The Writing Lab: Preparing for Your Undergraduate Research Experience

Stop us if this sounds familiar. You were top of your class in high
school, but now that you’re in college, it seems awfully hard to stay on
top of anything. Assignments are tougher to manage, and time
seems scarcer than it once was, somehow. Perhaps you even find yourself
questioning whether you can still perform at the same academic level
as before. Well, you can — it’s just a matter of using
the help that’s available to you. And, luckily, there’s plenty. Hi, I’m Bianca with the Purdue Writing Lab,
and I’m here to introduce to you some of the services we offer that
can help you be the best possible student, writer, and researcher you
can be. As we’ll soon
see, research writing is a lot more than just writing down your
findings, which is why the Writing Lab can be such a valuable
resource throughout your career as an undergraduate researcher. But first: what exactly is the Writing Lab? If you’ve ever needed to look up the rules
for MLA style (and who hasn’t?) you may already be familiar with our online resource,
the Purdue OWL. However, the Lab offers much more than just
citation help. In fact, we serve all members of the Purdue
community, including domestic and international students, grads and undergrads, and even faculty. We offer tutorials face to face in Heavilon
Hall and our three satellite locations, or online via one of two methods. We run workshops in our Lab space throughout
the semester and also visit classes around campus to provide writing support workshops. In the 2017-18 academic year, we served over
2 thousand students with over 6 thousand appointments. So, in short, the Lab is a place where any
writer at any level and any stage of the writing process can get help — not just student writers
struggling with a project. That said, many undergraduate researchers
visit us for help with topics like audience, organization, synthesis, and genre. For example, some researchers find it difficult
to write in a way that those outside their field can understand, even if those outsiders
have a similar education level. Similarly, other researchers find it hard
to organize their thoughts, or how to integrate source material into an effective literature
review. Some simply need help figuring out whether
they’re expected to do a literature review at all. And for researchers who are writing in new
genres like abstracts, proposals, or methodologies, to name just a few, it can be difficult to
know how to start! Fortunately, the Writing Lab is here to help. What can you expect if you decide to come
in for a tutorial? Each session is tailored to your individual
needs, but, in general, tutors will start by asking you questions about your work and
where you’re at with your project. That way, they can get an idea of how you
both can work together in the session to address your needs. From there, tutors will usually try to look
at global concerns first, like organization or argument. If any of the “big picture” elements of
your document are causing trouble, it’s important to address those first to make the
most of your writing time. After that, if there’s time, tutors may
spend some time on “little-picture” elements of writing–stuff at the sentence level. Depending on your progress, you may not have
a draft of your end document yet. That’s fine! Tutors are trained to ask questions that can
help you pull out and refine your ideas. They can also help you analyze new and unfamiliar
genres to help you plan your writing. So, while visiting a tutor is a time commitment
in the short term, regular visits are actually a time saver in the long term. This is one of the reasons why we often suggest
writers visit a tutor in the Lab early and often in their project work. You can come as often as twice a week if you
choose! Working and writing regularly with the Lab
has a number of benefits. First, of course, it’ll keep you from sitting
alone at your desk in the middle of the night at a loss for words! More importantly, a tutor can give you the
opportunity to get feedback from a non-expert–but still educated and interested–audience. This helps you write more clearly in the long
run. Similarly, writing tends to benefit from being
talked about aloud. If you talk through your ideas with a tutor,
you’ll usually gain a clearer sense of perspective on your purpose, research questions, implications,
and more. Additionally, you can catch problems before
they multiply, and you’ll have someone to be accountable to. Both of these things can be just as helpful
as the actual advice a tutor can provide. If you can’t come in for a session or if
the schedule is all booked up, you can always access the OWL — again, you
might already be familiar with our famous citation resources. However, did you know that we also
host over a thousand resources on topics from job documents to
research proposals to rhetorical writing strategies? If you have a
question, you can often find the answer on the OWL without even
needing to leave your dorm. So now you’re probably wondering how you
can schedule an appointment to meet with a tutor. Luckily, it’s very easy, and the entire
process happens online. You can click the button or the link shown
here to access our online scheduling service. The first time you schedule, you’ll have
to sign in with your career account and then fill out a form to create an account with
the Writing Lab, but every time after that you’ll just use your career account. Once you’ve logged in (and created your
account if necessary), you’ll see a schedule that looks something like this. The blue boxes are taken appointments, while
the white ones are available; click any white box to make an appointment with the given
tutor at that time. Once you click a box, you can specify how
long you want the appointment to last (30 minutes or 1 hour)
and whether you want the appointment to be in-person, online, or eTutoring. In-person means a one-on-one session with
a tutor in Heavilon hall. Online is a synchronous online appointment
where you chat live with a tutor via an instant messenger app. eTutoring is an asynchronous
online appointment–that means you won’t have a live conversation with a tutor. Instead, you’ll upload your paper and get
it back with tutor’s comments later. There are a number of fields to fill in on
the appointment registration dialogue box, but these two are some of the most important,
especially if you want an online or eTutoring appointment. Being really specific here about your concerns
helps your tutor conduct your session more effectively. If you just put “grammar,” for instance,
it can be hard for the tutor to prepare the sort of specific grammar help that will most
help you, so please do give us some detail here. And that’s it! I’m Bianca with the Writing Lab, and we’ve
covered how the Lab can help you as an undergraduate researcher as well as how to schedule time
with a tutor. If you have any questions or would like further
information, please visit the link on your screen. Thank you for your time! We hope to see you at the Writing Lab soon.

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