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Frequently Asked Questions about WAP

What do Writing Assistants do?

WAs respond to students' first drafts through margin notes and end commentaries. WAs address issues from grammar and style to paragraph organization and structure. As well they may meet with students either individually or in small group sessions to discuss their writing.

The WA responds as an engaged reader, not a professor. To maintain a facilitative approach to commentary, the WA may not edit, proofread, or grade papers. Furthermore, WAs may not comment on professors' grades with either the professor or the students.

How Should Professors Work with Writing Assistants?

At the beginning of the semester, the professor should meet with a CEW director and the WAs to:

  • Provide WAs with copies of syllabi and assignments.
  • Clarify logistics (due dates and turnaround times).
  • Establish goals for students' writing.
  • Discuss expectations for assignments and what issues WAs should address.
  • Agree on the procedure that WAs should use if they suspect plagiarism.


The CEW Recommends that Professors:

  • Invite the WAs to meet the class early in the semester.
  • Add the WAs to Blackboard as auditors, or give them a class list so that they can contact students.
  • Communicate regularly with WAs, in conferences or through e-mail, on topics such as the students' progress and students' writing issues.
  • Engage WAs about the substance and style of their commentary, perhaps by asking students to bring in first drafts annotated with WA comments.

What is Effective Use of Writing Assistant Time?

Your WA is a student, working on an hourly basis. Since your WA has an academic schedule to manage, s/he should know early in the term the dates for receiving drafts. The professor must provide the WA with reasonable turnaround time for those drafts. For instance, the average turnaround time for a set of sixteen 4-6-page papers is four to five days. To maintain a schedule that doesn’t interfere with the WA’s other work, the professor might ask the WA to address some papers and not others, to work on a few stages of a larger project, to meet with particular students, or to respond to the class as a whole with general writing tips or issues.


CEW recommends that professors encourage, rather than require, their students to meet with the WA. You and your WA should negotiate this matter, for WAs are full-time students and their basic obligation is to address drafts. The CEW is willing to provide recommended conferences for your students, too.

How can I request a Writing Assistant?

We give priority to requests for courses that have a significant writing component and that include a brief overview of the way the professor will employ the WA.

Please contact Arabella Lyon or Rhonda Reid ( for information on requesting a Writing Assistant.