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Thank you for encouraging your students to use the Writing Center!  Whether you offer credit for visits or simply tell your students we're here, you are strengthening them as thinkers and communicators.  The Writing Center can help your students think deliberately about their writing assignments and their subject matter, increasing their success and also allowing you, as you evaluate their work, to focus more on their thoughts and less on issues like clarity, organization, and grammar.  To get the most benefit from the Writing Center's service, consider the following tips and ideas.


Encouraging Students to Use the Writing Center

You Don't Have to be Sick to Get Better.   Ever heard that before?  Let your students know that the Writing Center assists writers at all experience levels.  Wise novice and veteran writers welcome feedback from an experienced preliminary audience.  They seek opportunities to talk out their ideas, watch what their writing does to a reader, and ensure that their message comes across the way it is intended.  Let your students know that the Writing Center is a service we use whether we excel in writing for not.

Suggest Students Seek Feedback Early in the Process.   Consider offering extra credit for Writing Center visits made early in the writing process.  A session at the start of an assignment can set a writer off on their journey with an enormous advantage.  Writers are welcome to talk with a writing consultant even before they've begun writing.  In fact, the best scenario might involve more than one session per project, since writing and revision are best done in stages.

Urge Them to Visit the Center with Questions in Mind.   The writing process overflows with questions, not just questions about the research topic but questions regarding writer focus, the concept of audience, incorporation of sources, organization, examples, tone, paragraph structure, word choice, grammar, format, and documentation.  Writers who come to their sessions prepared with questions for their reader often leave the Center with better ideas.

Requiring Your Students to Visit.   Asking your entire class to visit the Writing Center may be an effective way to show your students that all writers can benefit from constructive peer feedback.  However, some students might see the requirement as busywork or even punishment, while others may fear the opinion of an outside reader.  To give them the best chance for effective sessions, let your students know what they can do in the Writing Center.  The message we have for writers is not "You need help and the Writing Center is here for you" but rather "You are doing interesting work, so let's try it out and see what a reader might say."  It may also be helpful to place the deadline for Writing Center sessions a couple of days before the paper due date.   This can deter students from procrastinating their visits, lower the stress level in their sessions, and give them time to revise after their visits.  You might also want to meet ahead of time with Jared to discuss the assignment.

Invite Us to Your Class.   As we spread the message about what writing and revision can do for our students, we jump at the chance to visit classes and introduce our services, give workshops on writing with sources, or facilitate peer reviews.  You can also schedule a time to bring your class to the Center.

Set the Example.    Faculty who work on their own projects in the Writing Center show students that we can all benefit by seeking outside feedback.  And if students ever misunderstand assignments in your classes, consider bringing in an assignment description to hear the questions a consultant asks after reading it.


Using the Writing Center from an Extended Campus Site

For students and faculty working online or at extended campus sites, we offer writing consultations with real-time conversation over the phone or via online chat.  Writers using this service should expect feedback similar to that given in face-to-face sessions.  See our instructions for online sessions or e-mail Jared ( for more information.


Discouraging Plagiarism in Your Class

What is Plagiarism?

According to the Council of Writing Program Administrators (WPA) (2003), plagiarism occurs when a writer "deliberately uses someone else's language, ideas, or other original (not common knowledge) material without acknowledging its source" (p. 1).  Plagiarism is a serious, intentional act, to be distinguished from carelessly or inadequately incorporating or documenting sources.  

What is Patchwriting?

Patchwriting means "restating a phrase, clause, or one or more sentences while staying close to the language or syntax of the source" (Jamieson & Howard, 2011).  This is commonly done by directly copying a source's words and then rearranging or replacing some of them.  Many beginning writers learn to patchwrite before they learn how to effectively summarize or paraphrase sources.  For this reason, patchwriting is best treated not as deliberate deception but rather as a tansitional stage.  An exercise designed to help students move beyond patchwriting is included in Writing with Sources.

What Can Students Do to Steer Clear of Plagiarism?

