Welcome to the Walden Writing Center Blog! Each week on the blog, we--the Walden University Writing Center writing instructors & editors--publish a post about scholarly writing, APA style, course papers, the dissertation, book reviews, our WriteCast podcast, technology tips, & more to help you through your academic writing journey. We also feature spotlight posts highlighting Walden University..
One thing we take seriously here in the Walden University Writing Center is our students' commitment to positive social change. The programs of study they enter, the original research they produce, and their professional commitments all speak to the importance of Walden University's mission in their lives and work. These students use their skills, expertise, and determination to do amazing things for people all over the world.
Writing is central to this project. There are a variety forms and genres, not always scholarly, that can help these agents of change. So to support these scholar-practitioners in their journeys, our staff of professional writing instructors creates resources that are aimed specifically at supporting Walden students' social change goals. Below are three of our most popular social change resources: Live Webinar recordings of sessions that approach writing for social change in different ways.
Writing For Social Change Webinar Series
Exploring Perspectives: In this webinar, you'll join a discussion about writing and social change. You'll have the change to discuss your own goals for social change and learn how writing can help you achieve those goals. Specific attention will be paid to how writing can help you generate ideas, as well as how you can use writing in areas like social media, grants, newspapers, and blogs to communicate your vision for social change.
Using Restorative Writing to Enact Social Change: Maintaining personal wellness is key to achieving your goals. Additionally, writing can be a useful tool for processing difficult events and discovering connections between your experiences and local, community, or global problems. In this webinar, you will explore how you can use restorative writing to promote wellness for yourself and your community. Information about the concept of restorative writing and how it evolved in academia will serve as the foundation for our discussion before you practice restorative writing during this webinar. Finally, you will reflect on how restorative writing can help you enact social change.
Grant Proposals: Sometimes achieving social change requires support from others. This webinar will give you tips for communicating your goals for social change through grant proposals, introducing you to this genre of writing. While we will not provide tips for finding grants, you will be able to use this webinar to help you communicate your social change vision to others in the grant format.
The Walden University Writing Center produces webinars that teach APA guidelines and writing skills for all Walden students, along with webinars specifically for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral capstone students. Webinars offer live writing instruction, as well as an opportunity for students to connect via Q&A and chatting with staff and other Walden students, and each webinar is recorded for later viewing.
If you’re familiar with the Walden University Writing Center and our recommendations, you’ve probably heard about the MEAL plan for paragraph development. The MEAL plan is a wonderful tool to help keep your paragraphs focused and ensure that you’re supporting your evidence with analysis. However, there are times when the MEAL structure doesn’t work as effectively, and I want to go over a few of those in my blog post today.
1. Introductions Introductions to your work generally won’t follow the MEAL plan. This is because in an introduction you begin more generally and get specific, culminating in your thesis statement. Unlike a MEAL plan paragraph, which is connected back to your thesis through the topic sentence and lead out, your introduction is doing a bit of a different job in preparing your reader for the context of your paper and ending with a focus on your argument.
2. Conclusions Like an introduction, a conclusion paragraph is doing slightly different work than a standard MEAL plan paragraph in your paper. A conclusion sums up the important details and points from your paper, and generally doesn’t include evidence and analysis—it’s all pretty much analysis and summary at that point! The MEAL plan structure doesn’t work well with conclusions for this reason.
3. A letter or other document type If your assignment is to write a document that is not a typical course paper (like a letter to a government official, interview transcript, statistical report, etc.) then the MEAL plan is typically not very effective, simply because the forms of these documents are unique—just like academic papers are unique in using the MEAL plan! You definitely can keep the MEAL plan in mind as you write, but the purposes of these documents or sections of a paper are different, they likely won’t have a thesis, and some may not even require outside evidence. The MEAL plan structure generally won’t apply in these circumstances.
