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Learning the Rules of the Game, Part 2: Meeting Your Readers' Expectations

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This month: Approaching Writing From Different Languages and Traditions | Walden University Writing Center Blog

This month on the podcast and blog, we're featuring topics related to approaching writing from different languages and traditions. While anyone can enjoy these topics, we hope they'll be of particular interest to international students and students who speak multiple languages. Need to catch up on what you missed? Check out our latest WriteCast episode: Writing Expectations at U.S. Colleges and Universities and Amy's post Learning the Rules of the Game, Part I: English Academic Writing.


In the Writing Center, we talk a lot about following an academic rhetorical style; we typically call it scholarly writing or academic writing. Basically, scholarly writing includes a number of norms and guidelines, some of which are often not explained as requirements in assignment prompts. In an academic setting, readers expect that the writing will follow the rules of scholarly writing. The reader may be confused or have a hard time reading and understanding a written work if it does not follow what is typical and expected for the genre. Following these rules means you will be more successful at effective communication in an English academic environment. It might also help your grade. Nice perk, right?


Learning the Rules of the Game, Part 2: Meeting Your Readers' Expectations via the Walden University Writing Center Blog

So, if you’re wondering where to start, let me give you a few of the norms and guidelines.  You can find a lot more about how to effectively follow the rules of academic writing in English in our website section on scholarly writing.

Norms and guidelines of scholarly writing

1. Organization

In English academic writing, readers expect to see an introductory paragraph or section in which the writer discusses the main idea of the paper and includes a thesis statement that is concise, specific, and arguable. Academic writing in English is very straightforward. In the introduction, the writer should tell the reader about the main idea of the paper and what she or he is going to discuss in the paper.

Each body paragraph within the paper should have one clear focus that relates back to the purpose of the paper, as stated in the thesis statement. Within each paragraph, there should not be any extra information that does not relate to the purpose/focus of the paragraph.

Finally, it is common to include a conclusion paragraph or section that sums up the ideas from the paper and also may relate the information in the paper to a larger purpose, such as the current research in a field or possible future implications.

2. Tone

Use clear language that will easily be understood by the reader. Using casual wording and contractions may make your draft sound informal. Also, avoid metaphors because they may not be universally understood. 

3. Audience

When writing in an English academic context, as a general rule, do not assume that the reader has the same background knowledge as you do. It is the writer’s role to fully explain ideas so that the reader, who may have little contextual or background information about the topic, can understand the ideas in the paper. Including an introduction that addresses the overall topic of the paper is one important step in providing some background information for the reader. Also, as you mention ideas, theories, or terminology for the first time in a draft, explain what they are or what they mean to the reader. For more discussion about how and why to consider your audience when you write, check out Hillary's blog post

4. Giving credit (aka citing sources)

In English academic writing, readers will expect that you will often use evidence and ideas from other writers, researchers, and organizations to support your arguments. When doing so, you need to always explain where you read about or found the information. Citing sources is a way to acknowledge the hard work of the people who researched a topic before you. Also, it builds your credibility as an author and researcher if you can show that there is evidence to support your arguments. If writers do not accurately cite sources, they commit plagiarism, which can have harsh consequences. You can learn more about effectively citing sources by viewing our archived webinar Using and Crediting Sources in APA.

By making sure that you have clear organization, a scholarly tone, an idea of the audience for your draft, and citations for your sources, you will be on the right track to ensure that you meet the expectations of your readers, effectively communicate your ideas, and be successful throughout your academic career. 
We're always looking for ways to improve our resources. If you're a current international and/or multilingual Walden student, please take our brief survey to help us improve our services for you. The survey link will remain posted here as long as the survey is active. Thank you!


author

Amy Lindquist
is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. She enjoys working with students from around the world on academic writing and the English Language. She's a bit of a grammar nerd. When not working, she spends time practicing yoga, sewing, and playing with her new puppy, Bauer. 


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Learning the Rules of the Game, Part 1: English Academic Writing

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This month: Approaching Writing From Different Languages and Traditions | Walden University Writing Center Blog

This month on the podcast and blog, we're featuring topics related to approaching writing from different languages and traditions. While anyone can enjoy these topics, we hope they'll be of particular interest to international students and students who speak multiple languages. Did you miss our first post in the series? Check out our latest WriteCast episode: Writing Expectations at U.S. Colleges and Universities.

