Writing Center FAQ

Students who love to write. Students who struggle to write. Students who always thought they loved to write, but now they've gotten back their first college paper and they aren't so sure. English majors. Education majors. Biology majors. Biology majors who don't quite know how to write philosophy papers. Graduate students. Undergraduate students. Students who have written personal statements for grad school. Students who have written short stories and want to know what someone thinks. Students who have spent the last hour staring at the computer screen and writing nothing.

If you are a student and are working on writing, we'd love to see you in the Writing Center!

You can sign up on myNU under the "Resources" tab; scroll down to "Writing Center Registration."  You can also call the Academic Success Center at 716.286.8073 or stop by the Academic Success Center on the first floor of Seton Hall.

The Writing Center is located in the Academic Success Center, on the first floor of Seton Hall.

That depends on where you are in the process. If you've got an assignment but haven't yet started writing, you and your tutor will probably begin planning: talking about what the assignment requires, for example, and how you might approach it. You might work with the tutor to brainstorm, outline, or write a thesis.

If you've brought a draft, we'll probably ask you to read aloud, stopping whenever you or your tutor has a question or comment. During these sessions, you and your tutor may focus on “global” issues such as organization and thesis, or you might focus on sentence-level issues. You might do a little of both.

Whatever you and your tutor do, be prepared to play an active role!

In addition to individual conferences, the Writing Center has a number of handouts on MLA and APA style, writing conventions within specific disciplines, and usage and mechanics.

We also offer several workshops focusing on issues such as plagiarism and sentence clarity. Faculty can request these workshops for their classes by contacting us.

Anytime! With one caveat: coming a few hours before your paper is due is rarely much help, as Writing Center sessions often focus on “big-picture” issues that take time to address. So in general, the earlier you come, the better. You can even come without a draft - we'll help you get started.

Your assignment sheet, your syllabus, your draft if you have one, any relevant materials, and a pen or pencil. Also, hopefully, questions.

“Proofreading” invokes the image of a teacher with a red pen bent over your paper, fixing every misplaced comma. As mentioned above, that's not exactly what we do. A Writing Center mantra holds that tutors should help the writer, not the writing - and the best way we've found to do that is to work with you on a few skills: say, organization and paraphrasing, or thesis-writing and avoiding fragments. That way, you leave knowing how to strengthen your paper in several key areas and how to strengthen future papers in those areas.

We understand why this would seem nice in the middle of a busy semester - but we just don't think it helps you much in the long run. For the reasons mentioned above, we do require that students come in and work directly with us.

Usually, writers follow certain “patterns of error.” Maybe they tend to write run-on sentences, or they misuse apostrophes consistently.

While we won't point out every grammar error on your paper (see “Can a tutor proofread my paper?”), we will point out these patterns and show you ways to avoid them.

Appointments are scheduled for 30 minutes for two reasons. As mentioned above, we are primarily concerned with helping the writer: with teaching you skills you can apply independently to this paper and others. We limit the amount of time a session lasts so that students will be able to discuss their ideas, learn and practice new skills, and make a plan for revision - and so that they will be responsible for implementing those ideas, skills, and plans on their own.

We also limit appointments due to high demand, to make sure all students have a chance to visit us.

For the reasons described above, we don't allow back-to-back appointments. However, you can return to the Writing Center with the same paper after you have completed a revision cycle.

When we ask you to complete a revision cycle before returning, we're asking you to return to your paper and apply the points you worked on with your tutor. If you and your tutor discussed organization, we'd like you to try reorganizing your paper; if you discussed fragments and fixed all the problems on the first two pages, we'd like you to go through the rest of your paper and fix any that you find.

After that, you're more than free to come back - either for feedback on the work you did independently or to consider new issues. This way, we can give you support while still helping you learn the skills on your own.

First of all, it's important to remember that your professor is looking at your paper through different eyes than your Writing Center tutor did - with knowledge of the course, the material, the assignment, and simple personal preferences that will always be individual. Writing Center tutors know this, which is why they never predict what your grade will be.

Secondly, Writing Center tutors meet you where you are in the writing process and help you move to another place in that process. Perfection is probably impossible (for any writer), but our goal is always to help you improve.

Only HIS 199 and ENG 100 (documenting literature papers)

These videos are available on the Academic Success Center's YouTube channel:

  • "Pre-writing Strategies" (9 minutes)
  • "Demystifying APA"  (64 minutes)

More videos will be available soon.