Frequently Asked Questions
Can I require my students to use the Writing Center?
Let's talk about it first. Research does show that students who are required to use writing center services benefit from the experience, but the reality is that we have a small staff and a limited number of appointments. We need to talk through how to make required visits manageable and how to set both your students and our staff up for success. It's crucial for your students to know what to expect and how to prepare for an appointment, so we ask that you talk with us first so we can arrange for a classroom visit and agree on how the requirement will be framed for your students.
How can I encourage my students to use the Writing Center?
Great question! We have a number of suggestions for you. Invite us to come do a presentation about the Writing Center around the time you assign your first writing assignment. It makes a difference for students when they see that consultants are friendly and approachable, and it also communicates to them that you value what the Writing Center offers. Add a reminder about the Writing Center to your syllabus. You can find a ready-made blurb here on our website. Talk about your own writing processes with your students and tell them about the people with whom you exchange ideas, to whom you describe your projects, and who read your work in progress. Ask your students to write multiple drafts and remind them of our services as you do.
How come my students visit the Writing Center, but still hand in papers with grammatical errors?
Well, probably that's because we aren't a copy-editing service. Our work is the teaching of writing one-with-one. We worry that students won't learn too much if we proof-read and correct their papers for them. We try to strike a balance between helping writers to complete their writing projects in ways that make them proud and helping writers to become better, stronger writers in the long term. Within this context, we work with writers to prioritize their needs and interests both with regard to the project at hand and their long-term development. Our conversations with writers range among topics like concept development, sustaining an argument, suiting voice to purpose, organization, introductions and conclusions, audience awareness, citations, and editing strategies, to name only a few. Most of our consultations are sharply focused on one or maybe two of these priorities. We are committed to facilitating consultations so that writers leave with a strong sense of what to work on in their writing and how to prioritize that work.
I think my students are plagiarizing their papers. What can you do to help me?
Yikes. There's little more frustrating in the life of a teacher than discovering that a student has plagiarized a paper. We think teachers and Writing Center consultants need to talk honestly with student-writers about academic integrity and about plagiarism in particular. We will partner with you in having those conversations with students either in a workshop setting or in one-with-one consultations in the Writing Center. One thing we're pretty sure of in the Writing Center is that intent matters. Some students take the words of others without any real awareness that, in this cultural context, to do so is to perpetrate theft. We try to remember that writing conventions vary by language and culture; in some international contexts, uncited quoting or paraphrasing of others' work is normal, expected, and, in fact, rewarded. So our practice is to figure out what writers know about academic integrity and plagiarism in U.S. Colleges and Universities and to teach openly and honestly what we know. In the Writing Center, our practice is to ask students about their work, to try to discern their understanding of the idea of plagiarism and their intentions in using the words of others. We want student-writers to understand why citation is critical in academic writing and how to make informed decisions about when, whom and how to cite.