Games have specific rules--rules about taking turns or what you can and cannot do when it is your turn. Sometimes, a game has different rules depending on who you play with. For example, when I play golf with my friends, we’re rather lenient with the rules; however, if I were to ever play in a professional tournament (which is very unlikely), I would need to follow every rule.   


Learning the Rules of the Game, Part 1: English Academic Writing via the Walden University Writing Center Blog

In some games, if you don’t follow the rules, you might get penalized or kicked out of the game. Likewise, by knowing the rules, you have a much better chance of succeeding in the game. You can better strategize and play when you know what you can, cannot, should, or should not do in a game.

The writing game

You might be thinking, well, what does this have to do with writing? Quite a bit, actually. It has to do with rhetorical styles and expectations. If rhetoric is a scary word to you, don’t worry! I’ll explain.

Rhetoric refers to speaking or writing that is typically meant to persuade or influence listeners or readers; it includes things like tone and organization of ideas. Different rhetorical styles and writing contexts have different rules, which are actually more like guidelines or norms. However, these rules are often not explicitly stated. They might be learned with time and experience, or they might be learned through observation or instruction. A lot of writers follow these rules, but some of those writers may not even realize that they are following them or that they exist. When writers do not follow the norms or guidelines for a specific context, it may cause confusion, turmoil, and chaos. Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic, but the reality is that it could cause reader confusion, which may translate into ineffective communication of ideas and a poor grade on an assignment.

Considering your writing context, purpose, and audience

Before we discuss some of these rules, let’s consider two different writing contexts and the possible similarities and differences: an e-mail to my friend and this blog post. In an e-mail to my friend, like the example below, I will probably use rather casual language. I may not use well-organized paragraphs, or even full sentences for that matter. I might refer back to a previous experience without clearly explaining the context. I might joke around and discuss various topics within a short e-mail.
Hey Monica, 
How's it going? I finally finished my final paper. Done! How was Jeff's birthday party? Hannah said she couldn't make it--did you guys all have fun? Oh, and did you two finally plan your trip to San Diego? So wish I could come!

Miss you, Amy
On the other hand, in this blog post, I have one clear purpose. I created a title that captures the overall idea of my post, and I am making sure that all of the content in my post revolves around a main idea. I am intentionally crafting paragraphs with a single focus. I use somewhat casual language, but the language is more formal than in my e-mail to my friend. In the two different contexts, there are differences in my tone, organization, focus, writing purpose, and audience. Also, I give much more explanation and background information in the blog post than in the e-mail.

Now, think about how these two writing contexts might differ from an academic paper or capstone study. Writing in English, and in all other languages, looks different depending on the purpose or the context of the writing. Readers actually expect the writing to be different depending on the context. Imagine if you wrote a paper for one of your courses using the style, language, and organization that you use when writing an e-mail to a close friend: abbreviated words and contractions, short or undefined paragraphs, informal language, and/or humor. It likely wouldn’t seem like an academic paper, because it wouldn’t be following the norms of an academic rhetorical style.

Check in next week for my post with some specific tips to help you meet your readers’ expectations for an academic paper.


We're always looking for ways to improve our resources. If you're a current international and/or multilingual Walden student, please take our brief survey to help us improve our services for you. The survey link will remain posted here as long as the survey is active. Thank you!


author

Amy Lindquist is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. She enjoys working with students from around the world on academic writing and the English Language. She's a bit of a grammar nerd. When not working, she spends time practicing yoga, sewing, and playing with her new puppy, Bauer. 


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WriteCast Episode 21: Writing Expectations at U.S. Colleges and Universities

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This month: Approaching Writing From Different Languages and Traditions | Walden University Writing Center Blog

This month on the podcast and blog, we're featuring topics related to approaching writing from different languages and traditions. While anyone can enjoy these topics, we hope they'll be of particular interest to international students and students who speak multiple languages. 

We're starting off the month with our 21st WriteCast episode: Writing Expectations at U.S. Colleges and Universities. Beth and Brittany talk about different styles and expectations within and outside of the U.S. rhetorical tradition (as well as what that means). 

Stream or download the episode below, and don't forget to share your thoughts in the comments! If you're reading this post via email, click the post's title to visit the blog, where you can stream or download the episode. 



Episode transcript
We're always looking for ways to improve our resources. If you're a current international and/or multilingual Walden student, please take our brief survey to help us improve our services for you. The survey link will remain posted here as long as the survey is active. Thank you!


author

Anne Shiell
 is a writing instructor and the coordinator of social media resources at the Walden Writing Center. Anne also produces WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast.