4. A problem statement or premise/prospectus Like the examples listed above, parts of your premise/prospectus may not use the MEAL plan because they have a specific structure and content already in place. Be sure to follow premise or prospectus guidance documents and look at examples of these documents to ensure you are meeting expectations—and when in doubt ask your chair! The MEAL plan will likely be helpful in some parts of your premise/prospectus, but others are very specific regarding length and focus, so default to the guidance documents or faculty expertise in these cases.
When should you use the MEAL plan? In body paragraphs in your academic assignments for Walden coursework! A typical discussion post or course paper should use the MEAL plan in the body paragraphs (after your introduction and conclusion). However, keep these exceptions in mind and use your judgement and faculty as resources to help you effectively use the MEAL plan as well as shift to other formatting and approaches where relevant and necessary.
Claire Helakoski is a writing instructor at the Walden Writing Center. Claire also co-hosts WriteCast, the Writing Center's podcast. Through these multi-modal avenues, Claire delivers innovative and inspiring writing instruction to Walden students around the world.
Academic writing can already be a challenge, but group papers add an additional wrinkle into the writing process because there are collaborative and interpersonal elements involved. Here are some Writing Center resources that might help you navigate your next group paper:
The Walden University Writing Center supports Walden University in its goal of providing a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can effect positive social change.
Writing Instructors Ellen and Miranda join Kacy and Claire for this month's special episode to describe more about what restorative writing is, how to practice restorative writing, and how to use it as a vehicle to understand and process individual and/or community trauma. Ultimately, restorative writing can help writers discover ways to heal and overcome those challenges through social change.
Episode 61 also features an "episode bonus" which we are very excited to share with you. This bonus contains a follow-along activity from episode 61. Click the player below to access only the guided writing opportunity from the episode.
Batzer, B. (2016). Healing classrooms: Therapeutic possibilities in academic writing. Composition Forum, 34. Retrieved from http://compositionforum.com/
DeSalvo, L. A. (2000). Writing as a way of healing: How telling our stories transforms our lives. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
WriteCast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writersis a monthly podcast written, produced, and published by staff in the Walden University Writing Center. Join us each month for a dialogue between two experienced writing instructors. Possible episode topics will always be considered from listeners--share your questions and suggestions in the comments.
In this episode of the WriteCast podcast, Claire and Kacy sit down with Melissa Meghan, two Walden Writing Center instructors, to talk about how they work toward positive social change in their communities by writing to their local representatives. Claire and Kacy ask Melissa Meghan to share how this type of writing is similar and different to academic writing, the tools they use when writing for social change, and their experiences with the process. As a student working to create positive social change, we hope that this podcast episode helps you think about the ways in which your academic writing can develop into other forms of writing.
To subscribe to WriteCast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers, click the icons in the player below or click "subscribe" for sharing options.
Visit our show page for a list of all of our WriteCast episodes and written transcripts for each episode.
The Walden University Writing Center supports Walden University in its goal of providings a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they can effect positive social change.
When I used to teach in-person writing courses, I would sometimes comment on papers about questions I had as a reader. Every time my students would verbally answer the questions – their explanations made perfect sense. However, those ideas needed to be complete and clear in the writing. Unlike a conversation you have with a person, once you write something down, that is it! It is frozen, solid, locked-in. You can’t go back and expand or clarify. You can’t follow people around as they read your work telling them: “Well, what I meant was…” That’s why it is important to get your writing as complete as possible.
A complete piece of writing is a developed piece of writing, and well-developed writing relies on the inclusion of relevant and plentiful details. But what counts as details? In today’s blog post, I would like to present the idea of the “Big Es” that I use to encourage Walden University writers to more-fully develop their ideas.
Evidence Evidence includes details you have found in your research that are related to your topic, interesting, and that spark a response in you. These include statistics, data, or proof of some sort. Remember, you will be commenting on the research in some way, which is why it is important that this data or evidence means something to you.
For example, in a paper about emergency room safety, a writer would want to include statistics that prove how safe (or unsafe) that environment is. If the writer wanted to prove that the emergency room in their city was unsafe, statistics and data showing a high rate of post-visit infections would do a lot of support that claim.
