- Manuscript Elements
- Scholarly Writing
- Academic Integrity & Turnitin
- Microsoft Writing Resources
Reflecting and Improving
The writing process is circular; it does not end when you submit the paper to your instructor. In order to make progress with each assignment, you will need to optimize feedback, reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, and plan for improvement. Review the sections below for more guidance on evaluating and improving your own writing.
Approaching and Optimizing Feedback
After you have shared your work with a tutor or instructor, you will receive a copy of your paper with embedded feedback. This feedback will appear as comment bubbles along the right side or colored text within the paper. Sometimes seeing the reviewed paper can feel overwhelming or discouraging. To overcome doubt and optimize that feedback, follow these tips:
1. Prepare. Looking at feedback (even when it is constructive), requires a calm, measured mentality. Before opening the reviewed paper, tell yourself two things:
- I am not my writing. Although writing is often an intimate act--especially when you discuss your own experiences, values, and goals--it is separate from you as a person. A criticism of your writing is not a criticism of your personality.
- Feedback is part of learning. To become an effective communicator and scholarly writer, you must hear from your audience, in this case your tutor or instructor.
2. Scan. Quickly read through all of the comments to see their breadth. Do not linger; just scan and absorb. What stands out to you?
3. Walk. Put the paper away--either by closing the file or placing the paper in a drawer. Do something else, preferably active. You could go for a walk, practice yoga, or clean. During this time, reflect on the content of the feedback.
4. Ask. Return to the document and begin rereading. If a comment is confusing, ask the tutor or instructor to explain it. You could even request an example of a stronger paper and compare it to your own. Take charge of your education by ensuring understanding.
5. Prioritize. You will not be able to perfect every aspect of writing in one revision. Therefore, you will need to prioritize, choosing the most important or relevant skills to work on first. Here are three strategies you could take:
- Order the comments from the most important to the least important. Oftentimes the reviewer will let you know what the top areas for improvement are; if you do not have that guidance, use your judgment in determining what skills are most valuable to learn. Choose the top two or three to work on.
- Start with global improvements. These global improvements are the bigger concerns in your paper: structure, paragraph organization, argument construction, and idea development. You can work on the smaller grammar, sentence, and style tweaks later.
- Follow the points. Examine the rubric to determine what areas are worth the most points toward the overall grade. Because of the high point value, you could potentially benefit the most from addressing these categories. Also review the areas where you lost points on the paper.
Reflecting on Strengths and Weaknesses
To reflect is to think deeply about something. The activity of reflection does not need to be formal in nature. Simply sit down with a copy of your paper and consider the last week or so you spent writing it.
Areas to consider:
- Time management (Did I plan out time to complete this assignment effectively? What steps should I devote more to in the future?)
- Research skills and use of sources (What great research resources did I discover? Where can I look for help?)
- Critical reading and note taking (Did I read the assignment closely to make sure I addressed every component? What prewriting strategies seemed to work for me?)
- Organization (Was there an introduction and a conclusion? Did each paragraph have a topic sentence?)
- Argument and analysis (Was my thesis statement clear and specific? Did I explain the evidence for the reader by integrating analysis with summary?)
- Rhythm and flow of the language (Did I use transitions to show relationships? Were my sentences a variety of long and short?)
- In-text citation and references (Did I cite sources appropriately? What aspects of citation or references are still confusing to me?)
- Grammar and punctuation (Were all sentences complete, with a subject and verb? What punctuation was problematic for me?)
Actions to consider:
- Take notes on what difficulties you encountered during the writing process and brainstorm solutions for the future.
- Record your instructor's comments and track these for each assignment.
- Read through the paper, highlighting problem areas in one color and successful areas in another.
- Jot down these strengths and weaknesses and keep them by your writing desk.
- Compare an earlier paper to the one you just completed. Do you see positive change?
Planning for Improvement
Reflection can help you identify the areas for improvement, but in order to actually move forward, you will need to make a plan and remind yourself of your goals. After identifying your writing strengths and weaknesses:
- Celebrate your strengths by congratulating yourself on what you did well.
- Browse the Writing Center website for material on the particular skills you would like to acquire.
- Attend a live webinar or view past lessons on anything from academic argument to engaging sentence structure.
- Sign up for a writing course to supplement your other courses and elevate your writing.
- Use the automated grammar checker Grammarly, free for Walden students.
- Practice new writing techniques in discussion post assignments, where there is less pressure to perform well.
- Take one of the Writing Center's interactive quizzes to test your knowledge as you learn.
- Create a checklist for your next writing assignment. The most important thing to remember is that becoming a better writer takes time.
Improve Your Writing Skills
Would you like to receive individualized feedback on your writing? Make an appointment with the Writing Center! For more information on this and other available resources, click here.
Have you considered taking a writing course to improve your writing skills? Click on each course name below for more information.