Working with a Writing Consultant
Here are answers to questions grad students typically ask about working with a writing consultant.
Q: I'm working on a long paper (or a thesis or dissertation). 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. We've found it works best to schedule a one-hour 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. The writing consultant can help you identify questions you have for your professor.
Q: How can you help me with citations and formatting?
A: As a graduate student you probably have a fair amount of experience with the basics of the citation style used in your field. Often grad students come to us with trickier questions that go beyond the basics. Just like you, we rely on the current style manual to answer those questions. We have the manuals on hand and can help you look for the information. If the answer is not clear from the book, you will probably want to ask one of your professors for guidance.
The other citation concern grad students sometimes have is simply the time it takes to do it correctly. If that is your main concern, you could benefit from using a bibliographic management system, such as RefWorks. It takes an initial investment of time to learn to use the system, but once you've got it up and running it will save you huge amounts of time spent citing sources and creating your bibliography.
Q: I want to work with another grad student or a faculty consultant. How can I know who's who?
A: Check out our bios on this site and in the online schedule.
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 help you learn strategies to edit your own work more efficiently, and we can go through portions of your work with you to talk to you about what we notice and offer suggestions. But if your main concern is to save time and you are looking for someone to edit your work for you, you'll want to hire a professional editor familiar with the conventions of your academic discipline.