The Ratchford Writing Center

The goal of the Ratchford Writing Center is to help all students become more effective communicators. In one-on-one or small group sessions, our coaches share strategies for improving written, oral, and visual communication. We provide a collaborative and encouraging environment where students learn strategies for communicating well in their personal, academic, civil, and professional life. 

The Writing Center is open to all students, regardless of writing ability.

Ask us for help with...

  • Understanding Assignments 
  • Developing Ideas 
  • Making a Writing Plan 
  • Finding Sources 
  • Drafting and Sketching  
  • Organizing 
  • Citation Formats 
  • Discussion Boards
  • Reports 
  • Crafting Proposals 
  • Creating Strong Thesis Statements 
  • Research 
  • Survey Creation 
  • Revision 
  • Editing 
  • Presentation Creation

Frequently Asked Questions


    What is the purpose of the Ratchford Writing Center?

    The Writing Center is a place to write, think, experiment, revise, research, talk about writing, share writing, and practice writing.

    We provide a collaborative and encouraging environment where students learn strategies for communicating well in their personal, academic, civil, and professional life.  

    In one-on-one or small group sessions, writing coaches support Bobcats of diverse abilities and identities become aware of effective writing processes and strategies while cultivating confidence and skills at every stage of the writing process.


    I'm an OK writer, should I still come in?

    Absolutely! A popular misconception is that the Writing Center is only for students who struggle, but we are actually helpful for everyone. We can help struggling writers become more confident and gain skills, we can help confident and experienced writers become stronger, and we can help students who are in between.

    What should I bring with me when I come to the Writing Center?

    • Written assignment description/requirements from your professor
    • Any class handouts that relate to the assignment 
    • All invention work or drafts
    • All your ideas
    • An open mind

    Do I need to have a full draft before I make an appointment? What if I just have some general ideas of what I want to write about?

    You don’t need to have a completed draft before you make an appointment or stop in. You don’t even need to have started writing. Make and keep appointments regardless of how far along you are in the assignment.  Some of our favorite appointments are ones where you come in and say, “I don’t know________.”


    Do coaches at the Writing Center discuss grades?

    No. Writing Center coaches will not discuss scores or grades, make evaluative comments about assignments, or guess or offer ideas of what grade a paper will receive.    


    How will my professor know when I visit the Writing Center?

    When a student visits the Writing Center, his or her coach asks permission to write a brief summary of the conference and sends it to the professor. These summaries do not evaluate the student; they let the professor know the issues you and the coach discussed. Most professors are pleased to see that their students have taken the initiative to improve their writing skills.


    I’m working on a group project. Can the whole group come in for an appointment?

    Yes. Students may make a group appointment if they are working on a group assignment.


    What takes place during a coaching session?

    Put simply: conversation between peers about writing.

    More specifically, coaches:

    • Listen actively, ask questions, and make suggestions to help students develop ideas, make effective arguments, and achieve clarity.
    • Ask questions and make suggestions.
    • Work with students to identify patterns of error in usage, form, and style, explaining rules and offering strategies for editing and proofreading.
    • Help students with anything from understanding assignment prompts to finding library resources to using correct citations.

    Coaches never write any part of a student's papers or edit their papers for them.


    How do the coaches set priorities in a session?

    It depends. Coaches typically go "global-to-local," or big to small: first, they address whether or not the student is fulfilling the assignment, then look at large issues such as thesis construction, organization, focus, argument, and citation, and finally address issues such as grammar, punctuation, and proofreading. Coaches focus on the largest issues first because poorly argued paper is still a poorly argued paper even if it is well-punctuated and grammatically correct.

    Please note that our global or higher-order-concerns my may not align with what a student expects to work on when they arrive at the Writing Center.


    How does the Writing Center handle plagiarism?

    Our coaches generally assume that the writing brought to them is the writer’s own. We help writers use and credit sources appropriately. This includes teaching the student how to paraphrase and summarize source information properly, how to incorporate sources into one’s own writing, and how to identify when it is necessary to cite source information. If there are concerns with how and when research is cited, coaches do point out these concerns and explain the necessity for correct and thorough citations.


    I’ve visited the Writing Center and still didn’t get an A on my paper. How do you explain that?

    A lot of factors can limit the amount of progress in a given session or with a given essay.  A prevalent one is the assumption that students come here to “fix” their paper and that one visit will be a miracle; that’s not really how the Writing Center works.

    Oftentimes students who visit us do not have “writing” problems, per se—they typically understand the formal requirements of a typical academic paper—but “thinking” problems.  While we do our best to generate thinking, we can’t make them form concepts they just don’t see. In such cases, we suggest they talk to the professor.

    Another frequent obstacle we encounter is the student who arrives the night before (or an hour before) the due date with a paper that has more problems than we can address in one hour. We have to set an agenda and make quick decisions about the most pressing problem by assessing concerns of good writing. Again, as much as we might be tempted to make everyone happy by taking over the paper and “fixing it,” we can’t and don’t do that.  It can take an entire session to help a student generate supporting arguments or restructure a paper, leaving little or no time for other problems.  Think of the Writing Center as a place where students can get an objective response to their work, not a fix-it shop that will fix all of their problems while they wait in the customer lobby. 

    Our main goal is to keep students moving through the composing process, asking the kinds of questions and providing strategies to help them take the next step in revising.

Contact Us

Bri DiBacco
Instructor for Foundations Reading/Writing and Director of the Ratchford Writing Center