Working with a Writing Consultant (Faculty)
Here are answers to questions faculty typically ask about working with a writing consultant.
Q: I'm working on a long journal article (or grant proposal, assessment report, etc). What can we accomplish in 30 minutes?
A: In a thirty-minute session, we can talk about the big picture of your project (e.g., organization, argument, content) or read and discuss a portion of your draft (generally about 4-5 double-spaced pages). We can also coach you on strategies for working through a large project.
We offer one-hour sessions for writers who have a longer project and would benefit from the extra time--most often grad students and faculty. You won't be able to make a one-hour appointment online, but any consultant can help you with scheduling. Typically faculty schedule their next appointment at the end of a session, so the consultant can make the one-hour appointment right then and there.
Q: I'm writing for people who share my disciplinary expertise. What if the consultant doesn't understand my paper?
A: By working with writers from many different academic backgrounds, consultants develop strategies for offering feedback on highly specialized papers. Your contribution to the session is also particularly important. If the consultant says, "I don't understand this paragraph," you will ultimately decide for yourself whether the reader's problem is unclear writing or simply a lack of specialized knowledge.
You will also need to consider your discipline's conventions, since a consultant outside your field won't have the same insider knowledge that you do. Your work with the writing consultant may generate questions you'll want to discuss with a colleague.
Q: I want to work with a faculty consultant or one of the graduate students. How can I know who's who?
A: Check out our bios on this site and the online schedule.
Q: What's the difference between working with a consultant at the writing center and working with an editor?
A: While interactions with editors vary depending on the type of editor, most of the dialogue about a piece of writing tends to take place after the editor has read and commented on the piece, asking questions, making suggestions. Then the writer responds to these and waits for the next set of responses from the editor.
At the writing center, consultant and writer read the manuscript together, addressing issues as they arise. If the consultant finds, for example, that the meaning of a sentence is unclear, he or she will ask questions to determine whether the confusion is simply due to a lack of familiarity with the subject matter, or a result of, say, missing information or a sentence structure that invites misreading. If they agree that a change is in order, they discuss possible solutions—alternate wordings, combining or breaking up sentences, changing the order information is given—and when a suitable solution is found they continue on. Feedback is immediate, and the collaboration takes place in real time.
Q: I'm really pressed for time. Can you edit my paper for me?
A: All of our sessions are collaborative conversations between the writer and the consultant. We can introduce you to strategies for editing your own work more efficiently, and we can go through portions of your work with you and talk about what we notice and offer suggestions. But if your main concern is to save time, you'll want to hire an editor familiar with the conventions of your discipline.