On Feb 19th the Writing Center invited us to their staff meeting to discuss the type of work we do at WAC. After giving an overview of the services we provide for faculty and graduate students we discussed some ways that WAC and the Writing Center could work together including: potential collaborative workshops and promoting each other’s programs with clients. Ultimately, we said, WAC and the Writing Center have very similar missions: improving writing across the university. Whereas WAC works with faculty and instructors, the Writing Center works primarily with students.
In the second half of the workshop we addressed a specific need of Writing Center tutors: responding to scientific papers. Many tutors said that the scientific papers were the most difficult to understand to during tutorial sessions. Thus, we discussed some general principles in scientific writing (specifically: clarity, conciseness, and specificity) and then looked at 2 samples from a mechanical engineering lab report. Also, we discussed basic criteria for an Introduction/Objective section of the lab report:
In writing the Introduction/Objective of a Lab Report, students should:
Then, in small groups we asked tutors to read the two sample objective sections and answer the following questions:
- How well does each objective meet the above criteria?
- Given the above criteria, how would you respond to the objectives in a tutorial?
When we came back together as a large group, tutors were able to identify places in the lab report that needed revision. One tutor noticed that the student did not clearly describe the methodology. Another noted that the student’s main purpose was wordy and unclear. Collectively, we were able to comment effectively on the student’s writing just by knowing some basic conventions of the sciences.