The King’s College Writing Center was founded to help students improve the quality and effectiveness of their specific writing assignments and to contribute to each student’s education as a life-long writer. The Center's ultimate goal is to create both better writing and better writers. Tutors endeavor to improve the work and skills of the students of King’s College in sessions characterized by respect, patience, and attentiveness.
The Center is staffed by a director and twelve peer tutors who provide one-on-one conferences to all students seeking to improve their writing. This service is available to students in any course, and tutors are available to help with all types of writing. Tutors can offer suggestions and advice at every stage of the writing process, from understanding the requirements of an assignment, to developing and organizing ideas, to writing clearly, coherently, and correctly.
Writing Center tutors will not tell students what to say or how to say it. They do not write papers for students, and they are not a proofreading service. Their goal is to help writers reach their own goals and to provide the assistance needed to make the task of writing more rewarding and the results more effective.
LOCATION and HOURS
The Writing Center is located on the ground floor of the Mulligan Building, near the Post Office. Our hours for Spring 2020 are:
Monday- Thursday 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.
A Writing Center tutor is also available every Sunday from 2 to 8 p.m. in the computer lab on the first floor of Sheehy-Farmer.
Students never need an appointment and may drop in whenever they need assistance.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Where is the Writing Center?
The Center is located on the ground floor of the Mulligan Building, just down the hall from the Academic Skills Center and the Post Office.
When is the Center open?
We usually open in the second week of each semester and close on the last day of exams. Our daily hours vary from semester to semester. Most semesters we open at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning and close in the early evening, normally at 8:00. We often have Sunday hours as well. The director sends out a schedule to all students at the beginning of each semester and posts the hours on the door and on the Writing Center web page.
Who can use the Center?
All students who attend classes at King’s, from first-year to graduate level, are welcome to bring their work to the Writing Center.
Who staffs the Center?
Our staff includes a director and approximately twelve undergraduate peer-tutors from several majors.
Do I need an appointment?
No. Come by whenever we are open. If tutors are busy helping other students, you may either wait in the Center or return later in the day. If you would like to make an appointment for a future date, you may do so at the Writing Center.
How long is a tutorial?
Most tutorials last anywhere from twenty minutes to forty-five minutes depending on the length of the writing and the amount of revision needed. Don’t try to squeeze in a visit to the Center in the few minutes before one of your classes begins. Leave at least an hour in your schedule when you visit the Center, and plan to sit with your tutor for at least twenty minutes.
What should I bring with me?
Bring whatever you’ve written, whether it’s a few sentences or an entire draft. Also—and this is very important— bring the assignment handed out by your professor. In order to help you meet the requirements of an assignment, the tutor needs to know exactly what the assignment is. Don’t trust your memory. Bring the assignment sheet with you! And bring a pencil or pen to take notes and make revisions to your writing.
What type of assignments can I bring to the Center?
Our tutors can help you with analytic and interpretive essays, lab reports, summaries, senior seminar projects—pretty much anything that is routinely assigned in college courses.
What will a tutor do for my writing?
Our tutors are dedicated to helping you become a better writer, which means working with you in every stage of the writing process, from coming up with ideas to revising and editing your work. Tutors can help you formulate a thesis, brainstorm for supporting ideas, and organize your thoughts. They can also help you improve the coherence of your writing and the structure of your sentences. A tutor will respond to your essay the way a reader might, challenging assumptions, asking for more support, or pointing out any fuzzy logic in your argument. When it comes to helping you improve your writing, a tutor will do what he or she can, but there is a limit, as you’ll see in the next question.
I just need to have my work proofread. Can I come by for that?
The short answer is no, but that word “proofread” needs to be defined. Many students mistakenly use the word “proofread” to mean the act of reading, evaluating and commenting on the overall quality of a paper. In other words, many students will ask “Can you proofread my paper?” as a way of asking if a tutor will thoroughly read for both content and form. If that’s the case—if you’re asking whether a tutor will read and comment on your paper’s argument, development, effectiveness and so on—sure, absolutely, we can do that. In fact, that’s what we’re here for.
But strictly speaking we will not simply “proofread” a paper. Literally, to proofread means to read something called a proof, the printed copy that publishers use in their final effort to catch errors before the official printing of an article or book. Someone who is reading the proof—a proofreader—is simply looking for such things as typographical errors or stray marks on a page. Our tutors have been forbidden by their director to proofread in this more literal sense of the word. Our mission in the Writing Center is to contribute to the teaching of writing at King’s, and proofreading is not teaching. So the short answer is: bring your writing in for a thorough examination; if you're looking for someone just to catch spelling errors, perhaps your roommate can do that for you.
What happens in a tutorial?
