FAQs for Undergraduates

Undergraduates can find answers to frequently asked questions about the University Writing Center below.

  • When are you open?

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    See the UWC for Undergraduates page on our website for details. Consultations are by appointment only. Schedule your consultation at WCOnline.
  • What happens during a consultation?

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    During an in-person consultation, you will share either a printed copy or a Google doc of your writing with a consultant who will sit three feet away from you. You will tell them any questions or concerns you have about it, and the consultant will work with you to address your questions and concerns and give you advice to help you improve your writing.

    During a Zoom appointment, you will share your writing with your consultant on screen, describe it, and tell them any questions or concerns you have with about it. The consultant will work with you to address your questions and concerns and give you advice to help you improve your writing.

    During a written consultation, you will upload a Microsoft Word file and tell the consultant, through the appointment form, what you would like them to focus on as they review it. The consultant will read through your questions, concerns, and your assignment sheet and rubric (if you have uploaded them) before commenting on your paper using Microsoft Word's reviewing function. The comments could take the form of

    • questions (these often show areas where content is unclear);
    • explanations of suggested edits;
    • suggestions for improvement; or
    • resources that would be helpful to use as you finish the paper.

    Consultants will not proofread or edit your paper (that's your job!), but they can point out errors, particularly if those errors are repeated throughout the paper. You will receive your paper back in an email (either as an attachment or a link) with the consultant's comments.

  • How do I schedule a consultation?

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    Go to the WCOnline and register for an account. Undergraduate students can schedule in-person, Zoom, or written feedback consultations once you have an account with us. For more detailed instructions, see our Using WCOnline web page.
  • I'm trying to schedule a consultation but don't understand the questions on the form. Can you help?

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    The "Create New Appointment" form has several questions that are explained below:

    Meet in-person or over Zoom?

    This question only applies to in-person/Zoom flex appointments and cannot be altered for Zoom only and written feedback consultations. New in Summer 2023, many of our appointments give you a choice between meeting your consultant in Halle Library or over Zoom. Simply choose the option you prefer (and then remember where or how to meet your consultant!).

    Course prefix (if not for a course, choose "Non Coursework")

    The "course prefix" is the letter code in the name of your course. For example, nursing courses begin with "NURS"; this is the letter code. If what you are writing is not associated with a course, you would choose "Non Coursework."

    Class level

    The "level" is the number code in the name of your course. For example, if you were taking Nursing 275, your number code would be 275, which is a 200 level class. You would choose 200 from the drop-down menu.

    Instructor name (or "N/A")

    This is the name of the instructor teaching the course. Type "N/A" if this is not for a course.

    What are you writing?

    What you are writing is the genre of the piece. If you are working on a course assignment, the name/title that the instructor gave the assignment would be helpful to put here, unless it is generic (like "assignment 1"). If it is generic, naming the type of writing it is, like in the examples above, would be useful: is it an essay? An annotated bibliography? Etc.

    What stage of writing are you in?

    • Brainstorming
      At this stage, you probably have not begun to write and may want help understanding the assignment, thinking of a topic, coming up with a thesis/argument, thinking through what will need to be in your paper, etc.
    • Rough draft
      At this stage, you may have jotted down some ideas and a few sentences, or written quickly without much thought to organization, research, etc. You have something written, but nothing formal, and are aware that it needs a lot of work. Or, you may have quite a bit of your draft written but not completed (e.g., it may not have conclusions or a solid introduction).
    • First draft
      At this stage, you have a complete draft finished but have not done anything with it after completing the draft. It needs to be revised at the higher level: How effectively, and completely, does it respond to the assignment? Is your purpose for writing clear? Is your writing focused—does your draft have a good organization and structure? Does your draft have a clearly defined audience, with an appropriate diction and style for that audience?
    • Second (or later) draft
      At this stage, you have a complete draft that you have already checked for higher level concerns (see "First draft") and are ready for revisions at the mid-level: Are the paragraphs, sentences, and transitions developed and organized? Are the sources integrated usefully and purposefully into your writing? Have you made a clear distinction between your own ideas and other authors' writing? Could your wording be more direct, efficient, or precise?
    • Final draft
      At this stage, you have a complete draft that you have already checked for higher (see "First draft") and mid-level (see "Second or later draft") concerns. You are ready for revisions at the later level and are preparing to "publish" your draft, whether that means to submit it to your instructor for a grade or publish it online, etc: Do your subjects and verbs agree? Are commas used consistently and correctly? Are the in-text citations correctly formatted? Is word usage accurate (e.g., their/there/they’re; its/it’s)?

