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Welcome to the Writing Center! How can we help you?
The tutors in the Writing Center can help you develop strategies for planning, organizing, drafting, and revising papers, reports, or other documents. The Writing Center can also help with resumés, scholarship letters, and other writing projects not associated with a specific class.Click here for a complete list of our services or click here if you need help with basic English skills (grammar, usage, punctuation, and sentence structure).
The Writing Center is also eager to provide support for creative writing projects and is pleased to promote The Rhapsodist, a literary journal for A-B Tech students, faculty, and staff. The first issue of The Rhapsodist will appear on campus in spring semester 2012. Click here for The Rhapsodist’s submission guidelines.
There are two ways to get help from the Writing Center:
Visit the Writing Center in person. . .
The Writing Center (Ferguson 108B) is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. When you come to the Writing Center, you can look forward to a relaxed one-on-one session with an instructor or peer tutor who will help you discover what you want to accomplish during and after the session and then guide you to meet the goals you set for yourself.
Or receive help online. . .
You can also get help from the Writing Center online by communicating with tutors using email. The Writing Center provides an online service for students enrolled in online and hybrid (O or Y section) courses. Click here for more information on this service.
The following list of questions will guide you in your search for help with any writing assignment. Click any of the links to see how Writing Center tutors can assist you in conference sessions and how you can get immediate help with your questions about writing.
- Where can I get help with basic English skills (grammar, usage, punctuation, and sentence structure)?
- What can I do if I'm having trouble understanding my writing assignment?
- How can I find a thesis (focus) for my paper?
- How can I support my thesis?
- How can I organize my ideas?
- How can I make all my ideas fit my thesis/paragraph topics?
- How can I design a readable introduction and conclusion for my paper?
- How can I make clear connections between sentences and paragraphs?
- How can I express my ideas more effectively?
- How can I incorporate/document my sources using MLA, APA, Chicago Style, CSE/CBE, or another method?
- How can I revise and proofread my own writing?
- How can I get help with other writing projects (resumes, scholarship letters, speech outlines)?
Where can I get help with basic English skills (grammar, usage, punctuation, and sentence structure)?
If you need help with basic English skills (grammar, usage, punctuation, and sentence structure), then you want the Academic Learning Center, located in 114 Ferguson. The ALC tutors can help you to improve your sentence skills and other fundamentals of clear writing.
Click here to learn more about the Academic Learning Center.
The Writing Center tutor can look at your assignment guidelines or the notes you have made and help you interpret whatever you are having trouble understanding. Since Writing Center tutors are instructors or students who have had experience following a variety of assignment guidelines, they will be able to point out the key elements of a writing task and help you think about how you might respond to the assignment.
- If you need help understanding what your instructor is asking you to do, bring your assignment sheet to the Writing Center or send it to your online tutor (online and hybrid class sections only).
- If your instructor talks about assignment requirements in class, take careful notes and bring these to the Writing Center or send a summary to your online tutor.
- If you must miss a class on a day when your course outline shows an assignment will be explained, be sure to ask the instructor for guidelines.
Your Writing Center tutor can help you move toward a thesis by discussing with you some of the ideas you would like to include in your paper. He or she can also help you understand and solve some of the common problems writers face in constructing a thesis.
Before you work with your tutor, you may want to think about the following pointers. If you can put anything on paper, your preliminary ideas will give you and your tutor a good starting place for discussion.
POINTERS TO CONSIDER:
Thesis = topic + attitude/opinion/position
- A thesis is a statement that gives your audience a clear sense of what you want to accomplish in your paper. An effective thesis does not state a fact or announce the paper’s topic; instead, it is built around a strong word or phrase (e.g. “atmosphere of divisiveness” or “a redefinition of patriotism” or “a shift from insightful to inciting”) that expresses your opinion about/ attitude toward/position on your topic. Though a thesis is a statement rather than a question, raising an open-ended question worth exploring is one effective way of finding a thesis.
- Using the rhetorical modes (narrative, illustration, description, process, definition, classification, cause/effect, comparison/ contrast, argument, analysis) to generate ideas about a topic — before trying to draft a thesis — can sometimes help you raise a question worth exploring, one which may provide a strong core idea for a thesis.
- An effective thesis should be more than a listing of points to be made in your paper, but listing the main points you want to make in the body of your paper may help you think of a core idea that will encompass those points.
Your Writing Center tutor can show you some helpful tools for generating examples and details to support your thesis. He or she can also help you decide which of these tools will work best for the specific assignment you have been given.
