Very rarely does it happen, but sometimes writers bring in papers that I find really hard to comment on because they are just plain good. For example, a few months ago a student from Kenya came in with a personal research paper about her cat. Her cat suffered from a disease that was causing its fur to fall out, so the student started doing research about the possible causes. No, she didn't call it Mr. Bigglesworth disease, but she had found the disease, found what causes it, and began to implement possible treatments. While she read the paper out loud in the session, I completely forgot that I was even in the writing center. The paper was genuinely interesting, and her voice and her accent were somehow soothing after a long day. She blended personal experience with solid research in a very seemless way, which is what I try to teach my 101 students.
When I realized near the end of the paper that I really didn't have much to say about it except, "Wow. That was a really interesting paper," I got a little nervous. I had that "I'm supposed to be the expert here" panic attack. So, I scraped the bottom of my brain barrell, and came up with nothing. So, I just said, "That's a really good paper. I can't think of much to say about it. You seem to have nailed the assignment." She told me, "thanks," and then we chatted about Kenya for a little while. Then she revealed that she knew it was a good paper, and that writing was her passion, but that she had to come into the center to get credit for a class.
At first I felt bad about not being able to "improve" her paper. Then I realized that I had learned some things about writing as a result of the session. So, I chalked it up to providence, and now I have a great story to use as an example in my teaching: find a topic that affects you, that has personal significance, that might even save your cat's life, and it may lead to a more effective research paper.
While I admit I was once intrigued by the prostitute-consultant analogy, not by what Scott Russell had to say about it but by some of the id...