Referring Students to the Writing Center

A common and very well understood complaint from instructors is that we can refer students to resources or services that offer them help, but we can’t make them go, and unfortunately, they often don’t.  This is sometimes the case for writing center referrals.  While we certainly have to accept that ultimately we have no control over whether or not a student will seek our advice, we might also take a step back and consider how we are making referrals.

In the Writing Center, we have found that two things make a difference in students actually following through with your referral.  The first is that a generic statement of “Go to the Writing Center to get help with your writing” is often not enough for students; they can be intimidated by this prospect.  They are less apt to actually go to the Writing Center unless they are referred to specific resources or services, such as live tutoring or a particular resource in our Writing Reference Library.  When they know exactly what they should look for on our home page, they are much more likely to  use that service or resource.

The second thing that makes a difference is making sure that your feedback to them is specific so that they know exactly what to ask help with.  Sometimes students will come into live tutoring and say their instructor sent them in order to get help with  grammar and mechanics.  Grammar and mechanics encompass many things, such as all punctuation, subject-verb agreement, sentence structure, and spelling just to name a few.  Even if a student needed help with all of these things, it’s too much for them to take on and learn sufficiently at one time.  It’s much better for them if we are specific about one or two items they should focus on like commas and subject-verb agreement.  That way, they know exactly what resources to look for under our Writing Mechanics link.  Working on two things is a much more attainable goal than for them to try and tackle three or more things at one time.

Getting help can sometimes be an intimidating experience, and the easier we can make this process for our students the better they are for it.  If they know exactly what they should look for in the Writing Center, it is not as overwhelming as landing on our home page and not knowing what links to explore.

If you have any other suggestions for helping students to actually follow through on your advice, please share them with us.


3 Responses

  1. kuwcnews says:

    Great question, Diana.

    There are several options here. First, you can refer all students to the Discussion Board Reference:
    from the KUWC Writing Reference Library. This resource gives technical tips on posting and writing tips on how to properly write cite a discussion board post. Students will need to be logged in to KU Campus to view the resources.

    Second, you can post the PDF version of this tutorial in your class and you can post or give out the URL to your students as an example.

    Third, students can also come to Live Tutoring and ask for help writing and/or citing a discussion board post.

    The discussion board can actually be a good place to for students to practice incorporating citations into their writing. If professors provide resources and specific feedback on DB posts, the student may do better using sources in later writing assignments.

    Let me know if you have more questions or need more resources.


  2. Diana Dee says:

    Here is a typical discussion post written by a student who needs a lot of help. My question: Exactly what should I tell the student to do (where to go) at the writing center?????


    What a data base is a collect of information that is organized and stored (Hoffer, Ramesh, & Topi, 2011).Some of the information that is collected to form theses database are personal information when you sign up for services such as xbox live. This situation deals with the privacy of customer information section of the common carriers. What this regulation states is when they are collecting information about you, they are only to use it to provide services for you (Mattord & Whitman, 2012).

    Microsoft uses a database to save information about are users. The type of data that Microsoft collects in your email address, name, home address as well as gender and many other types of information (Microsoft Co, 2012). When you chose to sign up for services that are provided by Microsoft they would also take their credit information in this case. The reason for Microsoft to taking or saving the personal information is to help provide better service or product to their customers (Microsoft Co, 2012).


    Thanks. Diana

  3. Diane,

    Fabulous, practical advice. Getting students to the Writing Center can, indeed, be a challenge, but when instructors indicate exactly what students need to work on, students don’t feel so overwhelmed and WC staff can get the proper resources into the students’ hands.

    Kurtis Clements

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