Writing Center: Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I come to the Writing Center?

Our writing consultants are experienced writers who are trained to help you. You’ll receive expert feedback that‘s tailored to your writing project and your particular needs. Also, we try not only to help you with current projects, but also to foster the skills and confidence every writer needs for continued improvement and academic success.

Will a writing consultant fix/edit/correct my paper?

Our goal is to help you become a better writer, to help you gain knowledge and strategies that can strengthen not only with your current writing project, but future ones as well. For that reason, writing consultants work with you the way a coach does, guiding you through the writing process, teaching you strategies and principles, coaching you to apply them in your writing, and helping you appreciate your strengths, recognize your weaknesses, and transform those weaknesses with practice and new knowledge. In short, no, we will not fix, edit, or correct your paper. You decide what changes to make to your paper.

Can I just walk into the Writing Center to work with a consultant?

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we don’t expect to have face-to-face consultations in the Fall 2020 semester. So, sadly, no, we’ll have to meet online or on the phone via an appointment for an Online consultation, or on the written page in an eTutoring consultation. See our Consultation How-tos page for guidance in creating an account in WC Online and setting up consultation appointments.

What happens during a consultation?

Typically, your consultant will devote 45 minutes to your writing consultation (or 90 minutes if you’ve booked two appointments back-to-back).  If you have indicated particular concerns, those concerns will be addressed.  Your consultant will probably spot some issues you aren’t aware of.  Consultants try to focus first on “higher-level” concerns like whether you have a good introduction and thesis statement, your discussion proceeds logically, your paragraphs are each organized around one topic, your body (evidence) paragraphs include citations and analysis, and so on.  The consultant may ask questions to lead you to clarify your ideas, sentences, and paragraphs in order to strengthen your paper.  If you’re in good shape on the higher-level content concerns, the consultant will focus more on grammar and sentence structure, or the frequency and formatting of your citations.  See our Consultation How-tos for details about setting up and conducting writing consultations.

What the heck is the difference between an “Online” consultation and an “eTutoring” consultation?

An “Online” consultation is a video or phone conference using the Online platform in WC Online, our scheduling program.  An eTutoring consultation is a written consultation: You don’t have to be available; your consultant prepares written feedback, which is emailed to you.  For an eTutoring consultation, it’s especially important that you provide your writing assignment to the consultant. Even then, chances are that in an eTutoring consultation the consultant’s advice won’t be precisely tailored to what you need to know because the consultant doesn’t have the opportunity to find out from you what you know or don’t know.  Still, if you can’t be available for an Online consultation, a written (eTutoring) consultation can be helpful.  As for what issues might be covered in each kind of consultation, see the response to the previous question.  See our Consultation How-tos for details about setting up and conducting writing consultations.

Do I need a draft paper to have a writing consultation?

Great question! No, you don’t. We’ll gladly work with you to figure out the assignment, choose your topic, think through some perspectives you could take on a subject of interest to you, get started on your research (although Davis Memorial Library’s reference librarians are better at that), wrestle with what to include and what to leave out, and figure out a structure or outline for your paper. All of these processes are part of writing and either must or may come before you begin writing the paper.  Don’t hold back if you don’t have a draft, but do sign up for an Online consultation, not eTutoring (which is for written feedback on a written draft).

Aren’t writing consultations just for coursework in the humanities and first-year students?

Not at all.  We work with students at all levels and in all disciplines: the humanities programs, like English, History, Religion & Philosophy; the social sciences, including Psychology, Political Science, Government, and Sociology; the “hard” sciences, such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics; forensics, law, and criminal justice courses; art and music; professional programs like Nursing, Social Work, Health Care Administration, and Engineering; and all MU’s graduate programs—Physician Assistants, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy. We work with freshmen in ENG 1000 and with candidates for a doctorate in Physical Therapy.  We even work with faculty members (if they ask nicely) on their course materials and professional publications. And we’re happy to work with you on your creative writing, personal statements, scholarship applications, Davis Peace Prize applications, letters to the editor …whatever you bring our way.

I’m an international student and my English isn’t the greatest. Can you help me?

Yes, we can. We’re happy to work with those who aren’t native English speakers. Our consultations are just the same as with native speakers, with perhaps more focus on word choice (vocabulary), sentence structure, idiomatic English, prepositions (to or at? on or upon? about or of?), or articles (the, an, a). We strongly recommend that international students use the Online consultation format rather than the eTutoring format (written feedback) because our communication is just more effective if we can talk to each other in real time.

WC Online doesn’t have openings! My paper is due tomorrow night, and I really need some help. What can I do?!?

We’re so glad you asked.  What you do is check WC Online again tomorrow morning. All our student consultants who are offering consultations the next day will open their hours on WC Online in the morning. So you’ll see new openings (white blocks) pretty much every weekday morning. We call the consultations with student consultants “ONLINE WALK-INS” because they’re the closest we have to your just walking into the WC and finding a consultant to work with you on the spot. You can only sign up for “Online,” i.e., real-time video or phone conference consultations, with the student consultants—no eTutoring.  Also, consultations with student consultants are just for undergraduate students.  See our Consultation How-tos for details.

