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Walden University Writing Center

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Student Spotlight: Heather Graham, College of Health Sciences

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The Walden University Writing Center is privileged to work with talented students. In the Student Spotlight Series, we aim to support incredible work our students do, both in and out of the classroom. The goal of the Student Spotlight Series is to provide the Walden community with a place to build bridges and make connections by developing shared understanding of the diverse and varied student journey. Students share stories about their writing process, their efforts towards social change, and their motivations for pursuing higher education. We ask questions, and students generously answer.

This Student Spotlight features Heather Graham, student of the College of Health Sciences.

Why did you choose Walden? What drew you to pursue a degree at Walden?
I chose Walden because I was moving overseas. My husband is in the Air Force and stationed in the United Kingdom. I needed a school that could work with my living situation. Also the school offers a military discount and accepts the use of the Post 9-11 GI Bill. Living overseas has been difficult at times when trying to communicate with my teachers, however, they have all been wonderful in accommodating my needs.

This is a picture of Heather with her husband during their travels
Heather and her husband during their travels.

What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies?
I am passionate about helping others. I became a nurse for that reason. I am also passionate about my family, they mean everything to me. Soon my husband and I will be expanding ours in June. Hobbies, well before moving to the United Kingdom, I lived in Alaska. My hobbies included snowboarding, fishing, hunting, camping, and hiking. Mostly all the outdoors adventures. Since moving, my new hobbies include seeing the world! Since living in England I have traveled to Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Austria, Germany, Scotland, and Ireland. I look forward to seeing all that I can while living here. My husband and I also continue to snowboard, now our hobby is to ride all the European mountain ranges. So far we have completed Solden in Austria and Alpspitze and Zugspitze in Germany.
This is a picture of Heather and her husband skiing.
Heather and her husband on a ski trip

How have you created a community around yourself in your program? What do you do to interact with your classmates and colleagues?
After my first semester I learned that there were Facebook groups for each course I was enrolled in where students communicate with each other to help with the struggles we have in classes. We help each other by making assignments more clear or give ideas when we struggle with writing a paper. Some of the classmates I have personally friended on Facebook and we will talk about school and life. It is nice to communicate with others and relate to others in the program.

What are your strengths in writing? What are your greatest challenges?
Since using the writing center, I feel I have developed a strength in the flow of my papers. I have made improvements with my use of commas, semicolons, and colons. I still have a challenge with using passive voice, however, the writing center has been helping me identify and correct my errors. They give me samples and resources to help develop my writing skills.

What is one Writing Center service you would recommend to new students?
I highly recommend using the writing center to have your papers reviewed. I had been out of school for about 5 years and it was rough getting back into it. I had forgotten how to write in APA format and struggled with a few things. The people at the writing center would critique my papers and help give me pointers and resources to be a more developed writer.

How would you describe your personality to someone just meeting you?
Sometimes shy at first, but then very outgoing and friendly. I am an honest person and that can either make or break a friendship it seems. I like people to be open and honest with me and to tell me the truth. This has made it difficult moving to another country. I can be very blunt and honest, but I don’t mean harm. I look at it as constructive criticism. I want people to tell me the truth, even if they don’t think I would like it. However, once someone takes the time to get to know me, I can be the best friend they will know. I am loyal and care about my friends, and I will always have their backs.

How do you hope to apply the work you have done as a student to the work you will do after graduating?
If I have to write up policies or procedures for my nursing, I hope to use what I have learned to portray myself as a professional and produce professional work. I can use this experience to help me complete research and present it in a way that will be easily understood by others. 

This is a picture of Heather, with her arms raised, looking triumphant.
Heather on the steps of an ancient monument.
The Walden Writing Center provides information and assistance to students with services like live chat, webinars, course visits, paper reviews, podcasts, modules, and the writing center webpages. Through these services they provide students assistance with APA, scholarly writing, and help students gain skills and confidence to enhance their scholarly work.

