For Instructors

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a handout summarizing ways that faculty can collaborate with the Writing Center?

Yes we do! Here it is. It covers much of the information included below.

How can the Writing Center support me as a course instructor?

  • We are happy to visit your class for a brief 10-15 minute introduction to what we do at the Writing Center. 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.
  • We have information you can include on your syllabus .
  • If you'd like to work with us on a tailored lesson plan regarding some aspect of writing, we are happy to work with you. We call these "co-teach" sessions since we will work together to develop the lesson plan and present it together to the class. If you are interested in collaborating on a co-teach session, please email Dr. Meredith Steck, Associate Director of the Writing Center ( msteck2@unl.edu), or Dr. Rachel Azima, Writing Center Director (razima2@unl.edu).
  • If you'd like a more extensive partnership with the Writing Center, the Writing Fellows program may be a good fit for you! Writing Fellows are Writing Center consultants who work one-to-one with students in a course from disciplines outside of English, giving written feedback and holding individual conferences with students about their writing.
  • We are here for you as a writer yourself! You can of course make appointments at the Writing Center, and we also periodically offer writing retreats for advanced writers, as well as other write-on-site opportunities.

I'm interested in revising an existing writing assignment or designing a new writing component for my course. Can the Writing Center help me with this?

Absolutely! Our Director and Assistant Directors not only enjoy talking with writers about writing, but also teachers about teaching. We would be happy to meet with you and help you develop your ideas around writing in your course. Please contact the Director, Dr. Rachel Azima, at razima2@unl.edu, or the Associate Director, Dr. Meredith Steck, at msteck2@unl.edu.

How can I encourage my students to use the Writing Center?

In addition to inviting us to visit your class to talk about the Writing Center around the time you assign your first writing assignment and adding a reminder about the Writing Center to your syllabus , you can 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.

Can I have the Writing Center do a presentation while I am away at a conference?

We're afraid not; it's important for the course instructor to be present to give context to any of the material we discuss. We will not visit if the instructor of record cannot be there. But we are happy to work with whatever amount of class time you have available during class sessions when you will be present.

Can I require my whole class to visit 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.

Can I require individual students to use the Writing Center, if they are struggling?

Please do encourage those students to come, but please don’t make it a requirement. Although of course we are happy to support writers who are inexperienced or struggling in any way, we do not frame what we do as remedial in nature, and students come to have negative associations with the Writing Center and with writing in general when they are singled out for requirements. A specific referral goes much more smoothly if you have already discussed the benefits of visiting the Writing Center for all writers, and particularly for the projects in your class.

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 stronger, more confident 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.