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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Doane College Writing Center
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) by Studentsa student getting help
 

Where is the Writing Center?

The Writing Center is located in Gaylord Hall, Room 228.  Gaylord Hall is the stately brick building on the corner of Boswell Avenue and 9th Street, near the southwest corner of campus (south of the Con).  

How can I schedule an appointment in the Writing Center?

We schedule appointments on the hour.  To reserve a spot, call (number 826.6727) or, even better, visit the Writing Center.  If you call and miss us during normal consulting hours please leave a message, and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.  Please note that your appointment may be cancelled if you are more than 10 minutes late.

Can I just walk in and get help?

We welcome walk-ins but give priority to students with appointments.  So we encourage you to call ahead or visit and confirm a time.  

What should I bring to an appointment?

You MUST bring at least one hard copy of your paper to your appointment.  You may bring a laptop and an electronic version of your paper, but please note that you will NOT be allowed to print a hard copy in the Writing Center.  Otherwise, bring anything and everything related to the assignment: instructions from the professor, notes from class, your textbook, previous drafts, instructor comments, etc.  The more you bring, the more we can help.

How long will my session last?  

Sessions run for up to 50 minutes, depending on the kind of help you need and want.  In other words, it's entirely up to you.  We're here to help you improve as a writer, which means helping you to think critically and make reasoned decisions about your own writing - not making those decisions for you.  So of course we're done when you say we're done, though we might encourage you to stay awhile longer and help you to see why.  We might also suggest that you schedule another appointment at a later date to address other issues with your writing.   

When should I visit the Writing Center for help?
 

We encourage you to visit us any time.  You don't even need an assignment.  All you really need is the desire to improve as a writer.  After all, we're writers and, at its core, the Writing Center is a community of student writers helping one another.  So if you just want to chat generally about writing, why you like it, why it scares or frustrates you, what gives you trouble, whatever, we're happy to oblige. 

If you want help with a specific assignment, you should keep a couple things in mind. 

  • First, we are ready to assist you at any stage of the writing process, from planning written work to writing and revising it.  We can help if you:
  • Are struggling to interpret your professor's assignment instructions. 
  • Understand the assignment but can't come up with an idea.  Or you have an idea but can't find the words to capture it clearly and concisely. 
  • Have a clear and concise idea but aren't sure how it might work as an argument or thesis statement. 
  • Have a clear argument or thesis but can't figure out how to support or develop it. 
  • Have a lot of the development finalized for a paper but can't find a way to organize it effectively. 
  • Have problems with citing sources. 
  • Have difficulty with style, grammar and punctuation.
  • Are trying to revise but don't understand your professor's written comments.  Maybe you can read your professor's comments but don't know what he or she means by, "Your writing is neither unified nor coherent."  
  • Whatever the scenario and whenever it occurs, we can help - or, at the very least, we'll exhaust ourselves trying to help.
  • Second, you should visit well in advance of the assignment due date.  You will want adequate time to implement or utilize what we discuss during your session.  You may also need more than one session.

Who are the Writing Center consultants and will they know how to help me?

Writing Center consultants represent a number of disciplines and majors on campus, but we do not claim to be experts with every topic or course.  In many cases, we are novices.   Still, we are experienced writers and readers and we can offer constructive feedback about your writing.  Then, through discussion with you, we can identify ways to improve and revise your work.  In other words, we won't tell you what to do; we'll work with you to figure out what to do.  That way, you'll sharpen your own eyes and ears as a writer and editor, which will serve you well the next time you sit down to write and long after you leave Doane College.  

What kinds of writing can I bring to the Writing Center?

We are eager to look at any kind of writing from any discipline at any stage.  Again, we may not be experts, but we'll do our best to help you.  We will ask a lot of questions, review your writing and everything related to it, and chart a course of action with you, not for you.

What will happen during my session?

Each session is different because each writer and paper is different.  With that said, you should keep in mind that the Writing Center is NOT a place where you can drop off your work to be edited or proofread.  Nor is it a place you visit to "fix" your paper.  The Writing Center is a place of interaction and collaboration, a place where you take an active role in the work, a place where your growth as a writer is emphasized, rather than your grade on a particular assignment.  Put another way, the Writing Center is a non-directive, non-evaluative place.  We surely won't criticize or ridicule you or your work, and we will not tell you what to do to ensure a good grade.  Instead, we will work to empower you as a writer.  We will consult with you as you turn a critical eye toward - and thereby improve - your own writing.

