Walden University Writing Center -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Recent Posts

WriteCast Episode 15: What To Do With Negative Feedback on Your Writing

Feeling frustrated, discouraged, or confused about feedback on your writing? Want to know how to handle these feelings in the future? Don't miss our discussion with Dr. Melanie Brown, associate director and manager of writing initiatives at the Walden Writing Center. Dr. Brown also teaches Walden student support courses, and she has a lot of helpful advice for students on what to do with negative faculty feedback. Stream or download the episode below, or view the transcript, and share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Episode 15 Transcript

Blog posts mentioned in this episode: "Help Them Help You: Being Receptive to Faculty Feedback"


is hosted by writing instructors Nikolas Nadeau and Brittany Kallman Arneson and produced by writing instructor Anne Shiell. Check out the podcast archive for more episodes. 

Never miss a new post; Opt-out at any time

How to Give Useful Peer Feedback

No comments
Throughout this article are 12 "tweetable takeaways." Click on a Twitter icon () to share one of Lydia's peer review tips. 

Giving and getting peer feedback on drafts can be an incredible tool for improving your writing, but only if that feedback is clear and specific about what to do next. Having someone say, “I liked it!” or “Well done!” can feel good for a moment, but it won’t help anyone improve.

You also don’t have to “know everything” to give helpful writing feedback; just be self-aware about your own reading experience. The whole point of feedback is to just show the author what a reader will see in a draft. 

women discuss over a laptop
Is peer review part of your writing process? 

General Strategies

Find out what the author wants, but keep in mind you may see things the author hasn’t considered yet, too. Peer review tweetable takeaway

Don’t give too much; don’t give too little. Sometimes it is not helpful to point out every error and make suggestions on every line—this can be overwhelming. Vague or incomplete feedback can be just as frustrating and can feel like a waste of time. Peer review tweetable takeaway

Follow the golden rule. Give the kind of feedback that you would like to get. That is, be respectful, constructive, thorough, and honest. Peer review tweetable takeaway

Trust yourself as a reader. If something is not clear to you, the author probably needs to make it clearer. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense because the author hasn’t made sense of it yet. Peer review tweetable takeaway

Content Critique versus Error Correction

You don’t need to be a grammar or APA expert to give worthwhile feedback. Address the big things first! For example, if you are reading over someone’s problem statement, it is probably more important that the author made sure you could understand the point than if he or she used a semicolon correctly. Focus on content and clarity before you focus on mechanical errors, like typos or missing punctuation. Proofreading concerns should come last unless they significantly interfere with a reader’s overall understanding. Peer review tweetable takeaway

Thinking of Things to Say

Keep track of questions that occur to you as you read. For example: How does this point relate to the one before? What does this term mean? Is there a missing word here? Peer review tweetable takeaway

Offer concrete suggestions whenever you can. For example: This paragraph might work better at the beginning. I was confused here—maybe a subheading would make the transition clearer. Peer review tweetable takeaway 

Examples of things to focus on in a content critique:
  • Organization (are things in a logical order?)
  • Consistency/contradiction (does the author say the same thing throughout or seem to change his or her mind?)
  • Focus (can you tell what the main ideas are, or is there a lot of extra information?)
  • General clarity (make note of passages that don’t seem to make sense to you, either because the wording is confusing, there is not enough explanation, or you can’t tell how the information fits in to the main idea)
  • Point out when authors do something well, too, and let them know why. For example: The obvious topic sentences really helped me follow your argument. The wording in this paragraph is clear and easy to understand. Explaining it this way is much better than in the earlier paragraph—now I know what you mean. 

Don’t Get Stuck

If you can’t find something positive to say about a draft, look at it from another perspective: The wording is dense and hard for you to understand, but maybe you can really tell how knowledgeable the author is about the topic. (When people have a lot to say, sometimes it just takes a few drafts to make sure they say everything in the right order.) Peer review tweetable takeaway

If you come across something you just don’t understand, tell the author this, but also say what you think it means—sometimes when an author hears a reader’s interpretation (or misinterpretation) of an idea, the author can more easily figure out what to fix. Peer review tweetable takeaway

If you can’t find anything to critique, focus on making sure the author knows why what he or she did worked. Don’t just say “This is awesome!” Be specific: “I could really tell how all the scholarly evidence fit together—the way you explained things and gave examples was really helpful.” Peer review tweetable takeaway

Interpreting Feedback for Your Own Work

Try not to take it personally—you are very close to your own writing and may think you have settled on the right way to do things. What makes sense in your head may not make sense in someone else’s.