Experts Expert opinion can be a useful detail as it gives you a chance to engage in a conversation with the leading voices in your field. As a student writer, you are working on becoming an expert in your field. Eventually, you will be interacting with other experts. You can practice this in your course work by including expert opinion and then responding to it. Do you agree? Disagree? How does it relate to other content you have read? Additionally, it is possible to use experts to bolster your own opinion. It can be powerful to include expert opinion when that expert agrees with you. While we can’t solely paraphrase and quote experts over and over and expect that to develop our writing, if you find an expert who agrees with you, it is possible to point to them as proof that your thinking is sound.
For example, if a writer was proposing a new health regulation, they could base their regulation on suggestions made by experts. It isn’t possible to be an expert on everything, so if this writer is an expert in legislation, they would need some help from experts in other fields to craft proposed bills, laws, and regulations.
Examples An example is helpful because it shows your topic in action. Examples are short summaries of something that happened at some point in time. They illustrate complex theories or ideas that are hard to see otherwise. If you are writing a narrative or personal reflection, you will likely want to include some examples from your own life and work. As you describe what happened to you, you will then be able to follow it up with analysis about why it is important, what it reveals, or how it inspired you. Note that you can also include examples that you read about in your research; case studies are common examples writers include.
For example, in a paper that looks at the pros and cons of different instructional strategies, the writer may want to use examples from their own classroom to illustrate the challenges and benefits they saw. These examples could be paired with other examples and results found in the research as well, which would work together to develop a comprehensive look at those instructional strategies.
I know that this is redundant, but explanation is where you get to explain. Try to answer questions like: What does this mean? Why is it important? What is significant? Who should care? How can someone use this information? If you can walk the reader through your flow of ideas by providing a step-by-step guide to your logic, the reader is easily able to see where you are coming from and may be more likely to agree with your final argument or conclusion.
For example, in a paper about how organizational leaders can capitalize on the strengths of their teams, the writer would likely define what it means to capitalize on strengths, present research and expert voices on this strategy, and perhaps even share examples of how they have done so in their own work. Following this, the writer could explain why it is important to capitalize on strengths in that way. Explaining how and why can help your reader follow along.
Ok, ok, ok, energy isn’t really a concrete thing you can include in your writing. It can’t be found in a source or typed in a document. However, energy matters because you can have a thousand details, but readers can tell if your passion and energy are missing. Reading something where the writer’s interest shines through makes it more engaging for the reader as well. If you don’t have an interest in your topic, it’s a good idea to see what parts of it you can shift so that it is interesting to you.
For example, if a student has to write about counseling strategies they could use with a specific hypothetical client, the student could see if they can choose which client to write about. They could also review all of the counseling strategies to pick the one(s) they feel the most passionate about. Either of these would help bring more of their energy and excitement to the writing.
These Big Es can help remind you of all the content out that that you can include as details or evidence in your paragraphs. Feeling stuck in the middle of drafting can be frustrating, so turn to this list to see if inspiration hits in terms of finding a new type of detail to include. If you want to spend more time thinking about your paragraphs and development, consider working on our paragraph development module or watching our webinar on building and organizing academic arguments.
Melissa Sharpe is a Writing Instructor in teh Walden University Writing Center. Her favorite part of working with writers is helping to facilitate the writing process.
We have some great webinars coming up in April! Check out a live webinar with one of our writing instructors to learn more about our paper review appointments, nuances of APA formatting and style, paraphrasing, and synthesis. We'd love to have you join us!
The Walden University Writing Center creates content to help students with a range of topics related to scholarly writing, APA style, and the writing process. We host webinars, and offer paper reviews, live chat, and a podcast.
It could be the Type-A side of my brain, but I love organizing and filing any and all things. I just moved into a new (old) apartment in a Victorian mansion-turned-condo building, and the unpacking and organizing has been so fun! My favorite features of the new apartment are the 15-foot built-in cabinets in the hallways. I just finished meticulously organizing every inch of their shelves. My towels have their own shelf. My cleaning supplies have their own shelf. My favorite pairs of shoes, tucked inside their original boxes, have their own shelf. It is so satisfying!
