The Origins of In-Person, Zoom, and Online Appointments: A Story by Jake


Hello, all you Writing Center Blog Fans! We are back with another fan-freaking-tastic adventure into the inner workings of the Writing Center. From the outside, it may seem like a simple place full of exuberance and jubilee, but trust me, on the inside we put ourselves through the wringer to give you the writing support you need. For us to do our job, so that you can work towards your future job, we need to know what location is most comfortable for you to receive our help. Because of this, we put our greatest minds together and developed a three-pronged approach to conquer the art of tutoring.

Trust me, it’s as mysterious as it sounds—I still have only gathered fragments of its origin from its founders, as they travel to lands unknown when the subject is broached. Where they went was beyond me, but I hope one day I can frolic with them in the fields they permanently toil or the sea they permanently tread. And if the stars align just so, we may one day stumble through rolling green hills together and slip into an ocean as blue as the fresh morning dew. But until then, I will recount what I know of the origins of tutoring appointments here:

The Story

In-Person Appointments were the first to be discovered:

One day in a Writing Center not so far away (in fact, it’s located in the library next to the Starbucks), Tutor 001 was sitting alone clacking away, tapping their foot, and bobbing their head when they heard frantic footsteps from beyond the doorway. What could this mean, they thought, is the prophecy true? (Side note: this prophecy nonsense feels farfetched, but just go with it. Let’s just say Tutor 001 doesn’t have all their I’s dotted and T’s crossed, if you know what I mean). From the doorway, 001 heard a voice whisper, “Excuse me, I need help with a paper.” At this, 001 froze, the clacking ceased, the tapping quit, the bobbing stuck. Slowly, 001 closed their computer and turned to the doorway. Before them stood the very first In-person Appointment tutee. 001 assuredly ushered them in with a wave of their pencil-equipped hand and said, “Then you’re in the write place… you see what I did there?” The tutee, occupied with measured steps, missed the cheap pun and sank into the plastic chair next to 001. “I’m sorry I just walked in, I didn’t know where to schedule an appointment,” they whispered, with eye contact this time. At this, the look that would come to adorn 001 permanently cast over them (again, what comes next sounds like some bruhaha to me, but hey what do I know, I wasn’t there), and what they saw was a world full of picnic blankets and charcuterie boards, where people gathered in circles with homemade punch and scribbled away on personalized notebooks and spoke up for advice when struck by an impenetrable writer’s block. At this moment, 001 knew that what they said and did next would fill the first inkwell on the path to that promised land. They said, “No need to worry, I’d be happy to help you, and next time, you can schedule an appointment on a helpful tool called Starfish by selecting the In-Person session option.”

Zoom Appointments came next:

For many years, In-Person appointments were all the rage. Tutors 002-050 joined tutor 001 on the front lines and the tutee population grew exponentially. They spread their love of writing and editing everywhere they went, taking notes asking for help, and offering advice. The Tutors loved seeing their blossoming young tutees crane their necks over the shoulder of a new tutee bulb. Soon the passion for sharing carried them far and wide and, sadly, traveling back to the Writing Center (next to Starbucks) for an In-Person Appointment became a burden. With time, the essential lessons they learned from the Tutors were lost, and the tutees began offering unconstructive criticism and idolizing false cognates. The Tutors knew they had to act, but they didn’t know how. They gathered for weeks and weeks and made no headway; they were too stuck in their ways to see the answer right in front of their noses. They had met their match and needed something or someone to overcome it for them. And, lo and behold, that person was Tutee 001.

(To be honest, by now I doubt you’re reading this so I’ll just say that you can schedule Zoom appointments by clicking the Zoom check box on Starfish, which is a thirty-minute Zoom conversation with a tutor. There is also an Online appointment option, which is when you send your paper to with your M#, the class that it is for, and what specifically you need help with, and we’ll leave comments and send it back to you. Please check out to find out how to operate Starfish. Now, for those who’d like to keep reading, here you go).

From the first In-Person appointment, Tutee 001 knew they wanted to wander the land, spreading the wisdom bestowed upon them by Tutor 001. They never strayed from what they had heard: be calm, ask questions, lead and don’t direct, learn from the Tutee as they learn from the Tutor. In their travels, they learned what it meant to be both Tutor and Tutee; they swung their legs off the bridge lodged between the Tutors stuck in their ways and the Tutees lost in the haze. When they heard the battle cries sound from one end of the bridge at the other, they knew it was time to return to the Writing Center from which they came. It was time to toe the bridge.

To the Center they went and, upon arrival, were bombarded with disarray. Loose leaf papers were flapping in the currents sent by the air vents and red ink rivers running across the carpet, pouring out the fateful pens. There was no clacking to be heard, no sound bouncing from one bare wall to the next. Deep inside the walled fortress of the Center, Tutee 001 discovered Tutors 001-050 huddled together, quivering in their failure. They were a defeated bunch with haggard faces and still fingers and muffled moans. Tutee 001 stood in the doorway until the Tutors acknowledged the presence of one of their pupils, as they had done since the beginning. Tutee 001 declared, “You are a defeated bunch. You are weary and drained. You fear that you have failed. But defeat gives you a choice. Stay down, sprawled and subdued with inanition. Or rise up, proud and coalesced by determination. You must expand your teachings to the beat of your following. You must channel the power possessed in Zoom into your practices. You must enter the face-to-face communication digital landscape.”

At this rousing speech, Tutors 001-050 stood one by one. They raised their chins to the tarped-over skylight and watched as a corner broke its bonds and flapped in the fresh air, revealing the beaming sun.