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Outlining Your Outline, Part II: Example Paper Assignment

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Writing and Time Series | Walden Writing Center Blog

This month, we're talking about topics related to writing and time. Need to catch up on what you missed? Check out our latest WriteCast episode for Beth and Brian's discussion of favorite (and free!) apps you can use to save you time when you write, Beth's reflection on what she learned from writing her master's thesisSarah's 5 tips for writing when you have no time, and Ellen's post explaining the benefits of outlining your outline.  

Last week, I wrote about a time-management strategy called outlining an outline, which can help you break up your writing task into manageable pieces, stick to a schedule, and incorporate downtime. (If you missed last week’s post, I suggest reading that first!) This week, I want to share an example of what an outline of an outline looks like when written out.


Outlining Your Outline writing strategy | Walden University Writing Center Blog

When outlining your outline, you will want to take your own assignment scope and due dates into account. This example plan below incorporates a paper review service offered to Walden students, but it can still apply to other writers. If your school has a Writing Center, substitute our paper review service for a similar service your center provides. If you do not have access to a Writing Center, you can ask a classmate or friend to peer review your draft in lieu of a Writing Center appointment.

The following example of outlining an outline uses specific dates and times for an imagined course paper due on May 10. The outline itself is in bold, with some suggestions underneath.

Step 1: Schedule a paper review appointment

Make an appointment with the Writing Center for a paper review for May 7

I suggest making a note for yourself at the beginning of your outline that reminds you to make an appointment to have your paper reviewed by a Writing Center writing instructor before you begin writing your paper. That way, if you stick to your own due dates, you will be able to submit your paper for review immediately after you finish drafting it! Your outline will also build in time for you to make revisions based on the feedback you receive from the Writing Center instructor.

Step 2: Outline the outline

I.            Introduction (1 hour; Due: April 27)

It takes me a long time to write introductions and conclusions because I take a lot of time to revise and rewrite, so when you make your own outline of an outline, be sure to take into account which sections might take you longer to write.

II.           Main Point #1 (1 hour; Due: April 28)
a.   Topic sentence
b.   Sub point
c.    Sub point
d.   Sub point

This is a pretty basic outline to help you envision the skeleton of your paper. Remember that as you develop your paragraphs, you will also want to include analysis and a wrap-up/conclusion sentence.

III.         Main Point #2 (1 hour; Due: April 29)
a.   Topic sentence
b.   Sub point
c.    Sub point
d.   Sub point

IV.         Main Point #3 (1 hour; Due: April 31)
a.   Topic sentence
b.   Sub point
c.    Sub point
d.   Sub point

Notice how I leave a day or two between writing each of the sections of my paper. I do this so that I have some downtime to reflect on what I wrote, so I then have a better idea as to what I want to write next and how I want to revise. However, you might not need this much downtime (or you might want more), so feel free to alter the amount of downtime you allow yourself based on your own needs.

V.           Conclusion (1 hour; Due: May 4) 

Step 3: Make revisions

Revise paper (1.5 hours; Due: May 5)

Make sure to set aside time in your schedule to revise your paper on your own. I recommend setting aside a little more time than you think you need so that you do not feel rushed. Revision should involve looking at the “big picture” elements on your draft, such as your overall argument, your paper’s organization, and the strength of your evidence. For tips on revising, check out these resources, including a handy checklist. We also have several blog posts and a WriteCast episode about revising your writing, including what it involves, why it's important not to skip this step of the writing process, and how to revise effectively.  

Step 4: Proofread draft

Proofread paper (1.5 hours; Due: May 6)

You’ll also want to build in some time to proofread your work, focusing on sentence-level issues such as grammar and punctuation mistakes, typos, confusing wording, and APA formatting. For help, check out our proofreading tips. 

Step 5: Attach paper to Writing Center appointment

Attach draft to your myPASS appointment to be reviewed by a Writing Center Instructor (15 minutes; Due: Before 5 a.m. Eastern Time on May 7)

Remember how you made an appointment with the Writing Center before you even started writing your paper? Here is where your hard work and planning will pay off!

Step 6: Use feedback

Revise paper based on Writing Center Instructor’s comments (1.5 hours; Due: May 9)

The writing instructor will return your paper within 2 days of your appointment. This means that you want to build that response time into your planning. With an appointment on May 7, your review should be complete on May 7 or May 8, leaving you time to revise the paper before it’s due on May 9.

As I said in my last post, outlining an outline is a time management and writing strategy I've used in every academic paper I've written since college. I hope you find it helpful, too!


