Beat back writer’s block at the Writing Center

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Photo by Scott Lindell
Scott Lindell

Scott Lindell

Scott Lindell is the Associate Editor of the Metropolitan Student Newspaper.

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Metro State stu­dents have reams of writ­ing assign­ments every semes­ter. And the check­list for a qual­ity paper is daunt­ing: cor­rect punc­tu­a­tion, proper gram­mar, flaw­less cita­tions and clear writ­ing. Luck­ily, there’s help to be had on campus.

The beauty of writ­ing tutor­ing is help­ing stu­dents break down a com­plex process into man­age­able chunks,” said Jules Thomp­son, Direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Aca­d­e­mic Excel­lence at Metro State.

Tutors at the Writ­ing Cen­ter at the Cen­ter for Aca­d­e­mic Excel­lence can help stu­dents develop writ­ing skills for col­lege and beyond. “In many pro­fes­sions, a person’s writ­ing abil­i­ties can make or break their career,” Thomp­son said. “Stu­dents are highly aware of that and they are also highly aware of how writ­ing is impor­tant for their classes.”

Right to pre-​write

A typ­i­cal writ­ing tuto­r­ial begins with the pre-​writing phase. Tutors encour­age stu­dents to read their writ­ing assign­ments care­fully. Stu­dents look for verbs and tasks they need to com­plete. Tutors ques­tion stu­dents to make sure they under­stand the instruc­tions. Once stu­dents are aware of the objec­tives, they learn how to cre­ate a plan for their writ­ing project.

To pre­pare stu­dents for the research phase of writ­ing, tutors help stu­dents improve their read­ing com­pre­hen­sion and crit­i­cal think­ing skills. They can instruct on effec­tive note-​taking too. These steps can ensure stronger con­tent and insights in stu­dent papers. “Clear writ­ing is an indi­ca­tion of clear think­ing,” said Thompson.

Wise to revise

As stu­dents make progress on a writ­ing assign­ment, they can sched­ule follow-​up tutor­ing appointments.

Part of the Center’s work is help­ing stu­dents under­stand that writ­ing is not a ‘one and done,’” Thomp­son said. “Writ­ing is an ongo­ing process. Turn­ing in the first draft is not going to con­vey what the writer needs it to con­vey; it’s not going to meet pro­fes­sors’ expec­ta­tions unless you are a superb writer.”

As tutor­ing ses­sions are lim­ited to 50 min­utes, stu­dents are asked to choose one or two things they would like to focus on.

Most of our clients are con­cerned about sentence-​level issues, such as punc­tu­a­tion, gram­mar, cita­tions,” Thomp­son said. “We want to pro­vide feed­back on those things, but we don’t want a sentence-​level focus to exclude ‘big pic­ture’ issues that also affect the qual­ity of the paper, like organization.”

Unit­ing for writ­ing

The Writ­ing Cen­ter wel­comes stu­dents from any class or major. They can help stu­dents with any writ­ing project, includ­ing resumes and grad­u­ate school entrance essays. Over 3,500 writ­ing tuto­ri­als were con­ducted in the last aca­d­e­mic year.

Tutors seek to estab­lish a rela­tion­ship with each and every stu­dent to give them a pos­i­tive, empow­er­ing tutor­ing session.

Tutor­ing cen­ters are places where stu­dents can come and our goal is to make them feel safe and com­fort­able in tak­ing risks and mak­ing mis­takes and learn­ing from those mis­takes,” said Thomp­son. “What we’re try­ing to do is to help stu­dents build upon the writ­ing skills they already have and also help them build new skills.”