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How to Use a Tutor

Usually when students come to the Writing Center, they sit down with a paper and a tutor asks them what they would like to discuss. However, sometimes it is helpful to interact with a tutor in other ways. Below are some of the additional ways in which you can make use of a Writing Center tutor, organized by when in the writing process you're visiting.

Before You Have a Draft

  1. Pace Yourself. Always waiting until the last minute to write your paper? It may help to come up with a game plan ahead of time. A tutor can help guide you through the process.
  2. Get Mentored. Ask questions about terminology, mechanics, writing conventions, or anything else. A tutor will work with you to find the answers.
  3. Have a Sounding Board. Ever just need someone to bounce ideas off of? Then this is for you! No draft required.
  4. Have a Devil's Advocate. Ask a tutor to question all your ideas and assumptions. This will give you a chance to see if those ideas make sense before you put them into writing.
  5. The Silent Dialogue. Have a writing conference … in complete silence! Write down your conversation with your tutor, and you will be forced to state your ideas clearly and concisely. When you finish, you will have a complete transcript of your thought process.

With a Draft in Hand

  1. Specify Feedback. Ask specific questions about the parts of your paper that you would like to focus on. For example, don't ask: "What do you think about my paper?" Ask instead: "What do you hear me saying?" or "Have I hooked you?"

  2. Hear Your Words on Another's Lips. It may be helpful to have a tutor read your paper out loud to see if it sounds the way you intend. This helps you see if you're being clear and getting your point across.

  3. Get a Running Report. Ask your tutor to read your paper out loud while giving a running commentary about what he or she is thinking, might be expecting, or is confused about.

Once Your Draft is Returned

  1. Conduct a post mortem. Confused by the comments on that recently returned assignment? Bring in a paper after it's been written, submitted, and graded to help you recognize patterns of strengths and weaknesses in all your writing.

Writing Personal Trainer

  1. Make a Writing "Date.” Need some company while you write? A tutor will be your "date" — doing work alongside you and being available when you have questions or need help. Warning: tutoring is unlikely to result in a romantic relationship.

  2. Grammar Self-Assessment. Don't know when to use a semicolon? You're not the only one!  Save yourself from grammatical blunders by participating in a grammar self-assessment to help you learn your own strengths and weaknesses, all while sharpening your own skills.

  1. Stimulus Exchanges. Step out of your writing comfort zone and write based on different stimuli: poems, quotes, or images. Practice makes perfect, and writing to work on recurring issues can help you prepare for your next assignment.

  2. Play Writing Games. Playing writing games can be a low-pressure way to exercise your linguistic muscle and develop skills that will help you in all your other writing.

  • Word Salad (for a larger repertoire of syntactical structures)
  • Half-Baked (for the same, plus more effective word choice)
  • Ben Franklin's Exercise (for all of the above, plus greater flow of thought and paragraph coherence)

*Each use is explained in full in the marked binder at the Writing Center.