If you want to prepare for your work with the tutor, you can begin to generate some examples and details by answering some of the following questions (keeping in mind that not all of the questions are appropriate for every assignment):
- What images (word pictures that appeal to my reader’s sense of sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell) would help to support a point related to my thesis?
- How could I use contrast to support a point related to my thesis?
- What process is involved in a point I want to support, and how can I show my reader the steps or stages in that process?
- What are the important causes or effects related to a point I want to make?
- What terms do I need to define for my reader?
- What specific events, people, places, activities, objects, cultural artifacts would help to illustrate some point related to my thesis?
- How might some research help to provide historical background, scientific data, other facts/ statistics, anecdotal material, reasoned argument, quotations from an authority, etc. in support of a point related to my thesis?
- What other forms of persuasion would add emphasis to any of my points (e.g. allusion, analogy, metaphor, narrative, real speech, question/answer, catalog, classification, paradox)?
Your Writing Center tutor can help you learn to construct both formal and informal outlines. He or she can also review with you some other organizational principles that will help you to arrange your ideas for emphasis.
To prepare for your session with the tutor, you can try one or more of the following techniques for organizing your ideas.
- Make a list of all the ideas you would like to include in your paper.
- Group your ideas to show which ones belong together.
- Eliminate any ideas from your original list that don’t seem to fit into any group or that overlap with other ideas.
- If a group contains only a couple of ideas, add ideas or eliminate that group.
- To move toward a thesis, find a strong word or phrase that will encompass the focal idea from each of your groups.
- Ask yourself what organizational principles might best apply to your assignment: chronological order (what comes first, second, third, etc.), spatial order (how things are related to each other in the space they occupy), emphatic order (which idea is least/ most important), order of difficulty (which idea is simplest/ most complex).
- Ask yourself which rhetorical methods might best apply to your assignment: narrative/ anecdotal (telling a story), illustration (providing examples), description (providing images appealing to the senses), process (explaining steps or stages), comparison/contrast (showing similarities or differences), classification (placing in categories according to shared characteristics), definition (explaining the meaning of a word or concept), cause/ effect (showing the why of an occurrence or explaining results), analysis (breaking an idea down into its parts)/synthesis (showing the relationship among the parts).
Your Writing Center tutor can help you develop strategies to check for direction and unity in your paragraphs.
The following checklist can help you self-edit for direction/unity:
- What one strong word or brief phrase in the topic sentence expresses the attitude toward the topic?
- Is the topic narrow enough for feasible development in a paragraph?
- Does the topic sentence wording suggest a rhetorical strategy for development (narrative, illustration, description, process, classification, definition, contrast, etc.)?
- Have words associated with common directional problems been eliminated from the topic sentence (e.g. many things..., several ways..., the purpose is..., there are...)?
- If a question has been used as a means of focusing the paragraph, would a statement strengthen focus?
- Can a pattern of words related to the focal wording be traced through the paragraph?
- What does each sentence in the paragraph do to help develop the directional idea?
- Have any ideas in opposition to the focus of the paragraph been confined to one section of the paragraph and clearly signaled as subordinate to the directional idea?
- If ideas running in opposition to the focus have been included, does the paragraph end by returning to the focus established in the topic sentence?
- Would relocating the topic sentence strengthen paragraph unity? [return to list]
Your Writing Center tutor can help you decide on the best lead-in and conclusion strategies for the particular assignment you have been given.
Some simple techniques will help you if you are having trouble with your introduction and conclusion:
- Write the body of your paper before writing an introduction and conclusion since it is difficult to introduce or tie together ideas that are not fully formed.
- Write the introduction and conclusion together in one sitting to make sure they work well together.
- Keep your lead-in design simple, working to grab your reader’s attention and to provide essential orientation with a specific single strategy — one of the following or another clear method that’s easy to implement:
- Reflect on a quotation related to your thesis
- Reflect on a strong image related to your thesis
- Reflect on a surprising fact related to your thesis
- Give your first sentence an edge that will make your reader want to see what else you have to offer (work to move beyond the obvious).
- In your conclusion, reiterate your thesis, using different words to emphasize your main point.
- To move beyond a simple summary in your conclusion, pick something in the lead-in (the first part of your introduction) that is strong enough to revisit in your conclusion to remind your reader of where you began.
- Make the last sentence of the conclusion worth reading.
Your Writing Center tutor can help you review the fundamentals of coherence:
Using formal transitions (for instance, by contrast, next, moreover, etc.)
