FAQ

Q. What should I bring?

A. Bring whatever you have, including notes, pre-draft exercises, drafts, or portions of drafts. Please make sure to bring a double-spaced hard copy of your materials. Your tutor will not read your essay on your laptop. Also, please bring the assignment sheet or prompt for your essay, as well as any comments you have from your instructor. Plan to take notes.
Q. What happens during a consultation?

A. At the beginning of the session, your tutor will ask you about your assignment and how you have begun to approach it. If you know what you want to work on during the session, you should tell your tutor during this introductory conversation. If you have not yet written anything, you and your tutor may discuss your ideas and consider different ways of developing and organizing them. You may leave the session with an outline or a thesis statement, or you may discover that you need to do more research before you can begin an outline.

If you have written something, including an outline or notes, your tutor will read through your writing and will thereafter discuss the strong and weak points of it with you. Our main interest is the argument and structure of your paper. Among other things, we will attempt to determine whether you have responded to an assignment properly; whether you have a thesis and have supported it with evidence; and whether your paragraphs are cohesive and placed in a logical order.

Of secondary interest are issues with style and mechanics. Your tutor may use part of a session to ensure that your sentences are clear, concise, and grammatically correct; in addition, he or she may try to ascertain whether you have cited your sources appropriately. Rather than identifying every mistake in your writing, however, your tutor will try to point out patterns of error and will attempt to explain the grammatical or stylistic rules that will enable you to identify your own mistakes in future. Be sure to ask questions if anything your tutor says is unclear. Also, if you think your tutor is overlooking possible problems in your essay, you are welcome to suggest other areas of discussion.

Wherever you are in the writing process, please plan to take notes during your consultation.

Q. Will the tutor read my paper ahead of time?

A. Writing Center tutors do not read papers ahead of time. The Writing Center holds more than 2,000 consultations a year with writers at all levels and in all disciplines. Scheduling concerns aside, we also believe your active participation in the consultation will help you become a better reader, writer, and reviser of your own work.
Q. May I request a particular tutor?

A. Yes, you may. Either online or in person, you may express your interest to work with a particular individual. We will try to accommodate requests for a particular tutor, especially for students working on an extended project, but time and schedules determine whether such requests are honored. Whoever assists you, please rest assured that he or she is qualified and wishes to help you articulate your ideas most effectively. Note: Graduate students will be assigned only graduate student tutors.
Q: I came to the Writing Center, but my tutor did not write a lot on my essay. Why was that?

A. As noted elsewhere, the Writing Center does not provide editing or proofreading services. Tutors at the Writing Center are trained to provide you with guidance on your writing, not to take notes for you. We firmly believe that it is the student’s responsibility to record what a tutor has to say. If any student comes to the Writing Center without a writing utensil or a piece of paper, we will be happy to provide these items. That said, we also encourage you to come to your session prepared to take notes.
Q. I believe the Writing Center could improve its services by reading essays before scheduled appointments. Why isn’t this your practice?

A. We believe that your assignment is, and should be, your own and that you should learn to improve your writing through practice. Because good practice includes good discussion, we insist that tutors not read essays before talking to students about their prompts, their goals in coming to the Writing Center, and their instructors’ expectations and/or previous feedback. Submitting your essay before your appointment would mean that tutors would become responsible for your assignment without ever having discussed it with you.
Q. Is the Writing Center able to contact my instructor in order to let him or her know I attended a consultation?

A. Yes. After your appointment, you should let your tutor know that you would like your instructor to receive confirmation of your consultation. You will need to provide your tutor with your instructor’s email address when you make your request.
Q. Why can’t I have more than two appointments in one week, especially if all my assignments are for different courses?

A. The Writing Center offers a limited number of appointments each week. Because we want all students to have the opportunity to benefit from our services, we prohibit any student from scheduling more than two appointments per week. We encourage students to plan ahead if they have multiple assignments due during any one week.
Q. I am working on two different assignments. I understand I cannot have more than two appointments in one week, but can I have my week’s worth of appointments in one day?

A. We’re sorry, but no student is allowed two appointments in one day. We encourage students to plan ahead if they have multiple assignments due around the same period of time.
Q. I am working on a 20-page term paper. May I bring that to the Writing Center?

A. Yes. During any given session, however, your tutor will read no more than 10 pages. You may direct your tutor to read certain pages, or you may ask him or her to read through the first 10 pages of the document. In either case, we invite you to make multiple appointments at the Writing Center so that the entirety of your paper may be reviewed.
Q. My second language is English. Will the Writing Center help me with grammar, punctuation, and syntax?

A. The Writing Center staff is trained to help students as they construct arguments and organize their essays. While good grammar and syntax play a role in any strong argument or well-organized paper, the Writing Center does not offer proofreading services or ESL instruction. If English is your second language, we will be happy to help you, but grammatical and syntactical concerns will be of secondary interest as we work with you to improve your essay’s thesis and structure.
Q. My classmates and I are working on a group writing project. Are we able to get assistance at the Writing Center?

A. We’re sorry, but the Writing Center does not help students with group writing projects. We assist students only on a one-on-one basis.
Q: I am a graduate student. Am I allowed to make appointments at the Writing Center?

A. Yes, you are, provided you are enrolled in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences or the Whiting School of Engineering. Please be advised, however, that our staff members are affiliated with a variety of departments in the humanities and social sciences and will therefore be unable to provide extensive critiques of the content of your writing, especially if you have composed a highly technical essay. That said, we will certainly be glad to assist you with organization, structure, and fluidity.

