Frequently Asked Questions
Will the tutor proofread my paper?
To us, proofreading means going through your paper line-by-line and making all needed corrections to your grammar and punctuation. The problem with this is that if you get someone to fix up your writing for you, you are handing in work that reflects their writing skills, not your writing skills, which can be an academic integrity concern.
Tutoring, on the other hand, is where someone who is very skilled at writing works with you to identify some areas for improvement and set some learning goals. Then, they help you to build your skills in these areas so that you can make changes to your writing that reflect what you’ve learned (and that you can apply to your next writing assignment!).
We tend to avoid the p-word to describe what we do in the Writing Centre, but rest assured that if you are worried about proofreading your essay, your tutor can certainly help you learn grammar and punctuation rules and how to apply specific strategies to help you spot and correct your mistakes yourself.
Do you help with grammar?
Keep in mind, though, that good writing is about much more than grammar. Excellent essays usually have a strong thesis, or central argument, and they are well organized, with paragraphs that help to advance the argument or sections that clearly lay out the researcher’s process. They include appropriate citations, ensuring that the reader can clearly see the scholarship that informed the author’s ideas, and they fully explain and support all ideas presented.
For this reason, a tutor may discourage a student from becoming too focused on grammar before some of these other features of good writing are addressed. This is partly a matter of quality (a paper with excellent grammar but a poorly defined argument will still not be a good essay!), but it’s also a matter of good writing and revision processes. Just as you would want to fix a car’s engine before you worry about detailing it and making it sparkle, it’s a much more efficient use of time and energy to address an essay’s argument and organization before spending time on the details of grammar and punctuation.
I don’t have anything written yet and feel stuck. Can a tutor still help me?
Our tutors can help you at any stage of the writing process, even if you haven’t started writing yet. Sometimes, talking through the assignment guidelines and coming up with a plan for your first steps is just what you need to get started.
Can my tutor tell me if I’ve done the assignment right? Can they tell me what grade I am going to get?
Ultimately, your instructor is the only person who can evaluate how “right” you are and what grade they wish to assign your work. What our tutors can do is help you break down your essay guidelines so that you better understand what is expected of you and ensure you’ve covered all the requirements as they’ve been written out for you by your instructor. If there’s something that is best addressed by your instructor, your tutor can help you figure out what you need to know so you can ask the right questions and approach your instructor more confidently. We can’t tell you what your grade will be, but some students do find that using the writing centre does help them achieve better grades on writing assignments.
It’s the night before my paper is due, and there are no appointments left. What should I do?
We have many online resources available to you 24/7 that you may find helpful. These range from mini-tutorials to handouts to streaming videos.
If drop-in hours are available prior to your deadline, you’re welcome to use those too, but keep in mind that 1). it’s unlikely a tutor will be able to read through your paper closely during drop-in services, and 2). You will need time to make revisions yourself after meeting with a tutor. If you are in a pinch and want to use drop-in services, please make sure you come with one or two specific questions (e.g. Did I cite this lecture properly? or Is my thesis statement clear?), not a general question (e.g. Is my paper good?).
How early should I submit my paper or come to the Writing Centre if I want feedback?
There’s no one good answer to this question because it depends on what you want help with, but generally speaking, earlier is better!
If you have a very specific question (e.g., How do I cite from this play?), you don’t have to leave as much time as if you have a general question (e.g., Can you tell me what I should do to improve my paper?).
The thing to remember is that if you are seeking general feedback, your tutor will give you some things to consider and use to make revisions. This means that you need to leave yourself time to think about your feedback and decide what changes to make.
If you would like help getting started, come as early as possible--at least a few weeks before your due date. If you’ve got a good start on a draft but know that there’s still a lot of work to do, try to come at least a week or two before it’s due. And, if you’re pretty much finished and are working on polishing your final draft, come at least a couple of days before your paper is due.
NOTE: If you are submitting your paper online for written feedback, it takes 1-3 business days (weekdays, excluding weekends and holidays) to receive a response, with longer response times during peak times of the semester. Make sure you plan accordingly and submit early!
Can I submit short answer assignments?
Yes, but with some caveats. Our tutors cannot tell you if you got the answers right or wrong. What they can help you with is ensuring your sentences are clear and correct and that you have addressed all parts of the questions.
Can I submit a take-home exam? Writing that’s not for a class, like a scholarship application or cover letter?
Typically, no. We don’t look at writing for outside of class, because the Writing Center only has capacity to work with writing done for MacEwan courses. We don’t take exam submissions, but you can meet with a tutor to discuss exam strategies, including strategies for writing in-class essays.