Writing lab

Faculty tutors and peer tutors are available to assist students who need assistance in basic writing, and faculty tutors can assist students with writing assignments from any course.

The Writing Lab is located in Polsky 303.  Appointments can be made by calling 330-972-7046.  Advance appointments are highly recommended with a limited number of drop-in appointments available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Get helpful feedback for all your writing needs:

  • Getting started
  • Focusing on the topic
  • Organizing and developing ideas
  • Writing introductions and conclusions
  • Improving grammar and punctuation
  • Research paper citations 

Students who use the Writing Lab are expected to:

  • Go to class, listen attentively, take notes, and ask questions of your instructor to clarify misunderstandings.
  • Attempt to do your class assignments BEFORE coming to your tutoring session.
  • Identify specific areas where help is needed with specific questions to ask a tutor BEFORE coming to your tutoring session.
  • Come prepared with all necessary materials: rough drafts, class notes, textbook, syllabus and handouts, paper, pencil/pen, etc.
  • Be ready to actively participate in the tutoring session. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Basic Writing?

Basic Writing is a noncredit first-year writing class at the University of Akron that prepares students for college, career, and personal writing through intensive practice of the writing process. Students write several personal narrative papers in multiple drafts, learn punctuation rules and sentence combining techniques through workbooks and application to original writing, and learn to use feedback from fellow students, Writing Lab tutors, and the instructor to develop and refine (revise) papers.

Why would anyone take Basic Writing?

When starting the class, the usual student response to this question is, “I’m taking this because I tested into it.” However, at the end of the semester, in their course evaluations, the vast majority of students say something entirely different. They say that having the chance to begin college with Basic Writing is a great opportunity to learn and practice new habits for writing, to learn or relearn grammar rules, to make new friends, and develop the strategies, skills, and self-image of a successful college writer.

How much homework is there in Basic Writing?

To be successful in any college class, a student must spend approximately two hours outside of class for every hour in class. Basic Writing meets for four hours a week, so that works out to eight hours of out-of-class work a week. That workload may vary with less work some weeks and more others. This work is ideally done in many sessions and on several fronts: reading assignments, writing by hand, typing drafts, revising on the computer, proofreading and editing drafts, writing sentences that fit the sentence structures learned, doing other assignments, and going to the Writing Lab for required appointments.

What’s the deal with the Writing Lab?

The Writing Lab is an indispensable part of the Basic Writing student’s team, staffed by peer tutors and faculty writing specialists who give friendly feedback that help students find and expand upon ideas, focus on a clear central thesis, choose and develop strong detail, and learn to edit. Just as comedians "try out" new material before an audience so that they can be sure it is clear, strong, and interesting, so too a writer is wise to enlist the advice of an audience while developing a piece of writing. This is the important role played by Writing Lab tutors but with one key difference: this is a supportive and helpful audience that is truly on the writer's side.

To make the most of the lab session, the student should expect to be an equal partner, bringing a draft, questions, and goal for the session such as, "I can't decide on which topic to write about," “Help me see if I can focus this better” or “I have trouble with run-on sentences. Let’s edit for those.” The Writing Lab is not a car repair shop where you drop off the jalopy and come back to find it “fixed” but a place of education with a friendly interest in helping students think about writing, practice writing, and grow as writers. As part of your University fees, labs and tutoring services are already paid for, so it is free writing advice available in two locations, Bierce Library Room 69 and Polsky Room 303.

Going to the Writing Lab is required for Basic Writing students, but it is required because it is so helpful. A Basic Writing instructor telling a student, “You must go to the Writing Lab” is like a sky diving teacher telling a student, “You must use a parachute.” Don’t take a flying, unprepared leap; let the tutor’s advice give you the confidence to take an exhilarating trip, see views you never saw before, and ease you down to a soft landing. (Students may also take papers for other classes to the Writing Lab but should sign up with the faculty writing specialists for these appointments.)

What kinds of papers do Basic Writing students write?