    Citation or formatting system

    A "citation/formatting system" is a set of rules that describes how you should cite sources within your text and in your reference list (or bibliography). These rule sets often also set rules for line spacing, font types, page numbering, etc., or "formatting" your paper. Examples of these are MLA (Modern Language Association) or APA (American Psychological Association) formatting. Instructors often require students to use a specific citation/formatting system. At other times, instructors give students options between types of citation systems.

    What do you want help with?

    • Understanding the assignment
      Check this box if you would like help understanding your assignment requirements or rubric, or would like to be sure you are meeting your assignment requirements. Be sure to upload your assignment and/or rubric for the consultant. If your instructor gave you a PDF, copy and paste the contents into a Word or Google document to upload it (you cannot upload PDFs in WCOnline).
    • Developing ideas
      Check this box if you would like help developing a thesis or line of argument, developing useful examples, or developing other content for your writing. Our consultants won't do the writing for you, but they will help you think through how to develop it. If you are in the "brainstorming" stage of writing, you will probably check this box.
    • Organization and structure
      Check this box if you would like help organizing your writing into sections, using headings, writing paragraphs that use topic sentences, and/or transitioning from one topic to another. People often refer to this as the "flow" of the paper.
    • Incorporating evidence
      Check this box if you would like help using source materials in your writing in a way that supports your own arguments, rather than echoing others' arguments. This involves paraphrasing and quoting source materials and is often necessary in research papers, argumentative essays, annotated bibliographies, etc.
    • Style/voice/tone
      Check this box if you would like help choosing the appropriate words and "jargon" to use in your paper, and deciding whether or not things like active voice, passive voice, contractions, or slang or appropriate. Choosing an appropriate style, voice, and tone is often dependent on the audience of your writing, so it will be helpful for consultants to see your assignment requirements and/or rubric if you choose this option.
    • Citing sources using a citation system
      Check this box if one of your main concerns is whether you have correctly formatted your in-text citations and reference list (or bibliography).
    • Grammar and punctuation
      Check this box if one of your main concerns is about writing sentences and paragraphs and using punctuation in a way that can make it easier for your intended readers to understand what you are trying to say. Note that your consultant will not edit your paper, even if you choose this option; rather, they will point to areas that may be easily misunderstood and help you understand how to revise them.
    • Formatting the paper correctly
      Check this box if one of your main concerns is whether you have correctly formatted your paper—title page, page numbers, running heads, section headings, etc.—according to the rules of a specific citation system (for example, APA 7e).
    • Other
      Check this box if you would like help with something else. Be sure to describe what that is in "Additional comments for your consultant."

    Specify up to FIVE page numbers you want reviewed (double-spaced pages; e.g., 2 – 6)

    This question only appears on written feedback requests. Consultants can only review up to five double-spaced pages in one written feedback consultation, and will need to know which pages you want them to look at if your paper is longer. Be sure you have only listed five pages (many students mistakenly count 2 – 7 as five pages, but it's six: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

    I understand that the consultant can only comment on the five page numbers I specified (double-spaced or up to 1,500 words).

    This question only appears on written feedback requests, and is a way to make sure you understand, acknowledge, and agree to the page limit (explained above).

    Additional comments

    Use this space to tell your consultant any "other" questions (see previous question) you have. You may also use this space to share a link to a Google Doc (be sure to set the sharing settings to enable a consultant to comment on the document).

    This schedule supports file attachments.

    If you are submitting a paper for a written feedback consultation, be sure to either

    • upload your Word or PowerPoint document when you create the appointment, or
    • copy and paste a Google Docs URL and be sure to share the file using the "anyone with a link can comment" option.

    You may also upload your assignment requirements and/or rubric for your consultant's benefit.

    This system does not accept PDFs, so if you have a PDF you should copy/paste the text into a Word document and then upload it.

  • I'm trying to schedule a consultation and upload my file, but it's not letting me. What's wrong?

