Who We Are and Our Philosophy
The Writing Center is a free service that allows students at USM to work one-on-one with experienced writers—most tutors are graduate students in English, but we employ tutors from several other disciplines as well—on any aspect of their assignments, usually:
- Grasping the assignment and what it requires
- Understanding how their own writing is working and isn’t working
- Learning strategies for writing tasks (how to brainstorm, organize, etc.)
- Practicing the art of revision in both re-seeing and rewriting
We are also prepared to help students who bring us specialized writing tasks such as resumes, letters of application or goal statements for graduate school applications. We occasionally work on theses and dissertations, and on PRAXIS and other test-taking preparation.
Though some of us are current or former teachers, as tutors we work less as instructors and more as advisors or skilled readers, a temporary second brain. That is, we perform the work that accomplished writers perform for themselves—that of questioning one’s own writing for clarity, imagination and force.
Our approach to tutoring then is first and last to ask questions and help the student writer to discover his or her own purpose for writing and ways in which such purpose can be achieved. In the best case, this becomes a habit of mind which students subsequently practice on their own. We are aimed at rendering ourselves unnecessary to the student in the glorious future, when he or she acquires the habits of being able to think through a topic, organize ideas, anticipate and counter objections or questions, illustrate by data or example, check and repair sentences and so on. To that end, we strongly urge students to make multiple appointments for each writing assignment they bring to us. A single visit is of much less value in the long term than multiple visits.
If there exists a misperception about The Writing Center, it is that it is primarily a proofreading service, that we provide a sort of one-hour martinizing to “clean up” student papers. That is not what we do. Everything we do is aimed at empowering the student writer to write effectively without our intervention, to make ourselves obsolete, and proofreading students’ papers for them would be counter to this aim. We do, of course, work with students on recognizing and correcting patterns of error in their own work, a strategy that enables them to recognize and successfully address grammar problems on their own.
The Writing Center Philosophy
The Writing Center is a friendly place where students can come for help with their writing and know they will be treated with respect and kindness. We provide a non-threatening atmosphere where students can work on what for many of them is a difficult, mysterious and stressful task. We try to demystify the writing process, working with each individual writer who seeks our help to find the way of proceeding that works best for him or her.
Though we work to assure that all clients leave The Writing Center with a clear idea of what they need to do next in order to make their paper better, we don’t feel that this is enough. We are passionately dedicated to the goal of helping students become more self-sufficient writers, able to put into practice on their own the skills and techniques they learn in sessions with our tutors. No writer is ever entirely self-sufficient – even the best and most professional writers seek input and advice from others – but what the best writers do have is the learned ability to serve as their own readers and editors, to question their purpose for writing and their effectiveness in communicating information and ideas. We are always working on ways to help our clients achieve this sort of independence, and to this end, we urge students to make multiple appointments for every writing project and to come to The Writing Center with every writing assignment they receive. And we try always to be learning ourselves, from our clients, from each other, from faculty across the disciplines, from writers and researchers in the field and from our own experiences as writers.