Thursday, May 28, 2015

McKinze's Reflection on the Semester

One of the best things about my job as a tutor is that I seem to learn something new every session. My writing process has developed tremendously during my time in the Writing Center, and my writing skills have greatly improved. One of the greatest improvements I have personally made this semester would definitely be my use of APA format. As an English major, I typically use MLA format in all my courses, but I have learned that various majors and degrees use different types of writing formats. This semester, we have had many Capstone students request assistance on their assignments, and I have had many students request help with APA format. I had never worked with APA before, so it was something I had to learn in order to better help other students. During appointments earlier in the semester, I actually learned the format along with the students I was assisting and I have not stopped learning about APA.

A few weeks ago, I worked with a student via email who requested assistance with her APA format in her Capstone project. She was extremely frustrated with APA and felt as if she could not get the hang of it. I was able to share my experience of learning APA format with her, and she seemed to relax. I think she needed to know that I was not an expert in APA and that I was just a student like her; I had to learn the format, too. It can be extremely frustrating, and I see so many students who become upset with themselves when they do not fully understand APA guidelines. I try to always remind them that I was in their shoes at one point and that every expert in APA, including their professor, was once a beginner struggling with the same issues.

Remember to check out the Writing Center page on the RSU website for some helpful links and a template for APA format. Here’s another helpful link with some general questions about APA.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Brainstorming Advice from Hayden

Many times during my appointments as a tutor in the Writing Center, I will have students say, “I’m not sure where to start,” or “I have a lot of ideas, but I don’t know how to begin my paper.” I know for a fact my fellow tutors and I have this issue almost every time we sit down to write; our heads are so filled with ideas that the thought of putting them down on paper (or a blank Word document) is daunting. Whether you’re faced with a short summary and response assignment or find yourself starting a 25-page Capstone paper, I always find it best to sit down and write. This sounds extremely simple and vague, but I mean what I say. Those that come to me with trouble starting a writing assignment, I hand them a sheet of paper and I say, “Write down anything that comes to mind on the subject.”

This technique will work wonders, as it does for me. And the great thing about it is that sheet of paper doesn’t have to be turned in; you can write without restrictions, without thinking about guidelines and rules. To be able to develop a well-written and concise piece of writing, you have to start with unrestricted writing. This allows you to get your ideas out in the open and on paper while figuring out what you’re really trying to say. Sometimes, the jumbled mess of ideas in our mind needs to be fleshed out on paper!

Pre-writing, brainstorming, and discussion are important steps in the writing process. It is impossible to open a Word document and expect to write the perfect paper without properly tending to the early writing phases. The Kansas University Writing Center offers great tips on the pre-writing phase at this link.
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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Abby's Reflection on the Semester

Writing as a Process

Working at the Writing Center has helped me tremendously to change my ideas of the writing process. I am so thankful that I have been able to spend a large part of my senior year working with other students as a writing consultant under Dr. Beam. Not only has helping other students with their assignments helped boost my confidence in myself as a writer, it has also showed me how far I have come since freshman year. The same exact problems that I had with capitalization, punctuation, misplaced modifiers, and formatting, are the same issues students now turn to me for help with. I find that I am easily able to connect with other students who are trying to learn how to fix their mistakes because I have made the same ones. Often, I will tell students that I also had trouble or even continue to have trouble with aspects of writing in order to encourage them that we will both learn how to become better writers together. 

I have acquired the most knowledge about the writing process through the students taking Composition I and II in particular, because their professors often require them to pre-write, make an outline, and then work on writing drafts of their papers. I knew that these were the steps, but I have not always been forced to follow them in this order. Mostly I have jumped from a prewrite or brief outline to *boom* a paper. However, for larger papers, such as Capstone, there is a much more complex process. Since I have spent the past two semesters working on my Capstones, I have seen my projects go from an idea scribbled on paper to something I did not expect it to be as I handed it in. Through drafting, peer reviews, and research, I would find that my projects would continue to change before they were finalized. Breaking large projects down into various drafts can make the work more manageable and less frightening. I am glad that I am able to help instill better writing habits in others, so maybe when they become seniors, Capstone will not be quite as stressful.

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Remember that you can schedule an appointment with the Writing Center when you are at any stage of the writing process, not just when you are working on your final draft. In fact, I would encourage you to come see us when you are in the prewriting and planning stages of your paper so that we can make sure that not only are you fulfilling the prompt your teacher has given you, but that you are also able to make your paper organized and flow well together. Here is a copy of the link to our page on the RSU website so that you can schedule an appointment.

Happy Writing and I hope that you all finished the semester strong!