What to Expect in a Writing Center Appointment

What We Do

Writing center tutors work, free of charge, with writers during 30- and 60-minute appointments to brainstorm, outline, organize, analyze, or revise a wide array of compositions, ranging from papers for introductory courses to capstones and graduate theses, PowerPoint presentations, and resumes and cover letters. These appointments take place either in one of the quiet conference rooms in our central Raynor location or at our satellite location in McCormick Residence Hall.

We are just as happy to brainstorm ideas and help with other preliminary work as we are to help revise a rough draft or fine-tune a final draft. Although we will assist writers with proper grammatical usage, we cannot copyedit papers; we aim to engage writers in conversations and practice that will help them learn from our assistance and apply that knowledge to their own patterns of error.

What Happens During a Conference?

First-time visitors often schedule an appointment and arrive not really knowing what to expect. In all of our locations, you can expect to be greeted warmly by our reception staff and tutors. Most appointments begin with the tutor asking about the assignment: What's the task? How long is the project? When is it due? Where are you in the process of working on the assignment?

You can also expect your tutor to ask you about your priorities: What do you most want to focus on during the conference? (Common areas of focus include brainstorming, refining a thesis statement, revising organization, presenting and analyzing evidence, developing transitions, crafting effective introductions and conclusions, documenting sources, and fine-tuning grammar and style.)

If you've got a draft, your tutor will probably ask you to read through it out loud. (If reading aloud makes you uncomfortable, let your tutor know and he or she can read it aloud instead.) Reading the draft aloud allows both writer and tutor to get familiar with the ideas and the language in the draft.

After that, the conversation will focus on the priorities you and the tutor set together. Our tutors will respect you and trust your writing decisions, which means that we will not tell you what to do with your work, but will instead help you to think critically about your work and your writing processes. Being an author is about making choices: as tutors, we aim to help you see a wider range of choices and weigh the pros and cons of those options.

If You've Got a Longer Paper or a Series of Projects

Often we cannot read and respond to an entire draft during one appointment. If you have a draft that's 6 pages or longer, your tutor may ask if you wish to focus on a particular section of your paper.

If you're working on a longer paper, we encourage you to make a series of appointments--ideally with the same tutor. That way you can work on various sections (or look at a revision of an earlier version) with someone who already knows your project and your writing strengths and concerns. You may even be able to arrange for a "reading hour"--which allows your tutor to read some of your draft ahead of time.

If you're working on a series of projects in a single class or across multiple classes, consider making a "regular" appointment with a tutor. Many writers come for 30 or 60 minutes at the same time every week (or every other week) to work with the same tutor. In addition to the advantage of getting to know each other well and not having to re-explain your project and concerns each week, being a "regular" gives you the privilege of asking for a "reading hour" when necessary--time for your tutor to read a longer or more complex draft in advance. If you're interested, talk to your tutor or a member of our reception staff.