Please note that graduate students working on a thesis or dissertation are not allowed more than three appointments in a 30-day period.

Q. Will the Writing Center help me with my cover letter, resume, CV, technical writing, business memo, etc.?

A. We’re sorry, but our tutors are trained to assist students with argument-based writing alone. They are not instructed how to help students as they compose resumes, cover letters, or CVs; nor are staff members familiar with the many conventions that make good technical or business writing.
Q. Will the Writing Center help me with a grant or grant proposal?

A. We’re sorry, but our staff is not trained to help students with grants or grant proposals.
Q. Why can’t I have more than two appointments in one week, especially if all my assignments are for different courses?

A. The Writing Center offers a limited number of appointments each week. Because we want all students to have the opportunity to benefit from our services, we prohibit any student from scheduling more than two appointments per week. We encourage students to plan ahead if they have multiple assignments due during any one week.
Q. Why can’t I have a consultation on the day my paper is due?

A. At the Writing Center, we view the editing process as a serious one. We know it takes time, thought, and hard work to edit a paper successfully, and we know that students will gain the most from their consultations if they are able to reflect afterward on the matters discussed during a session. When students have essays due the same day as their appointments, they are simply unable to dedicate the necessary time and effort to the editing process. Moreover, a looming due date may negatively affect the direction of a consultation.
Q. Am I able to get help on my take-home exam?

A. We’re sorry, but we do not help students with take-home exams unless their instructors have given explicit permission that such assistance may be provided. If your instructor does not mind that you receive help, your instructor needs to either email the Writing Center directly, or sign and date a permission slip you can collect from the Writing Center.
Q. Does the Writing Center help alumni?

A. We do help alumni, but only with the primary personal statement required for admission to medical school, law school, or other graduate programs. Alumni who are outside of the Baltimore/Washington region are also eligible for phone appointments. Please see below for more information on phone appointments.
Q. Is it possible for me to have someone look over my secondary essays for graduate or professional school?

A. We’re sorry, but staffing constraints at the Writing Center make it impossible for our tutors to review secondary essays. We are, however, very happy to help you as you prepare the main personal statement for any graduate or professional school.
Q: When does the Writing Center conduct phone appointments?

A. The Writing Center conducts phone appointments only during the summer months. During the academic year, we set our online scheduler to prohibit phone appointments. If a student needs a phone appointment during the academic year, he or she should email the Writing Center explaining his or her circumstances and the nature of the assignment. The Writing Center reserves the right to deny the student’s request.
Q. Can I schedule a phone appointment for any kind of assignment?

A. We’re sorry, but the Writing Center allows phone appointments only for personal statements or similar kinds of writing. Because of the manner in which phone appointments are conducted (see below), longer assignments prove too unwieldy for any tutor to address during a phone appointment. If a student desires a phone appointment for an assignment that is not a personal statement, he or she may email the Writing Center to see if an exception can be made. In the email, the student should explain his or her circumstances and the nature of the assignment, including length. The Writing Center reserves the right to deny the student’s request.
Q. It is May/June/July/August. I am trying to schedule a phone appointment for my personal statement, but the online scheduler does not present me with the option for a phone appointment. Why is this?

A. The Writing Center has only one phone. If another student has already scheduled a phone appointment for a particular hour, our online scheduler automatically prohibits additional students from scheduling phone appointments at that time. Please try to schedule a phone appointment for another date or time.
Q. If I am in Washington, D.C., may I schedule a phone appointment with the Writing Center?

A. We’re sorry for any inconvenience, but all students in the Baltimore/Washington area must schedule in-person appointments at the Writing Center.
Q. How do phone appointments work?

A. At least 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment, you should email a copy of your personal statement to the Writing Center. Once the hour for your appointment begins, your tutor will start reading your document, and in most cases, he or she will make comments on it using track changes. This process takes between 15–30 minutes. Around the half-hour mark of your appointment, your tutor will call you at the number you provided when you scheduled your consultation. (If you do not receive a call before that time, do not worry! You have not been forgotten.) Before calling, your tutor will most likely have emailed you back a version of your document that includes comments. During the ensuing telephone conversation, he or she will discuss possible revisions with you. After your appointment, please make sure to return to the Writing Center scheduler and complete the evaluation for your consultation.
Note: To schedule a phone appointment, you must be outside the Baltimore-Washington area.
Q. Does the Writing Center offer Skype appointments?

A. No.
Q. I am an employee of Johns Hopkins University. May I bring an essay, resume, or personal statement to the Writing Center?

A. We’re sorry, but we help only students who are enrolled in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences or the Whiting School of Engineering.
Q. I believe that my non-college-aged child would benefit from tutoring in writing. May my child meet with one of your tutors?

A. We’re sorry, but we help only those students who have matriculated at Johns Hopkins University. We can, however, send out a notice to our tutors to see if anyone would be interested in helping your child outside of the Writing Center’s hours. If you are interested in this, please email writingcenter@jhu.edu.
Q: How do I become a tutor at the Writing Center?

A. Please see the Prospective Tutors page.
Q. What can I do to make my session go more smoothly?

A. Trite as it may sound, an open mind is the most important thing you can bring to your appointment. Aside from that, your tutor will also be appreciative if you bring a double-spaced hard copy of your essay and the relevant assignment sheet or prompt. You are also welcome to bring in examples of your previously graded work. Plan to take notes during the session.