We want to end with a thank-you to all of our readers and to the student who inspired this follow-up post! We welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions, including what you would like us to write about. As always, we invite you to share your thoughts with us in the comments section (if you are reading this post via email, simply click the post’s title to visit the blog). We love to hear from you!


author

Ellen Zamarripa
 is a writing instructor at the Walden Writing Center. She enjoys helping students from around the world develop their writing skills and reach their educational goals. 


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Outlining Your Outline as a Way to Help You Write Every Day

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Writing and Time Series | Walden Writing Center Blog

Have you ever made or eaten potica (pronounced paw-tee-tsza)? It’s a flaky, buttery, Slovenian sweetbread (a favorite in my family) that requires a lot of attention and preparation to make from scratch. The process involves allowing the yeast mixture to dissolve in milk (8 minutes), kneading the dough once you mix the wet and dry ingredients together (4 minutes), allowing the dough to rise two separate times (1 hour and 30 minutes), and then finally baking the bread (1 hour). But I’ll tell you what, all that hard work plus waiting time is worth it once you bite into that first slice of homemade goodness!

The point of making your mouth water with thoughts of delicious sweetbread is to draw a couple of connections to this idea of work plus downtime and the writing process. While the concept of writing as a process might be familiar, the realities of life can often interrupt this process. However, with a concrete plan and the notion that downtime is a productive part of the writing process, you might consider outlining your outline as a way to write every day.


Outlining Your Outline | Walden Writing Center Blog
Potica (modified) by Michael R. Perry (CC BY 2.0)
Outlining your outline

Outlining an outline is a time management strategy I developed in college and have used for every academic paper I have written since. (It's also a tip Sarah mentioned in her post last week.) The concept is relatively simple: Once you have reached the point in the writing process where you must create an outline for your paper, use due dates and time limits within the outline to specify how long each section will (or should) take you to complete. For example, in the introduction of this blog post, I outlined how long it would take to complete each major stage of the potica-making process. Applying the same concept to the writing process will make you accountable for setting aside a specific amount of time to work on each section of your paper.

Clearly, you cannot always expect that you will complete every section in the amount of time you allot yourself, which is why you should also add due dates to your outline of an outline. Due dates are another way to hold yourself accountable for completing each section of your paper, but remember that the point of outlining an outline is to write a little bit every day. Thus, the goal is to complete the various parts of your paper within specified time frames during each day, as opposed to waiting until your given due date and writing large, unmanageable sections in one sitting.

The importance of downtime

But don’t forget your downtime! This part is equally as important as the act of writing itself. If you were to omit the waiting time when making potica, your sweetbread would likely turn to mush. The same is likely to happen on some level if you do not include downtime in your outline of your outline. Writing a little bit of a big project every day allows you time to think and reflect on the direction of your work. Think about each section of your paper after you write it. Think about the content you focused on. Think about the accuracy of your argument. Think about how each of your paragraphs leads back to your central argument. Allowing yourself some downtime to think and reflect will help you better visualize where you are in the writing process and where you want to go with your ideas.


Just as waiting for the dough to rise is necessary for baking potica, downtime is an important part of the writing process. | Walden University Writing Center Blog
Just as waiting for the dough to rise is necessary for baking potica, downtime is an important part of the writing process.
Potica by Jenny Cestnik (CC BY-ND 2.0 

Outlining your paper outline can help you practice writing every day as a way to manage your time and develop as a writer. Outlining your outline can also help you better understand your writing process, how long it takes you to complete different stages, and how you visualize your own work. Finding the time to write will forever be a challenge, but holding yourself accountable and engaging in reflection can help you manage your time effectively. And, you can always reward yourself for all of your hard work with some potica!


Thinking about the process of baking potica can help you think about the writing strategy of outlining your outline | Walden University Writing Center Blog
Potica by emma.kate (CC BY-ND 2.0)
This month, we're talking about topics related to writing and time. Need to catch up on what you missed? Check out our latest WriteCast episode for Beth and Brian's discussion of favorite (and free!) apps you can use to save you time when you write, Beth's reflection on what she learned from writing her master's thesis, and Sarah's 5 tips for writing when you have no time.  

As always, we welcome you to share your experiences, questions, suggestions, and thoughts below in the comments!  

author

Ellen Zamarripa
 is a writing instructor at the Walden Writing Center. She enjoys helping students from around the world develop their writing skills and reach their educational goals. 


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