Frequently Asked Questions about the Writing and Communication Center

1. What kind of help can you find at the Center?

You may consult the Center’s staff about all types of writing, including but not limited to:

You may visit the Center during any stage of the writing process: prewriting (generating and exploring ideas), writing a first draft, revising a draft, or editing. You may consult the Center before submitting a paper for a grade or after receiving a graded paper that you would like to revise. Some of the more common problems are: overcoming writer’s block, organizing papers, taking essay exams, revising one’s work, documenting sources, analyzing a writing assignment, and presenting scientific information.

2. Does the Center provide advice about oral presentations?

Yes. At the Center you can receive advice on:

  • how to prepare and write a speech
  • how to use visual aids
  • how to conduct yourself when presenting scientific or nonscientific information

3. Does the Center provide a chance to practice oral presentations?

Yes. You may practice any type of oral presentation and receive feedback from the Center’s professional staff. Among the types of oral presentations we help you practice are:

  • presentations for classes (e.g., CI classes)
  • presentations of your research
  • job talks
  • practice speaking up in class discussions

4. Does the Center help non-native speakers of English?

Yes. The Center provides specialized help to those for whom English is a Second Language (ESL). The Center’s staff can help with ESL problems with writing and speaking. The Center offers the opportunity to practice English pronunciation as well. In addition, this web site also has links to several useful ESL sites on the web.

5. What occurs during a consultation at the Center?

When you arrive at the Center, we will ask you what kind of writing or oral presentation you want to discuss.

Written Assignments

If you have a written assignment, we’ll analyze it with you, and then we’ll discuss your ideas and/or your paper. We will ask you what most concerns you about the assignment or the paper.

Although we do not proofread or edit papers, we will work individually with you to explore the strengths and weaknesses of your document. We will show you techniques and strategies for solving any problems, and we will explain pertinent rules and the conventions of the kind of writing you have been assigned.

Our staff of professional writing consultants and instructors provides thoughtful advice and suggestions and ask questions to stimulate further exploration of ideas.

Oral Presentations

The Center offers individual oral presentation sessions. Anyone may make an appointment to practice giving an oral presentation. The Center’s director or one of Center’s writing consultants will give feedback and suggestions about the performance aspects (e.g., eye contact, gestures, rate of speech, articulation, voice projection), about the organization of the presentation’s content, and about the effectiveness of visuals.We will help at any stage of the oral presentation process–e.g., developing ideas, writing the speech or oral presentation, developing useful visuals.

6. When should I visit the Center?

Usually the best time to visit the Center is near the beginning of the writing process. We can help you discover and explore ideas, we can discuss organizational strategies, and we can help with questions about documenting evidence and data.

7. How should I prepare for a consultation in the Center?

The more you know about what kinds of help and advice you need, the more you can accomplish in a session. Here are some tips that will help you get the most from a session in the Center.

  • Make an appointment at the Center ahead of time to guarantee yourself a spot. As the semester progresses, the Center’s appointments will be booked several days or even a week ahead. You should select an appointment date several days before the assignment is due, so you will have time to incorporate the Center’s suggestions and perhaps even have time for a second consultation.
  • Establish your own goals for the tutoring session before you come to the Center. Think about the kind of help you want from the consultant. For instance, do you want help discovering more ideas for your paper, do you need help organizing the ideas, or do you want to learn the rules for using semicolons?
  • Bring your assignment or writing task with you. The more information you give us about the task, the more focused our advice can be. Similarly, if you’re writing an application essay, it’s a good idea to bring along the application form so we can examine the question(s).

8. How long is an appointment slot?

Appointments are scheduled for 50-minute periods on the hour (e.g., at 10 a.m., at 11 a.m., at 2p.m.).

9. How do I make an appointment?

To make an appointment, go to the Center’s home page

  • Click on “Make an appointment”.
  • Then click on the blue word “register” and follow the directions.
  • On the Online Scheduler, the white spaces indicate available appointment slots.
  • Simply click on the any white slot.
  • In the pop-up window entitled “New Appointment” you’ll see 3 boxes under the blue line. The first shows the date of your appointment and the time the appointment starts and finishes. The second box (“Will be reserved for”) gives your name and email address. In the third box, type in the name of your instructor and course (if your appointment is to consult about a paper for a course), and in the box entitled “What do you want to work on?” briefly type your answer (e.g. lab report, thesis chapter, resume). Then click SAVE APPOINTMENT.

10. How do I cancel an appointment?

  • To cancel an appointment, go to the Center’s home page
  • Go to the Online Scheduler
  • Click on the appointment slot which you wish to cancel. Click “Cancel this appointment.” And the appointment is canceled.

11. Is there a limit to the number of appointments you can make?

You may make one appointment each week.

