Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the Writing Center?
A: The Writing Center is a free service available to all members of the UNCG community, including students, faculty, and staff. We offer one-on-one consulting in person and online about a variety of writing issues, from developing thesis statements and organization to citation styles and last-minute polishing. While most of our visitors bring in papers they are writing for courses, we also help with personal writing (application essays, cover letters, personal statements, and personal letters) and business writing (articles for publication, professional letters). Our goal is to help you:
- focus on what you want to accomplish in a piece of writing
- read your own drafts with a more discerning and critical eye
- learn strategies for addressing a variety of writing issues
Q: Where is the Writing Center, and when is it open?
A: The Writing Center is located in 3211 MHRA Building (campus map). During the Fall and Spring semesters, both the face-to-face and Online Writing Center are open:
Monday–Thursday: 9am – 8pm
Friday: 9am – 3pm
Sunday: 5pm – 8pm
We are also open both summer sessions, 10-5 Monday through Thursday.
Q: Who can use the Writing Center?
A: We work with any member of the UNCG community, including undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff. We also work with students enrolled in Interlink, the joint MSW program with NCA&T, and any UNCG off-campus or online courses.
Q: My first language isn't English. Can the Writing Center help me?
A: Yes, non-native speakers of English frequently find the Writing Center useful. We are happy to contribute what we can to your process of learning to write in English, but it is important to remember that we will not be rewriting your sentences or correcting every error. Writing in a second language (or a third or fourth language) is a difficult and sometimes frustrating process; it takes time, practice, and persistence. Please feel free to visit us often.
Q: Why should I go to the Writing Center?
A: Because all writers deserve good readers. The Writing Center is a safe place to ask questions about writing and to try out your work on a friendly, responsive reader who will make suggestions and help you find answers to your questions. Consultants don't grade or assess you; they help you improve the writing you're working on and prepare you for future assignments.
Q: Who works at the Writing Center?
A: The Writing Center Staff includes teaching assistants (MFA and PhD students) from the English department, who also teach English composition courses; additional graduate students from English and other departments; and advanced undergraduates who take a course to prepare for their work in the Writing Center.
Q: To whom should I go if I have a suggestion about the Writing Center?
A: The Director of the Writing Center, Sara Littlejohn, would love to hear from you. If she's not in the Center, look for her in her office down the hall (3330 MHRA), call her at 256-0483, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: My paper is on my laptop. Can we work on it without printing it out?
A: We've found that working on laptops in the face-to-face center is not as effective as working on a printed copy. It's more difficult to collaborate on a laptop screen because you can't see the whole paper at one time, you can't make quick notes or edits by hand, and you're often tempted to fix typos instead of focusing on larger issues. We now have a print station in the Writing Center, so if you don't have a copy of your paper printed, you can print one in the center.
Q: What happens in a Writing Center session?
A: For details about what a typical session entails, see What to Expect.
Q: Do I need an appointment?
A: Appointments are not required. Most people who come to the Writing Center just drop in. On most days, we can usually see you within a few minutes of your arrival. However, if you prefer to plan ahead, we schedule one appointment per hour. You can reserve a time by calling 334-3125 during our normal operating hours.
Q: How do drop-in sessions work?
A: Simply come by the center at 3211 MHRA, and we'll work with you face-to-face. If you want to work on a paper online, use the chat box in the menu on the left of our website to contact the reception desk.
Q: How long do sessions take?
A: Sessions last up to an hour. Many sessions don't last that long. We cap sessions at an hour because studies have shown that brains get tired and need a break after about an hour.
When things get busy, especially during midterms or the last weeks of class, we sometimes have to cut back to 30-minute sessions for both drop-ins and appointments. You'll still get the same amount of attention, but we have to cut down the time to see everyone who needs our help.
Q: What if I just have a quick question about formatting, citations, etc.?
A: There's no writing question too small for us to tackle! Just pop in to our office or IM the reception desk using the chat box in the menu on the left of our website.
Q: What should I bring?
A: There are a few key elements for a successful session. You should bring:
- the assignment
- any previous drafts or feedback from your instructor
- any style guide your instructor asked you to follow
- your draft
- your concerns and writing questions
Q: Can I drop off my paper or email it to you and pick it up later?
A: No. The Writing Center is all about conversation. When you bring a paper to the Writing Center, you will work one-on-one with a consultant. The two of you will read the paper together and talk about what is working and what isn't, the solutions you could try, and the different options you have for improving your writing.
Q: Can I bring in a group paper?
A: Yes. The requirement is that all of the group members must come together. This ensures that everyone will be able to ask and answer questions about the parts they have written, and to learn by correcting errors and finding new ways of approaching the topic. If writers just dropped off their work, they wouldn't have the benefit of seeing how to improve their writing on their own.
Q: How often can I come in?