When you arrive you’ll be asked to fill out a simple form with your name, your professor’s name, the course, and a few other bits of information. You’ll also indicate on the form what you hope to accomplish in the tutorial (improvements in organization or coherence, for example). Your tutor may ask you a few additional questions before reading your work. The tutor will usually read the entire essay before commenting, although he or she may stop at various points to make suggestions or ask questions. After the tutor has read your work thoroughly, he or she will discuss the paper with you. Keep in mind that the tutor’s job is to help you find the most effective means of expressing your ideas in your words. The tutor will not tell you what to write or write the paper for you. After discussing your work with you, the tutor will jot down some suggestions for improving the assignment.
Will the tutor help me find a topic?
Yes, a tutor can, in conversation with you about your assignment, help you decide on a topic and determine an approach to the topic. For many assignments, however, your professor must approve of your topic. When necessary, be sure that your professor has approved of your topic before pursuing it any further with a tutor in the pre-writing or drafting stages.
What if I know my paper is good enough and I just need a stamp to prove I’ve been to the Center?
Even a published essay can be improved. If you’re coming to the Center with a written text, the tutor is required by our policy to read the text and comment on its quality and effectiveness. If you feel that your professor has unjustly required you to attend a session in the Writing Center, please take the issue up with your professor. The tutors in the Center will not stamp a paper without reading it, and, after reading, they will address with you the paper’s strengths and whatever weaknesses it may contain.
Can I drop off my paper and return to pick it up later?
No. A tutor will often ask the writer during a tutorial session to explain a confusing point or clarify what she was hoping to accomplish in a paragraph or passage. You must be present during the tutorial.
What if I have a simple, short question?
Any and all questions are welcome.
What should I do while a tutor is reading my paper?
If a tutor is reading your essay silently, he or she is focusing diligently on your work in an effort to help you improve as a writer and student. The most courteous thing to do is to sit quietly and patiently. Each tutor is different, but it might be a good idea to assume that your tutor will be insulted if you text or read other work while he or she is trying to help you. Remember that the tutors in the Writing Center are your peers, students just like you. Their goal is to help you, not to judge you or demean your writing. Their critical comments are intended to help you improve your writing. Treat them as you would expect to be treated.
Can I bring in more than one paper at a time?
If no one is waiting, you might be able to ask your tutor to read an additional paper or assignment. In order to serve all students in a timely manner, however, the director of the Center asks that each student normally bring only one paper or assignment per visit. You’ll often find that the suggestions your tutor makes for improving one paper can be applied to the other.
How much time should I leave between a visit to the Center and the due date of the assignment?
Many of the papers that come into the Center need extensive revision or require many hours of new research to complete. Leave ample time to revise your work and to return to the Center with subsequent drafts.
Can I bring the same paper to the Center more than once?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, we encourage it. After you’ve revised according to your tutor’s suggestions, bring your next draft to the Center. If you want to work with the same tutor, be sure to come during his or her scheduled hours. There is no limit to the number of times you can visit the Writing Center.
I need help citing sources. Can the Writing Center help me?
We will certainly try. Be sure to tell the tutor what style of documentation your professor requires (MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, etc.). All of these styles are complicated, and your tutor may not know the finer points of documentation in the style you are using, but the tutor will help you determine what needs to be acknowledged and will make every effort to help you cite correctly. The tutor can also point you in the right direction for additional help.
Can I bring a paper for a friend or family member?
Unfortunately, no. Even if your friend or family member attends King’s, he or she must be present for the tutorial. Do not bring in someone else’s paper.
What if it’s a group project? Does the entire group have to come in?
Not necessarily, but the person bringing in the work must be able to answer all of the tutor’s questions about intended meaning, resources, and so on.
Can I get help for writing in a language other than English?
It depends. When we can find them, the Center employs tutors who speak and write in other languages, most commonly French and Spanish. If we are fortunate enough to have such tutors during the semester in which you need help, you may bring in your paper. See the tutor schedule on the Center’s Web page for availability.
Can I time my visit to work with a particular tutor?
Yes, absolutely. All tutors are trained to help you with any writing need, but you may prefer to work with a specific tutor.
Can I bring in a take-home exam?
We leave that decision to you and your instructor. If the instructor has not explicitly encouraged or prohibited visiting the Center, we leave it to you to decide whether the instructor would approve of your seeking help. If you’re not sure, ask the instructor.
Will my instructor know that I visited the Center?
Your instructor has three ways to determine whether you’ve visited the Center: 1) Every tutorial is summarized on a session sheet filled out by both the student and the tutor. The summaries are available to any instructor who asks for them. 2) Every paper that is brought into the Center is stamped to show that a tutor has read the work. 3) Every tutorial is recorded in a database accessible to all instructors. It is never a good idea to tell an instructor that you have been to the Writing Center if indeed you have not been.
Can I get help for writing unrelated to my course work (application letters, personal statements, etc.)?
Certainly. Tutors will gladly help you with whatever writing projects you are currently engaged in. If tutors are busy, however, you may be asked to return at a quieter time since preference is given to academic work.