Be grateful! Thoughtful feedback takes time and mental energy. If someone has a lot of suggestions, don’t think of it as “tearing your paper apart;” think of how many ways he or she is trying to make it better.

You don’t have to follow every suggestion, but keep an open mind. A fresh pair of eyes may catch something you missed.

Getting #writing feedback: Don't take it personally, be grateful, & stay open-minded. 
Tweet this 

Giving and getting peer review feedback is an excellent way to develop your skills as a writer. We encourage you to join a writing community and/or find a writing partner to make peer review a regular part of your writing process.

Practice: Find a draft of something you wrote a while ago. Pick something you haven’t written or read recently so that you have some distance from it. Take 10-15 minutes to read over and make comments on the draft, imagining you are giving feedback to a colleague on his or her work. What kinds of things do you notice? What suggestions for revision can you make?


Lydia Lunning is one of the editors in the Writing Center who conduct the final form and style review of all of Walden’s dissertations and doctoral studies. She was terrible at revising her own work until she joined a peer tutoring program in college.

Never miss a new post; Opt-out at any time

Ready, Set, Write! It’s time for #NaNoWriMo and #AcWriMo.

Do you thrive under pressure? Need to set a few goals for yourself and your writing? Want to challenge yourself in your writing?

November marks the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo). This is the month for writers and academics across the globe to come together for accountability and motivation to start that novel they’ve always wanted to write or to work on an academic writing project. It’s a great chance for writers to get involved in a goal-oriented and fun writing community!

AcWriMo: Are you in?

Have you ever considered jumping on the writing bandwagon? Tobias Ball (Dissertation Editor and Developmental Editing Coordinator), Amber Cook (Manager of Program Outreach and Faculty Support), and Nathan Sacks (Writing Instructor) of our Writing Center staff have participated or are considering participating in NaNoWriMo. Here’s what they have to say:

Why did you choose to participate in AcWriMo and/or NaNoWriMo?

Tobias Ball (Dissertation Editor and Developmental Editing Coordinator): “I did it because [a coworker] ...suggested I give it a try. I had an idea for a novel that I had not yet started, so I went for it.”

Amber Cook (Manager of Program Outreach and Faculty Support): “I needed a kickstart for a writing project I’d been dreaming about for a while. I was always overwhelmed at the idea of committing to such a long-term goal, so having a month-long challenge made it seem much more doable.”

Nathan Sacks (Writing Instructor): “Any writing practice is good writing practice, and I look at NaNoWriMo as a chance to work on a completely new project I have never thought of or worked on before.”

You participated in NaNoWriMo in the past. What were the drawbacks to participating?

Tobias: “There were no drawbacks. It was fun and I wrote 85,000 words in 4 weeks. It felt good to start and complete something.”

Amber: “I got really behind on my Netflix queue. :) [Also] November is a tough month, with Thanksgiving travel and pre-holiday business, and I lost some steam at the end last time. I have a desk job, so it was sometimes hard to make myself spend yet another few hours at a desk for so many days in a row.”

What particular challenges did you experience or do you expect to encounter?

Tobias: “My regular pattern is to start my day with about an hour of writing. […] I added some writing time at night.”

Nathan: “If you can’t write one day because of an emergency or other reason, it may be harder to get back on the saddle and keep working for the rest of November. [Another challenge is] running up against the limits of my knowledge and imagination, which is always when I generate the best stuff.”

What benefit would it be to Walden students to participate in AcWriMo and/or NaNoWriMo?

Amber: “The short-term nature of the challenge helps keep the end in sight, so it doesn’t seem as overwhelming as, say, a 12-month project. It also provides a helpful accountability framework, allowing you to connect with others on the same solitary journey and reminding you to stay on track with your page count.”

Are YOU up for the challenge? See PhD2Published's AcWriMo 2014 announcement and the NaNoWriMo official website for more details.
Practice: For the next 10 minutes, think about a writing goal that you have for this month. Then, declare your goal in the comments! Remember to provide feedback to other writers to help them stay motivated and accountable towards their goals.  


Rachel Grammer
 is a writing instructor and the coordinator of student messaging at the Walden Writing Center. The best writing advice she has received is to turn off the "internal editor" when beginning a paper--a great tip for starting AcWriMo or NaNoWriMo!

Never miss a new post; Opt-out at any time

Writing Center Services Announcement from the Director

No comments
As many of you have probably heard by now, the Writing Center and Academic Skills Center have recalibrated their services to better support student writing at Walden. In short, we are (a) adding doctoral writing workshops for capstone (premise, prospectus, and proposal) writers and (b) shifting of our paper review service to serve undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students in coursework only. This means that by the end of the year our paper review schedule will no longer accommodate capstone drafts, but all of our other services (e.g., course visits, developmental editing, Q&A support, webinars) will continue to support capstone writers.

