Column: Worried about a paper?

By Gus Bode

I frequently hear students stressing over writing assignments, so I investigated the Writing Center. It is truly a wonderful resource.

The Writing Center staff offers free one-on-one tutoring and can help you with virtually any writing assignment imaginable. Whether you are writing a brief essay, a term paper, a resume, a research paper or even a dissertation, the Writing Center can help.

The Writing Center’s very helpful staff made me feel I was in good hands from the very beginning. I arrived somewhat embarrassed about not yet having a written draft for them to help me with.


A friendly staffer informed me they could help me even at this “pre-writing” stage of the process. He said they often help visitors with idea generation, identifying an audience, clarifying purpose, finding research sources, and outlining, as well as the later stages of the writing process.

He and other staffers fielded a host of questions for me and showed me a number of handouts designed to help with my particular writing assignment. Each staff member I talked with was friendly, polite and well-informed, and I was pleased to hear they would also be able to help me with later tasks such as organizing and developing my paper, as well as editing a draft.

I have always felt insecure about grammar and punctuation, and was relieved to see they had a variety of handouts to help with such things as commas and tense agreement – these and other grammatical feats I have yet to master.

I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong idea about the help they offer. They don’t correct your mistakes or do your work for you. Rather, it is part of their philosophy to guide you and teach you strategies for dealing with the writing concerns you bring them, such as learning to edit your own papers. The staff is trained to help you learn strategies for effectively dealing with all stages of the writing process.

In fact, the tutors seem to be exceptionally well-prepared to help. I learned from their frequently asked questions guide that their staff is made up of graduate assistants in English and Linguistics, as well as a number of experienced and specially-recommended undergraduate tutors from various departments. All tutors must take part in intensive training before they come to the Writing Center, and they receive special training throughout the semester.

I learned from the tutoring staff that you could meet with a tutor for a one-time, 50-minute help session focused on your current writing concern. Or, you can arrange to meet at the same time every week with the same tutor for as much of the semester as you wish to tackle larger writing issues.

In fairness to the Writing Center and its capable staff, I should say they are not responsible for punctuation, grammatical or any other errors in this column. After all, I received only one unofficial session, and they never saw a draft.


Mullison is a psychologist at the Counseling Center.