The Writing Center consultation process is usually initiated by the student, either independently or at the direction of a professor. The student contacts either Susan or Jeff, usually by email, to schedule a meeting—usually, but not always, to discuss a class assignment with a pending deadline. The meeting could occur at the start of a project and focus on issues of overall approach (e.g., understanding the assignment and structuring the argument). More often, however, it occurs after writing has begun and focuses on a partial or full draft of a final product. In this case, the student should append the draft to their initial email. Susan or Jeff will respond by email to establish a mutually convenient meeting time.
Students should allow Susan and Jeff sufficient time to read and consider written products before a meeting. That means at least a day on short assignments (e.g., three-page memos), three or four days on longer assignments (e.g., 10-page term papers), and a week or more on long research papers (e.g., drafts of theses or capstone papers).
In addition, students should recognize that people in a given class will likely have written assignments due on the same day and may be seeking help from the Writing Center at the same time—another reason to give Susan and Jeff as much lead time as possible, even on short assignments.
Meetings last from 20 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the length of the assignment, and usually take place at the McCourt Writing Center during Susan’s and Jeff’s Monday- through-Thursday office hours. However, because professors rarely schedule writing projects with an eye toward Writing Center office hours, Susan and Jeff may also meet students at other times and places, and in emergencies consult with them by telephone or email.
The Writing Center is also a faculty resource. To complement their own efforts to help struggling student writers, professors can encourage or require students to seek Writing Center assistance.
At professors’ requests, Susan and Jeff may also visit classes to discuss effective policy-related writing or to offer guidance on major components of theses and capstone papers (e.g., literature reviews and presentations of results).
Susan and Jeff urge students NOT to think of the Writing Center as a proof-reading or grammar checking service —a resource to be consulted at the very last stages of their writing projects to supply a final bit of editorial polish. The Center’s comparative advantage is helping students write effectively on issues of public policy. So, if you’re confident that all you need is help with grammar, you’d probably be just as well served by a generous and literate friend, or the University Writing Center.