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Go That Way...Maybe

Hello PeerCentered...

I just worked with a student who had some questions on revision for his papers. He sat down and pulled out three 40-page Political Science reports and wanted my feedback on them. I could just feel the excitement in the air. By the time he finished explaining that he was new to APA formatting, and that his professor wanted his papers (novels) formatted in APA, I was more or less a broken human being. I had a half hour to fit his expectations, read through his papers, and teach him APA (and teach myself, ha!)...

I decided to remedy the situation by pulling out a few APA books and showing him what the title page is, what the abstract is, and how to go about formatting the paper. Even better, I showed him our website (Boise State) and the "resources" page on it where he could find information about formatting APA. Thankfully he was very excited about the fact that he can go home, learn APA, and go from there. I also suggested speaking to his professors about the specifics of APA and what he/she required.

He was very respectful of the half-hour he had signed up for and said his goodbyes (and I said mine to those reports).

Now for the learning experience/search for suggestions: I have to wonder whether or not simply showing a student where to go for information is the best thing. In this case, my student was VERY pleased with it. I quickly walked him through the very basics of APA, but I feel as though I should have done more. I talked to another consultant about it, and he said that someone willing to bring in 120 pages of pure political fun for a half-hour should be motivated enough to go out and learn APA on his/her own.

Thoughts? Is pointing the student in a direction and letting him/her go better than sitting them down and teaching it to them? Should it depend on the student (the direction I am leaning in and an approach that I usually endorse)? What do YOU think?


  1. I think it was a good move. The only suggestion I would make is to be certain that he understands he can consult your writing center further with his questions. I think this is a great example of doing the right thing, and not taking on too much, actually.

  2. I agree with Clint. When I first started working in the writing center, I felt pressure to try to do more than was humanly possible. With APA beginners, I make sure that I tell them that I don't know all the answers, nor do I have all APA (or MLA for that matter) rules memorized. I use the style manuals! Then, I ask them to pick out the 2 or 3 trickiest citations, like an online journal article with 2 or more authors, and we try to do those as examples. Sometimes it just takes a few minutes to show people where to go for answers. Sounds like ya done good, Ian.

  3. Anonymous12:29 PM

    Give a man a meal, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish...

    Absolutely you did the write thing. We're always encouraged in our sessions to pull out manuals and guides and not only find the answers, but SHOW the students HOW to find the answers.

    I grab two guides and hand one to the client, and keep one for myself. I then help them find their first question (how to use the index, that sort of thing) then encourage them to find the answer to the next question themselves, with me helping out if they get stuck. After that, they're on their own (although they can always come back and get more help if they're still stuck!)

    Besides, it's not your job to do it for them. You're a teacher, and the client should walk away feeling as though they learned something, even if it's just knowing where to go find answers. :) Looks like you achieved that! Well done!


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