I get this same thrill of satisfaction from working with APA references. Are you rolling your eyes at me yet? I genuinely enjoy the puzzle of categorizing a text to determine its style of reference, and from there, formatting and building my reference list. In my experience, few people get any enjoyment from this tedious task, but I don’t mind at all.
The Common Reference List Examples page is my favorite Writing Center resource because it makes categorizing and formatting my references a total breeze. The page is laid out with an index of alphabetized reference categories on the left side of the page, while the rest of the page provides examples of references for each category, notes on any formatting or content nuances, and links to our other resources that support the specific type of reference.
To demonstrate how to use the Common Reference List Examples page, I’m going to try categorizing the PDF Taking Part in Cancer Treatment Research Studies. Looking at this text, it’s not clear right away how it should be classified. When I have a mystery text such as this, I first try to identify the following: author, publication year, title, method of publication, and any additional identifying information. The author of this text is the National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institute for Health—a government organization. The very last page lists a publication date of October 2016, in addition to a publication number, which seems important. I know the title of the document, and I have determined the publication method is a PDF.
Based on this information, I can rule out most of the categories from the list on the left-hand side of the Common Reference Examples page. The document is not an academic article or book, nor is it a regular web page because of its PDF form. However, the category of “Technical and Research Report” seems promising. The notes for this type of reference state, “Technical and research reports by governmental agencies and other institutions…”— this is the clue I need! The reference example under this category also includes a report number—a second helpful clue! The category of Technical or Research report is a perfect fit—so satisfying!
Now that I have determine the reference category, all that’s left is to format the reference. Using the example provided for me, I pull the reference information and create the following:
National Cancer Institute. (2016). Taking part in cancer treatment research studies (Publication No. 16-6249). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/CRS.pdf
Determining which category your research materials fall under will usually be more straightforward. Most peer-reviewed articles can be categorized as an Article with URL or Article with DOI categories. The categories Walden University Course Catalog and Course Materials are very common as well. If the Common Reference Examples List were a cabinet, you can bet there would be a shelf for each reference list category.
Tasha Sookochoff is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. Along with earning degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Stout and Depaul University, Tasha has written documentation for the U.S. House of Representatives that increases government transparency, blogged for DePaul University, copy-edited the Journal of Second Language Writing, tutored immigrants and refugees at literacy centers, and taught academic writing to college students.
If you’ve ever attended a Writing Center webinar or participated in a paper review appointment with one of our writing instructors, you may have heard mention of the MEAL plan. The MEAL plan is useful model we at the Writing Center often use to outline the fundamental components of an academic paragraph. The MEAL plan is composed of four parts, including:
The MEAL plan can be an insightful and helpful tool for creating effectively organized paragraphs that have both a single focus and an even balance of outside evidence and your own analysis and synthesis. In other words, when your mind is still filled with questions of how to get your ideas down on the page, the MEAL plan makes it easy to ensure this information is communicated in a concise, organized, and scholarly manner. You might consider it like a foundation upon which to build the presentation of your ideas.
However, it is important to remember that the MEAL Plan is a general model. It does not often translate to a perfect, four-sentence paragraph with a sentence dedicated to each aspect of the MEAL plan. If only, writing could be that neat and tidy! More often, academic paragraphs require additional space and flexibility to address an idea fully. As a result, how the MEAL plan comes to be applied to your writing and what it looks like on the page can vary from project to project or even paragraph to paragraph. Therefore, the goal of this blog post is to explore a few examples of how the MEAL plan might be applied.