The short answer?  Read the source, understand the source, close the source, and write your own words.  That sounds simple enough.  But ethical treatment of sources requires time, practice, and habits that not all writers have developed before we meet them.  Writers sometimes justify committing plagiarism if they 1) have limited experience in writing with sources, 2) have not effectively managed their time, 3) misunderstand the assignment, or 4) come from a culture in which plagiarism is not recognized as unethical.  In the long run, though, whatever their reasons are for taking shortcuts, writers need to understand that the lasting benefits of genuine learning far outweigh the short-term ease of playing school.  The following choices facilitate genuine learning:

  1. Understand research and writing assignments as learning processes and opportunities for genuine inquiry and growth.
  2. Learn to find, understand, and analyze relevant sources.
  3. Make it clear when and how you use others' words or ideas in your writing.
  4. Learn how writers in your discipline use and cite sources and define common knowledge.
  5. Ask your instructor when you are unsure whether or how to cite a source.
  6. Choose a topic early, and one you connect with personally.
  7. Start your research soon, take notes, and pay attention to the words you see authors using in the text around their sources. (Price 2002; WPA 2003)

What Can Professors Do to Discourage Students from Committing Plagiarism?

Most students know that plagiarism is wrong.  But few students can define the concept with much certainty.  Since the advent of the Worldwide Web, the ways students think about authorship, research, and source attribution have evolved.  Anymore, questions about plagiarism are less about right and wrong and more about what an author is, what constitutes "common knowledge" and what makes our ideas "original."  Consider the following questions asked by students in discussions about plagiarism:

  • What if you think of something and it turns out someone else already thought of it first?*
  • What if it's something you heard somewhere, but you can't remember where?*
  • Can a writer ever compose "original" material, free of anyone else's influence?*
  • What if you find the same idea in two books?*
  • Why does my professor tell me to cite everything that doesn't come from me when my sources don't do that?
  • What's considered "common knowledge" in this subject?
  • Why do all of my source articles use different format and citation rules?
  • How many copied words in a row are okay?
  • Isn't it all right to use a source's words as long as you mix in your own?
  • How much of my own ideas can I put in my paper?

*All or part of these questions come from Price (2002).

Although the answers to some of these questions might seem universal, communication norms vary widely across academic fields.  For example, writers in history and biology derive common knowledge in different ways and, therefore, use different criteria in deciding what information needs citation.  Because of these differences in academic fields, and because students are more likely to internalize concepts that they can discuss in detail, it's a better idea to address these questions in individual classes.

Suggestions for Class Discussions and Policy Statements

Consider spending time in your classroom talking about plagiarism and the ways sources are ethically used in your academic field.  Writing scholar Margaret Price (2002) makes the following suggestions regarding class discussions and policy statements that address plagiarism:

  • "The most constructive way to approach teaching on plagiarism is to invite students into a dialogue about the subject, welcoming their perspectives on its complexities" (p. 106).  "Such invitations should not be framed as the novice coming to the expert in order to be enlightened . . . .  Instead, invitations to students to question and discuss plagiarism should be approached as part of their participation in a discourse community"* (p. 105).  Students should understand that "their own questions and ideas . . . are an important part of the evolving understanding of plagiarism in the classroom" (p. 105).  
  • Written statements should make it clear that citation conventions "shift across time and locations" (p. 106).
  • "Leave spaces-literal spaces-for students to fill in.  The policy that I handout out includes blank lines placed at strategic intervals with prompts for students to write in ideas or questions" (p. 107).
  • Discuss examples of successful citation, and give students chances to practice summarizing, paraphrasing, quoting, and contextualizing source material (p. 108).  These exercises show students that rather than a "quilt of loosely connected quotations" a research paper involves creation and interpretation as well as reportage" (p. 108).
  • "Plagiarism, attribution, and authorship should be ongoing topics throughout the semester, to be revisited from many different angles.  This would offer students various points from which to consider what plagiarism means" (p. 109).

*Writing scholar Anne Beaufort defines a discourse community as "a particular community of writers who dialogue across texts, argue, and build on each other's work" (2007, p. 18).


Beaufort, A. (2007). College writing and beyond: A new framework for university writing instruction. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Council of Writing Program Administrators. (2003). Defining and avoiding plagiarism: The WPA statement on best practices. In Council of writing program administrators. Retrieved from

Jamieson, S. & Howard, R.M. (2011). What is plagiarism?. In The citation project. Retrieved from

Price, M. (2002). Beyond "gotcha!": Situating plagiarism in policy and pedagogy. College composition and communication, 54, 88-115.


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