About the Writing Center
The Writing Center offers cadets working in select courses (please see our scheduling website for more specific information) opportunities to consult with experienced peers who have studied argument-based academic writing and peer-tutoring extensively. 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. Consultations with us are best understood as opportunities for you to get together with other thoughtful, accomplished writers and 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.
Location and Hours
The Writing Center is located in JH423 and offers a range of different appointments, for twenty-five minute and forty-five minute consultations. 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.
Though you can try walk in for an appointment, it's best to click and schedule an appointment in advance.
How Do Appointments Work?
What should I bring? How should I prepare?
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 if you can. It's 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 and tablets, 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.
You can best prepare for your session by coming in with a plan: come in having thought about specific questions you want to address. You might even write them down in advance. 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 focusing our attention on what’s most important to you.
What happens during a consultation?
At the beginning of the session, we will ask you to tell us about your assignment, how you've been approaching it, and your concerns. 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 as much as we can and discuss its strengths and weaknesses with you. Our main interest is the argument and structure of your paper—its substance and organization. Some questions we might ask: 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 paths you can take on your own.
We might also discuss issues of style and mechanics with you. Sometimes we'll discuss whether you’ve stitched together effective transitions or whether 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 one or two patterns of error and explain the rules that will enable you to identify your own mistakes in future.
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 that advance reading requires, and in-person consultations are usually more effective than virtual ones. If you have more questions about your paper than we’re able to address in one session, come see us again! You might also seek out other resources for writing assistance at West Point, including CEP Writing Specialists, company tutors, and classmates -- check out 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 for you (we won’t tell you what to argue or how to interpret particular pieces of evidence, though we will challenge your ideas and help you refine them); or tell you what grade we think you'll get (we’re not instructors, and we’re not teaching assistants, so we just don't know).
If you have any other questions, please just stop in or email us; we’re happy to help.