The Writing Center @ The University of Wisconsin - Madison

What We Can Do for You


Staff Picture

Services for Undergraduates

Undergraduates have always been the core clientele for the Writing Center, and we are proud to serve a consistently increasing number of undergraduate writers each semester.

If you are writing papers for an introductory course, whether it is Philosophy or Women’s Studies or Biocore or Political Science or English, an individual appointment with a writing instructor can help you make your first college papers more successful. As you begin to write longer papers within your major, you can come to the Writing Center for guidance in incorporating research, organizing longer papers, and citing sources. If you are writing a thesis-length paper or research project, or if your courses require papers regularly throughout the semester, you may wish to establish a “permanent appointment,” a weekly or bi-weekly meeting with an instructor to help you plan, write, and revise.

If you are writing in an introductory literature course, you may wish to attend our free, non-credit workshop “Literary Analysis: No Problem!”

If you’ve been assigned a group paper, we’d be happy to meet with the whole group, or with you individually about the part of the paper that you’re responsible for.

When exam times come, the Writing Center is here to give you the exam-writing skills you’ll need. Take a look at the selection of workshops we’re offering this semester.

When nearing the culmination of your undergraduate career, prepare for writing graduate and professional school application essays, resumes and cover letters by attending one of our workshops or seeing a writing instructor. Along with the guidance of advisors in your discipline, we can help you write a strong application for advanced study.

“I’ve always had positive experiences in the Writing Center and am grateful for the way it keeps the focus of my papers in perspective. The instructors have maintained a real attitude of encouragement and make sure to point out the strong aspects of my paper along with those that need more work.”

— From a first-year student in English 168

Services for Returning Students

Each semester the Writing Center works with many returning students in many disciplines and at many levels. Returning students can make individual appointments to brainstorm about an assignment, to work on a draft, or to get help with any other part of the writing process.

“I came to the Writing Center with a severe writing phobia. I was so traumatized and terrorized by the prospect of committing my imperfect thoughts to words on paper that I couldn’t even begin. [My Writing Center instructor’s] patience, understanding and insight have been instrumental in helping me confront the fear of blank white space.”

— From a returning student in Integrated Liberal Studies

Services for Graduate Students

The Writing Center welcomes advanced students in all disciplines to take advantage of both our individual instruction and our workshopes. We work with hundreds of graduate and professional students every semester, from all the University’s schools and colleges. In fact, up to 40% of our instructional time in some semesters goes to graduate students.

While the subject matter of your particular area of study may be beyond the realm of our expertise, we can offer the perspective of experienced generalists in the field of academic writing. Good writing in any field should be intelligible on some level even to an outsider; our ability to follow and understand your argument is a useful indicator of the clarity and coherence of your prose. And as experienced writing instructors, we know how to identify and clarify the principles most relevant to your writing.

Master’s and doctoral candidates working on theses and dissertations often find an ongoing appointment useful. You may set up weekly or bi-weekly appointments with the same instructor to build continuity. Regular meetings can be instrumental in helping you meet your goals for completing long writing projects. If you are a dissertator, we offer services that you may be particularly interested in.

If you’ve been assigned a group paper, we’d be happy to meet with the whole group, or with you individually about the part of the paper that you’re responsible for.

In addition to individual consultation, the Writing Center offers several workshops that graduate students will find useful.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s website for graduate students includes important guidelines for writing graduate theses and dissertations.

“I was particularly happy about the way [my Writing Center instructor] targeted my concerns. Her insights as a colleague were encouraging and constructive so that I never felt particularly criticized or led, but only more able to read my own stuff critically.”

— From a doctoral student preparing a conference paper

Services for Dissertators

Since writing a thesis or dissertation is already just about the hardest thing you’ll ever do, the Writing Center would like to help you through it. We offer graduate students working on large projects the opportunity to establish a “permanent appointment” with a Writing Center instructor. You might, for example, meet once a week or biweekly with the same person over the course of the semester. Or you could meet more often when major drafts are due and less often when you are performing research.

The best way to get started with a permanent appointment is to come in and talk to the staff about where you are in your project, what kind of timeline you have in mind, and the kinds of support you’re looking for. When you meet with an instructor for the first time, you’ll likely spend some considerable time planning your work together. This planning will help you set realistic goals for your writing in the coming semester.

Writing Center instructors are also available to help dissertators set up dissertation reading groups. Members of our staff, many of whom participate in dissertation groups themselves, are available to meet once or twice with you and a small group of your dissertator colleagues who would like to talk about options for establishing and maintaining a dissertation group. To arrange for this kind of consulting, send us an email message and we’ll be in touch with you to arrange a convenient time to meet.

In addition to individual instruction, we also offer several workshops that might be of interest to you as a dissertator. If you are at the proposal-writing stage, sign up for our “Writing Graduate Research Proposals” workshop, offered at least twice each semester. Or come to the “Dissertator’s Primer,” where Writing Center Instructors who are also dissertators will share what they’ve learned along the way.

“Dissertating doesn’t seem so lonely knowing that [my Writing Center instructor] is there to help and is interested in what I’m doing.”

