About the WDC

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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about our Service

How can I contact the Writing Development Centre?

Our website is the main source of information about the service: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/students/wdc/  You can also email us WDC@ncl.ac.uk or tweet us @NCL_WDC. You don’t need to register with us.

What does the Writing Development Centre do?

The WDC is a team of professional Learning Developers. We offer guidance on a range of study issues to help students develop their academic skills and succeed as independent learners. Our service includes individual tutorials, a range of activities advertised on the ASK website, and workshops for degree programmes and modules in the Schools.

What can the Writing Development Centre help me with?

Academic writing is one of the most common issues we offer guidance on, as it’s usually the focus of assessment. We can help with not only the final product (authorial voice and academic style), but also the whole process of writing, from analysing the question, planning and structuring, building an argument to pulling a draft together and editing it. We can help with other forms of assessment too, like posters or presentations. Our remit covers more than writing though – we can also advise on a wider range of study skills which will help support your studies such as exams and revision, time management, avoiding plagiarism, critical reading or note-taking.

I’m an international student and English isn’t my first language. Can you help?

We are not specialists in teaching English as a Second Language or English for Academic Purposes. If you would like help with your academic English, and have a UELA score of less than 70 in your writing, you will be best supported by INTO’s In-Sessional English programme, which offers classes and individual consultations. If you have near-native English writing skills (a UELA score of over 70 or exemption from the UELA), you are welcome to make an appointment with us.

We may be able to comment on a limited range of fundamental grammar issues, but our main role is to help you understand the expectations, assumptions and conventions of study in UK university culture, which may be very different to your own. This might include understanding how teaching, learning and assessment differ (and how you need to adapt) or how academic UK English writing conventions are used to signal things like criticality, authorial voice or structure.

Do you run classes?

We don’t run a programme of classes on writing as we feel study skills are best learned embedded in context, rather than as a separate generic course. Most of our provision is through ‘just in time’ and tailored, in the form of one to one tutorials and workshop provision. Watch out for sessions as part of your course or advertised throughout the year on the ASK website!

I just wanted to ask a question about my studies….

Tutorials are by appointment only. Our tutorials are confidential and student-centred, and we try to ensure that when you book an appointment with us, we can focus on your questions without being disturbed, and ask that you extend this courtesy to others. If you have a question you’d like to discuss with us, please book an appointment or attend a drop-in rather than knocking on our door. If it’s a quick question, you can find more information about the service on our website or the ASK website, or email us WDC@ncl.ac.uk

Do you offer guidance on any kind of writing?

Our remit is specifically academic writing for assessment in Higher Education. This encompasses typical genres such as essays, reports, reflective writing, case studies, dissertations, posters and presentations. We can also help with other types of assignment if they are set as assessment as part of your course, as well as writing for academic publication and communicating research for the general public. Other types of writing such as creative writing, job and study applications or CVs don’t come under our provision as they are quite different. We cannot look at work where the main focus of the subject and assessment is the writing itself, such as translation or creative writing.

Can you answer questions on referencing?

We can answer questions about how to acknowledge your sources in your work and integrating the reading that you’ve done without plagiarising. This includes referencing, quotation, paraphrase and critically reviewing literature. If you have a technical question about referencing, you can also ask your liaison librarian or consult http://libguides.ncl.ac.uk/referencing. We can’t advise on Endnote and referencing software; please ask the liaison librarian.

Questions about our one to one provision

What can WDC tutors help with in a one to one?

We are learning developers, and our role is help you to develop your study skills which you can develop, and explore strategies, skills and techniques which work for you, so you can become a successful independent learner. We aren’t subject experts – our expertise is in learning, teaching and assessment.

We can only focus on one or two issues in a tutorial, so do think about what aspect of your studies you’d like to improve (including using feedback to diagnose which issues to work on).

How long is a one to one appointment?

Appointments are 50 mins long, and begin on the hour.  

What happens in a WDC tutorial?

In a tutorial, we will discuss your study query with you and your approach to study, look at sample assignments or examples of your work and any feedback you’ve had, to identify where you might further develop or adapt your study skills. We can explain assignment briefs, marking criteria or academic conventions to help ensure you understand your lecturers’ expectations. We can then explore and illustrate study strategies that will suit your needs and personal preferences, and discuss how you might put them into practice.

Can you look at my work?

Yes - it’s most productive to discuss your questions about study in the context of what you’re studying and your individual approach to it. It’s difficult to talk generally about academic writing in the abstract as each subject, assignment and each individual writer will raise different issues. Depending on your query, it’s often helpful to bring some of your previous or current work with you. This might include an essay question, assignment instructions or marking criteria, drafts or plans of current work, typical reading material, past exam papers, or previous assignments with feedback. We can look at work at any stage –from sketchy notes and plans to near-finished drafts.

We can look at a sample of your work (including drafts and past work with feedback) to help identify skills you might need to develop, and to illustrate strategies which you can then put into practice.

Please note: We don’t read whole assignments in depth, and we don’t check or correct work. We can’t discuss assignments where the main focus of the subject and assessment is the writing itself, such as translation or creative writing.

Can you print my work out if I bring it on a data stick?

We can't print work for students. We're happy to look at your work on a laptop or tablet however.

Why can’t I email you work to look at before my tutorial?

In practical terms, we don’t look at work outside of tutorials because to do this would mean significantly reducing the amount of time available for appointments, and fewer tutorials would mean that it would be harder for you to book one!

