Writing & Research CenterWrite there with you

Faculty Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why does the Odegaard Undergraduate Library have a writing and research center?

Q: Who can use the OWRC?

Q: Who is on the staff?

Q: What happens during a typical writing center conference?

Q: Can I require my whole class to bring their papers to the OWRC?

Q: How can I encourage my students to use your center?

Q: Should I give extra credit points to students who use the OWRC?

Q: Will I know if one of my students uses the OWRC?

Q: Many of my students are terrible proofreaders. Can I suggest that they bring their papers to the OWRC for proofreading?

Q: Can the OWRC help students who are struggling because English is not their native language?

Q: Will the OWRC help students to document their sources properly?

Q: Can a student drop off a paper and pick it up later?

Q: What about group papers?

Q: I’ve sometimes had students visit the OWRC and still turn in poorly written papers. How do you explain that?

Q: How do I know that the OWRC’s evaluation of a student’s paper won’t contradict mine?

Q: Can I arrange to have the OWRC staff do workshops or presentations on writing in my class?

Q: What are the full range of services you offer for faculty members on campus?

 

Q: Why does the Odegaard Undergraduate Library have a writing and research center?
A: The primary purpose of OWRC is to help students write better for all kinds of class assignments.  Because many college assignments depend upon finding and analyzing specialized information, we have created a center that helps students work with the library’s resources as well as put together a successful paper.  We also exist as a source of support and feedback for faculty and staff writers working on a variety of projects.

We help all writers in a variety of ways. First, we help writers understand fully what any given assignment or writing situation is asking them to do; second, we help writers plan clearly how to complete writing tasks successfully; and third, we help writers execute that plan from initial research and fact-gathering through the submission of a successful written product.

Our partnership with the library thus enables us to be a comprehensive writing AND research center—offering writers expert help with all aspects of research and composition.

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Q: Who can use the OWRC?
A: The Odegaard Writing & Research Center is open to the entire UW community: faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students from any course.  The only exception to our “open-door policy” is that, unfortunately, we cannot typically help writers who are crafting work in languages other than English; although many of our staff members have varying degrees of comfort and fluency with additional languages, we cannot guarantee a match with all languages UW writers might be working in.
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Q: Who is on the staff?
A: The OWRC staff includes graduate and advanced undergraduates who have received special training to prepare for their work at the OWRC.  They come from departments across campus and were chosen because they demonstrated all the qualities of a good tutor. Tutors are trained to respond to writing across the curriculum.  You are welcome to stop by our center and become acquainted with our staff.  For more information about particular tutors, please visit our staff page.
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Q: What happens during a writing center conference?
A: Although each conference is different (because each writer and paper are different), you can get a general idea of what happens when students visit the OWRC by reading the link Getting the Most Out of Your Session
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Q: Can I require my whole class to bring their papers to the OWRC?
A:
Please don’t! We appreciate your support of the OWRC, but we know from experience that when students get a blanket requirement of this kind, most of them wait until the last minute and then come in simply to get us to verify their presence; they don’t plan to make any substantial changes in their papers. This creates a traffic jam in the center and may prevent other students, who are serious about improving their writing, from getting the help that they seek on their own. Please see the next question for suggestions on how to encourage your students to take advantage of our services.
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Q: How can I encourage my students to use the OWRC?
A: Here are some suggestions:

SHORT VERSION: The Odegaard Writing & Research Center is a free interdisciplinary writing center providing writing and research assistance from trained writing tutors and librarians during all stages of the writing process.  Open Sunday from 12:00pm-9:00pm, Monday-Thursday from 9:00am-9:00pm, and Friday from 9:00am-3:00pm.  Please visit http://www.depts.washington.edu/owrc to reserve your spot and for more information about services and staff members.  