— From a dissertator in Theatre and Drama

Services for ESL Students

Writing Center offers you the same kinds of instruction it provides other student writers: individual instruction and short workshops on writing issues. In individual conferences, students can receive suggestions about revising a paper for any course (except a composition course, such as English 110-122 or 326-328) and discuss topics like the following with a professional writing instructor:

  • Getting started, organizing ideas, improving style
  • Using particular documentation systems (APA, MLA, APSA, CBE, Chicago/Turabian, Numbered References)
  • Following conventions of format and style in specific disciplines (like science and engineering) and types of writing (resume, critique, proposal, dissertation)
  • Preparing for essay and competency exams
  • Becoming a more effective editor of your own writing

The Writing Center offers non-credit workshops on various aspects and types of writing. These workshops will help you the most if you select only those that closely match the kinds of writing that you are working on in your classes this semester. Please do not take more than one or two of these workshops at a time, because no combination of these workshops will add up to a semester-long writing course. If you have questions about which workshop(es) to take, please give us a call.

The Writing Center does not provide instruction in English as a Second Language (ESL) or in conversational English, and Writing Center instructors do not edit, correct, or proofread papers. This kind of help is available elsewhere.

The ESL program, 5134 Helen C. White Hall (263-3780), offers courses to improve the skills of second-language students in reading, comprehending, speaking, and writing in English. These courses provide the intensive and sustained instruction in English that many students need.

GUTS Tutorial Programs, 303 Union South (263-5666), pairs second-language students with native speakers for conversation and fellowship.

The Graduate Division of the English Department, 7195 Helen C. White Hall, keeps a list of editors who correct errors on final drafts for a fee. Before hiring an editor, be sure to obtain permission from your course instructor or thesis/dissertation advisor.

Other information about resources for international students is available at International Student Services, 716 Langdon Street, Room 217, and Madison Friends of International Students, 716 Langdon Street, Room 149. 

Services for Faculty, Staff, and TAs

As “writing across the curriculum”becomes a goal of teachers in all disciplines, the Writing Center stands ready to assist faculty members and teaching assistants in making writing a productive part of their instruction.

If you are teaching a course that requires papers from your students, please let your students know that the Writing Center’s services are available. If there are specific students who you think would benefit from our instruction, please recommend that they come to the Writing Center to arrange for at least several appointments with the same instructor. If you would like to discuss your students’ work at the Writing Center, please contact the director, Brad Hughes, by email or by telephone at 3-3823.

If you are interested in teaching a technology-based workshop, please take a look at our computer classroom and its resources, which are part of the Teaching with Technology in Humanities program.

Each semester Writing Center instructors make brief outreach presentations in many courses that include writing assignments. During such a presentation, an instructor explains how Writing Center instruction can help students as they work on course papers and encourages students to take advantage of Writing Center instruction. If you’d like to schedule a presentation for your class, please request one using our online form. You may also send a copy of writing assignments to the Writing Center so that we may be better prepared to assist your students when they come in for appointments.

If you would like to use any of our handouts in your own class, please stop by to pick up a copy for duplication or send an email request. While we allow the reproduction of our materials by instructors, we do ask that the handouts not be altered and that the Writing Center be credited as the source of the information.

The Writing Center offers workshops on writing as a professional within the university.

“Thank you for preparing materials and presenting information about scientific writing to my students. The presentation was nicely done and the materials will be a resource for both the students and myself in the future.”

— From a professor in Bacteriology

If You’ve Been Referred to the Writing Center

If you have been referred to the Writing Center, we are especially eager to assist you. After all, by referring you to the Writing Center, your instructor has indicated that you may be able to raise your grade as a result of the work you do here. With that kind of motivation, we should be able to accomplish great things together!

When you make an appointment to come to the Writing Center, please inform the person who makes your appointment that you’ve been referred to us. That way we can address your specific needs. The Writing Center instructor who works with you will try to discover more about the requirements of your course or assignment, or about your course instructor’s specific concerns about your writing. If you need extra support, we may schedule longer, more frequent appointments. You can find out from our web site how to prepare for your first appointment, and what to expect from the Writing Center.

We make special efforts to assist people who have been referred to us; if you’ve been instructed to seek help at the Writing Center, call 263-1194 or stop by soon — together we can make the most of the opportunity that a referral represents.

“At the urging of my academic advisor I came to the Writing Center to deal with a number of technical and conceptual problems. At one point [my Writing Center instructor] encouraged my to postulate a paragraph which has become my whole critical framework.”

— From a graduate student in Library and Information Studies

If You’re Writing a Group Paper

We’re always happy to work with students who have been assigned a group writing project. Teaming up on a paper can be exciting and educational, but the cooperation and organization involved may also be stressful. With the expert guidance of a Writing Center instructor, your group will be able to work together in a focused and productive collaboration.

Many of the general principles of writing instruction we use in individual conferences apply to group appointments. You should read the documents “How to Prepare for an Appointment” and “What to Expect at Your First Appointment,” for an idea of how your group conference may be structured.

Even if your group is just beginning a paper, we’d be happy to meet with you. Thoughtful planning can make a group paper easier and more enjoyable for everyone, and your Writing Center instructor can assist you in dividing responsibilities and coordinating the work.

Before coming to the Writing Center or calling to make a group appointment, you should discuss possible appointment times with your group. Ideally, everyone writing the paper should come to the appointment. But if that’s not possible, we’ll gladly meet with one or more of you. When you schedule the appointment, please let the person making the appointment know that you’re working on a group paper (so that the instructor will be able to make appropriate seating arrangements), and ask that an hour be set aside for the appointment. This will give your group time to cover all of the issues that your paper addresses.