About the Writing Center
Through the Writing Fellows program, the Writing Center offers students working in select courses (please see our scheduling website for more specific information) opportunities to consult with experienced writers who have undertaken extensive scholarly study of argument-based academic writing and peer-tutoring. Writing Fellows will meet with you at any stage of the writing process: they can help you to clarify a focus, develop a thesis, organize an argument, integrate sources, or revise for paragraph cohesion or style.
Although Writing Fellows can help you identify and correct certain patterns of error in your sentences, we will not edit or proofread papers. Nor are we able to offer you comprehensive instruction in English grammar. Don’t think of your meetings with us as lessons or tutorials; we’re not here to lecture you, or to push your papers in any particular direction. In fact, you’ll be doing at least as much talking as us: these consultations are best understood as opportunities for you to get together with other thoughtful, accomplished writers and take time to talk seriously about your ideas and how well you’ve communicated them. Writing Fellows are trained to advise you as sympathetic readers—to listen to what you have to say and help you to express your ideas clearly and effectively. Our foremost goal is to assist you in becoming skilled readers and capable revisers of your own writing.
Location and Hours
The Writing Center is located in JH423 and offers twenty-five minute appointments during ESP. For more specific information regarding our hours and to schedule appointments, please see our scheduling website. To make appointments, you must first register by using your usma.edu email account.
Make sure you read carefully about how the Writing Center works (below). Then click to schedule an appointment. Appointments are for twenty-five minutes, and they are scheduled on the half-hour. Please note that we do not allow you to book appointments on the same day your essay is due. Moreover, you must obtain special permission to schedule any more than three total appointments per individual essay or assignment.
You may also try to walk in for an appointment; however, because drop-ins are first-come, first-serve, we strongly encourage you to schedule sessions in advance.
How Does the Writing Center Work?
- How should I prepare? What should I bring?
Bring in your assignment and whatever writing you’ve done for it so far, including notes, full drafts, or portions of drafts, in double-spaced hard copy. (In fact it’s ideal if you can bring in two copies—one for you and one for your Writing Fellow to review simultaneously. Regardless, it is much easier and more effective for us to read your work and advise you about it if we can take it in hand, analyze it carefully, and mark up moments to discuss with you; with laptops, it’s harder for us to read closely, and of course we won’t type any comments or suggestions directly into your own document.) You might also consider bringing in any written feedback you’ve received from your instructor.
Finally, you can best prepare for your session by coming in with a plan: come in having thought about (even written down) specific questions you want to address. After all, it’s your paper: make sure you know what your biggest concerns are, and be ready to make the most out of your limited time with us by directing our attention to what’s most important to you.
- What happens during a consultation?
At the beginning of the session, we will ask you about your assignment and how you’ve begun to approach it. If you know what you want to work on during the session, you should tell us during this preliminary conversation. If you haven’t yet written anything, we might just discuss your ideas and consider different ways of developing and organizing them. You might leave the session with an outline or a thesis statement, or you may discover that you need to do more research before you can begin an outline.
If you have written something, even just an outline, we will read through what you have and discuss it with you. Our main interest is the argument and structure of your paper—its substance and organization. Some questions we might reflect on include: Do you respond to the assignment? Do you have a thesis? Does your evidence support the thesis? Does each of your paragraphs argue a single point, and do they follow each other in a logical order? We might well spend a whole session on just one of these bedrock issues; if so, our goal won’t be for you to rewrite your whole paper right then and there, but rather to for us to work together to map out ways you could proceed once you’re back at your own desk.
Of secondary interest to us are problems of style as well as conventions and correctness. We might use part of a session to ensure that you’ve stitched together effective transitions or that your sentences are clear, concise, and grammatically correct. We might also comment on whether you have cited your sources appropriately. Rather than identifying every mistake in your writing, however, we’ll try to point out patterns of error and explain the rules that will enable you to identify your own mistakes in future.
Be sure to ask questions if anything we say is unclear. Also, if you feel we’re overlooking possible problems in your essay, you are more than welcome to suggest other areas of discussion.
Finally, no matter where you are in the writing process, please plan to take notes during your consultation. It’s essential that you leave your consultation with some concrete ideas about where to go next, and explicit, detailed notes will help you to do that.
- Can you read my paper ahead of time? Can I email you a paper to look over later?
Writing Fellows do not read papers in advance; nor do we review papers over email outside of regular Writing Center hours. At this point, we simply don’t have the resources to take the time advance reading requires, and in-person consultations are usually much more effective than virtual ones. If you have more questions about your paper than we’re able to address in one session, consider scheduling another consultation. You might also seek out other resources for writing assistance at West Point as appropriate, including CEP Writing Specialists, company tutors, and classmates. For more information about these resources, see our “Additional Resources” page.
- May I request a particular Writing Fellow?
We will try to accommodate requests for a particular Writing Fellow, but time and schedules determine whether such requests are honored. All Writing Fellows are trained to help you articulate your ideas effectively, and we actually recommend that you strive for appointments with more than one of us—just to get different perspectives on your writing and the writing process generally.
- What should I NOT expect during my session?
Ultimately, your writing is your responsibility; you own your paper. Writing Fellows aim to engage you in productive conversations about how your paper’s shaping up and what it could be. We work to identify your main ideas and help measure how well you’ve expressed and supported them. What we won’t do is:
• Proofread your essay (again, we’ll help you to spot and correct patterns of error, but we won’t just ‘fix’ your paper)
• Write your essay (we won’t tell you what to argue or how to interpret particular pieces of evidence, though we are interested in challenging your ideas and helping you to refine them)
• Grade your essay (we’re not instructors, and we’re not teaching assistants; we’re not in any way responsible for the grades you receive and we won’t guess what grade you might get on any given piece of writing—so don’t ask)
- Other questions?
Stop in or just email us; we’re happy to help.