© Walden University Writing Center 2019
CLAIRE: Welcome to WriteCast: A casual conversation for serious writers, a monthly podcast by the Walden University Writing Center. I’m Claire Helakoski,
KACY: and I’m Kacy Walz. Today on WriteCast, we’ll talk about you can turn a discussion post into a paper.
CLAIRE: Many Walden courses require student to compose discussion posts and respond to classmates’ posts over the length of class. These posts provide a helpful way to illustrate your understanding of different topics, and readings, and they allow for a kind of virtual conversation among your peers in your classroom.
KACY: And I think I’m pretty familiar with these posts through our paper review service. I always enjoy reading students’ thoughts and observations on so many different topics!
CLAIRE: Me too! I think discussion posts are really great way for students to kind of get out their ideas about their reading and be able to share them among their classmates
KACY: I agree, and sometimes I think discussion posts kind of get a bad reputation because they sort of seem like busy work, and I know Walden students are often already so busy, have so much going on, but I think—like so many other things in life—discussion posts really are what you make of them. So, if you only think of them as busy work, you’re probably not going to get much more out of them than that. But, what if instead of looking them discussion posts as stand-alone assignments, you tried to think of them as stepping stones to larger papers and projects?
I know the hardest part of writing for me is often just staring at that blank computer screen, wondering where to begin. But, a well planned and thoughtful discussion post can provide a solid starting point. Which means, no dreaded blank screen!
CLAIRE: And, there are probably two main ways that students can kind of go about using those posts in their process for writing those larger papers, helping prevent that blank screen...and those are: pre-conceptualizing discussion posts as sort of a smaller element of a larger project, so in that case when you start the post with the goal of using them for a longer paper, and second, you could review past posts for developable content. So, you’ve written your post, you weren’t planning to use them for a larger paper initially, but now you might want to use them as a starting point or sort of additional point in a project that you’re working on. So, we’ll break down how to kind of go through each of these situations individually today.
KACY: The first scenario is something to shoot for at the start of a course. This is kind of the ideal situation. So, often times you’ll have a pretty good (if not exact) idea of what your assignments are going to be throughout the course. So, with thoughtful planning, you can structure your discussion posts in a way that will leave you in a really good place when it comes time to draft that longer course paper.
CLAIRE: And you can use your syllabus and kind of your course schedule to figure out what your longer paper’s going to require. If you have a general sense of what you might want to write about, you can use those discussion posts as a way to try out different arguments or ideas. For example, if you need at least six peer-reviewed sources, you could try to find and work those six sources into your discussion posts over the length of the class. Because that will give you some time to not only look over them, but to practice writing about them. And, then you can use the comments from your classmates and instructors to help you develop your ideas further, and how these resources might be synthesized into a strong academic argument.
KACY: You can also use your discussion posts to try out different ideas. I think that’s one of my favorite parts of reading these discussion posts in paper reviews. So, in academic writing, it’s important to think about the “nay-sayers” or what counter-arguments you might encounter. But, the discussion board model actually provides you with readers who can directly tell you what these arguments might be. So, no need to guess, right? They might also give you alternate views to consider, or different ways of looking at your source material – and that can be extremely helpful.
CLAIRE: Right, it’s so nice to have classmates who are reading the same things as you are from week to week, to give you that input on content. Which is one of the things that we can’t really comment on in the Writing Center. So, you know, really use your peers because they’re in the same situation as you and dealing with the same content from week to week. So, they’re very valuable input on that information.
CLAIRE: Alright, so that’s the first scenario. In the second scenario we talked about, where you’ve got a prompt for a long paper and you want to see if any of the posts you’ve already written could be useful...you can follow this general process:
Discussion posts are a really great chance to practice writing in scholarly style, organizing ideas on a smaller scale, so that you can inform your work later on. And that way even if the content doesn’t end up transferring to a larger paper, the practice and the skills of writing and collecting and focusing ideas, do.
KACY: I love that idea, Claire. And I think that’s definitely something that your peers and other comments you receive on those discussion posts could really, really help you with.
You might also think of your collection of posts as a kind of informal annotated bibliography, or like a literature review. So, you don’t necessarily need to limit yourself to the posts you’ve written for a single course. One of the beauties of technology is that you can save your posts right on your computer, or in a hard drive, or in the Cloud. I know I still have some of the papers that I wrote as an undergraduate saved on a hard drive. And, I mean, who knows when I might need a broad examination of the British spy system during World War II or an explication of “The Anecdote of the Jar,” right?
CLAIRE: And I already admitted to saving pretty much every version of a draft I write for a paper in our “Killing Your Darlings” episode. Beyond digital hoarding, I have a basement full of notebooks, of things I’ve written, notes I’ve taken, lessons I’ve taught, and I do go back and pull things from these places from time to time.
KACY: Of course, it’s important to avoid self-plagiarism (which is a thing!) and we’ll link to some more information on that in the episode show notes. But, there’s no reason for your hard work and thoughtful commentary to only be used once. So, as you review different posts, see if you can pick out common themes, or if you notice potential connections between various discussion topics. Reviewing your earlier thoughts and considering them with fresh eyes and as a more experienced scholar could lead you to synthesis and argumentation you wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.
CLAIRE: I want to say, too, that you know, if you’re really worried about self-plagiarism, often if it’s a post for within the same course, your instructor is kind of, you know, expecting you to draw on (not copy-and-paste the exact post you wrote) but to draw on that information. That’s kind of a general expectation within the same course, I think. And if you’re ever worried about it, you can definitely ask your faculty member on their preferences. But that’s been my experience.
And another possible positive of saving that past work and looking at it later, so we’re talking multiple courses potentially of discussion posts, is that it’ll enable you to see how much you’ve grown in thought, like Kacy mentioned in thinking about that analysis and argumentation. But, it will also help you look at how you’ve grown in your writing skills. I know that when I look back at my past work, sometimes I think, “why didn’t I see that I was being convoluted or confusing? Why didn’t I revise this more?” That type of reflection can show you how much you’ve grown even throughout a single semester, and help build your confidence and just kind of be a time-capsule of your progress as a writer. Because it can be hard to see without that kind of concrete evidence.
KACY: So, I hope you’ll think about this episode the next time you have a discussion post to write. And, maybe you’ll be able to think of it more as a first step to something larger, rather than just an annoying assignment, or something that’s going to take up your time.
CLAIRE: And don’t forget, for Walden students, we’re happy to help with paper reviews for any writing stage from discussion post to preproposal documents in our Paper Review schedule. Thanks for listening! And, until next time, keep writing
KACY: Keep inspiring!
KACY: WriteCast is a monthly podcast produced by the Walden University Writing Center. Visit our online Writing Center at academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter. Find more WriteCast episodes on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your favorite podcast app. We would love to hear from you! Connect with us on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for listening!