Before You Visit the Writing Lab

  • Don't wait until the last minute to visit the Writing Lab. Give yourself at least a day between your visit to the Lab and the date the paper is due. Otherwise, you won't have time to make significant revisions.
  • Think about what you want to accomplish before you confer with a tutor. The tutor will ask, "How may I help you?" Be ready with a specific answer. What are your main concerns regarding your paper?
  • Bring the assignment sheet, the written-down directions for the assignment you're working on.
  • Don't think you have to bring a completed draft before you can confer with a tutor in the Writing Lab. A conference can be helpful at any stage in the writing process, even if you haven't written a word yet. A tutor can help you decide on a topic, limit it, brainstorm ideas for developing it, and consider how you might organize your material before you begin.
Tutors in the Writing Lab are eager to assist you with your writing and will do their best to address the concerns you have. That's why we hope you will tell us what you're thinking about your draft and let us know the kind of help you're seeking. However, our policy is that we will not merely proofread a paper for you, correcting errors while you sit back and observe. Our purpose is to enable you, to work with you so that, when the conference is over, in person or over the Web, you will have learned something that will help you in the future. Correcting surface errors in one paper while you sit back and watch (or leave to do something else) is not going to teach you much of anything about writing.

We will not ignore technical matters in your writing. In fact, if we notice a pattern of error (in sentence structure or pronoun reference or use of the apostrophe, for example), we will call your attention to it and help you address the problem. Indeed, we can help you become a better proofreader. But our purpose is not to correct errors for you. Our time is better spent helping you address issues of focus, development, organization, and style. Correctness is important, but it can wait until near-final drafts, after the most important work has been done.

Allow at least a day for revision after you confer with a tutor.

Please try to allow yourself at least a day after meeting with a tutor before you have to submit the final draft to your instructor. You will probably need that time to revise. There is little point in meeting with a tutor an hour before the paper is due--if you hope to make significant improvements in the draft.
Tutors can help you to...
  • check that you've followed your instructor's directions and have addressed any explicit criteria of evaluation.
  • develop your ideas by discussing them with you and asking questions.
  • identify technical errors in a draft (for example, in sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation) and teach you to make corrections on your own.
  • become a better reader of your own writing by helping you analyze your draft in terms of focus, organization, development, style, and correctness.
  • with citing and documenting source material in MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association) styles, or another documentation style.
Your tutor will be an attentive, thoughtful reader of your writing who can let you know how your words are getting across. If nothing else, allowing a tutor to read your paper and talk with you about it will help you learn to internalize an audience--that is, predict and respond to the needs of readers in general, whatever the assignment.

You can meet weekly (or more often) with the same tutor over the course of a semester. Your tutor can monitor your progress and focus with you on the writing skills you would like to develop.

The tutor will not simply proofread your paper for you, per our Proofreading Policy.

Please try to allow yourself at least a day after meeting with a tutor before you have to submit the final draft to your instructor. You will probably need that time to revise. There is little point in meeting with a tutor an hour before the paper is due--if you hope to make significant improvements in the draft.
Imagine you’re trying to write the perfect paper, but you’re not sure you’re on the right track. You need a little help, so you decide to come to the Writing Lab. But what happens once you’re there?

Room 103 – You sign in on the first floor of Memorial Hall. The sign-in process is online, and it’s just a series of questions that ask for general information, such as your email address and course number. If you get stuck, one of our friendly employees will be glad to assist you. After you sign in, you will be directed upstairs to the Writing Lab.

Room 201 – When you come in, just take a seat and a tutor will be with you as quickly as possible. You may have to wait for a little bit if we’re busy, but we will get to you as soon as we can.

When you see the tutor, he or she may ask you to tell a little bit about the assignment. You should just give an overview of what you’re doing, such as a reflection essay or research paper. Bringing the assignment sheet can be very helpful because it lets the tutor know what your professor expects.

The tutor will probably ask if you have particular areas of concern for the paper. This is your chance to let him or her know what you really need help with. You can ask him or her to take a close look at the introduction or conclusion, or maybe you need to know if you are using passive voice too much. Asking a tutor to make sure the paper follows the assignment guidelines is also a legitimate concern. The tutor will not judge you or think badly of you just because your paper has issues. Tutors want to see your writing improve.

The tutor will then read over your paper, pausing at various times to make a suggestion or mention an idea. You may be asked to clarify what you mean or why you chose a certain phrase. Don’t feel intimidated by this. It is just the tutor’s way of figuring out how best to help you.

Once your tutor has read over your paper and both of you have discussed it, you are free to leave. Now you have some great ideas for how to revise, and you can start improving your writing. If you run into more trouble, you can always come back to the Writing Lab for some more ideas.
When people come to the lab for essay assistance, they often don’t realize that maximizing their session is easy! All you have to do is bring questions and concerns about your paper to discuss with your tutor. Here are some questions that you may want to ask when you bring your paper to the Writing Lab.
  • Does my thesis explain my whole paper in one sentence and is it easy to find? If not, what can make my thesis stronger?
  • Is my paper’s topic narrowed enough or can I give it a tighter focus?
  • Does this essay stay on topic and relate back to my main point?
  • Are there areas in my paper that need to be explained more or could be cut down?
  • Do the details in my paper add to or take away from the topic I am discussing?
  • Are there any parts of my essay that sound weird or don’t fit the rest of my paper?
  • Does this point of view work for my paper?
  • Do I have good transitions or could I connect my thoughts together more tightly?
  • Have I used verb tenses properly in my paper?
  • Have I used my sources effectively and are they cited properly?
  • Have I explained everything in enough detail or could I expand some sections?
  • Is my formatting correct? What about my end-of-text citations?
  • Does my paper meet all of the requirements of the assignment sheet from my instructor? (Please note that you should bring a copy of your assignment sheet in order to make the tutoring session more helpful.)
There are many more questions to ask during a Writing Lab Session. Our tutors are here to help you and are willing to address the concerns you have about your paper, so if you come prepared, we will help you make the best of your session.

We are also attaching the two handouts in case we have confused you with the formatting here.