Answers to Frequently Asked Questions by Faculty and Staff.
Your students should expect to have a friendly conversation with a consultant who may be considered a more experienced peer. The session will be driven by the student's own concerns (e.g. “I am having trouble figuring out how to organize this,” or “I am not sure about my thesis”). Students will be encouraged to “talk out” any questions, dilemmas, obstacles, or concerns that they have about their writing and the assignment. A student might request and receive some honest feedback from the consultant, in which case the consultant will note the strengths of the draft and one or more manageable areas to focus upon for improvement. The student should walk out of the session with a clear plan for revision.
In short, no. We are not an editing or proofreading service. We will not go through a piece of writing line-by-line finding errors and fixing them. Think of it this way. Would a mathematics professor send a student to a tutoring center to have the tutor find and fix the student’s calculation errors? No. That professor would expect the tutoring center to help the student to understand the process by which correct answers are derived. The tutor might give the student process tips for picking up careless calculation errors. The same is true in a writing center.
For every student, errors are a part of the learning process. As students are confronted by the more complex ideas of the University, their sentences also grow more complex, thus the level of errors can actually temporarily increase during the process of intellectual growth and development. If the grammatical competence of a writer is interfering with his or her ability to successfully do university work, we will use student drafts as tools to identify patterns of error and to create a manageable focus for learning. Unlike having a paper proofread, the student would be actively involved in the learning process.
Most of our conversations in the Writing Center address more global issues such as clarifying the writer's ideas, discussing organizational strategies, striving toward credible support for claims, and so on. For graduate students finalizing large projects or preparing manuscripts for publication, we do maintain a list of editing services that are either paid for by graduate student fees or that can be reasonably obtained on a freelance basis.
This is a complicated issue, but in most instances, the answer would be no. Learning to write mostly occurs when it is the student who seeks out the assistance at the point of need. Otherwise, the student might be making a perfunctory appearance in the writing center rather than coming in with their own questions or a specific agenda. However, we do hope that you will make the students aware of the resource, encourage them to come, and speak directly with students who seem particularly in need of assistance. If you want to require your student(s) to come to the CEW for a particular reason, we would be happy to discuss it. You may want to send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let us know your student(s) will be coming in and perhaps send a copy of the assignment sheet.
Students can request a Consultation Verification form that will be stamped and signed by CEW staff. If permission is granted from the student, we can also email you a copy of the Client Notes from our system, letting you know about the focus of the session.
Absolutely. The student can set up regular weekly or biweekly appointments. If the student has found a consultant with whom she is particularly comfortable, she can meet regularly with that consultant. Feel free to email us, or you can just send them in with the instruction to set up ongoing support appointments with our administrator. If a student’s writing ability is jeopardizing academic success, this is an especially valuable option.
We enjoy working with international students at every level and encourage the formation of ongoing support relationships with our consultants since the journey toward English Language fluency is a long one. All of our consultants are given specific training related to the linguistic and cultural needs of English Language Learners. In addition to writing assistance, one to one work with our consultants gives international students valuable conversational practice. Because they are such an important part of our community, we regularly schedule special workshops and special events for internationals students which are advertised on our website and on our Facebook page.
Since we are not a proofreading or editing service, essays will not emerge from the CEW scrubbed of all errors.
Many times writers come in to the CEW with early drafts, needing assistance working out larger rhetorical and organizational issues; they are not even ready for the proofreading stage. It doesn't make sense to polish sentences that might be edited out or revised for meaning. If a student comes into the writing center specifically to work on proofreading, our consultants will teach proofreading strategies and/or examine the patterns of error in the work and focus on one or two of the most interfering patterns. This is the pedagogically sound practice that will increase writer competence. The consultant might, for example, notice a pattern of subject/verb inconsistency and locate those issues in one or two paragraphs with the student. Then the consultant might have the student work on the following two paragraphs, finding subjects and verbs and testing to see if they are consistent. The consultant would then go over the changes the student has made and clear up any misunderstandings that remain. The consultant might give the student a resource on this issue to reinforce the learning that has occurred. In this process, the consultant may have overlooked comma errors, for example, seeing these as less interfering and saving them for another session.
Our consultants are strong academic writers themselves; they have pedagogical coursework and experience with writing instruction. However, they cannot take ownership or control over your students’ papers. They are a resource that students can use to enhance their academic performance. While we try to get writers to articulate a plan for revision, we cannot control the revisions that the writer chooses to make. Also the essay that you see may be significantly improved from the essay that the writer brought into the Center. Every writer is unique in their ability to fulfill different writing tasks. One conversation in the Writing Center may not significantly affect the current draft, but might be applied in a future writing situation.
We can help in several different ways. First, we employ PhD level consultants, some of whom are far along in their dissertation processes. It can be helpful for a dissertator to step out of the isolation of their process and talk through dilemmas with a fellow doctoral student. We have found that dissertation writers who pair up for regular appointments with one of our doctoral level consultants have made significant progress. Second, we have Dissertation Retreats four times yearly. These retreats give writers the space, support and guidance to make significant progress on their projects. Many success stories of dissertators moving from paralysis to completion have come out of our Dissertation Retreats. Third, we can help faculty and departments develop graduate student writing groups. As accountability groups or peer reader groups, these groups can help with completion rates.
When we think of tutoring, we think of additional instruction or going over material. Learning to write is different than learning other academic subjects because it entails many choices, obstacles, intellectual processes, and emotions. Meeting with one of our consultants is a different experience than “being tutored” as our goal is to nurture the writer's voice as s/he becomes adept with the genres, methods, and jargons of their disciplines. In addition, engaging with peers is a healthy and productive part of any writer’s process. Rather than telling writers what to do or giving them instruction (tutoring), our peer consultants will help writers reflect on the natural tensions of the writing process, providing a sense of audience, asking them questions that will help them articulate their purposes, and giving them strategies to help them strengthen an argument.