Using other common connective techniques (pronouns, repeated words, synonyms, antonyms, anticipatory patterns, other parallel structures)
Your Writing Center tutor can help you develop additional methods of connecting your ideas for more natural and varied movement between sentences and paragraphs.
You can use the following check-list to self-edit for coherence:
- Have you experimented with moving words and phrases within sentences for a clearer and more emphatic placement? (Dependent clauses, prepositional phrases, and verbal elements can sometimes be moved to the front of a sentence to make a stronger sentence and a smoother connection between sentences).
- Could you explain to someone else the link you are making in your mind between the ideas in any two sentences in your paper? If not, your reader may not be able to see the connection.
- Are you relying almost exclusively on formal transitions for coherence (for instance, first, in contrast, another example, etc.)? If so, are there places where synonyms, repetition, parallelism, or some other form of connection would make a more meaningful connection between ideas?
- Where you are using pronouns (especially it, this, they, and their), do they contribute to coherence or are the references weak or ambiguous, forcing the reader to guess about connections?
- Could you explain the link you are making in your mind between the final sentence of each paragraph and the first sentence of the next paragraph? If not, your reader may not be able to see the connection.
- Would moving sentences and paragraphs to different places in the paper help you join ideas more meaningfully?
Your tutor can help you see ways of making your style clearer and more expressive.
The following list of “What If” questions will help you begin to raise the kinds of questions that will lead to more effective self-editing of your work:
- What if I ended this sentence one, two, three, four (or more) words sooner?
- What if I balanced this long, difficult word with a shorter image-producing word?
- What if I combined these two sentences by using subordination to emphasize the most important idea?
- What if I substituted a fresh metaphor for this cliché?
- What if I switched the order of items in this series?
- What if I eliminated phrases like “in my opinion” and “I believe” where they don’t really add anything of value?
- What if I found a natural place to break this overlong paragraph or a way to combine two shorter paragraphs?
- What if I used more variety in my examples/details (analogy, definition by negation, a memory, a behavior, a movement, real speech, a philosophical quotation, a series of strong images, an allusion, etc.)?
- What if this idea really belongs in another sentence/ paragraph?
- What if I moved a phrase up front in this sentence?
- What if I ended the paper a sentence or two sooner?
- What if I got rid of a few adjectives and adverbs and made my verbs more precise instead?
How can I incorporate/document my sources using MLA, APA, Chicago Style, CSE/CBE, or another method?
Your Writing Center tutor can help you:
- handle attributive phrasing and reflective language to introduce and respond to information quoted, paraphrased, or summarized from your sources,
- implement the most important principles for preparing in-text citations and a works cited or reference page,
- learn to make effective use of your handbook models,
- practice techniques to avoid plagiarism and misrepresentation in working with sources.
Here are some important questions you can ask yourself as you work to complete a research assignment:
- Is there an in-text citation for every source listed on my works cited or reference page?
- Do my in-text citations (attributive phrasing and parenthetical citations) match the front of my works cited or reference entries?
- Have I carefully followed the models for the assigned documentation style (MLA, APA, or other guide)?
- Have I followed the fundamental principles for avoiding plagiarism in citing my sources?
Your Writing Center tutor can help you learn a variety of helpful strategies for revision and proofreading.
You will want to understand that effective proofreading involves learning to look for signals that will help you see errors in standard usage and that effective revision involves substantive changes in content, continuity, and persuasive use of language — in other words, much more than inserting a comma here and there or correcting common spelling and usage errors.
- You can strengthen focus, unity, organization, coherence, support, and style by using some of the suggestions and checklists on the other pages within this site.
- To sharpen your proofreading skills, try reading your paper from the last sentence backward to the first. You might also transfer each sentence of your draft to a list form so that you can look at sentences individually. These techniques allow you to focus on finding careless mistakes, such as fragments, comma splices, and lack of subject-verb agreement.
- Reading your papers aloud, a useful strategy for revising and proofreading, will often help you hear weaknesses that you might otherwise miss.
- Revise and proofread using a hard copy of your draft to catch problems you will not always see when you read your work on the computer screen.
Tutors are available in the on-campus Writing Center (Ferguson 108B) to help A-B Tech students with any writing project. To schedule an appointment with a writing instructor or peer tutor, call 254-1921 (campus extension 218). All of our tutors can give help with papers for courses, resumes, scholarship letters, speech outlines, PowerPoint presentations, and other writing projects.