LONGER VERSION: The Odegaard Writing & Research Center offers free, one-to-one help with all aspects of writing at any stage in the writing process -- even if all you have is the assignment sheet.  To make an appointment and browse the center's online resources, please visit: http://www.depts.washington.edu/owrc.  Located on the first floor of the Odegaard Library, in room 121, the OWRC is open Sunday from 12:00pm-9:00pm, Monday-Thursday from 9:00am-9:00pm, and Friday from 9:00am-3:00pm. To make the best use of your time at the OWRC, please bring a copy of your assignment with you, along with notes and course readings to help tutors better understand the writing context.  We'll have lots of questions for you, but please know that the OWRC will not proofread papers or talk with you about grades.  Instead we're here to support you long-term as a writer by helping you develop good habits and strategies suitable for a variety of writing situations.

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Q: Should I give extra credit points to students who use the OWRC?
A:
Use your best judgment.  While awarding extra points may give shy or reluctant students extra incentive to visit, our past experience indicates that many students make appointments simply to get the points without the intent to improve as writers.  Students who make these perfunctory appointments block other students who have actively and independently chosen to get help from using our services. 

Q: Will I know if one of my students uses the OWRC?
A: Yes, as long as the student in question has not requested otherwise, we are happy to send a brief summary of student sessions regarding a given course to the instructor.  This process can be hampered if the student doesn’t know the instructor’s name or the course number or neglects to fill out that part of the form when signing up for an appointment.  If you request a list of student visits, please provide us with a class roster as a supplemental means of searching our database.

If you would like to know whether or not one or more of your students came into the center, please send an e-mail to owrc@u.washington.edu. 
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Q: Many of my students are terrible proofreaders. Can I suggest that they bring their papers to the OWRC for proofreading?
A: No, but you can suggest that they go to the OWRC to learn how to recognize and correct their own errors. Our consultants won’t do students’ editing or proofreading for them simply because they won’t learn anything that way, but we are happy to provide case-by-case, gradual instruction in grammar, usage, sentence structure, punctuation, etc., in the context of reading and discussing the writing that students bring to us.
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Q: Can the OWRC help students who are struggling because English is not their native language?
A: Yes, ELL students are some of our best customers. We are happy to contribute what we can to their process of learning to write in Standard English as one valuable language variety available to them as scholars, but both they and you should understand that we will not be rewriting their sentences or correcting errors in their writing. Writing in a second language (and for many of these students, English is a third or fourth language) is a difficult and sometimes frustrating process; it takes time, practice, and persistence. Those who are willing, as many are, to come in repeatedly and to work hard between sessions to apply what they learn in the OWRC will gradually make progress, but please don’t expect instant results.
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Q: Will the OWRC help students to document their sources properly?
A: Yes. If students keep track of all the necessary bibliographical information, and if they know which system of documentation they are supposed to use (APA, MLA, CMS, CBE, AMA, Turabian, etc.), we will help them look up answers to their questions about citing particular sources -- thereby modeling a healthy process of inquiry. We may not always be able to find the answers, but we will try.

If you have a class full of students who need instruction in the basics of using and identifying sources properly, you may want to work with the OWRC director to create and schedule a class presentation. Send an e-mail to owrc@u.washington.edu for more information. See also our link Writing Resources.
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Q: Can a student drop off a paper and pick it up later?
A: No, it is antithetical to our core mission to work on a student’s paper in his or her absence. The OWRC is all about conversation. Both the student and his or her consultant will be asking and answering questions -- reading the paper together and engaging in a dialogue about what is working and what isn’t, looking for solutions to problems, and exploring different options together. (See Getting the Most Out of Your Session for more information about what goes on in a writing center conference.)
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Q: What about group papers?
A: We are happy to help with group papers if all the group members come in to ask and answer questions about the parts they have written. Delegating one group member to bring the paper to our center defeats our purpose of trying to work with writers in the immediate moment of a project to develop writing strategies that are both sustainable and transferable to other situations.
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Q: I’ve sometimes had students visit the OWRC and still turn in poorly written papers. How do you explain that?
A: Not every writing center session is an unqualified success. We are often frustrated at not being able to help students as much as we would like to. Students at many different levels of writing ability and experience come to our writing center at many different stages of their writing process. Many of them are good, strong writers who want to be even better. One visit is enough to help them identify and address the issues that need to be resolved in a paper, and they are able to improve it significantly. But frequently we see papers with more writing problems than we can address in a forty-five minute session. As much as we might like to “take over” a student’s paper and “fix” it, that is not our mission – and while that might give you a more pleasurable reading experience when you see the paper, it would neither help the student to grow as a writer (which is our ultimate purpose), nor be consistent with UW’s Academic Integrity Policy (which is extremely important to us).