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Inclusive Language Policy Announcement

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Earlier in the year, members of the Writing Center formed a working group around social change initiatives, both those sponsored by Walden University and those that we could spearhead on our own. One of our earliest discussions in that group was one around gender-neutral and gender-fluid pronouns, noting that while the American Psychological Association (APA) indeed supported the use of the singular they, APA did not raise awareness of pronouns being used by LGBTQ+ communities and subcommunities.

Inclusive Language Policies Announcement

We looked to address this discrepancy in the following gender-neutral pronouns policy, which we drafted over the summer and was approved by a number of Walden’s committees and academic advisory boards, including Walden’s Research Process Advisory Council, the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, and the Center for Social Change. The policy states:
Gender-Neutral Pronouns Poilcy: Walden University prides itself as an inclusive institution that serves a diverse population of students. Committed to broadening the university’s understanding of inclusivity and diversity, Walden will now accept gender-neutral pronouns in student writing. This practice acknowledges APA’s recent endorsement of the singular they and also embraces alternative pronouns currently in circulation (e.g., the nominatives xe, ve, ze/zir, ey, and zhe and their associated derivations). Walden recognizes that discussion around gender identity is ongoing. As such, the university will accept any pronoun in student writing so long as evidence can be provided that it is accepted as a respectful term by the community it represents.

Coincidentally, while we were drafting this policy, another opportunity to revisit our language policies arose. Members of the autistic community reached out to us after we had tweeted about APA’s preference for person-first language. We provided an example in our webpage on bias that labeled the phrase “autistic child” as bias and “child with autism” as preferred. What our followers told us, however, was that, as members of the community, this was not their preferred phrasing. In fact, organizations like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Identity-First Autistic had been arguing for identity-first language, and Walden’s director of disability services reported that some in the Deaf community were also moving in that direction. Again, our social change working group was reminded of the importance of language inclusivity. We drafted the following identify-first language policy, which was also reviewed and approved by Walden’s aforementioned institutional bodies:
Identity-First Language Policy: Walden University respects the evolving endorsements of communities and self-advocacy groups. As such, while the American Psychological Association (2010) recommends using people-first language when addressing persons with disabilities (e.g., children with ADHD; p. 76), Walden also recognizes that certain groups or subgroups thereof prefer identity-first language (e.g., autistic children). To this end, the university will accept people-first and identity-first language in student writing so long as evidence can be provided that it is accepted as a respectful term by the community it represents.

Discussions about identity-language inclusivity will assuredly continue, and we're excited to serve on the Writing Center’s Social Change Working Group, which will be partially responsible for uncovering and discovering these conversations. We recognize that language is powerful, that a continued effort toward precision should include an awareness of social advocacy, and that we can support our community of learners with the tools they need to represent themselves and the communities they write about with respect.

With that in mind, we invite you, the Walden community, and all of our readers to join us in this conversation below. An active and diverse community helps broaden these discussions and raises cultural awareness around identity. We welcome your thoughts and ideas. 

Walden University Writing Center Logo

The Walden University Writing Center reflects the social change mission of the university by supporting the research programs of its students. The Writing Center also reflects this mission by acknowledging that language itself has the power to contribute to positive social change by framing the way groups, individuals, and ideas are researched, written about, and discussed. Inclusive language can be the vehicle by which broader, longer-term social change is enacted. 

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Global Days of Service: Community Partnerships and Social Change

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Working with students, Writing Center Administrative Assistants and those I “see” through the Writing Center, provides me an opportunity to learn about the great work students do in the name of social change as part of their studies, career paths, and volunteer work. In fact, one aspect that drew me to Walden University as a Writing Instructor was Walden’s social change mission—social change is something that is both professionally and personally important to me.   
Global Days of Service Title Image

My own graduate studies were grounded in social change. As a community literacy scholar, studying and presenting how everyday people go public, social change meant helping to disseminate the voices of others—voices not often heard across communities—to wide, disparate, audiences, such as scholars, activists, and others who might find inspiration from these voices to enact their own social change mission. However, writing about communities and people when one is positioned as an outsider to that community is, well, complicated. Thus, as we kick off the Global Days of Service here at Walden University, I’m reminded that it’s important for those who enter a community with the goal of social change to do so ethically by understanding one’s own outsider status and keeping the community’s true needs in mind.