Variation 1: The MEAEAL Plan Paragraph For example, one example of the MEAL Plan that I often employ myself includes a give and take between E-Evidence and A-Analysis, where I take the time to explain different pieces of evidence before highlighting my conclusion in the L-Lead Out Sentence:
M- Utilizing Walden Writing Center’s resources is an effective way students can advance their writing skills and reduce stress. E- Mattingly (2019) reported that students often come to the Writing Center lacking confidence but walk away with greater knowledge and awareness of their writing abilities. A- This recommendation highlights students’ potential to advance their writing skills through the Center’s resources and reflects a welcoming environment of instruction and learning. E- Philbrook (2019) similarly noted that many students find the Writing Center a safe place to explore writing anxiety and locate related resources on writer’s block, mindfulness, and self-reflection. A-Each author highlights a unique way Walden’s Writing Center works with students to develop stronger writing skills and reduce stress. L- The Writing Center, in this regard, can have a meaningful and healthy impact on students’ scholarly writing skills and overall wellbeing.
In this example, there are various places where the E-Evidence and A-Analysis components of the MEAL Plan appear. By taking this approach, you can demonstrate a greater level of critical thinking and engagement with your source material, as you take the time to explain the meaning of all evidence before moving ahead to incorporate additional research that advances and strengthens your argument. This approach can work well for assignments that require comparing or contrasting or identifying common themes in the existing research as is common to literature reviews.
Variation 2: The MPEEAPEL Plan Paragraph Another version of the MEAL plan might include a more detailed demonstration of your own perspective and point of view through a combination of personal experience (which I'll mark with PE in the paragraph below), evidence, and analysis:
M- The Writing Center’s paper review service is a vital resource for Walden students seeking to become not only better writers but also scholarly communicators. PE- Upon enrolling at Walden, I contacted the Writing Center to learn about resources available to students and was invited to set up a paper review appointment. E- These paper reviews, according to Walden’s Writing Center (n.d.), are designed to “help students develop their academic writing skills as emerging scholars and encourage students to engage in an ongoing writing process” (para. 4). A- The Writing Center promotes an environment where students’ writing projects are viewed as part of a larger process of professional and scholarly development. PE- Though reluctant at first, I quickly found the paper review service to be an invaluable experience in my growth as a scholar because I received personalized feedback that highlighted patterns in my writing style and made me more prepared to communicate my research. L- The Writing Center’s paper review service helps students see how daily writing projects relate to an ongoing process of scholarly development and communication.
It is quite common in coursework for you to be asked to draw on your own experience and analysis in order to present argument. Making sure to support your experience with evidence is essential to demonstrating how your ideas and expertise aligns with the existing research and can boost the overall credibility of your claim. The MEAL plan would likely be applied differently in this case; however, it is still beneficial in making sure all the required elements are present. Thus, in the above example, the main piece of E-Evidence is introduced not only after the M-Main Idea but also a personal account. It is then followed by more in-depth A-Analysis and L-Lead out sections.
How ever you come to apply the MEAL plan, be sure to make it your own. The MEAL plan may not be appropriate for all academic paragraphs, so make sure you understand its limitations and follow up with your instructor if you have questions about its application to an assignment. The most important thing to remember is the MEAL plan is not designed to be a hard and fast template that should be applied exactly the same way to each paragraph in your project. Rather, it is a flexible writing tool intended to make the principles of scholarly writing easier to spot and incorporate into your writing. As such, you should feel encouraged to experiment with the varied applications of the MEAL Plan. In fact, doing so will make you a stronger scholarly writer as you gain greater familiarity with the core components of an academic paragraph and move fluidly between them as you write.
Miranda Mattingly is the Manager of Writing Instructional Services and a former Writing Instructor at the Walden Writing Center. When working with students, her primary focus is on encouraging students to have confidence in their skills as writers and to cultivate their voices as critical thinkers in an increasingly global community.
You can access our modules at any time, so check out one or more of our modules today! Once you check out our modules, tell us what you think—what modules did you try and how have they helped you continue to practice and test your knowledge of writing and APA?
The Walden University Writing Center creates content to help students with a range of topics related to scholarly writing, APA style, and the writing process. We host webinars, and offer paper reviews, live chat, and a podcast.