WC Online doesn’t have any openings for almost three weeks!! I need help. What can I do?!

First, see the answer immediately above: Check WC Online on the day you want a consultation to find openings with student consultants. Second, use the WAITING LIST function in WC Online. You can join the Waiting List for any given day by clicking on the link below that day in WC Online and completing the sign-up. You’ll be notified whenever an opening appears on that day’s schedule. This does not automatically reserve the appointment for you: You must go into WC Online, click on the opening and make an appointment in the usual way. See our Consultation How-tos for details.

Will my instructor know that I’ve used the Writing Center?

At the end of each consultation, your consultant will complete a “Writing Center Report,” a consultation summary that is emailed to you and to your professor. This summary provides overview of what you and your consultant worked on during your appointment and might include remarks about the issues your consultant thought most important.

What will my instructor think about my having a writing consultation?

The feedback the Writing Center receives from professors is extremely positive. Many professors have seen their students’ writing improve following writing consultations, and they encourage or require students to visit the Writing Center for their classes.

I got my paper back, and I don’t understand what I did wrong. Can you help?

Yes. We recommend that you first speak with your instructor and then, if you’re still in the dark, make an appointment for a consultation. Your consultant will address the issues raised in your paper, help you understand them, and work with you to figure out how to improve the problem areas.

May I bring my take-home exam to the Writing Center?

Unless you have already been directed to bring the exam to the Writing Center, you must ask your instructor for permission before working with a consultant on a take-home exam. Remember, it is your responsibility to know the instructions for your take-home exams.

I’ve been assigned a writing project that’s 10 or more pages. Can you help me with all of it?

Yes, we can if you allow enough consultation time to cover all your writing issues and all those pages. You and your consultant will review as many pages of your draft as possible, and we do try to give you the tools you need for the rest of the draft.  However, it’s highly unlikely that a single consultation will cover the entire document. You can make multiple appointments, up to five per week, and you can make back-to-back appointments for a longer consultation.

I’ve been assigned a group writing project with two classmates. Can all of us participate in a writing consultation?

Of course! The professional and faculty consultants welcome students with group writing projects. (The student consultants do not handle group consultations.) When you book your appointment, be sure to say that two (or more) students want to participate in the consultation. In fact, you should also email your consultant to ensure he or she knows in advance that a group consultation is coming up. You must provide the names and email addresses of your co-authors, and all of you must have registered for WC Online accounts. (We’re talking Online consultation here; a group of co-authors makes no difference in a written consultation.) Your consultant might use WC Online or might set up a Zoom meeting for your group consultation; the consultant will let you and your co-authors know what platform you’re using.

What are the “Dirty Dozen” errors I keep hearing about?

The Dirty Dozen is twelve grammar errors that are both common and serious.  Mastering them improves the clarity and directness of your writing, and instructors in the Department of English and Writing, professors with writing intensive classes, and other Methodist University instructors all emphasize these errors. The Writing Center offers a Dirty Dozen workshop series online by Zoom during the fall semester. Go to our Workshops page for details. We also provide online Student Resources to develop and test your knowledge of the Dirty Dozen.

What is the “Writing for Success: From Research to Real World” workshop series?

We often hear (and you may often hear) that college students need to develop critical thinking skills as well as writing skills in order to find success in their professional lives.  And writing a research paper, especially an “argumentative” or persuasive research paper, really exercises your critical thinking and writing faculties.  So we created this series not only to help you with your writing assignments, but also to break down the strategies and tools you can use to make a complex research and writing task do-able.  Some of the topics covered are brainstorming and outlining, using keywords and progressive focusing in your research, structuring effective arguments and evidence paragraphs, paper formatting made easy, revising, editing, and creating good PowerPoint presentations. Look for this workshop in the spring semester. Also, you can go to our Student Resources page for links to all the presentation materials.

I have some suggestions for improving the Writing Center. Where can I send them?

We are always happy to hear from you. We ask you to complete a short feedback survey whenever you receive a summary report of one of your consultations; you can use the comments box on the survey. Also, you may email your suggestions and comments to writingcenter@methodist.edu.

How can I get a job as a Writing Center consultant?

Enroll in WRI 4160, the internship course that prepares students who are good writers to be writing consultants.  In this class, students study strategies for helping people become more effective writers, how writing differs across the disciplines, and so on.  After successfully completing this class and some hands-on practice, a student is eligible to apply to work as a paid student writing consultant.  See our Become a Student Consultant page.

How do I contact the Writing Center?

You can contact the Writing Center by calling (910) 630-7264. Keep in mind that the consultants may be tied up in consultations and unable to answer the phone. However, if you leave a clear, detailed message on a weekday, a consultant will return your call within 12 hours. We’ll respond to messages left on a weekend as soon as we can. Also, you can contact us via email at writingcenter@methodist.edu.