What does the Writing Center do for students?
Working with undergraduates and (insofar as our schedule allows) graduate students is our primary mission. We are an instructional service. We don’t do the writing for students; we coach them.
- We help student writers grow and improve at every stage of the writing process.
- We teach new skills for a variety of writing contexts.
- We counsel writers about the options they have and the choices they have made in their texts.
In practical terms, this means we meet with students (both undergraduate and graduate) and talk about their projects, their goals, their papers, and their revision strategies. We discuss everything from writer’s block to the passive voice, from a student’s writing schedule to proper citation. Undergraduate students often visit with concerns about understanding assignments, developing arguments, organization, evidence, and sentence-level issues (like grammar, mechanics, and style). Graduate students more often want to discuss managing large writing projects. We don’t edit, proofread, or otherwise write on students’ drafts; rather, we teach students to identify and address problems themselves.
What happens in an on-site coaching session?
In an on-site coaching session, the writer is greeted by a writing coach and invited to have a seat at a desk or table. The writer and the coach will discuss the writer’s questions, which might be about the writing process, a particular assignment, or a skill the writer would like to learn, like proofreading. The writer and the coach will agree on goals for the session, which lasts fifty minutes; if the writer has a draft, it is read aloud. The writer and coach then have a conversation in which the coach offers feedback, asks questions, and teaches strategies the writer can use. At the end of the session, the coach creates a conference summary (a short, non-evaluative written report about the session), and the student is asked to complete an online evaluation.
To request online coaching, the writer fills out an online form that asks about the assignment and the writer’s concerns; the writer then attaches his/her draft. Writing coaches are scheduled to respond to online submissions during certain parts of their work shifts. A coach will “claim” the student’s submission and read over it, then write a response. The coach’s response will take the form of a letter that offers feedback, addresses the student’s questions and concerns, and explains relevant strategies and resources. When the writing coach has completed his/her response, the student receives an email with an invitation to return to the website and view the coach’s comments. Writing coaches do not use Track Changes or otherwise insert their own words in the student’s text.
We believe that writing is a learned skill and that writing problems are solvable problems. We help writers consider the many choices they make in the writing process, from identifying a topic and a time to write to deciding where a comma should go. By serving as readers, we demonstrate the impact those choices have on an audience. We teach skills and strategies that can be used in both current and future writing projects, and we offer online resources that can be accessed at any time. All of us who work at the Writing Center are writers ourselves; we enjoy hearing about the experiences of other writers and sharing our own.
The Writing Center is not a proofreading or editing service, although we are happy to help writers learn these skills. If you visit us, our writing coaches will work collaboratively with you. After reading through your assignment and paper together, we’ll discuss your concerns. We will help you learn to find and correct sentence-level errors (problems like grammar errors, punctuation errors, and typos). We may direct you to further resources at the end of a session. Our goal is to support your long-term development as a writer, giving you new skills to use in future writing projects.
We are glad to hear about your interest in joining our team! At this time, the Writing Center does not have any full-time or part-time staff positions available. If you are an experienced teacher or editor, you may submit a request to be listed on our Help for Hire advertising page. Graduate student writing coaches are teaching assistants; they are hired through a competitive process each spring to work for the following academic year. An FAQ explains more about what it is like to be a graduate student writing coach. Undergraduate students can also serve as writing coaches; they must first enroll in English 402 and then apply to be hired. Undergraduate students who have workstudy funding can apply to serve as office assistants. Office assistants answer our phone, greet clients, make photocopies, and help with a variety of other tasks. The Writing Center does not accept volunteers to work with UNC students. If you might be interested in working with high school students, contact us about our Write On program.
Everyone is welcome to view our online handouts and multimedia writing strategy “demos.” Our services are reserved for current UNC-Chapel Hill students, faculty, and staff. If you would like to hire a private editor or tutor, visit our Help for Hire page to see a list of people in our area.
Check out our Help for Hire page, which lists private tutors and editors in the Chapel Hill area.