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I think it’s safe to assume that most everybody in college understands the three main organizational blocks of an essay: intro, body, conclusion. As consultants, we know how these three blocks should look and what they should include, and we probably know about a dozen different ways to explain why/how/what. We got this part down.
On the other hand, consultations are much harder for us to organize, since these usually take the form of a conversation; sometimes new consultants—or even veteran consultants—worry about how to get started, or how to end a consultation. I’m glad we’re worried because as it turns out, the structure of a consultation is as important for the student as organization in an essay is for the reader. The good news is, we don’t need to worry for long. The “format” is already ingrained in our memory, as I have pointed out above: simply compare our consultations to an essay.
First, the introduction. I can’t count how many times I have used the word “game-plan” to describe the thesis of a paper, so what about in a session? Do we have a game-plan there too? I think so. When we first walk into a session, we introduce ourselves (hint hint), maybe introduce the writing center, then ask the consultant, “So what are we working on today?” and, “What in particular are you concerned about?” These questions help form our game-plan for the session, and just like in an essay, the establishment of this game-plan is absolutely necessary to the rest of the session. Sometimes as a consultant, we might see so many things to discuss that both we and the writer become overwhelmed—a game plan helps narrow that down. A game-plan also gives forward direction, something to work toward; we established our thesis, now we need to prove it. This forward momentum helps to get the session started.
Then, in an essay, comes the body. Same in a consultation. Sometimes we talk about several different things, sometimes we talk about just one or two things…but it’s the “body,” and we all know that essay bodies will look different depending on the topic, the writer, the requirements, and the lunar phase of the moon in the night sky.
The last part of the essay is unfortunately left out of consultations from time to time. But a conclusion is just as important in a consultation as it is in an essay. In an essay, we use the conclusion to remind the audience what was discussed in the paper, what the take-away points are, and (if this paper is a call-to-action) how these points can be applied. Likewise, in a consultation it is important to reserve the last few minutes to review over what was discussed in the session, and (since this is definitely a call-to-action session, by its nature) to come up with a new “game-plan” for the client to take home.