Luckily, as a discipline, community literacy provided me a foundation for facing this complicated situation of studying, writing about, and volunteering for communities I was an outsider to. For instance, I observed and interviewed community members of a group who were going public against the racial discrimination and sanctions they faced in relation to their immigration status. As someone whose race, immigration status, and subsequently, social and political experiences differed from this group, I was a community “outsider” in relation to their status as community “insiders.” That said, community literacy practices are grounded in changing the dynamics of this outsider-insider issue—not by pretending to close this gap, but by acknowledging it and respecting the various insider-outsider dynamics and differences at work. I quickly learned that these dynamics and differences are fluid, much like an individual’s intersecting identities (gender, race, class, etc.) are fluid.

So, while I was observing and interviewing community members, it was important that I considered my own outsider status to include how the group I was writing about was not static in terms of identity or social and political public position. One way to achieve this was to ensure that the group I studied co-created my research—their voices were always at the forefront of my work and they provided feedback on my notes and writing along the way. Thus, my work was not the result of passive, unreflective observation and interviewing group members, but the result of self-reflection and ethically fostered relationships and communications.

Equally important to ensuring that the voice of the community led my work was ensuring that I volunteered for the community for allowing me to study them and did so on their terms. More specifically, in exchange for allowing me to study the group, I provided some much-needed volunteer work—work that helped the group continue to meet and grow. In this case: babysitting.

Admittedly, babysitting was a less glamorous reality of volunteering and social change work than I expected. In my mind, I imagined myself more at the forefront—helping with organizing marches or discussing tactics for going public—after all, I had a background in public rhetoric. I might have requested to do something more “glamorous” as opposed to holding one end of a jump rope up or playing tag. However, I was an outsider to this community and this was not my social and political cause. That said, working with this group allowed me to reflect on my own understanding of what volunteer work means and how it should be driven by the needs of the community one is volunteering for.

If there is an overall “moral” to my volunteer work, it was that, no matter what your area of expertise is or what you think you should do to best support a community, volunteer work should be about what is most needed for that community at the time according to the community being volunteered for. Even the seemingly smallest tasks, such as babysitting, can have a huge, positive impact on a community. For instance, without babysitters, many community members would not have been able to meet with the group at all. Even the smallest task requested can prove to have an important outcome for a community.

When I volunteer during this year’s Global Days of Service,  I will keep in mind that acknowledging and respecting the voices, positions, and intersecting identities of others also means ensuring that the volunteer work I do is on the terms of the community I volunteer for. After all, social change is grounded in the need for people and communities to work together.

Veronica Oliver
 is a Writing Instructor in the Walden Writing Center. In her spare time she writes fiction, binge watches Netflix, and occasionally makes it to a 6am Bikram Yoga class.

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GDS 2017: Part of Something Larger

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Social change is at the center of Walden University’s mission and vision statements for each college. Walden students are often asked to reflect on how their academic work and future professional work can enact positive social change. This week, we want to celebrate the importance of social change here at Walden University.

Global Days of Service 2017 logo

The timing is perfect as well. Global Days of Service is kicking off this week. The Writing Center is always excited to get to take part in GDS and help support the vision for greater social change.

Explore Walden University’s commitment to social change:

Next week we’ll continue our celebration of GDS on this blog with posts that examine the idea of positive social change through action and language. As you learn more about social change at Walden, and how the Writing Center supports that commitment, we hope you'll join us.  

Walden University Writing Center

Walden University and the Writing Center provide a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can affect positive social change.

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Paraphrasing to Avoid Plagiarism

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When I was in high school, I accidentally plagiarized an essay about Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and I didn’t get caught. I didn’t even know I had plagiarized. It was years later that I realized the errors of my ways. Since I believe in learning from my mistakes and helping others learn from them too, in today’s post, I’m going to share more about my error, explain what paraphrase isn’t, explain what paraphrase is, and offer an overview of a paraphrasing strategy you can use in your writing to avoid plagiarism.