Our objective in each writing center conference is to make students feel ready and able to tackle the next step, or the next few steps, in writing or revising the papers they bring to us. That means we have to set priorities and make judgments. We may, for example, show a student how to restructure his paper so that the parts of it fit together more coherently, or how to bolster his argument with more evidence, or how to use and identify his sources properly, or how to correct some persistent errors in usage or punctuation. But we are often aware that even if he uses what he learns to improve the paper in some ways, there will still be other problems remaining. In that case we encourage the student to come back for additional sessions as he is revising – and hope that he has the time and inclination to do that.

If you have concerns or questions about a particular session, or if you want to send information to our staff about your own priorities and expectations for your students, the OWRC director would love to hear from you. (Please send email to owrc@u.washington.edu) 
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Q: How do I know that a tutor’s evaluation of a student’s paper won’t contradict mine?
A: You don’t know that, and neither do we. That’s why OWRC consultants are trained to both see and present themselves as smart readers, as coaches and supporters, but never as evaluators. We try to encourage writers by taking an interest in their work and by responding enthusiastically to their ideas and their effort. But we also react honestly as readers – pointing out areas of confusion, raising questions, encouraging writers to examine their options. It’s a fine line – trying to be supportive while at the same time helping students to look critically at their own writing. When they ask us (as they often do) to evaluate their writing, we try instead to get them to identify its strengths and weaknesses in relation to their intentions or to the criteria given them as part of the assignment. And we always tell students that we are not in a position to anticipate or explain their instructor’s response to a paper. Our mantra at the OWRC is that students are responsible for the papers they turn in, and their instructors are responsible for evaluating them.
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Q: Can I arrange to have the OWRC staff do workshops or presentations on writing in my class?
A. Yes.  While our primary purpose is to work individually with students, with enough notice, we are excited to work with instructors to develop targeted workshops/presentations on specific topics that will be helpful to a class.  We are especially well-equipped to support classes in developing good peer review practices; excellent questions are our stock-in-trade, and we look forward to sharing them with students to help them be better, more sophisticated readers of each others' work. Please e-mail OWRC director Jenny Halpin at owrc@u.washington.edu if you want to pursue this.
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Q: What are the full range of services you offer for faculty members on campus?
A: The OWRC provides support, resources, and consultation services for faculty who assign writing in their courses. Our services for faculty include:

    In-Class Visits – Would you like your students to hear about our services first-hand?  Request one of our tutors to visit your class and perform a 5-10 minute introductory presentation! Handouts and PowerPoint presentations regarding our services are also available upon request.

    Workshops – You can save valuable planning time by asking one of our tutors to come to your classroom to conduct specially-focused writing workshops. We've developed workshops and materials on a wide array of writing topics and can even customize a workshop to meet your specific assignments and writing needs!

    Handouts/PowerPoints – Do you need helpful handouts or PowerPoints on writing and/or research for your students to use in the classroom?  Spend a little time on our website to see what resources are available.

    Private Consultations – Are you interested in adding more writing or writing instruction to your courses? We can help! We are more than willing to work with you one-to-one to assist in the creation of writing prompts and/or finding ways to make writing more central to your course.

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