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Righting Writing at the Writing Center

(Posted June 21, 2013)

Many students in CWS classes, like the one shown here, use the Writing Center for assistance on their papers. The Writing Center is located in the basement of the library.

As the school year comes to a close, many students rush to the Writing Center for help on their essays. John Dubensky, one of the students working in the Juniata Writing Center, answers some questions about the task of assisting with student writing:

Q: What kinds of writing help requests do you usually get?

A: It's pretty evenly spread out. We get a lot of CWS papers and some business papers. Probably the least common ones are science papers, like case studies and stuff like that. You usually don't see too many of them. In the fall, the CWS papers are the most common ones because that's when most people have CWS.

Q: When are the busiest times at the Writing Center?

A: During the week, definitely. On Sundays it's usually not as bad, and during the week it's a little busier. As the semester progresses, it usually gets busier and busier. Especially now, this whole week there's been a steady stream of people. On our last day open, everybody is supposed to come in if they're available because we expect a lot of people.

Q: What are some common problems you see in student writing?

A: It's hard to pick a most common thing. What we try to address first are higher-order concerns in papers. Focus, thesis, organization, structure, those kinds of things. If the paper has those kinds of things, we can move on to lower order concerns, things like sentence structure, word choice, phrasing, and style. First and foremost, we want to deal with very general concerns.

Q: What's the hardest part of helping students at the Writing Center?

A: I guess the hardest part of working with anyone is that a lot of people want validation on their paper. They want to know, "Is this good?" We can't really give a solid answer on that, especially without knowing the professor. The truth is, you can't really ever write something that's 100 percent done. I've never looked back on anything I wrote, even papers, and thought. "Oh, this is perfect, I would change nothing." I think a lot of people want their paper to get to a certain point where it's perfect, and we can't give them that. It's impossible to get to that point.

Q: What advice would you give to students who are writing their papers?

A: If you want help, definitely don't come in with your paper the day before it's due, at least not the first time. Try to get something written down and come in a few days beforehand and get some help. You can come in as many times as you want, so the more you come in the better your paper will be.

-Laura Bitely '14, Juniata Online Journalist

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.