Answers to questions for international students
The Center for Excellence in Writing offers individual consultation services and some workshops. We do not offer classes. For international students, the English Language Institute (ELI) which is on the 3 Floor of Baldy offers some writing courses as well as conversational courses. In addition to the first year writing course, English 105, many discipline are offering writing courses which fulfill the Communication Literacy 2 requirement of the UB Curriculum. For graduate students, ask your department if they offer courses specifically related to writing instruction in your discipline. An engineer writes differently than a historian. Writers are learning to write in specific contexts and for specific purposes within each discipline.
You will be in charge during your consultation, so bring a clear sense of what you wish to work on. What do you think is going well so far? What problems are you having? What questions do you have? You may want to bring particular questions you have and some notes to remind yourself of what you want from the session. It is also a very good idea to bring your assignment sheet, if applicable, so that the consultant can understand your instructor's expectations. Your consultant is an experienced student, and he or she can sometimes help you to interpret the assignment sheet. You can work off of a printed copy or view the document on a laptop, but generally consultants prefer working with a hard copy. This allows you to make notes on your draft as you discuss it. If you haven’t generated a draft yet, that is absolutely fine. It is sometimes a good idea to visit us during the earlier stages of your writing process for brainstorming and planning. Bring whatever notes you have, in that case.
In a typical session, first you will get acquainted with your consultant. They will ask you to tell them about your writing project and what you would like to work on. At this time, you can share the assignment sheet with them. They may ask you about your writing process. Is this your first draft, or have you already gone through multiple revisions? When it comes time to read the paper, depending upon the length and other factors, they might invite you to read the piece aloud, or the consultant may read the piece aloud while you listen. If the piece is long, the consultant might read it silently, but specific portions might be read aloud during the process of discussion. As the paper is being read, both you and the consultant should feel free to stop and discuss specific passages. Remember that you are in charge of your session. You are the expert on what you are trying to convey through your writing. The consultant helps by asking you clarifying questions, suggesting strategies, and assisting you to think about rhetorical issues such as audience, purpose, genre, and so on. A session lasts up to 45 minutes. You may not be able to address all aspects of the piece of writing, but ideally you should leave with a clear plan for making significant improvement. If you would like to schedule another appointment, stop by the reception desk on the way out or make an appointment on our website.
We work within a peer mentoring model of writer development. If you are a graduate student, you should only make an appointment with a graduate consultant. Choose an MA or PhD level consultant as is appropriate. Undergraduates working in 100 and 200 level coursework should only make an appointment with one of our undergraduate consultants. These consultants have special preparation for the first year writing courses; they have recently and successfully negotiated the challenges of writing in the undergraduate curriculum. Undergraduate visitors often find it refreshing and empowering to work with someone nearer their age and stage in the educational journey. Advanced undergraduates or those working on high stakes projects such as applications or personal statements may select either an undergraduate or graduate consultant with whom to work. Regular visitors often find one or more specific consultants with whom they especially enjoy working.
Like writing centers across the nation, our mission is to contribute to the development of writers. Our training and expertise lies in our ability to help others to understand the writing process in more empowering ways and to grow in confidence, skill and effectiveness. Our mission is not to fix papers or edit writing for students. We will not proofread your paper line by line for you. We will not locate and/or fix every error. We certainly can help you to work on grammar, style, and general editing skills, if you establish that as a priority. Because learning requires active participation, you will be actively involved in any work on sentence level issues. We may talk about strategies, introduce you to tools that will help you, and assist you to become aware of the patterns in your own writing. We may, for example, find a pattern of error in one paragraph and show you how to fix it and then ask you to apply that knowledge to the second paragraph. We would then see your progress in the second paragraph and discuss that. Rather than attending to every issue, we may try to ascertain which issues are most interfering, and focus our attention on those. Having someone proofread your essay line-by-line will not help you to become a better writer.
Think of it this way: if you visited a tutoring center for math, you would not hand the tutor your homework and say, "I just need you to fix my calculation errors." Rather, you would expect to leave the session understanding the concepts of the homework in such a way that you would be able to perform them independently in the future. Learning to write well works the same way. In fact, the more complex your ideas and sentences become, the more likely it is that there will be some mechanical errors or stylistic awkwardness in these sentences! Errors are a part of the process of growing and developing as a writer and a thinker.
If you are seeking an editor or proofreader, you do not need a writing center expert. It may be that exchanging papers with a friend is a good practice. For graduate students with large, high stakes projects, we do maintain a list of editing services that are either paid for by your graduate student fee or that can be acquired on a freelance basis.
Of course! Usually problems with sentence structure are decreased through careful reflection, revision, and proofreading. The more times you look back and revise and reread, the more solid your sentences become. Consultants can help you identify repeating patterns of sentence structures, punctuation, and errors. They will help you to become more aware of the patterns in your writing and suggest strategies for improving editing and proofreading skills.
Toward the end of your session, you and your consultant should work out a plan of action for your next steps. Soon after the appointment, you should sit down with any notes that you have from the session, look at your draft with fresh eyes, and do some decision making. Remember, you are in charge of your draft; you are the expert on what you want to say. You can decide what suggestions or ideas that arose in the consultation should be applied in your revision.