A: You may come in as often as you like. We limit students to two appointments a week (just one per day), and we ask that you step away from the paper between sessions (no back-to-back sessions), but you can drop in anytime.
Q: Can I request a particular consultant?
A: Sure, as long as that person is working at the time you come in.
Q: Can you help me with grammar?
A: Yes. In fact, we can help you right now; our Writing Resources include handouts and tutorials about the most common grammar and usage issues.
As readers, correct grammar and usage are among the many things we look for in reading drafts of papers with writers. We are glad to help you understand the nuances of grammar, style, usage, and other formal elements. However, please keep in mind the following:
- The Writing Center is not a proofreading service. We will point out the issues that we notice, but in the interest of time, we cannot flag every instance. It is your job to apply your consultant's advice throughout the rest of the paper.
- Every Writing Center session involves setting priorities and making choices about what to emphasize. Sometimes grammatical concerns will be the major focus of a conference, but often we will spend our time together on more “global” questions (For example, Does this make sense? Can you follow the structure of my argument? Do I need to explain this more?) and save the fine tuning and polishing for another day and another draft.
- The Online Writing Center is great for working on things like organization, paragraph structure, introductions and conclusions, or transitions. However, the Online Writing Center isn't the best resource for sentence-level issues, like lots of grammar and citation questions, since it takes longer to type than to speak. Also, the formatting often changes when Word documents are uploaded to Google Docs (the system we use to work online), so we will not be able to check indents, margins, etc. To work line-by-line on a paper, or to focus on formatting issues, visit the face-to-face Writing Center in 3211 MHRA.
Q: Will the Writing Center help me to document my sources properly?
A: Yes. If you keep track of all the necessary bibliographical information, and if you know which system of documentation you are supposed to use (APA, MLA, CMS, CBE, AMA, Turabian, etc.), we will help you look up answers to your questions about citing particular sources. We may not always be able to find the answers, but we will try. Remember that it is not the mission of the Writing Center to certify that your citations are perfect. Rather, it is our job to help you learn how to use your style manual to construct the best possible citations.
Q: I'm concerned about plagiarism. Can the Writing Center help identify insufficiently cited quotes or paraphrases that might get me in trouble?
A: It's very easy, when writing quickly, to mistakenly drop in a section of text from a source without citing it. As we are reading your paper with you, we try to be alert to sudden shifts in style that can indicate cut-and-paste issues. We can help you properly use and credit your sources and understand the difference between legitimate paraphrase and plagiarism. However, since we are probably not familiar with either the sources you've used or with your normal writing style (unless you are a regular customer), we can't guarantee that we will always notice problems with citation.
For more, check Help with Citing Sources.
Grades and Instructors
Q: After visiting the Writing Center, my paper wasn't perfect. Why not?
A: Our goal in the Writing Center isn't to make perfect papers, but to work with writers to help improve writing. This paper may not be perfect, but you will be better prepared for future assignments. As much as writers might like us to "take over" their papers and "fix" them, that is not our mission – and while that might give a more pleasurable experience for readers, it would neither help you to improve as a writer (which is our ultimate purpose), nor would it be consistent with the Academic Integrity Policy (which is extremely important to us).
Our objective in each Writing Center session is to help writers feel ready and able to tackle the next step, or the next few steps, in writing or revising. That means we have to set priorities and make judgments. We may, for example, illustrate how to restructure a paper so that the parts of it fit together more coherently, or how to bolster the argument with more evidence, or how to use and identify sources properly, or how to correct some persistent errors in usage or punctuation. But we are often aware that even if writers use what they learn to improve their papers in some ways, there will still be other problems remaining. That's why we always encourage writers to come back for additional sessions throughout the revision process.
If you have concerns or questions about a particular session, Sara Littlejohn would love to hear from you. (Please send email to email@example.com or call 256-0483.)
Q: Will the Writing Center's evaluation of my paper contradict the professor's?
A: No, because Writing Center consultants don't evaluate papers. Instead, we react honestly as readers – pointing out problems, raising questions, encouraging writers to examine available options. We are not in a position to anticipate or explain instructors' responses to papers. Writers are responsible for the papers they turn in, and their instructors are responsible for evaluating them; our role is to help the writer improve his or her skills and to prepare him or her for future writing.
Q: Will my instructor know that I have come to the Writing Center?
A: Most instructors are pleased and impressed to learn that a student was conscientious enough to spend extra time on a writing assignment. We typically send an email to professors when their students visit the Writing Center. However, if you would rather not have us send an email, we won't.
Q: Where can I find information to include on my syllabus?
A: Feel free to cut and paste any or all of the paragraphs below:
The University Writing Center offers UNCG students, staff, and faculty the opportunity for individual consultation at any stage of any writing project. Depending on where you are in your writing process when you visit the Writing Center and what your major concerns are, a consultation might involve deciding how to approach a particular assignment, identifying a thesis and sculpting a rough outline, reading a rough draft to check for general coherence and clarity, incorporating new material into a revision, addressing problems of grammar and sentence structure, learning how to cite sources properly – or any of a myriad of other questions about writing. The staff conducted over 6,000 conferences last year, and each one was different because each writer and each piece of writing is different.
