The Writing Center as an Independent Work Resource

If you’re caught up on some of my previous posts, you’ll remember that I wrote my fall Junior Paper about shackling pregnant inmates in New York women’s prisons after the 2009 anti-shackling bill. I recently submitted my Junior Paper at the beginning of January, and it’s safe to say that it was a wild ride. To name a few challenges: I had to completely change my topic, I navigated tough interviews, and I spent a LOT of time editing my essay. Although I wrote a post about how to work efficiently during winter break, I pretty much ignored all of my own advice and ended up working on my JP each night, making my winter break anything but carefree and relaxing. However, I came back to school with a paper I was proud of.

The Writing Center is an incredible resource to utilize for independent work

But the challenges did not stop there. This JP was my first encounter with a substantial piece of independent work, and it included a whole lot of revisions after I had completed my first full draft. After reading through the paper, I scheduled a phone conference with my professor that left me with a plethora of edits to make in a very short amount of time. I made the changes, going through the paper with a fine-toothed comb, and the day after I got back to Princeton, I went to my first-ever appointment at the Writing Center.

Although I did not have any experience with the Writing Center, I went in with unattainable expectations, thinking that the Writing Center fellow would somehow transform my work into a brilliant, perfect, A+ paper. Instead, I received general feedback on the structure of my JP and basic questions about my thesis statement. In hindsight, expecting anything more than that would be unfair; the tutor had to skim through my 24-paged paper only moments before offering me feedback. Nevertheless, I gained some valuable insight on how to take my JP one step further.

My Writing Center fellow asked me to make a skeleton map of my paper, which consists of writing a few words that capture the overall topic of each paragraph. Through this, I was left with a step-by-step explanation of the argument of my paper. I was able to see which paragraphs I should switch around to improve the flow of my paper. Additionally, the fellow helped me clarify my connections to current legislation and policy implication at a federal level regarding shackling pregnant inmates.

So, even though my expectations of the Writing Center were not accurate, I was still able to take away important pieces of advice that helped me improve my essay. This just goes to show that it is okay if your expectations are not met 100%; it is still possible to gain something valuable from your revision experiences, especially from the Writing Center! The revision process is so much more than just getting a list of specific changes to make from a professor or a Writing Center fellow; it is important to be engaged in the editing process, carrying out exercises like the one my Writing Center fellow suggested to me. That way, you will gain so much more from your revisions!

Andrea Reino,  Social Sciences Correspondent