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bullet Introduction
bullet  Overview of Writing Center Work
bullet  Tutorial Sessions
bullet  Writing Center Staff


Nearly everybody likes to write. You may find this hard to agree with, if you've heard your roommate moaning about writing a paper, or helped an anxious classmate come up with ideas or do some final editing of a paper before turning it in, or struggled through a paper that just won't come right yourself. But give the same person the opportunity to write song lyrics, compose copy for the want ads, create a PowerPoint presentation, or chat online with a friend at a remote campus, and you're likely to find that the individual likes to write in that situation.

The challenge of writing in school is that most assigned writing tasks require analytical reading and writing, often some research; have clearly specified requirements that may or may not suit any given student's writing style or preferred way of thinking; and most importantly will be graded. The informal writing tasks--song lyrics, want ads, presentation slides, online chat--are tasks that people usually freely choose to do and they undertake for the sake of communicating some specific, original thoughts with another person or group. In contrast, the task of writing to demonstrate one's knowledge or take a position on an academic issue or show one has completed an assigned activity may seem daunting or tedious, and a student often has no clear idea of just what is expected and what standards will be used to evaluate the completed writing.

The student who comes to a writing center seeking help is likely to feel that he or she doesn't like writing or is afraid of writing badly or of looking foolish or has been told he is not a good writer either through poor grades or explicit comments. The student who seeks writing center help may not even want to be there but is there because a classroom instructor or his mother has insisted he seek help. Or perhaps the student really likes to write and does a great deal of writing on her own, but in a particular class, she just can't seem to figure out the professor's expectations and produce a text that meets them.

Helping another person get started on a writing assignment or revise an assigned paper for a class can therefore seem challenging, even daunting. You may know how you would approach the same task but find it difficult to understand the approach--or even the language --used by the student whose text is before you. You may know how you would state a particular idea but not know how to help the student state a similar idea more clearly--that is, without dictating your own words. You may know what "sounds right" whether the grammar checker agrees with you or not, but you don't have any other principle to go on than "This sounds right but that doesn't."

Anyone who has ever helped another person with a writing task has had experience in all of these situations. It is possible to help another person become a better writer. There is a large and growing body of information published in professional venues on offering tutorial assistance in ways that ease the student client along the path to creating better texts. This manual is intended to share some of that information in order to prepare you to meet the student clients and to respond to the texts you will encounter as a writing center tutor.

You have been given the opportunity to help other writers because of some important qualities you possess. You may be particularly good at working with other people. You may like to write. You may be a very good writer but not enjoy writing. You may be a writer who sweats blood over poor first drafts that require days and weeks of revising, or you may be a writer that dashes off a creative, original, high-quality paper at the last minute. You may be a very good student or a so-so student who gets good grades on papers. You may be good at helping other people with technology and combine that with fair writing ability. You may just like to help people with any task you can. Any of these characteristics can make an excellent starting point for becoming a writing center tutor, or becoming a better writing center tutor.

You may want to start your writing center career by thinking about the qualifications you bring to the job. Describe yourself as a thinker, a writer, a student, and a person in interaction with other people. What strengths are you bringing to this job?

Go to Overview of Writing Center Work or return to Resources for Tutors.

Posted by Dr. Trupe August 3, 2001

Bridgewater College