Using a Campus Writing Center

There are so many resources on a college campus, but there is one that is very important and available to all students is the writing center. The writing center is very useful to students of all years, not just first year students. Peer tutor Gwen Plummer says, “I’m a senior majoring in English and I still go to the writing center.” Things to keep in mind when utilizing a writing center is knowing why the writing center is so important, how to prepare for a tutoring session, and not being afraid to ask for help when needed.

When interviewing Gwen Plummer, I found out information that is useful to students who are trying to make the most out of their writing center. The writing center is open and available for most of the day Monday through Friday. Even if you don’t have an appointment, you can enter as a “walk-in.” The writing center is important to use because it is always good to have a second opinion on a paper. Yes, you can always ask a friend to review your paper but the writing center tutors are available and as Gwen said, “Tutors are happy to read your paper.” On assignments, students will often miss some mistakes they made. By going to the writing center, you will get that one on one attention that is needed to improve your paper. Gwen recommends that students go to the writing center at least once for every class every semester. Although there is no real answer to how many times you should go to the writing center, it is always better to go more often than not so that students can take advantage of the free resources.

In a tutoring session, you cannot just hand in your paper to a tutor and expect them to do all the work. “Tutors aren’t editors,” says Gwen. Tutoring sessions are meant to be as collaborative as possible between the student and the peer tutor. The first thing that will happen is an introduction between the tutor and the student. Then, the tutor will read aloud the paper to the student. The tutor will then ask the student what the problem is. The tutor will then notice little mistakes. The rest of the session consists of working to fix the problem and mistakes. There needs to be a goal when coming into the session. The student should know what is wrong with their paper. Otherwise, it will be hard for the tutor to help if the student does not even know what is wrong. Gwen mentioned that whatever you would need to write the paper, you should bring to the session. For example, the prompt and syllabus might be needed to write the paper. Not all tutoring sessions are like this because it always depends on the tutor but this process gives a good example.

It is not a bad thing to ask for help. You should not feel embarrassed by going to the writing center. If there are any questions on the assignment itself, you should ask your professor and then let your tutor know if it is relevant to the paper. Common mistakes that are done by first year students are citations, contractions, and formal papers. First year students will worry about citations because some might not have learned in high school. Another reason could be that the citation needs to be done a certain way and the students do not know how to do it the right way. Gwen says that she notices many contractions when reading assignments done by first year students. She also says that first year students try too hard to make a formal paper therefore complicating their paper to the point where it is hard to read.

Some tips that Gwen suggested is to reread your paper a million times. Of course, that is exaggerating a little but only to emphasize the importance of rereading your own work as well as others rereading your work. She suggested to put your paper away for a day, then come back to it the next day. Gwen said that when you are writing, you should “always keep your voice.” She highly recommends leisure reading because then your favorite authors will start to be your role models and you begin to find your own style of writing. All in all, the writing center is not a “scary bad place” but a place where you should feel safe to share your writing. Remember that even professionals still get help with their writing.

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