In terms of learning, one of the things we offer is a rare insight into how a reader perceives your writing, modelling in real time for you how the reader navigates, understands and reacts to your text. We read quickly, and can talk you through the reader’s response to and assessment of your writing as we go, which will help to contextualise some of the feedback you may be getting. We don’t aim to read whole assignments, just enough to get a clear indications of the issues to address, and we’ll then suggest strategies for you to apply independently to the rest of your work and future assignments.

Can you proofread my work and check for errors?

No – we don’t offer proofreading or copyediting, or correct work, as our remit is not to do the work for students but to teach them strategies to improve it independently themselves. Proofreading is a final, thorough check of a text to mark up all typographical errors (such as formatting, spelling or punctuation). Copyediting is a similar process, which highlights all issues of clarity, accuracy, consistency and conciseness.

We can however help you to become aware of common and habitual issues in your own writing, and discuss strategies to help you develop your own editing skills to address them.  We may look at samples of your writing to highlight and illustrate issues and strategies, but this does not constitute proofreading or guarantee that all issues have been identified. There is no service in the university which offers proofreading.

I just wanted to ask a question about my studies….

Tutorials are by appointment only. Our tutorials are confidential and student-centred, and we try to ensure that when you book an appointment with us, we can focus on your questions without being disturbed, and ask that you extend this courtesy to others. If you have a question you’d like to discuss with us, please book an appointment or attend a drop-in rather than knocking on our door. If it’s a quick question, you can find more information about the service on our website or the ASK website, or email us WDC@ncl.ac.uk

Can I make an appointment?

You’re welcome to book a tutorial with us – appointments are made online. As we don’t have a reception desk, our booking process is handled by the Library Admin team; we aren’t able to book appointments or answer questions about bookings from the WDC offices. You can book a tutorial on our website: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/students/wdc/students/tutorials/ If you have a question about booking, please email us on WDC@ncl.ac.uk.

Will you feed back what we’ve discussed to my lecturers?

Not unless you want us to –the service is entirely confidential and we don’t pass on any information to the Schools without your permission. If you would like us to liaise with your School, you may request that we do so, or if we feel it would be in your interests, we may suggest this, but would never communicate about you with your School without your permission. Please see our confidentiality statement for more information.

How many tutorial appointments can I have?

Our tutorials are in high demand at peak times of year so we ask that you book only one appointment at a time and only one in a week. This is to ensure that all students have equal access to appointments and that we aren’t booked up by a few users, to the exclusion of others. Moreover, our aim is to help you develop your skills to become a self-reliant independent learner, putting into practice and developing confidence the strategies we recommend rather than becoming dependent on our input. We therefore have a maximum limit of three appointments per semester (or long summer vacation) depending on need and availability. However, additional appointments may be offered at our discretion if needed. Please contact the Head of the WDC, Dr Helen Webster, if you would like to discuss further appointments.

When should I come and see you?

We embed our advice in the context of work you’re actually doing, so that it’s relevant, specific to your studies and practical. It’s best to wait until term is under way and you have a specific experience, issue or assignment arising from your work which we can discuss, rather than general questions.

We can offer guidance at any stage of your studies, from interpreting an essay question or formulating a plan, to strategies for editing the final draft. You don’t need to wait until you have completed an essay to come and see us! Some issues such as structure or critical thinking can only really be addressed at the beginning of the writing process, and it might be too late to be useful if you come and see us nearer the end. We might also be able to help you overcome writers’ block or other barriers in your way.

Can you check to see if my work is ok to hand in?

We aren’t subject experts, and can’t comment on the content or quality of your work, nor can we give an opinion about what mark it might get.

We strongly recommended that you don’t book an appointment for the day or day before your assignment is due. There is very little that the tutors can productively offer advice on at such short notice as you will not have time to develop your study strategies or put our guidance into practice, especially if it concerns a major issue such as structure or argument. Proofreading or final 'checking' of readiness for submission are not part of our remit.

What if I can’t attend my appointment or no longer need it?

That’s fine – we ask that you contact us by email to cancel, so that another student can be allocated the appointment. We regret that if you miss an appointment without prior notice, explanation or cancellation, we reserve the right to withhold future appointments. If there are mitigating circumstances, we invite you to discuss these with the Head of the Writing Development Centre.

I’m away from Newcastle and can’t come to the WDC. Can you still help me?

If you are studying away from Newcastle and cannot attend a tutorial in the Philip Robinson Library, we can offer you a distance tutorial. You might be on a placement, field trip or year abroad, studying part time in intensive teaching blocks, at home during the summer vacation, or for health reasons cannot attend a tutorial in person.

 Depending on the nature of your query and your own contact preferences, we can offer various formats, including phone, skype or emailed comments on a document.

We book the same hour’s tutorial entitlement as a face to face appointment. Depending on the nature of your question, we can discuss your approach to study with you and offer guidance or, if your query concerns an aspect of writing, use part of that hour to  familiarise ourselves with any samples of work you have sent us in advance, and the rest of the hour we can then discuss guidance and strategies with you. To arrange a distance tutorial, please complete the booking form.

We’re working on a group project – can we come as a team to discuss groupwork?

If you’re working as a team on a group assignment or project, we can offer a tutorial for your group to discuss the process of collaborating on a joint piece of work and managing joint authorship. Please complete the booking form including all members of the team who will be attending. It is preferable that the whole group is present for the tutorial if possible.

Please note that group tutorials are not generally suitable for students who are not working as part of a formal group assignment or project. With individual assignments, even if you and your friends are working on the same one, each student’s questions and goals will be different. Booking an individual tutorial will allow us to focus specifically on strategies which will suit your personal needs.

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