Strategies for Graduate Writers

Based on experiences in UWM’s Writing Center as well as in other university writing centers, we offer the following guidelines so you can plan accordingly and make the best use of your session.

How much time to allow?

  • For longer projects, a series of appointments works best.
  • Writers can estimate they will be able to discuss up to 5 pages per 25 minutes. Obviously, estimates will vary depending on the writer and the paper.
  • Writers may reserve up to 2 hours of reserved appoints per week and walk in after that, within reason, during the academic year September-May.
  • Writers should plan on no more than 1 session a day, reserved or walk in.
  • During the summer when we have limited staff and hours, writers may reserve 2 hours per week and walk in 1 additional hour per week.

Before Your Session

  • Identify a particular section on which you wish to focus.
  • Skim this section.
  • Prepare a few specific questions you wish to address with the tutor.

During Your Session

  • Be prepared to read aloud selected portions of your work.
  • Talk us through the paper and correct us if we misunderstand something.
  • Discuss your prepared questions with the tutor.
  • Expect tutors to ask lots of questions in return.

Further Strategies to Use During and After Your Session

  • Focus on heading—do they reveal a plan?
  • Review the organization. Does it follow an appropriate pattern, genre or format for your discipline, e.g., APA or MLA documentation; lab report; compare/contrast, problem/solution; theoretical, practical, chronological?
  • Compare the introduction and the conclusion—do they complement each other?
  • Look for topic sentences. NOTE: Even papers with subheadings benefit from topic sentences, or “sub-theses,” near the beginning of each section.
  • Look for transitions. Do they help you navigate the paper? Are they vague or are they missing altogether?
  • Remember tutors’ questions, using them to clarify your own prose and logic.

Final Editing Tips

  • Identify patterns of errors in your writing.
  • Review a handbook and work with a tutor to understand how to correct errors.
  • Recognize when it may be best to hire a professional editor or proofreader. If so, you may contact Writing Center Director Margaret Mika ( for referrals.