To this end, you can expect to do your share of talking during your session, as we (the consultants) will start by asking a lot of questions.  We'll ask about the assignment, about the class, about your experience as a writer, about your strengths and weaknesses as you understand them, about your fears.  We'll ask these kinds of questions - and many more - because our goal is to help you improve from wherever you are as a writer, not where we wish you were.  So to help you, we need to understand where you are, both as a writer and thinker.  We need to know what makes sense to you and what doesn't, what you do well and what you find difficult, what you have written before and what you haven't.  This way, we will be better able to set a realistic agenda for your session and plan effectively for future sessions.  Also, the more you talk, the better you will understand your own writing and how you can improve.

You can also expect us to read your work or ask you to read your work aloud to us.  And afterward, the kinds of suggestions we offer may surprise you.  We will start by identifying elements of your work that seem particularly strong to us, things you can build on and do more often in your work.  Then we will point out things that confuse us, places where you lose us, passages that are hard to read, sections that seem wordy, choppy, or clunky.  Finally, we will discuss how you might revise your work to address those weak spots, based on the assignment and your objectives as a writer and/or scholar.  Your session in the Writing Center will resemble a one-on-one writing workshop.  The decisions about what to do with your writing will be yours to make.  But you will have a wealth of new knowledge and understanding at your disposal, as well as your Writing Center consultant.

If I visit the writing center, will I get a good grade on my paper?

Not necessarily.  However, a visit to the Writing Center will improve your writing to some degree.  And several visits to the writing center during your time at Doane College, along with hard work in your courses, will help you improve as a writer.  This should result in better grades on your papers. 

Can I just drop off my paper for editing or proofreading and pick it up later?

No.  The Writing Center is not an editing or proofreading service.   Rather, we will help you edit or proofread your own work, pointing out errors and patterns of error as we go and working with you to correct them.  Why?  Eventually, we want you to be able to do it without us.  

How often can I visit the Writing Center?

We believe that writers and writing ability evolve slowly, unevenly, and awkwardly.  We also believe that writers and writing can always improve. Writing is not a skill that someone either has or doesn't have, not something that someone either can or can't do.  It is a process that involves critical thinking and reasoned decision-making. 

So it only makes sense to encourage you to visit the Writing Center as often as possible.  One session with a Writing Center consultant won't make you a great writer.  Nor will it guarantee an "A".  But many visits over the course of your college experience, along with hard work and extensive revision in your courses, will help you develop as a writer from wherever you may be the first time you enter our door.

Do I have to pay to use the Writing Center?

No.  The Writing Center is available to you as part of your tuition and fees.

Will the Writing Center consultants talk to anyone outside the Writing Center about my session? 

No.  All work done and everything discussed in the Writing Center will not be shared without your permission.  Please note that we (the consultants) may consult each other about how to help you, but our discussions will be kept strictly confidential. 

How will my professor know I visited the Writing Center?

When you arrive for your appointment, you and your consultant will open a new session record form, logging your name, the details of the session (i.e. date and time, new or returning visitor, etc.), the details of the assignment (i.e. the class, the professor, etc.), and your objectives for the session.  Then, toward the end of your session, you and your consultant will complete the form, making note of several things: paper strengths and weaknesses, issues covered or discussed during the session, plans or suggestions for improvement, etc.  Two copies will be printed and signed by you and your consultant.  We will keep one copy in the Writing Center, and you will get the other to give to your professor, if you choose. 

With that said, you should visit the Writing Center because YOU want to improve as a writer, not because your professor told you to.  Why?  Good writing isn't an accident.  It requires hard work and time, and if you aren't willing to commit both, the consultants in the Writing Center (no matter how caring and well-intentioned we may be) can do only so much to help you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) by Faculty

Can I refer a student to the Writing Center?

Yes.  Student referral forms are available in hard copy form in the Writing Center or in electronic form via e-mail.  Contact Phil Weitl at philip.weitl@doane.edu for a copy.   

It isn't necessarily prudent to require all of your students to visit the Writing Center before every writing assignment is due.  Why?  A Writing Center visit will likely be ineffective if a student is forced to go.  He or she will neither take an active role during the session nor implement afterward what was discussed or suggested. 

Also, we must remember that one visit to the Writing Center will not transform a student from a struggling writer into a polished writer.  Often the issues requiring attention are too numerous and too embedded to resolve in one or even several fifty-minute sessions in the Writing Center.  So, we would like to meet with students steadily and regularly over the course of their time at Doane.  This way, the Writing Center can work as it should, as a supplement to your work in the classroom.  And we can work with you to help them address issues systematically over time, making it more likely that changes and improvements to their writing will be lasting.

How can I help you help my students?

Tell your students about us and encourage them to visit early and often.  Better yet, invite us to visit your class, or arrange for your class to visit the Writing Center.  We are always happy to introduce and explain what we do and why.  You might also refer your students to the Writing Center's web page (www.doane.edu/wc).  It explains in detail how we can help them improve as writers.  In addition, it provides links to several online writing and style guides.