The rationale for this change is twofold: We want to (a) reserve skill-building sessions for those students still in the formative stages of their degrees and (b) create a scalable service via the workshops to ensure that all students needing assistance at this stage can be supported (e.g., we can continue to grow our faculty to accommodate our enrollment).

While this change may be welcome to some and less so to others, I do want to remind you about all of the services we offer with the following figure.

Walden Writing Center Services

Writing Center Services


Available to All Students
Exclusive to Students Working on Their Capstones
Exclusive to Undergraduate Students
Exclusive to All PreProposal Students
* Available via the Walden Writing Center website
** Membership may be requested at editor@waldenu.edu
ǂ 24-48 hours from day of appointment, exclusive to students working on their coursework

Questions or concerns can always be sent my way at brian.timmerman@waldenu.edu.


Brian Timmerman is the director of the Walden Writing Center and the Academic Skills Center.

Never miss a new post; Opt-out at any time

From the Archives: Writing Through Fear

Happy Halloween, readers! Today seems like the perfect day to resurrect Hillary's post on working through writing fear, originaly published in 2013. 

I suppose fall is the perfect time to discuss fear. The leaves are falling, the nights are getting longer, and the kids are preparing ghoulish costumes and tricks for Halloween.

So here’s my scary story: A few weeks ago, I sat down at my computer to revise an essay draft for an upcoming deadline. This is old hat for me; it’s what I do in my personal life as a creative writer, and it’s what I do in my professional life as a Walden Writing Center instructor. As I was skimming through it, though, a feeling of dread settled in my stomach, I began to sweat, and my pulse raced. I was having full-on panic. About my writing. 

Tips from the Walden Writing Center on writing through fear

This had never happened to me before. Sure, I have been disappointed in my writing, frustrated that I couldn’t get an idea perfectly on paper, but not completely fear-stricken. I Xed out of the Word document and watched Orange Is the New Black on Netflix because I couldn’t look at the essay anymore. My mind was too clouded for anything productive to happen.

The experience got me thinking about the role that fear plays in the writing process. Sometimes fear can be a great motivator. It might make us read many more articles than are truly necessary, just so we feel prepared enough to articulate a concept. It might make us stay up into the wee hours to proofread an assignment. But sometimes fear can lead to paralysis. Perhaps your anxiety doesn’t manifest itself as panic at the computer; it could be that you worry about the assignment many days—or even weeks—before it is due.

Here are some tips to help: 

1. Interrogate your fear. 

Ask yourself why you are afraid. Is it because you fear failure, success, or judgment? Has it been a while since you’ve written academically, and so this new style of writing is mysterious to you?

2. Write through it. 

We all know the best way to work through a problem is to confront it. So sit at your desk, look at the screen, and write. You might not even write your assignment at first. Type anything—a reflection on your day, why writing gives you anxiety, your favorite foods. Sitting there and typing will help you become more comfortable with the prospect of more.

3. Give it a rest.

This was my approach. After realizing that I was having an adverse reaction, I called it quits for the day, which ultimately helped reset my brain.

4. Find comfort in ritual and reward. 

Getting comfortable with writing might involve establishing a ritual (a time of day, a place, a song, a warm-up activity, or even food or drink) to get yourself into the writing zone. If you accomplish a goal or write for a set amount of time, reward yourself.

5. Remember that knowledge is power. 

Sometimes the only way to assuage our fear is to know more. Perhaps you want to learn about the writing process to make it less intimidating. Check out the Writing Center’s website for tips and tutorials that will increase your confidence. You can also always ask your instructor questions about the assignment.

6. Break it down. 

If you feel overwhelmed about the amount of pages or the vastness of the assignment, break it up into small chunks. For example, write one little section of the paper at a time.

7. Buddy up. 

Maybe you just need someone with whom to share your fears—and your writing. Ask a classmate to be a study buddy. 

The writing centers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Richmond, as well as the news site Inside Higher Ed, also have helpful articles on writing anxiety.

Practice: For the next 10 minutes, think about your own writing fears. What writing tasks or assignments make you anxious? How do you, or how will you, work through them? Share your practice in the comments below this post, and don't forget to give feedback to fellow writers.


Hillary Wentworth
 is a writing instructor and the coordinator of undergraduate instruction. She has worked in the Walden Writing Center since 2010, and she enjoys roller-skating and solving crossword puzzles.

Never miss a new post; Opt-out at any time