Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can any student use the Writing Center, even if a teacher does not recommend it?

Any University of Iowa (UI) student – undergraduate or graduate, American or international – can use the Writing Center. However, undergraduates still held for one or more ESL courses or any Iowa Intensive English courses must complete that ESL requirement and be “Rhetoric-ready” before they are eligible for Writing Center services. Graduate students held for Iowa Intensive English courses or for ESL Writing must complete that requirement before they are eligible for Writing Center services. Students in the Tippie College of Business should utilize the Frank Business Communications Center for their business writing projects.

2. Do the services at the Writing Center cost anything?

The writing center programs are free! All you contribute is time to benefit your writing.

3. How do I know if I would benefit from using the Writing Center?

Any writers who want feedback on any aspect of writing could use the services of the Writing Center. You would especially benefit from the Writing Center if you are feeling insecure about your writing, if you are anxious or apprehensive about writing, if you are dissatisfied with your skills, or if you find yourself procrastinating. An instructor might also recommend that you come to the Writing Center.

4. How can I get help with my writing?

To use the Writing Center, you may either enroll and commit to attending two 50-minute periods a week or sign-up for one 30-minute appointment. You may also ask for feedback through online tutoring. We believe that the best way to become a better writer is for you to enroll in the twice-a-week program.

The Writing Center focuses on helping students improve their writing, not on merely "fixing" one individual piece of writing. The goal of the Writing Center is to improve writers, not pieces of writing, thus the active involvement of the writer is central to the process.

5. What if I am too busy to commit to the Writing Center twice a week?

If you need one-time help on an assignment, you may sign-up for a 30-minute appointment by logging on to the electronic sign-up system. The most efficient way to use a 30-minute appointment is to come with very specific questions for the tutor. Do not simply bring a paper and ask the tutor to proofread it.

6. Can I see the same tutor each time?

Yes, if you choose to enroll for the entire semester, you will work with the same tutor twice a week. Occasionally, due to illness or another reason, a tutor may need to miss a session. If that happens, every effort will be made to reschedule you or find a substitute tutor from the Center.

If you do not enroll and instead use occasional appointments, you may not be able to see the same tutor each time you sign up.

7. Will I work on course assignments during a session?

Depending on their individual needs, students work on course assignments or on writing prompts, called "invitations to write." Often when students do not have a writing assignment for a class, they write in response to these invitations. Also, students do not always need to have a paper completely written before their session. Sometimes the session is used for brainstorming ideas in response to a course assignment that the student has not yet begun, or for organizing a rough draft. Together, your tutor and you determine the plan you will follow.

8. If my projects are in a specialized technical field, can the Writing Center still help me?

Yes. Although they may not have content knowledge in your field, the tutors can help you with your style, sentence structure, and organization. They can serve as outside readers who can point to areas that need more information or clarity.

9. If English is my second language, may I use the Writing Center's programs?

Yes, you may as long as you have completed all your ESL courses if you are an undergraduate student, and as long as you have not been held for ESL writing if you are a graduate student.

10. May I do creative writing in the Writing Center?

Creative writing is not only welcomed, but encouraged and even published in the Writing Center's publication Voices from the Writing Center. Often students contribute nonfiction essays about their lives or cultures that they have written in response to invitations (those writing prompts) or Rhetoric assignments. Voices, which is published once every semester, also includes fiction and poetry.

11. What if I have problems with reading comprehension?

The tutors in the UI Writing Center are available to help with reading, too. For example, to help you better participate in class discussion for one of your courses, you and your Writing Center tutor might tackle a reading assignment by having her or him "assign" a hypothetical response paper in which you could organize your thoughts about the reading content. Then, when you and your tutor review this informal response, you will have another opportunity to practice discussing the material and clarify whether you comprehend it fully.

In addition to working on course reading assignments, you also could work on comprehension by reading, writing about, and discussing short articles from the magazines or books in the Writing Center. Remember to discuss your individual needs with your Writing Center tutor in an early session.

12. When I write in the Writing Center, will I use pencil and paper or a computer?

You can write in whatever way you like. Bring your favorite writing utensil, your laptop, or use one of the Writing Center's several Macintosh and PC computers and printer.

13. How do I sign up?

To enroll in twice-weekly sessions, come to the Writing Center (110 EPB) during regular hours; one of the staff will help you sign up for a time slot that works with your schedule. Try to come early in the semester or at least when you realize you could use some help.

To sign-up for a one-time appointment, log on to the electronic sign-up system.

**For both enrollment and appointments, please contact us if you need to cancel for any reason.

14. What if no enrollment slots remain?

There is a waiting list, and when a slot opens that fits your schedule, a tutor will notify you.

15. My teacher offered extra credit or required me to go to the Writing Center.  Will you sign my paper?

The mission of the University Writing Center has always been to help all interested students who willingly seek our services improve their writing. We find that we simply can't handle the numbers of students wanting appointments and online tutoring when instructors require writing center attendance or provide extra credit opportunities. In addition, when we are helping students who are motivated solely by a requirement or by extra credit, it can take time away from students who are motivated by a genuine desire for feedback for revision. Because we have very limited tutoring resources, it is our policy that we will not sign papers and that we ask instructors and students to refrain from making arrangements in which writing center use is mandatory or provides extra points on an assignment.  If you have questions about this policy or about writing center services, please contact us at 335-0188.