How to Work with Us

The Writing Center is dedicated to helping the NMU community learn how to communicate their ideas through clear, effective writing. Developing good writing habits is a process that requires participation from students, tutors, and instructors. Here's how you can help us help your students:

Tell students what to expect.

Most people perform best when they know what's expected of them. Coaching students on what materials to bring helps prepare both them and the tutor for the session. Ask the student to bring any course materials you deem necessary to the assignment, such as project guidelines, the course syllabus, relevant reading materials (or bookmarked websites for research), and any past feedback you've provided.

Giving students a brief overview of what will happen when they arrive at the Writing Center will also increase the effectiveness of the session by helping them feel more comfortable and prepared, especially if it's their first visit. You may provide information from or direct them to our FAQs page or schedule a Writing Center tour for your class.

Recommend the Writing Center at all stages of an assignment.

We are far more than a proofreading service. Our tutors are trained to help students with any stage of the writing process and any part of a paper. Some of our specialties include: 

  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Creating an outline
  • Researching a topic
  • Writing a first draft
    • Crafting a strong introduction and conclusion
    • Narrowing a broad topic into a focused thesis
    • Incorporating quotes and research 
    • Structuring the paper in a logical order
    • Adding effective transitions
  • Revising a rough draft
  • Proofreading a final copy
  • Citing research in APA, MLA, and Chicago Style
  • Applying grammatical rules

Suggest areas to work on.

Sometimes, students may feel confused about what's expected of them on an assignment, even if you tried to be as clear as possible. The Writing Center offers a referral form to help you share detailed suggestions with both the student and the tutor. Simply download the form, fill it out, and send a copy to the Writing Center with the student. (You may also want to keep a copy for your records or instruct the student to return the checklist with the final paper, so you can compare your suggestions with the finished product.) 

When you mark areas for potential improvement on the referral form, you give the student a clear checklist of what you want them to do. They might remain unclear on some terminology and applications, such as not knowing what subject-verb agreement means or not knowing how to cite a source in APA format, but once the tutor has your checklist in hand, they can walk the student through your areas of concern.

Encourage students to visit the Writing Center early.

Every instructor has worked with students who put projects off until the last minute (let's face it: some of you have been those students). If a student comes to the Writing Center at 10:30 with a paper that's due in your 11:00 class, this procrastination is going to put undue pressure on the student and tutor, rendering the session less effective. Encouraging your students early in the assignment (and early in the semester) to visit the Writing Center may be the push they need to use the allotted time wisely. 

Know the limitations.

Sometimes, you may find that a student visited the Writing Center and returned with a paper that didn't improve as much as you hoped. Several factors can influence the effectiveness of a tutoring session, and it's important to understand how these factors may impact the student's final product.

Time constraints

Writing Center tutorials typically run 25-45 minutes. Since most college level papers take several hours to write and revise, we're involved in only a small part of the student's writing process. Our tutors are trained to ask students at the start of each session what they'd like to work on. If the student is unsure or does not provide a focus, the tutor will assess the writing and prioritize concerns, then determine a focus for the tutorial. In keeping with the best practices of our field, our tutors are trained to address higher order concerns like structure, content, and academic integrity first. The session may run out of time before the student and tutor reach lower order concerns like grammar and spelling.

Student participation

The success of a tutoring session depends directly on the student's level of participation. Our tutors are trained to offer students advice on how to adopt good writing practices, not to fix students' papers for them. If the student is unengaged or unwilling to expend effort on the assignment, the finished product will reflect that. Students who are engaged, ask questions, and use the session time wisely are much more likely to achieve the desired results.

Some writing assignments also benefit from multiple tutoring sessions, as when the student struggles with some aspects of writing or when the project itself is labor intensive. Students who would benefit from two or three tutoring sessions may choose to only attend one; as such, their paper will reflect the amount of time and attention it received. On the other hand, students who return for two or three tutoring sessions will most likely show a greater degree of growth in their work. 

Varying areas of expertise 

More than anything, our tutors are your students' peers. They are undergraduate students entering their own fields of study, and they may not always be familiar with the conventions in your field. Their job as writing tutors is to provide an audience reaction, gauge the general functionality of the student's writing, and share what they know about writing conventions. Even when it comes to writing, tutors have their own strengths and weaknesses. While we can share what we know and help students find information on field-specific topics such as citations and formatting, we cannot always provide guidance on specific disciplinary conventions.

Instructor input

The more we know about your expectations, the more helpful we can be. Tutors are trained to address any professor feedback the student brings to the session with them. If a student arrives without professor feedback (or with unclear feedback), the tutor may not know to address certain areas in which you would have liked to see the student improve. You can help increase the session's fruitfulness with assignment sheets and feedback on past writing projects that are clear and specific. 

Come see for yourself!

One of the best ways to get familiar with the Writing Center is to workshop a piece of your own writing with us. Once you've experienced the Writing Center yourself, you'll have a much better idea of how to help your students make the most of our services. You can learn more and schedule an appointment here.

If you have any questions about how to help your students make the most of the Writing Center, please contact the Director, ZZ Lehmberg, at zlehmber@nmu.edu or the Assistant Director at writing@nmu.edu.

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