Monday, November 28, 2011

I Went to the Writing Center... Now What?: A To-Do List for After Your Session

Stuart Mills

So, you went to the Writing Center, drank some coffee, and got a lot of insightful help.  You know exactly what the problems are in your paper and how you're going to fix them.  You're curled up on your bed or seated at your desk, laptop or computer out, ready to begin typing... Now what?

1. Think of Questions You Didn't Ask.  Read back over your paper, just once more.  Is there anything that your tutor thought you needed to ask the professor?  Can you think of anything that you need to ask your professor?  Email them now.  Get your questions answered before you get in the middle of editing and forget what you even asked.  Do you understand all of the comments on your paper?  Sometimes, in the middle of a session, we know exactly what a comment means; but, once we leave the session and aren't focusing so intensively, it's as clear as mud and just as hard to wade through to figure out just what that comment means.  In these cases, feel free to email the Writing Center ( and ask your tutor for clarification.  They'll probably remember what was going on or at least can remind you of the major issues brought up in your tutoring session.

2. Make a To-Do List. Haha, the second step of this To-Do List is to make a To-Do List?  Yes, actually, it is.  Go through the notes you took (You did take notes, right?) and write down a series of steps to follow in revising your paper.  For example, "1. Make my thesis stronger, 2. Fix formatting, 3. Re-read paper to check for errors."  This will vary for each paper you write, so don't worry if it seems completely different from the previous paper.

3. Don't Panic.  If I could inscribe this in larger, friendlier letters, I would.  But, anyway, do not panic. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming after leaving your session. You made your To-Do List, and you have so much to do, and the paper is due in two hours, and it's 190% of your grade... Take a deep breath, maybe get another cup of coffee, but most of all, do not panic.  The scariest part, the actual session, is over.  You know what you want to do with your paper and how to do it.

4. Follow That To-Do List.  Now comes the hard work.  Follow along your To-Do List and fix the issues that come up.  Read, read, and re-read your paper.  Check off each part of your list as you complete it. Feel accomplished.

5. Take a Break. Breathe.  You've done all the editing and proofreading you can right now, so reward yourself with yet another cup of coffee and take ten or so minutes to just not think about your paper.  This break allows your brain some processing time, so that when you come back to the paper, you can look at it critically and with a little bit of distance--instead of being so completely focused on getting it finished.

6. Re-read Your Paper.  Go back and read your paper, out loud, one more time to catch any last mistakes.  You'll be surprised on the mistakes you can hear, if you read out loud.  Your brain knows what words you meant to type, and so it fills them in.  When you read out loud, your brain can't fix the mistakes faster than you can read, so you can see them much easier.

That's it--"What to Do After Your Writing Center Visit" in six fairly easy steps.  Don't take my word as academic law, though. Feel free to come up with your own after-visit To-Do List.  What's really important is that you take what you learned in your tutoring session and apply it to your paper.  The real work begins after your tutoring session ends.

Happy Writing,


No comments:

Post a Comment