Not just a ‘fix-it’ shop…inside the Writing Center

Andrea Flood

Enter: one haggard, hesitant student, his insecurities visible as he slides a rough draft across the table.

Exit: a high-spirited scholar, clutching a revised draft, his apprehensiveness translated into confidence. Welcome to the Villanova Writing Center.

Through the double doors of Old Falvey 202, you will encounter a number of tutors all eager to help you with your writing needs. The approximately 40 peer tutors hail from all of the University’s colleges, as well as from its graduate programs. They have trained an entire semester to assist with any student’s writing concerns. Their flexible and supportive tutoring skills are targeted at increasing confidence in the tutee student’s written work.

However, the Writing Center is not just for poor or struggling writers. Everyone can benefit from a tutorial and the ability to talk about writing. Moreover, the tutors can offer feedback at any stage of the writing process. From brainstorming to adding the finishing touches to your final draft, they cater to individual needs and concerns. They are open to any type of assignment, ranging from a senior thesis to a paper proposal.

By now you must be asking yourself, “What exactly goes on during one of these sessions?”

Lasting approximately 50 minutes, each session revolves around a student-centered, collaborative approach. A successful tutorial involves both the tutor and the student, each contributing in a dialogue about the work. Don’t expect the tutor to transform a rough draft into polished prose while you study your math notes. Instead, anticipate a team approach to discussing potential improvements.

“The largest misconception about the Writing Center is that we are a ‘fix-it’ shop, simply here to mark grammar and punctuation errors and then send the writer on his merry way,” said Writing Center Director Mary Beth Simmons.

In fact, grammar is among one of the last issues to be addressed in a tutorial. Tutors are trained to first tackle global concerns and then proceed to surface level issues such as grammar. This process is outlined in what tutors refer to as “The 5-Point Method.”

The first point of consultation will deal with a student’s response to the assignment, while the second point is concerned with the thesis. These are followed by a detailed look at the organization and the development of the work. Finally, a tutor will address grammatical issues.

The Writing Center is looking to create better, more confident writers, and not merely better texts. By concentrating on content issues, the student gains assurance in his or her ability to craft a coherent, unified piece of work. While the tutors are paid, the University provides for the service. That’s right, no charge for a session! And, you can schedule as many as you like!

“The Writing Center is a place where you can get free, helpful suggestions on your papers. It’s always worthwhile to have someone read over your papers before you turn them in and Writing Center tutors are trained to do just that,” said tutor Valerie Fernandez.

The Writing Center mission statement does assert that although they can’t guarantee you an “A” on every paper, they can guarantee that by the end of your 50 minute session, you’ll come away confident with your writing process, and feel more comfortable using your writing skills for future assignments.

“The tutorial gives a writer confidence. The tutors are trained to make the writers feel comfortable in the center. The sessions can actually be quite fun! I hope the tutorial encourages the student to be committed to the overall improvement of his or her writing,” said Simmons.

This academic year, the Villanova Writing Center has completed almost 3,000 tutorials. The overwhelming majority of these students have noted their session to be very helpful.

So give the writing center and their eager employees a chance. Go schedule an appointment for help with your next paper–there’s nothing to lose except a bad grade.