Students write first-person narrative essays, based on their own experiences, in several drafts, starting with freewriting and moving to a focused freewrite, followed by other drafts. Reader-ready drafts (and sometimes the second-to-last drafts) must be typed on computers and should be at least one-and-a-half pages long at the beginning of the semester and at least two pages long by the end. In addition, in the last few weeks of the semester, students rewrite two or three of those essays for a portfolio, which also includes an essay written in class and a self-assessment essay on writing and what was learned in this class.

In the workplace, when someone is asked to recommend someone or something -- a person for a job, one plan or product over others-- he or she must develop and construct a true but artful story that clearly presents the evidence, is grammatically and factually correct, and uses a variety of sentence structures to fluently present the case. This is what students learn to do in Basic Writing. The goals of clear writing, strong examples, vivid description, and good organization that are emphasized in Basic Writing are the goals of all writers.

Further, the punctuation, sentence combining, and other mechanical skills covered in class apply to any writing project, so they will help students throughout college and in their workplaces.

How are the essays graded?

A passing essay-- grades C, B, or A-- must have a clear point a reader can easily recognize, a focus where all details support that point, clear sentence boundaries (few or no run on sentences or fragments), and a reasonable command of the punctuation rules and sentence combining techniques learned in class.

A superior essay-- grades B and A-- must also show a clear sense of significance (the reader understands why was this important to the writer), a strong writer’s voice (the writing has a unique and engaging "sound"), and reflection (the writer successfully reflects on the experience, revealing how he or she views this experience with a little distance, time, and perspective.)

During the first part of the semester, grades are a measure of progress in the process of writing. Students are rewarded for demonstrating good writing habits: writing multiple drafts that show constructive changes and improvements (described in previous paragraph), editing for rules learned, turning required work in on time, and going to the Writing Lab. At the end of the semester, students submit a portfolio of early-semester essays that they have revised, along with other materials, in order to demonstrate everything they have learned over the course of the semester.

What is the Portfolio?

At the end of the semester, students have the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned about writing in the portfolio, due toward or at the end of the semester. The portfolio includes revisions of essays written earlier in the semester; an in-class paper written entirely in class at the end of the semester, and a self-assessment of how the student progressed as a writer in his or her Basic Writing class. In portfolio work, students must apply everything they have learned in the class. Individual instructors will give more details about the portfolio at the appropriate time. Since the portfolio is worth a significant portion of the final grade, it is vitally important that students wisely make the most of this opportunity to showcase their capabilities as effective writers and successful students of Basic Writing.

Why is writing important?

You might also ask, why is talking important?

Both are forms of self-expression, ways to let others know what is going on inside of us, what we think, feel, and want. Like talking, writing is communicating. However, unlike talking, with writing, you don’t have to be there to communicate. A letter, e-mail, memo, or report travels in time, to another part of the building or across the country or even world, left behind when you are on vacation or sent ahead before your presentation, so it had better precisely say what was intended if it is to have any power or even effectiveness. Someone who can write well has more opportunities for professional and personal success and satisfaction, so it is a skill well worth acquiring. Also, it is fun. Discovering ideas, trying them out in front of others, and working and playing to make them lively, strong, clear, and interesting is can be surprisingly satisfying and enjoyable.

Can a Basic Writing student become a published writer?

Yes! Publishing, in its broadest sense, means sharing writing with a wider, open-ended audience. There are a couple of ways Basic Writing students can share through publishing:

About 11-12 weeks into the semester (early November in Fall and early April in Spring), a reading of excellent BW student papers, The Writer’s Voice, is held in the Writing Lab. Instructors recommend students who have written excellent papers to participate; students sign up; and the first ten to sign up read. Participants earn the recognition and applause of a live audience and a published collection of all the essays that were presented.

Other students who write exceptional papers (some of which originally were read in the Writer’s Voice) may submit papers to be considered for the Basic Writing textbook, Primis. A committee of Basic Writing instructors chooses about 10 papers for this honor every year.