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WriteCast Episode 45: Meet Your Reviewer: Katherine McKinney, Writing Instructor and PhD Student

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WriteCast Episode 45: Meet Your Reviewer: Katherine McKinney, Writing Instructor and PhD Student

© Walden University Writing Center 2017



[Introduction music]



MAX: Welcome to Write Cast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers, a monthly podcast by the Walden University Writing Center. I’m Max Philbrook,


CLAIRE: and I’m Claire Helakoski.

In today’s episode we’re talking with Katherine McKinney, one of the Writing Center’s newest Writing Instructors. If you’re a Walden student who has had a paper review with Katherine, or if you’re considering using our paper review service, you’ll learn a bit more about Katherine and her review approach today. Even if you’re not a Walden student, keep listening to learn about Katherine’s best advice for student writers.


MAX: Hello Katherine, welcome, how are you today?


KATHERINE: Hi, I’m well, thank you for having me.


MAX: Absolutely. Could you briefly tell us a little bit about yourself? How long have you worked here at Walden? What’s your academic background? Where are you located?


KATHERINE: Well, I have worked at Walden since August 2017, which is not very long, and I’m definitely learning a lot being here. I have a bachelors and a masters in English from Valdosta State University in Georgia. And I’ve been working with students since 2003 in writing centers. And I began teaching at the college level in 2007. So, I have some experience teaching writing and working in writing centers. I’m now located in Orlando, FL.


CLAIRE: Well it sounds nice to be in Florida at this time of the year. Max and I are much further north and enjoying the cold weather. So, Katherine, you work with a lot of different types of assignments that students submit for our paper review service. Is there a type of paper or assignment that you particularly enjoy reading and reviewing?


KATHERINE: I really enjoy discussion posts. Because I feel that they are mini-essays just waiting to be further developed into an awesome, full-fledged assignment. So I really enjoy seeing students take this kernel of an idea and develop it into the answer to these questions. And it’s just so interesting to, you know, as I review, think about how this could be expanded upon and how it could relate to other parts of what the student has talked about in the discussion, or how that, you know, just how that could be expanded in general.


MAX: That is really a fun part of working with students, is seeing their process kind of develop over time. I think that’s a really fun perk of working in the Walden Writing Center because you get to see that over time. Are there any assignments that you’ve had fun with? I mean are there anything that jumps out at you so far? Any particular discipline, maybe? Is it the most fun working with nurses or educators or any kind of perception on students in that way?


KATHERINE: I always learn a lot whenever I have anyone in the healthcare field, although I also am always sort of feeling a little bit out of my element reading these $5 words that I don’t understand. [LAUGHS] I really enjoy working with educators because, you know, of course I feel a little bit more in my element there. But at the same time, I think that all of these core elements of a discussion post or an assignment are there, whatever the subject matter is, and you can see that develop over time.


MAX: Absolutely. So you already kind of touched on this, but Katherine, how would you describe your reviewing style or your approach to working with student writers?


KATHERINE: I would say that I tend to take a holistic approach wherein I like to take the assignment and read it as a whole first. And I like to feel like I fully understand it and know where the student is heading in it, so that I can then have a better idea of where my review might need to focus, whether that might be in clarity and idea development, or maybe some APA issues, or grammatical concerns, or maybe a little bit of all three. And that just really depends on the essay that I’m looking at.


CLAIRE: Yeah, I think that sounds pretty similar to my approach, too. I really like when students attach their assignment prompt so that I can get an understanding of what the big goals are and really help facilitate meeting those. I know that excites me as a reviewer, and it sounds like it excites you as well. Should students be scared of their reviews at all? Can they look forward to some encouragement from you, Katherine?


KATHERINE: Oh absolutely. In fact, when I provide a review, before I write anything about, you know, “you might want to consider improvement here” or anything like that, the first thing I do is find what I really enjoyed about the assignments. And that might be, “hey you have amazing topic sentences, I feel like I know exactly what to expect in every single paragraph,” or “Wow, your thesis statement really gave me a great understanding of what you discussed in each body paragraph.” So even though we’re looking at, you know, of course the student made the appointment because he or she wants to improve the assignment, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate what’s going really well and use that as a jumping point for the rest of the assignment.


CLAIRE: Definitely, and I think that’s a good reminder to students. We all work to give positive feedback, too. On that note, Katherine, what’s the best piece of writing advice that you’ve received, just in general?


KATHERINE: So this is going to sound a little weird. The best writing advice I ever received was in grad school. And it was a professor who told me that writing is never finished, only abandoned. And in a way that almost sounds not positive at all. [LAUGHS] But, it’s actually very freeing if you think about it because it says there is no finishing it, there is no perfection. You can always change a piece of writing. Someone else will write on a topic completely differently that you would. So it’s freeing to say that it’s not about when the paper is finished or when it is perfect, it’s about when you choose to end it, when you decide you have finished with the process. And I think that that helped me a lot as I was writing in grad school.


MAX: I like the way that kind of resonates with some of the writing process material that we try and, that we kind of use as a backbone to our pedagogy here. That’s really interesting. It’s never over, it’s never ended, it’s only abandoned.


KATHERINE: Absolutely.


MAX: Awesome. Thank you so much for spending your time with us today, Katherine. Is there anything else you wanted to say to our student writers out there?


KATHERINE: Come have an appointment with me today. I would love that. Also, just so you know, I am currently working in the doctoral program at Walden, so I feel like I’ve, sort of, really understanding the student position as well as the Writing Instructor position on assignments and things like that. So, I hope that if you do decide to schedule a review with me, that you’ll enjoy it and think of it more as just facilitation of your writing, or just someone, an extra set of eyes to look at it. Because I’m in the same position you are.


MAX: There you have it, listeners. If you are a Walden writer, who is interested in comparing notes with a writing instructor who knows where you’re coming from, make an appointment with Katherine McKinney.


CLAIRE: Thanks so much for being here today, Katherine.


KATHERINE: I really appreciate you guys having me.


MAX: Yeah, thank you very much, Katherine.


CLAIRE: All right. We mentioned a bunch of really great topics today, and we do have some additional resources for them. So, all the resources are going to be linked in the blog post from this episode. So you can find the blog at and find the links to these resources we’re going to mention. First off, we talked a little bit about how discussion posts can be preparation for a larger paper. We have a recorded webinar, Developing a Paper: From Discussion Post to Course Paper, that you can check out.


MAX: We also have a WriteCast episode called “Transitioning to Master’s-Level Writing,” which is episode 37. Which you can find wherever you download your podcast from.


CLAIRE: Thank you so much for listening today, Walden students, and additional listeners. We hope you’ll come back and see us again here at WriteCast.




MAX: WriteCast is a production of the Walden University Writing Center. You can find past episodes on iTunes and on our website, We’d love to hear from you. Connect with us on Facebook, on Twitter @WUWritingCenter, and on our blog: Thanks for listening!