Paraphrasing to Avoid Plagiarism

Accidental Plagiarism: A Cautionary Tale
The assignment was to write an analysis of the book Pride and Prejudice. I was in an Advanced Placement English class, and this was our summer homework before the course started so I hadn’t yet learned how to write an analysis of a book. As I read, I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but when it came to writing the paper I found myself wondering, “What does the teacher mean by analysis? What ideas do I have to share about this book? What does this book mean, other than being a sweet love story?”

Since I didn’t know what to write, I went to the Themes, Motifs & Symbols page of Spark Notes for Pride and Prejudice. Here, I learned that major themes in the book included things like love, reputation, and class.  I knew enough to know it would be wrong to copy/paste what I read here, so that’s not what I did. Instead, I used what I had read there and wrote a paper about the significant themes of love, reputation, and class. I knew the Sparknotes webpage was not an appropriate source for this paper, so I never once cited Sparknotes. I paraphrased the ideas from this source, but I never included a citation. Even though I didn’t copy and paste from the source, this was still considered plagiarism. 

Years later, when I was in college, I was taught in a Composition course what plagiarism is and how to paraphrase effectively. In that moment, I realized what I’d done with that analysis paper in high school: I’d plagiarized.

What Paraphrase Isn’t
From this example, I learned a few things about what paraphrase is not, and I’d like to share those here. 

Paraphrase is not: Reading a source and getting some ideas from it, and then writing those ideas in your own words without a citation.

Paraphrase is also not: Reading a source and copy/pasting it into a paper, but then substituting synonyms for most words so that it’s “in your own words.” 

Nor is it: Copy/pasting a source into your paper without quotation marks and a citation.

What Paraphrase Is
As discussed on our Using Evidence: Paraphrase webpage and our Paraphrasing Source Information webinar, paraphrasing is using your own words and sentence structure to present the key points of an author’s ideas in a new way that is relevant for what you’re writing. Often, paraphrases are shorter than the original information. In addition, paraphrases must always include a citation and a reference entry, to clearly convey where the information was retrieved.

What an Effective Paraphrase Strategy Looks Like
As we discuss at residencies and in other venues like our website and webinars, there are strategies that you can employ to ensure that you’re paraphrasing effectively. Here is an overview of the paraphrasing process:

1.) Read the passage you want to paraphrase until you understand it fully. This might require multiple read-throughs. 

2.) Cover or hide the passage and then write out the author’s idea in your own words, selecting and emphasizing what’s important to you and the argument you’re making.

3.) Compare what you wrote to the original source, and do some analysis to ensure that you’re paraphrasing effectively and adequately reflecting the original author’s intent by asking yourself these questions:
  • Have I accurately reflected the author’s ideas in this paraphrase?
  • Have I emphasized only the part from this original source that’s relevant for my argument and for context for this information?
  • Have I used my own sentence structure and words to reflect this idea?

4.) Revise your paraphrase depending on your answers to the questions above. If you’ve misinterpreted the author’s ideas, revise. If you’ve included irrelevant information, revise. If you’ve included information that’s too closely reflecting the original source, either revise or use quotation marks to enclose the borrowed phrases.

5.) Finish the paraphrase with a citation that should include the author’s name and the year. If you included any quoted materials, also include a page number. If you’re unfamiliar with how to cite, you can learn more on our Citations: Overview webpage.

The next time you’re writing a paper and integrating source information, keep these tips about what’s paraphrase and what’s not in mind. In addition, give this paraphrasing strategy a try and then let us know in the comments how it worked for you! Happy writing.

Author photo for Jes Philbrook, Walden University Writing Center

Jes Philbrook is a Writing Instructor and the Coordinator of Doctoral Writing Assessment in the Walden University Writing Center. Jes has been a writing tutor for over a decade, and because of adolescent struggles with using source information, she has a passion for helping students learn how to paraphrase and integrate source information to avoid plagiarism. In her free time, you can find Jes walking her dog Zoie, harvesting her community garden plot, cooking (but not from a recipe), and reading young adult fantasy series.

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