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    The EMU University Writing Center WCOnline web site only accepts Microsoft Word or PowerPoint documents. If you are trying to upload another file type, such as a PDF, you will receive an error message.

    You may copy and paste a Google Docs URL instead of uploading a document, but be sure to share it using the "anyone with the link can comment" option or your appointment will be canceled.

    If you have a PDF you need to upload, you could do one of three things:

    1. Copy and paste the text into a Word doc and attach it to the appointment.
    2. Copy and paste the text into a Google Doc and share the URL in the text box (be sure to share it with "anyone with the link can view" option).
    3. Email the PDF to the consultant you made the appointment with and explain what it is for (the consultant's email address should appear in your appointment form).
  • I can only upload Word or PowerPoint documents, but I don't have those programs. What can I do?

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    Both Microsoft Word and PowerPoint are freely available to all Eastern Michigan University students. Go to the Division of Information Technology page for University Licensed Software and click on Microsoft Office. Follow the instructions there to download and install the applications.


    Alternatively, you can share a Google Doc URL in the Additional Comments section. Be sure to change the sharing settings to "anyone with the link can comment," or your consultant will not be able to use it and your appointment will be canceled.

  • How often can I schedule consultations?

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    Undergraduate students may schedule two consultations per week.

  • How long are consultations?

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    Most in-person and Zoom consultations are scheduled for 45 minutes. A few Zoom and in-person consultations can be scheduled for 30 - 60 minutes.

  • Can I get a consultation today?

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    The short answer is yes—if it's Monday through Friday and a consultation is available. All consultations are by appointment this semester, so reserve your time on WCOnline.

    You can reserve any available in-person and Zoom consultations up to 30 minutes before they are to begin. However, these consultations can also be reserved up to two weeks in advance, so if there are none available and you have time to wait for a response, try a written feedback consultation.

  • How many pages can I submit for written feedback?

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    Consultants can comment on up to five pages (roughly 1,500 words) of double-spaced text during a written feedback consultation. You may submit a paper that is longer than that, but will need to specify which five pages you would like the consultant to focus on.
  • When will I get my written feedback?

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    If you submit a paper for written feedback Monday through Thursday, your consultant will return it to you with feedback within 48 hours of the time you submit it. If you submit a paper Friday through Sunday, your consultant will return it to you within 72 hours of the time you submit it.

  • Why was my written feedback submission canceled?

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    There are two reasons your written feedback submission may have been canceled:

    1. You either didn't upload a paper or share a Google Doc properly, so the consultant was unable to comment on it. If you upload a paper, it must be a Microsoft Word document. If you provide a Google Doc URL, you need to change the sharing settings to "anyone with the link can comment."
    2. You ignored the BIO ONLY label, and submitted a paper for a class other than biology to a biology consultant. A few of our consultants only comment on biology papers and will cancel your appointment if you ask them to do something else.
  • I got my paper back and don't see any comments. Where are they?

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    UWC consultants use the reviewing tools in the software program associated with your paper.

    If you submitted a Microsoft Word document and do not see any comments in the margins: 

    1. Open the document you received from your consultant.
    2. Click on Review to open the reviewing pane.
    3. Click on Show comments. This should reveal the comments your consultant made.
  • At what stage of writing should I schedule a consultation?

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    The sooner the better!

    You can schedule a consultation to help you with any stage of the writing process. This includes everything from understanding an assignment before you even begin writing to polishing a final draft. Don't wait until the day before the paper is due; it's best to give yourself time to make revisions between your consultation and the paper's due date.

  • My instructor wants proof that I've consulted with the UWC. How can I get that?

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    Tell your consultant and they can copy your instructor on the Summary Report email they'll send you after your consultation. You also have the option of forwarding the Summary Report email to your instructor yourself.
  • Can I only get consultations on class assignments?

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    No! UWC consultants can help you with more than your class assignments. Undergraduate students often consult with us on personal statements, graduate school applications, resumes, senior theses, medical school secondaries, and more. We've also consulted with undergraduates on personal writing like blog entries and poetry.
  • I'm a graduate student. Can I schedule a consultation?

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    Yes, but not through the EMU University Writing Center WCOnline website. Instead, use the UWCGS Writing Support form. You can find more information on our UWC for Graduate Students web page.

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