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Preparing for a Writing Center Appointment

How the Writing Center Can Help You

The Writing Center offers free one-on-one conferences or group conferences during which writers may discuss their writing tasks with one of the Writing Center staff. Writers may come in at any time in the writing process (brainstorming, development, rough draft, revisions, etc.). The Writing Center provides free assistance in writing to UW students, faculty, and staff in all departments and at all levels. 

The Writing Center helps with all kinds of writing tasks, such as:

    •    research papers
    •    class papers
    •    resumes
    •    citation/documentation
    •    graduate theses
    •    lab reports
    •    poetry
    •    essay examinations
    •    job applications
    •    graduate school applications
    •    grants

The Writing Center offers you the opportunity to conference with an experienced writer who genuinely wants to listen to and discuss your writing. It cannot, however, guarantee that a conference will improve the grade on the writing you discuss. Grades reflect many factors that are not discussed during a conference. The Writing Center's goal is to suggest focused writing and revising strategies that you can apply to more than just one piece of writing.

What To Expect from a Writing Center Visit

What happens during a typical Writing Center conference?

When you arrive for your conference, a member of the Writing Center will greet you and ask you a few questions about your writing project. If it is course-related, you will be asked at the beginning or the end of your conference to identify the course and the instructor. It saves time if you have that information readily available.

The best conferences are those initiated by writers who come with a clear sense of purpose or specific questions:

  • Some students ask the Writing Center to help them understand an assignment and brainstorm ideas.
  • Other students come with a rough draft and questions regarding organization and clarity.
  • Students also come with graded essays on which the instructor has written specific comments regarding their writing.

What happens when you come with a draft of your paper?

Parts or all of the draft will be read aloud during the conference. Usually, the writer reads aloud and is able to recognize awkward sentences and ideas that aren't logically organized. If you are uncomfortable reading aloud, you may choose not to do so.

Will the Writing Center proofread your paper?

The Writing Center is a good resource for learning how to improve the grammar and mechanics of your writing, but it is not an editing service. Writing Center faculty will not edit or proofread your paper. They will, instead, read some or all of the paper with you to identify recurring errors and help you learn to recognize and correct them.

How To Make the Most of Your Conference

A successful Writing Center conference depends on a clear definition of the writer's purpose and goals. You can prepare for a required conference in the same way that writers prepare for any successful conference: by identifying where you are in the writing process and what kind of discussion will be most helpful.

  • If you are just beginning a paper, you can discuss your ideas and the overall organization of the paper. It may be helpful to bring any notes or ideas with you.

  • If you have a rough draft, you might consider which parts of the paper, if any, were difficult to write and plan to discuss those sections during your conference.

  • Sometimes writers need help discovering their goals. It is perfectly acceptable to begin a conference by saying, "I'm not sure what the problem is with my draft (or my understanding of the assignment), but I'd like to find out." The consultant will probably respond by asking you questions about your writing and the assignment to help you read your own writing more critically.

If you are required to visit the Writing Center, make the most of it, even if you believe that your writing is quite good. There are always areas which can be worked on and improved. Keep in mind that your ideas and cooperation are crucial to the success of your conference.




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