12. Is there any way to consult with the Center more than once a week?

There are two ways—by being a drop-in client and by receiving special permission to make a second appointment.

Drop-in client: You may be a drop-in client. Drop-in consultations begin at 10 minutes after the hour (e.g., at 11:10 a.m.). Unlike an appointment client, a drop-in client is not guaranteed a consultation because the drop-in depends entirely upon the availability of one of our WCC lecturers. A lecturer might be available if (1) no appointment has been scheduled for that appointment slot, or (2) if an appointment client ends very early, or (3) if an appointment client is a no-show. The best way to be a drop-in client is to sign up for the Wait List (by clicking the clock in in the upper left-hand corner of each day’s block of appointments). Any time there is a cancellation, you will be notified by email (or phone). Then, just before coming to the WCC, check the online scheduler. If you see an open appointment, there is a good chance you might be able to be a drop-in client. Remember, though, that in the time it takes you to get to the WCC, someone else might have gotten on the scheduler and made an appointment in that spot. A second method is to simply go to the WCC at 5 minutes past the hour (e.g., 11:05 a.m.). If the appointment client has not appeared by 10 minutes after the hour (11:10 a.m.), then a WCC lecturer will work with you until at least half past the hour (11:30 a.m.). If the appointment client comes late, the lecturer will stop working with you at half past the hour and give the last 20 minutes of the appointment slot to the person who had the original appointment (the reason is that we want to help as many clients as possible and because clients can often be delayed through no fault of their own). If the appointment client does not appear, then the lecturer will work with you until 10 minutes before the hour (e.g., 11:50 a.m.), thus finishing the appointment slot.

If come to the WCC hoping to be a drop-in client and find all of our lecturers working with someone, then there is no availability for that hour. Please do not interrupt a session to ask if anyone is available.

Also, at times a WCC might not be working with a client but will have been assigned other WCC tasks to perform in that hour. So if you ask a lecturer if he/she is free and the answer is no, then there can be no drop-in help that hour.

Special Permission: You may request special permission from the Center’s director to be allowed to make a 2nd appointment for a particular week. If he is not available, make the request of any Writing Consultant. However, second appointments are an exception to the rule and are given only for special circumstances. Special permission cannot be granted as a semester-long thing.

13. What if you are late for an appointment?

If you know in advance that you will be late for an appointment, please call (617.324.4858) and we will reserve the remaining portion of your appointment for you. If you are more than 10 minutes late for an appointment without notifying the Center, your appointment slot might be given away to a drop-in client, and we cannot guarantee that there will be time available for you on that day.

14. What is the Center’s cancellation policy?

If you know that you cannot keep an appointment, please cancel your appointment by going to the online scheduler. There is no penalty for canceling if you cancel morning appointments by 8:30 a.m. and afternoon appointments by noon, and evening appointments by 4:00p.m. This policy allows the greatest number of clients to have appointments.

15. What is the Center’s “no-show” policy?

A “no-show” is someone who misses an appointment without canceling it ahead of time. No-shows inconvenience other potential clients.

The first time you are a no-show, your appointment-making privileges are automatically cancelled and any pre-existing appointments for the next two weeks are cancelled (although you are still allowed to be a drop-in client). Your privileges will be reinstated two weeks after the day you have emailed the Center’s director smstrang@mit.edu requesting that they be reinstated. So it is important that you email the director as soon as you receive automatic notification that your privileges have been cancelled. If you are a no-show a second time, your privileges will be withheld and all pre-existing appointments will be cancelled for a month starting the day after you have emailed the Center’s director. As with all our policies, this policy exists so that the greatest number of clients as possible can receive advice. A no-show prevents someone else from having that appointment slot.

16. Is it possible to submit a paper to the Center electronically?

No. Our instructional model is that we work with you on papers. We do not read them or proofread them ahead of time.

There is, however, an Online Consultant. Go to the Online Consultant page and follow the directions. Please note, though, that you may submit no more than 1,000 words of any given document for a quick evaluation and “triage” (i.e., only up to 1000 words for a whole thesis). It is our firm belief that face-to-face individual consultations are the most effective method of improving writing skills. Nevertheless, we recognize that there may be circumstances that prevent you from visiting the Center in person. The Online Consultant does not replace or supplant face-to-face consultations. If you are concerned about one element or one section of an essay, for instance, you might e-mail it to the Center and one of our lecturers will send you comments about it, usually within 24-48 hours (1 or 2 business days). Always attach your document as a Word (.doc, .docx) document. Do not send it as a PDF file.

17. Is it possible to make suggestions and comments about tutoring sessions?

Certainly. We are always interested in your questions, comments, or suggestions. After each consultation, you will be asked to complete a short evaluation forms in the Center. You may also contact the Center’s director, Steven Strang, (253-4459) or in the Center or via email (smstrang@mit.edu).