedback from them.

 

Visual: Slide changes to following: Reviews for Social Change Next Week! October 15-19, 2018

Are you writing for social change outside of your Walden coursework? Get feedback on your writing during the Global Days of Service! 

Students can submit writing such as 

  • Grants  
  • Community resources (newsletters, brochures, etc.)  
  • Letters to legislators or editors
  • Articles or blog posts for publication 

Learn more about Reviews for Social Change on our website.

Audio: And, just before I wrap up, I want to let you know about something really exciting going on next week. Next week is Walden University's Global Days of Service. So that's when Walden’s faculty, staff and students participate in volunteer activities for social change. And the Writing Center staff, for the first time, I think, will be offering a unique option for Walden students. So, during the Reviews for Social Change event next week, Walden students can submit writing that is related to work towards social change and get a review from a Writing Center instructor. These reviews are for writing that is not related to your Walden coursework. So, if you are interested in making this appointment and submitting some of your own writing towards social change, you can click on that link for more information.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions: Ask Now or Later

writingsupport@waldenu.edu •  Live Chat Hours

Learn More:

Grammar webinars, including “Mastering the Mechanics” series.

Strategies for Success webinars, including “What Is Academic Writing?”

Audio: With that, I will wrap up what I have and pass it back to you, Michael, do let me know if there are any questions that I can answer.

Michael:  Awesome, thanks a lot Amy, for taking us through all those great strategies for addressing grammar issues within your writing, things like revision and all that. That was awesome. I don't really have any questions for you from the Q&A box. But I would encourage those of you who have questions, or who have questions come to you later on after this webinar, go ahead and send them to that email address right there, writingsupport@waldenu.edu. Beyond that as you can see at the bottom of the slide, we have a couple other webinars, Mastering the Mechanics is one which might be helpful to you if you found this webinar helpful. Also, the "What is academic writing strategies for success" webinar might be another that might be of use to you if you found this webinar useful. Again, I will say thank you to Amy Bakke our presenter, and thank you to you guys for being a participatory audience. Have a great day.

 

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