FAQs for Faculty

By visiting this section, you show your engagement with and commitment to your students' writing success. Please know that our assistance is not intended to replace classroom instruction of an assignment and will neither undermine your authority nor the university's policy on academic integrity. The latter prevents us from functioning as merely a "quick-fix" editing and proofreading service, so please clarify this to your students. Thank you for your interest!

Why does Lamar have a Writing Center?

The primary purpose of the Writing Center is to enhance and reinforce the campus emphasis on writing instruction by working individually with students who are planning, writing, revising, and editing papers -- helping them to:

  • focus on what they want to accomplish in a piece of writing
  • read their own drafts with a more discerning and critical eye
  • learn strategies for addressing a variety of writing issues

Who can use the Writing Center?

Any student, staff, or faculty member associated with Lamar University is welcome to use the Writing Center for any writing project. The only exception is that we cannot help with writing done in languages other than English; our staff does not have that expertise. 

Who is on the staff?

The Writing Center staff includes writing consultants who are undergraduate and graduate students in English and other disciplines. Jennifer Ravey, an Instructor in the Department of English and Modern Languages, began directing the Writing Center in 2012. 

Can I require my whole class to bring their papers to the Writing Center?

Please don't! We appreciate your support of the Writing Center, but we know from experience that when students get a blanket requirement of this kind, most of them wait until the last minute and then come in simply to get us to verify their presence; they don't plan to make any substantial changes in their papers. This creates a traffic jam in the Writing Center and may prevent other students, who are serious about improving their writing, from getting the help that they seek on their own. Please see the next question for suggestions on how to encourage your students to take advantage of our services.

How can I encourage my students to use the Writing Center?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Request a class visit or workshop - a consultant can visit your classroom to discuss our services, or we can offer targeted instruction based on your need.
  • Include a description of the Writing Center on your syllabus. (See our home page for the basic information you would need.) Or direct them to our Web site: http://artssciences.lamar.edu/writing-center/.
  • Get students who have visited the Center to tell others in the class about their experience.
  • Tell your class about former students of yours whose writing has improved as a result of their visits to the Writing Center.
  • Talk to your students about your own writing process and about the value of having a trusted reader who gives you honest, constructive feedback. It's good for students to know that even experienced writers need good readers. (That's much better than telling them to go to the Writing Center if they "have any problems"; most students do not want to admit to having writing problems!)
  • Extra credit points on a paper grade can be the most certain means of ensuring that your students seek our assistance. However, this situation brings the same problems as the blanket requirement. If you decide to offer extra credit, please make it contingent upon the students' attending two or more sessions for the assignment. Below are suggestions to replace extra credit points:
    • a "participation" or writing process grade
    • an extra day to turn in the paper
    • a degree of forgivable grading

Will I know if one of my students uses the Writing Center?

No, not unless the student chooses to inform you. Unfortunately, students occasionally tell their professors they went to the Writing Center when in fact they did not. If you suspect that is the case, send email to jennifer.ravey@lamar.edu or call Jennifer Ravey at 880-8587. A student who claims to have come to the Center is obviously waiving the right to confidentiality, so I will check our records and tell you whether or not the student has been in. Also, a student may request the Writing Center send confirmation of a visit.

Many of my students are terrible proofreaders. Can I suggest that they bring their papers to the Writing Center for proofreading?

No, but you can suggest that they go to the Writing Center to learn how to recognize and correct their errors. Our consultants won't do students' editing or proofreading for them because they won’t learn anything that way, but we are happy to provide instruction in grammar, usage, sentence structure, punctuation, etc., in the context of reading and discussing the writing that students bring to us.

Can the Writing Center help students who are struggling because English is not their native language?

Yes, we are happy to contribute what we can to their process of learning to write in English, but both they and you should understand that we will not be rewriting their sentences or correcting every error in their writing. Writing in a second language (and for many of these students, English is a third or fourth language) is a difficult and sometimes frustrating process that takes time, practice, and persistence. Those who are willing, as many are, to come in repeatedly and to work hard between sessions to apply what they learn in the Writing Center will gradually make progress, but please don’t expect instant results.

Will the Writing Center help the students to document their sources properly?

Yes. If students keep track of all the necessary bibliographical information, and if they know which system of documentation they are supposed to use (MLA, APA etc.), we will help them look up answers to their questions about citing particular sources. We may not always be able to find the answers, but we will try.

As we are reading papers with students, we also try to be alert to sudden shifts in style that can indicate plagiarism; and we provide both stern warnings and instruction in the proper use and crediting of sources, including the difference between legitimate paraphrase and plagiarism. However, since we are probably not familiar with either the sources a student has used or with his normal writing style (unless the student is a regular visitor), we can't guarantee that we will always notice violations.

If you have a class full of students who need instruction in the basics of incorporating and identifying sources properly, you may want to work with the Writing Center director to create and schedule a class presentation. Call Jennifer Ravey at 880-8587 or send email to jennifer.ravey@lamar.edu for more information.

Can a student drop off a paper and pick it up later?

No, we don't work on a student's paper in his absence. The Writing Center is all about conversation. Both the student and the consultant will be asking and answering questions -- reading the paper together and engaging in a dialogue about what is working and what isn't, looking for solutions to problems, and exploring different options together. Please refer to the What to Expect section of the home page for more information about what occurs in a Writing Center conference.

What about group papers?

We are happy to help with group papers if all the group members come in with the same general concern, such as idea development, grammar and punctuation, or documentation. Delegating one group member to bring the paper to the Center defeats our purpose of trying to work with students to improve their writing.

I've sometimes had students visit the Writing Center and still turn in poorly written papers? How do you explain that?

You're right. Not every Writing Center session is an unqualified success. We are often frustrated at not being able to help students as much as we would like to. Students at many different levels of writing ability and experience come to the Writing Center at many different stages of their writing process. Many of them are good, strong writers who want to be even better. One visit is enough to help them identify and address the issues that need to be resolved in a paper, and they are able to improve it significantly. But frequently we see papers with more writing problems than we can address in a single session. As much as we might like to "take over" a student's paper and "fix" it, that is not our mission. That might give you a more pleasurable reading and grading experience, but it would neither help the student to improve as a writer (which is our ultimate purpose), nor be consistent with the Academic Integrity Policy (which is extremely important to us).

Our objective in each Writing Center conference is to make students feel ready and able to tackle the next step, or the next few steps, in writing or revising the papers they bring to us. That means we have to set priorities and make tutoring decisions based on these priorities and the students' deadlines. When students come to us early enough, we can encourage them to attend additional sessions so that the students and consultants have the opportunity to work through as many writing concerns as possible. But we are often aware that even if he uses what he learns to improve the paper in some ways, other problems will still remain. In that case we encourage the student to come back for additional sessions as he is revising –and hope that he has the time and inclination to do that.

If you have concerns or questions about a particular session please send email to jennifer.ravey@lamar.edu or call 880-8587.

How do I know that the Writing Center's evaluation of a student's paper won't contradict mine?

Under no circumstances will a Writing Center consultant evaluate a student's paper. They are trained to avoid this. We try to encourage writers by taking an interest in their work and by responding enthusiastically to their ideas and their effort. But we also react honestly as readers - pointing out problems, raising questions, encouraging writers to examine their options - trying to be supportive while at the same time helping students to look critically at their own writing. When they ask us (as they often do) to evaluate their writing, we try instead to get them to identify its strengths and weaknesses in relation to their intentions or to the criteria given them as part of the assignment. Indeed, students are informed that they are ultimately responsible for the content of and the decisions made about their papers, and only their instructors have the authority to evaluate them.