Saturday, October 22, 2011

How To Handle Rhetorical Punctuation Issues?

As I've been tutoring for the past year, I keep coming across an issue that I haven't heard talked about a whole lot--I'd really appreciate feedback on how everyone handles this situation, and (if it applies) what your thoughts are on how it might be handled better. Pointers to any literature on the subject would be awesome too.

The enclosed link is just an article from The Wall Street Journal that I thought was interesting--it got me thinking again about the question I've been wanting to pose to other tutors since this summer. Love to hear what your perspective is on the article too, but let me get on with my question.

Our writing center sees students from every major and I tutor every undergrad class level. The more I tutor, the more I notice that grammar and punctuation are very rhetorical: in many ways professors' perspectives of  "what is correct" are all different--many times dependent upon their field. For instance, Engineering professors (in my experience) don't like their students to use semicolons--which is indicative of their desire for shorter, more direct sentences. English professors, on the other hand, get excited about long sentences and semicolon use, provided the writer has control of the thing.

Granted, my experience is limited, but I feel like this discrepancy is largely unaccounted for, and not addressed in training. I understand that it goes back to a fundamental understandings of what writing is, and to even address the issue would require much more than a simple training, but it seems like a challenge worth some thought.

What do you think? Have you encountered this situation in your tutoring experience? If so, how does your writing center handle it?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Survey on plagiarism

This just in from Zuzana Tomas:

Dear tutors/consultants,
I am working on a study that examines your experience with and beliefs about writing from sources and plagiarism. I would greatly appreciate it if you could participate in the study by completing an online survey. The survey is completely anonymous and should not take longer than 15 minutes to complete.

Here is the link to the survey:

If you would like more information about the study, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you so much for your help!

Zuzana Tomas (
Eastern Michigan University

Monday, October 03, 2011

NCPTW Conference tips

On WCENTER, Risa Gorelick posted some handy tips that the WPA email list sends out that might help first-time NCPTW attendees (edited with peer tutors in mind):

General First Time Conference Attendees:
  • wear comfortable shoes!
  • network with EVERYONE.  Meet new people. 
  • Stay hydrated.  Conference hotels are dry and you'll talk a lot.
  • Bring snacks (Powerbars, candies, etc.) in case you're in a session during lunch.
  • Go to the parties (don't sit in your hotel room...).
  •  Try to  go to a session on something you don't know much about rather than go to all the sessions on [subjects you know something about].  You'll meet new people and learn something to boot.
  • Try not to go up to some big name and say, "wow, you're so-and-so" (s/he will know that already).  Instead, introduce yourself and start a conversation.  [Don't be afraid to talk to people, in other words!]
  • It's OK to go up to someone you know from...[their scholarly work or from] Facebook whom you haven't met in person and introduce yourself face-to-face.
  • If you are on Twitter, tweet what you're learning at the conference (though try not to do it while someone is giving a presentation as it is rude to be typing on your smartphone while someone is taking).
If you're presenting for the first time:
  • Prepare a 1 page (double-sided) handout to share with those in your session.  30 copies is probably enough.  On it, have your contact info....
  • Try not to read a paper to the group.  Instead, have talking points/PowerPoint.
  • Time yourself so you don't go over (you don't want to get "the hook" or the gong).
  • Be realistic on how much you can read in 15-20 minutes if you read a paper (probably 6-7 double-spacked, typed pages).
  • Have a back up in case the technology doesn't work (e.g. handouts of your PowerPoint slides)
  • Smile--people came to hear your talk.  They're interested in what you have to say on your topic.
  • It's nice to have a friendly face in the session--pair up with someone and go to the other's talk and s/he'll go to yours, too. (Most comp/rhet/writing center people are overly friendly so there should be a lot of friendly faces in the session, but it's reassuring to know there's a special friendly face in the room just for you).

Your Written Voice Matters: Embracing Writing Language against the Standards of the Academy

In consultations as a tutor, I notice students struggle with their own written language based on the demands of the academy. Many students e...