Writing Center Frequently Asked Questions

What can the Writing Center do for me?

The Writing Center offers students free, one-on-one writing assistance. We welcome all writers, majors, and disciplines--including both undergraduate and graduate students. You can work with us one-on-one, in groups (3-5 writers), or online. Our most requested service is the one-on-one assistance we offer in the Hall of Languages, Room 103. However, we also offer assistance online and we would welcome the opportunity to work with groups developing on similar writing projects.

Who will I work with when I visit the Writing Center?

The writing tutors are graduate and upper-division undergraduate students selected on the basis of their strong writing and interpersonal skills. The training process for new and experienced tutors alike is quite rigorous, including-among other things-an annual, two-day Tutor Orientation, an extensive tutor-training manual specifically designed for them and their needs, a weekly tutor-training meeting (2.5 hours), multiple opportunities for evaluation and feedback, and much discussion of required readings in writing center theory and practice.

I thought only bad writers came to the Writing Center...This isn't true?

We work from the premise that all writers benefit from engaging conversations with attentive, informed, and caring "readers" trained to ask probing questions and offer useful feedback. That's what we do in the Writing Center; we offer writers opportunities to bounce ideas off potential readers before committing them to paper, to "try out" a draft to see whether it seems clear and convincing, to explore and discover effective strategies for revising and editing their own texts, and to push past writer's block when it happens. In short, we are here to help writers help themselves.

What does the Writing Center promise NOT to do for students?

We will not write the paper for you, but we will do what we can to help you achieve your own goals with our support. We will not supply content or correct usage errors for you, but we will show you invention and editing strategies you may try out with our guidance. We will not learn for you, but we will help you learn from herself. We will not ignore the guidelines of the assignment you are attempting to complete, but we will help you find ways to accomplish your goals in ways that meet the requirements detailed on the assignment sheet.

What actually happens in a tutorial session?

A typical tutorial might consist of a brief conversation about how the paper was written and how you feel about it. Next, the tutor will likely ask you what you want to focus on in the tutorial. Through our questions, we encourage students to shape the direction of the tutorial session. Sometimes (often) we ask students to read their work to us so they can hear their own words in another context; other times, a tutor will model editing and proofreading strategies that the student can try out later on her own. This means we often do not get through an entire paper in a session but expect the student to complete the work on her own using what she learned in her session.

When is it appropriate to come to the Writing Center? Before or after the paper is written?

We work with students at any stage of the writing process. Some writers come in with complete drafts (:What do you think of this?" or "Does it make sense to you?"); others come with partial drafts ("Now what do I do?" or "I don't know where to go next! I'm stuck!"); still others come in with an assignment sheet and nothing else ("Where do I start? I don't know what to do!). Sometimes writers come in with a completed draft that includes instructor comments ("I know what she says I need to do with this paper, but I don't know how to make it happen! What now?"). In other words, you don't have to wait until the paper is complete before you come in to discuss your work with a writing tutor.

How does the Writing Center work with students who need help with grammar and punctuation?

When students specifically request assistance with these surface-level issues, we teach them strategies for working with error in their own writing. We generally don't use drills (worksheets and the like); instead we teach students to identify their own patterns of error and correct them on their own. We direct students to handbooks and online resources they may use in future writing sessions, and we encourage them to develop proofreading strategies that work for them.

How can I let my professor know that I've been to the Writing Center?

If you know ahead of time that your professor would like to hear about your Writing Center visits, you can request a form from us that summarizes the visit itself and discusses revision plans resulting from the visit. We like for you to have a written record of any tutorial session so you can easily apply the lessons from the session to your own writing after you leave us. Better still may be to tell your professor about your visit and explain to him/her what you worked on while you were there.

How can I arrange to see a tutor?

You can stop by the Hall of Languages, Room 103 to make an appointment for a later date, drop in to work with a tutor without an appointment, or visit our Online Writing Lab.