Choose Your Own Adventure: Going to the Writing Center

WCBlog-21116A reflection paper is due in your philosophy class in a week, and you want another set of eyes on your draft. You have some ideas, but right now your draft feels clunky and sometimes vague.

Do you want to ask your roommate to read your paper or take it to the university Writing Center?

You decide to go to the university’s Writing Center, which is free of charge. Besides, you can always ask your roommate to read it later. You are free to stop by the Writing Center tomorrow, so you check out the center’s website at and see that you can either walk-in or email/call to schedule a half-hour consultation.

Do you want to walk-in tomorrow or schedule a consultation in advance?

You email the writing center at to schedule an appointment between your classes tomorrow. It’s not necessary to make an appointment, but on the other hand it is also nice to know that you’re guaranteed a spot, as sometimes the schedule fills up.

The next day, you prepare for your consultation.

Do you want to print a copy of your paper draft or take your computer with you?

You decide to print a copy of your draft before heading to the Writing Center. Although you are free to bring your paper in any format you choose, having a paper copy will let you write notes to yourself during the consultation. You walk up to O’Malley 207 for your consultation, just off the English department atrium and heading toward the Administration Building. The door is open, the walls are painted friendly colors, and people are talking inside.

Do you want to go through the door and visit the front desk or abandon your appointment?

You decide to visit the front desk, which is right inside the door. The consultant at the desk smiles and greets you. She asks if you have an appointment. It’s a good thing you emailed in advance, because it looks like the schedule is full. The front desk worker directs you to an empty table and hands you a WCR sheet.

Do you fill out the WCR sheet or ignore it?

You fill out the WCR sheet. It’s a good idea, since filling out the WCR sheet is required for each consultation. You write down your name, major, assignment, class, and why you are visiting the Writing Center. There is an option to have the consultant email your professor afterward.

Do you want to have the consultant email your professor, yes or no?

You check “Yes.” Your professor will get an email letting her know you stopped in and what you wanted to work on. However, you also note that in the future if you don’t want a professor informed about your writing center visit, you have the option to decline.

Also on the WCR sheet is the option to check off what aspect of your paper you want to focus on with the consultant.

Do you want to check off “an assignment’s instructions/criteria,” “development/support,” “organization/coherence/transitions,” “grammar/spelling/mechanics,” “research/documentation,” “get general feedback on a draft,” or “other”?

You check “organization/coherence/transitions” and “other.” Next to “other,” you write “I want to make sure my ideas are not too vague.”

The consultant you will be working with sits down at your table and introduces himself. He asks about the assignment that you are working on and what you want to focus on in the consultation. You introduce the paper and the prompt the professor gave you as well as her comments about the project in class, and explain that you have two sections of the paper in particular you want to look at. The consultant asks where those sections are, and makes a note to himself.

The consultant explains the usual procedure for the consultation: he will read the paper out loud, and you will control the pen to make notes or changes on the draft. Either of you can stop the reading to ask questions or talk about a specific section.

Do you want to have the paper read out loud or do you want the consultant to read it silently?

You agree to have the paper read out loud, although the consultant makes it clear that you are free to have your draft read silently if you prefer. As the consultant reads, you catch some mistakes or phrasing that you don’t like and mark the changes on the draft. At certain points the consultant stops and asks you questions about the draft or comments on how clear your ideas are (since you indicated that you are worried about being too vague). The consultant makes sure to pause at the two parts that you wanted to take a closer look at, and helps brainstorm how they could be more concise.

At the end of the half hour, the consultant asks if you have any final questions.

Do you want to ask for additional help or thank him and leave?

You mention that you would like some extra help with transitions. The consultation time is over, but the consultant gets a handout on transitions for you to take with you.

Do you want to schedule another appointment or leave the Writing Center immediately?

You decide to schedule another appointment. Your philosophy reflection assignment isn’t the only paper you have to write this semester.

SarahJLSarah Johnson LaBarbera is the social media coordinator at the Writing Center, enjoying her second year on staff. She is in her second year of JCU’s English master’s degree program.


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