Here are a few reminders as you get ready for a visit to the Writing Center.
- Bring a written copy of the assignment
- Know your Professor's expectations for writing in your discipline
- Know the name of your Professor's preferred citation style, if applicable
- Bring any previous feedback that you have received
- Your consultant will ask you what you want to work on: Have an answer! Think about what to address in your Writing Center session, as this will focus your writing efforts and get the process of self-reflection started, which is an instrumental part of the writing process.
Located in 3211 MHRA Building, the Writing Center is open Sundays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursdays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Writers may call 334-3125 for an appointment or just drop in, bringing their work in progress, their assignments, and their questions.
Q: Can I bring my class to the Writing Center for an orientation session?
A: Yes! Our orientation sessions help students learn how the Writing Center works, what to expect, and strategies for getting the most out of their visit. Orientations typically take 10 to 15 minutes and take place at the Writing Center, 3211 MHRA Building. We can do orientations any time the Writing Center is open, but we do ask that you schedule them in advance to ensure someone will be available for your class. To schedule an orientation session for your class, use our handy web form.
Q: Can I require my whole class to bring their papers to the Writing Center?
A: Please don't. We just don't have the resources. Though, we appreciate your support of the Writing Center, we know from experience that when students get a blanket requirement of this kind, most of them wait until the last minute and then come in simply to get us to verify their presence; they don't plan to make any substantial changes in their papers. This creates a traffic jam in the Writing Center and may prevent other students, who are serious about improving their writing, from getting the help that they seek on their own. If you have questions about this policy, please feel free to contact Sara Littlejohn firstname.lastname@example.org. Please see the next question for suggestions on how to encourage your students to take advantage of our services.
Q: How can I encourage my students to use the Writing Center?
A: Here are some suggestions:
- Include a description of the Writing Center on your syllabus. (See above.) Or direct them to our Web site: www.uncg.edu/eng/writingcenter.
- Bring your class to the Writing Center for a 10-minute "get acquainted tour." Email email@example.com or call 256-0483 to arrange a tour.
- Tell students you are impressed when you receive a note from the Writing Center showing that they were motivated and conscientious enough to go in for a visit.
- Get students who have visited the Center to tell others in the class about their experience.
- Tell your class about former students of yours whose writing has improved as a result of their visits to the Writing Center.
- Talk to your students about your own writing process, and about the value of having a trusted reader who gives you honest, constructive feedback. It's good for students to know that even experienced writers need good readers. In fact, many faculty members use the Writing Center when preparing to send out their own work. (That's much better than telling them to go to the Writing Center if they "have any problems"; no one wants to admit to having writing problems!)
- While we don't recommend giving "extra credit points" per se for a Writing Center visit, many instructors build in some type of rewards for extra effort on the part of students (perhaps in the form of a "participation" grade, or a "process" grade). If that is true in your class, you might tell students that visits to the Writing Center demonstrate extra effort on their part, and will be rewarded accordingly.
Q: Will I know if one of my students uses the Writing Center?
A: Yes, if your student wants you to know. (See above.) Unfortunately, students occasionally tell their professors they went to the Writing Center when in fact they did not. If you suspect that is the case, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Sara Littlejohn at 334-3125. A student who claims that he went to the Center is obviously waiving his right to "confidentiality," so I will check our records and tell you whether or not he has been in.
Q: After students visit the Writing Center, their papers still have some problems. Why is that?
A: Our goal in the Writing Center isn't to make perfect papers, but to work with writers to help improve their writing. This paper may still have errors, but the writer will be better prepared for future assignments. Our objective in each Writing Center session is to help writers feel ready and able to tackle the next step, or the next few steps, in writing or revising. That means we have to set priorities and make judgments. We may, for example, illustrate how to restructure a paper so that the parts of it fit together more coherently, or how to bolster the argument with more evidence, or how to use and identify sources properly, or how to correct some persistent errors in usage or punctuation. But we are often aware that even if writers use what they learn to improve their papers in some ways, there will still be other problems remaining. That's why we always encourage writers to come back for additional sessions throughout the revision process.
If you have concerns or questions about a particular session, Sara Littlejohn would love to hear from you. (Please send email to email@example.com or call 256-0483.)
Q: Can I arrange to have the Writing Center staff do workshops or presentations on writing in my class?
A: The answer to that question is a cautious "Yes." Our primary purpose is to work individually with students. However, if you are interested in a workshop on a specific topic that incorporates the current writing projects of your students, the first step is to set up a meeting with the Director. This will help us to develop a workshop customized to your particular group of writers. Email Sara Littlejohn at sjlittle@ uncg.edu if you would like to pursue this option.