I teach _____. Do you have tutors for _______?
Each year, we try to find tutors from a wide range of majors and minors, and we publish tutor availability by discipline on our Web page. Student writers who leave sufficient time between the due date of an assignment and their visit to the Writing Center may be able to work with a tutor who is familiar with the assignment and discipline. All of our tutors, however, are trained to help students improve their writing no matter the subject or structure of the particular assignment. Concerns such as coherence, development, and syntax are common in the writing of every discipline, and tutors will do their best to address those concerns.
What training do tutors receive?
Applicants for a position in the Writing Center must have above-average writing skills and the personal qualities—attentiveness, empathy, respect, courtesy— necessary for working closely with students of varying abilities. In training sessions held during the early part of the year, tutors are taught how to conduct a tutorial and assess student writing. The director also works individually with tutors throughout the semester to help improve their abilities.
Why are there still problems in a paper that has been seen by a tutor?
There are, of course, many possible reasons: the tutor may have missed something; the student writer misinterpreted the tutor’s advice; more errors were created while revising and editing, and so on. One of the most common reasons is that the student has come to the Center only once for a paper that needs an exceptional amount of attention. We take a “top-down” approach to writing instruction at the Writing Center, which means that we start at the essay level and work toward the sentence level. If a student brings us a draft that has no thesis and is disorganized, incoherent, and full of grammatical mistakes, the tutor spends the session helping the writer find and state a central point, brainstorm for ideas, outline an approach, and so on. There is usually little time left to address what might be serious grammatical problems. These students are sent away with a list of issues to address and are strongly encouraged to bring a second draft to the Center. When a student brings in a draft that is coherent, developed, organized, and so on, the tutor will spend the time helping the writer polish sentences and identify errors. Unfortunately, too many students come to the Center only once, with a very rough draft in need of much work. The tutor will recommend changes at the essay and paragraph levels, and the student will later take a stab at revising, submit a terribly flawed essay to the professor, receive a deservedly low grade, and complain that the Writing Center did nothing for him (when, in fact, the Writing Center may actually have helped him avoid complete failure). No one learns to write in a half-hour tutorial. Or three or four, for that matter. But a student’s chances of improving as a writer definitely increase with each visit to the Writing Center.
Do tutors discuss grades with student writers?
No. Tutors work under very strict guidelines that prohibit discussing grades or individual professors during a tutorial. Tutors are forbidden from disagreeing with a grade given to a paper or suggesting that a paper should receive a particular grade.
How can I encourage my students to visit the Writing Center?
You can refer a student to the Writing Center in several ways:
- Simply encourage your students to use the Center. Perhaps include our schedule and location on your syllabus or on your instruction sheet.
- Remind students that the Writing Center is not merely a “proofreading” service and that tutors will, instead, help with every step in the writing process—from understanding an assignment to developing and organizing ideas to polishing a final draft.
- Send a student with a draft that you’ve already seen. If you do refer a student with a draft that you've read and marked, please be sure that your comments on the draft are legible. Tutors are familiar with common marking symbols and abbreviations, so feel free to jot them in the margins as you read. Also, if you wish, you can include a note on the draft telling the tutor if there’s anything specific you’d like to see addressed.
- Invite a tutor to visit your class. A tutor can come by at any point in the semester to give a five- to ten-minute presentation on the Writing Center’s services.
Can I require students to visit the Writing Center?
There are mixed opinions on this question in the literature about writing centers. Mandatory visits, it’s been argued, overwhelm writing centers at peak times during the semester, squeezing out students who seek help voluntarily. Some instructors supposedly use writing centers to avoid addressing the topic of writing in their classes. And students uninterested in improving their writing who are required to visit a writing center may grudgingly comply only to receive some evidence that they have fulfilled what they see as a useless requirement.
It is true that if all instructors at King’s required students to visit the Center, we would be unable to meet the demand, and we do occasionally suffer the disgruntled student who has no desire for our help. But the faculty who send us students have always been among the most dedicated to improving student writing and tend to see the Center as a supplement to instruction, not a replacement for it. Additionally, the majority of students compelled to visit the Center appear to leave having benefited from the experience. Since we have not seen a wide-spread problem in mandating visits to the Writing Center, we choose to answer this question, “Sure. Go right ahead.”
If you worry that requiring the entire class to visit might create discord, consider “recommending” the Center or “strongly encouraging” students to visit. If you do require an entire class to come in, please let the director know a few weeks in advance of the assignment’s due date.
What if I have a suggestion?
We in the Writing Center want our services to be a part of the College’s efforts to help students develop their writing skills. The only way the Center can improve its work is through feedback from students and instructors. If you feel that a student has not been served well by the Center, please let the director know.
Dr. Laurie Sterling, Director
570-208-5900, ext. 5705