Three Myths About the Writing Center

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In the four years I’ve been the Director of the Writing Center, I’ve been delighted to work with faculty members from every school and every discipline on the main campus. But I’ve also learned that some faculty keep a firm hold on a number of misconceptions – myths, really– about the Writing Center. The best way to dispel these myths would be to visit us on the second floor of Lauinger Library (217A Lau), next door to The Midnight Mug, and I invite all to do so!

But since you might not have time for a visit, here’s an attempt to clear up three common myths:

Myth 1: It’s an editing service. No, our tutors don’t edit or proofread papers for fellow students. Yes, we will help a student improve her own editing and proofreading skills, enabling her to become a better editor. Our primary aim is always to help students develop as writers – not just to help them improve a particular essay. That’s why we’re happy to help students at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to revision and proofreading. Tutors can offer advice on thesis development, use of evidence, organization, flow, sentence structure, grammar, and more.

Myth 2: It’s the blind leading the blind. We’re staffed with highly trained undergraduate and graduate students. Every year we select about a dozen new undergraduate tutors from roughly 80 to 100 applicants, almost all of whom have been nominated by professors. Those selected take a rigorous 3-credit fall course, “Approaches to Teaching English Composition.” As for graduate students, we look for those with extensive experience in respected Writing Centers, and before they can begin, new graduate tutors go through our own rigorous training. What’s more, tutors stay on for at least two years – usually more – so most of our 40 current tutors have extensive experience. Finally, professional development is an ongoing process for all tutors.

Myth 3:  It’s fine for College humanities courses, but not much else. First off, we recruit tutors from every undergraduate school, and current tutors represent more than 20 different majors, including biology, biochemistry, STIA, International Political Economy, Accounting, Finance, marketing, Economics, Linguistics, and computer science. Before signing up for an appointment, a student can read about tutors and see which tutors match their own areas of interest.  What’s more, I train every tutor to work across disciplines – in the new tutor training course and through ongoing staff development. 

–David Lipscomb