The SJSU Writing Center: An iSchool Student’s Secret Weapon
Published: September 2, 2021 by Leslie Parry
Fall semester is finally here! Whether you’re just beginning INFO 200, preparing your e-Portfolio, or simply trying to recover your student brain after summer vacation, you’ll likely be tackling some major assignments in the coming months (or – gulp – weeks). Need help with a research paper? Want a refresher on citations or abstracts? Can’t be sure whether to use “who” or “whom”? The San José State University Writing Center offers a host of excellent free services – and a number are designed specifically for graduate students. From tutoring to live-chat sessions, how-to videos and handouts, the Writing Center can help you navigate the complexities of academic writing (or just master the nuts and bolts). Writing skills will be an asset in school and beyond, so there’s never a wrong time to reach out. I spoke with Michelle Hager, Director of the SJSU Writing Center, about the most useful resources for School of Information students.
Which Writing Center services are most popular with graduate students?
“Graduate students frequently use our one-on-one tutoring services for their major writing projects,” says Hager. “They see us for assistance with everything from generating their ideas to organizing their main points to formatting their citations page.”
The demands of a master’s program are different from those of an undergraduate curriculum, so don’t feel like you’re facing the learning curve alone. “More than anything, we see graduate students who are transitioning into some aspect of graduate writing,” Hager explains. “When you first start grad school, you might not know exactly how to write an abstract or a literature review, for example. There are genres of writing that are specific to more advanced study. The breadth of writing done in grad school – the length and depth of the papers, especially for something like a thesis or final project – can also be a transitional challenge for students, and we’re here to help.”
Are there services or resources you wish students knew more about?
“We offer a full slate of various one-hour writing workshops each semester on 20+ writing topics, some of which are intended for graduate students like ‘Graduate Writer Mindset.’ More information can be found on the workshop topics page of our website. We also work every semester to generate more instructional resources about writing for students to use at any time. Even if you’re working on your big research paper at 2:00 AM (when no tutors are available), you can still access our blog, videos, and handouts for help, which cover a wide array of writing topics.”
Do you have any guidance or suggestions for online learners?
Because iSchool programs are all online, some students may wonder if university-wide services can be tailored to their needs. Thankfully the Writing Center is fully equipped for distance learning. “We will be operating online only in fall 2021, and even when we move back to some in-person services, I imagine that we’ll always offer plenty of online tutoring since it’s been so popular, and has worked so well by all measures,” says Hager. “I would say that when students see us for a virtual tutoring session, they should come prepared to use their audio and share their screen (with the document that they’d like to work on). Those are the two required components for a virtual tutoring appointment. Since our services are so impacted, we also have a five-minute grace period for lateness. If you’re having any difficulties getting set up or accessing your session, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can let the tutor know you’re having tech issues.”
You can browse the Center’s full suite of online resources here.
Are there resources beyond the Writing Center you recommend?
“We frequently recommend library services for research help. Sometimes students see us for this type of assistance since researching and writing go hand in hand, and we can provide recommendations and help with integrating and citing source material in your paper. However, if you’re looking for extensive research help, your subject matter librarian is going to be your best resource. We also have a brochure on speaking resources that has more information about where students can go for assistance with presentations and public speaking (e.g., the on-campus COMM Center).”
What can students look forward to in the coming semester?
“Please sign up for our student listserv to ensure you receive all updates about our services!” says Hager. “Also be sure to watch for specific resources we offer for graduate students. We offer our intensive ‘Foundations of Graduate Writing’ workshop series for early career graduate students every semester, and we also have our Grad Writer Toolbox available online, which offers curated additional resources specifically for grad students.”