University Learning Center

The Writing Center

The process for Writing Center appointments vary with the writer and the writing task. Also, each consultant personalizes their approach based on their own style and strengths. However, it is important that all consultations have similar goals and practices so that all students are having a similar collaborative learning experience. To that end, the basic process for most sessions is summarized below:

1. Get acquainted with the writer. This should starts as soon as you meet the student in the lobby. Engage in small talk with the student to break the ice and reinforce that this is a comfortable, student-centered space. 

2. Review the consultation form with the student. Ask what the student wants to accomplish during the next hour and try to get a sense of their approach to writing. Find out what the assignment is, whether the writer understands it fully, and when it is due. (When instructors submit them, we keep copies of the assignments on file in the rooms. Often, assignments are available on Blackboard or on an instructor's website.) Determine basic assignment expectations: discourse type, audience, style and voice.

3. Find out what approach the writer is using or planning to use for the assignment.

If the writer has no draft and wants help brainstorming, explore with the writer how they might go about gathering or producing ideas and materials and help the writer think about some of the possibilities for organizing the ideas and materials (this is an ideal time to use the white board). You might help the writer develop a working thesis statement and outline. You might also help the student find writing resources online. If the student is working on a research paper, you might want to use the Assignment Calculator or the Library Referral Form. Definitely suggest a follow-up appointment once the student has a draft written - you can even walk the student through making her next appointment.

(Skip to #9 below.)


If the writer has a draft, ask the writer to read their draft aloud. Before beginning, briefly explain why we ask writers to read aloud (that almost all writers find it beneficial to hear their work and often find things they want to change or correct during the read-aloud process).

4. Stop whenever you wish in order to explore choices and alternatives with the writer. Ask the writer questions. Turn the writer's questions back on them ("Well, what do you think?"). Give the writer every chance to solve problems before you offer suggestions. Your task is to help the writer see the problem and figure out how to solve it. Do not jump in and provide a solution - your primary job is to raise questions. Let the writer do the writing.

5. After hearing the student read the paper, make a positive, rapport-creating statement to the writer. Point out what you see as strengths of the paper.

7. Then, address the writer's concerns (either what you discussed earlier or what the writer says they are most concerned about).

8. Next, concentrate on how you can help the writer with "higher-order concerns" (often called HOCs or Global Revision): focus, voice, organization, and development. Ask a lot of questions so that the writer can take the lead on addressing any HOCs.

8. Suggest strategies for the writer to use in revising "lower-order concerns" (often called LOCs or Local Revision or 'mechanics'): sentence structure, usage, grammar, etc. For specific editing questions, explain the correction, show the student how to use a writing handbook to find the explanation, and show the student how to make the correction. Then, have the student find and correct a similar problem in their own paper.

9. Finally, suggest what the writer should do next. That could be revision advice, scheduling another visit, scheduling a conference with the instructor, or using some resource material in the Writing Lab (handouts, online resources, etc).

10. Fill out the TutorTrac record and get ready for your next appointment.

The Writing Lab