Online Appointments came last:

One day, once the Tutors’ ranks grew beyond triple digits, the unassuming and quiet Tutor 0008 suggested an Online Appointment option be added to Starfish (cue nature sounds, opera, violin). Tutors 0001-9999 came together for the one and only meeting of the entire Tutor population. It drew crowds, stressed infrastructure, and caved bandwidth. Tutors 001-051 (minus Tutor 050, who was unfortunately lost to a printer accident), met in person. And of course, Tutee 001, spokesman for Tutees and Tutors Alike in Dignity Together in Common, sat to the right of Tutor 001 at the banquet table of the Original 50. Across from the head drilled into the wall was a gigantic screen that contained Tutors 0052-9999 in puny boxes, that rearranged themselves at will bouncing to and from as the clacking once did so long ago.

A hush fell over the room as Tutor 001 clamped their hands on the silver-plated armrests of their jeweled throne. Slowly they rose, as the chaos once made them do before, and declared, “We come together, both near and far, for the final proposition. Our methods are nearing perfection. We have become an assembly line, all both parts and tools. Today we add one last piece to our puzzle: Online Appointments. They can be selected on Starfish by the desired tutees. We will take their papers with tender hands and read as if they were to our left or right. We will pin our comments in the margins and send the paper back with a smile. We will do this, for this is our duty to the world.”

And that’s it. This was inspired by true events that happened during an unspecified time at an unspecified location. Take with you what you will, and come back next week for more Writing Center Blog fun :). Happy writing!

The Difference Between Editing and Revising



          Hello, Marauders! Welcome back to another info session. Picture this: You’ve just finished writing a paper. What do you do then? Do you simply turn it in and be done with it? Maybe. Or do you go back and edit it? Reread it? Look it over to check for any mistakes or things you missed or need to add? Picture this: You submit your paper, but then you get feedback that tells you to edit and revise your paper. Are those things the same or different? What is editing and what is revising? Today we’ll be talking about the difference between editing and revising. These are two major steps in the writing process that are very important to distinguish! 


          So, what is revising? Basically, it’s when you look at your paper after you’ve finished a draft and you think, “What can I do to improve this? Does anything need to be changed? Does anything need to be eliminated?” MIT Global Studies and Languages states that when you revise, you are “re-seeing your paper in a new way.” 

          Think of it as big-picture stuff. Imagine the contents of your paper: your introduction, your thesis, your body paragraphs, your conclusion, etc. When you revise, you look at these sections more critically and analytically. You have all the information written down, so now you just need to refine it and flesh it out even more. You can ask yourself things like: 

        • Is my paper structured and organized in a way that makes it easy for the reader to follow and understand? 
        • Does my introduction give an adequate background or summary of the overall purpose/goal of my paper?
        • Is my thesis statement clear and concise? Or is it too broad or too vague? 
        • Do my body paragraphs and evidence support my thesis? 
        • Do I need to expand on certain ideas? 
        • Is this information important/relevant to my topic or do I need to cut it because it doesn’t fit within the scope of my paper? 
        • Does my conclusion summarize the main points of my paper and end with a strong concluding statement? 

          In short, revising focuses on improving the ideas and organization of your paper. When I’m revising, I always like to look back over the rubric to see if I’ve met all the major requirements. Have I answered all the prompts? Does my paper include all the necessary components (introduction, body, conclusion, etc.)? It’s also helpful to have someone read over it to help you find places where the paper works and where it doesn’t, like if it flows well, if it’s well-organized, and if it’s easy to follow and understand. 


          Now, what about editing? Whereas revising is big-picture stuff, editing is small-picture stuff. Editing is when you go through your paper and look for sentence-level issues, such as

        • Punctuation, grammatical, and spelling errors  
        • Sentence clarity 
        • Proper citations 

          Editing is getting nitty-gritty with your paper on a much smaller scale. At this stage of the writing process, you might be exhausted and ready to be done. I always like to advise people to read their paper out loud; it helps to catch places where it doesn’t flow as well, or if there’s a place you need another comma, or if you accidentally missed a word. Again, it doesn’t hurt to have someone else look over your paper–a fresh pair of eyes can catch things you missed even if you did read your paper out loud, and they might even have other suggestions on how to improve your writing.


           So, just to recap: Revising is looking at your paper as a whole and searching for ways to improve your ideas and organization. Editing is looking at your paper at the sentence level, searching for errors, and asking yourself if your sentences make sense. Please visit the Writing Center any time from 1 pm – 9 pm on Mondays through Thursdays, and on Fridays from 1 pm – 4 pm for editing and revising help! I hope this helps clarify the difference between these two important writing steps! Happy writing! 


The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Sources

Picture this: Your professor has just assigned a research project. They’re going through the guidelines: must be a certain number of pages, has to be double-spaced and in 12-point Times New Roman font, has to have a bibliography, etc. But then they say something you haven’t heard before: the project must have at least three-to-five primary sources.

So, what exactly is a primary source? Well, let’s back up a little. While doing research, it’s important to use sources to support the claims that you’re making and explain the evidence behind what you’re saying. A strong research project will always have sources. It lends the project credibility and gives you a better understanding of your subject (not to mention, it helps you avoid plagiarism charges).

With all that in mind, let’s get back to primary sources. In the broadest term possible, a primary source is something directly written about the subject of your research. They were created at the same time as the subject and were written about people who were there to see the subject take place. Think of them as “the raw materials of history” (Wesson). Primary sources can come in any kind of format, such as government reports, journals and autobiographies. Even other research papers (specifically those published in scholarly journals) can be primary sources!

But sometimes, you may find a source that was written about a primary source—things like textbooks, newspaper articles, and biographies. Those are called secondary sources. Although secondary sources don’t have the same type of “lived experience” as a primary source, they’re still quite valuable for contextualizing primary sources against new evidence, as well as helping you contextualize your own opinions on the subject (Streefkerk). Sometimes there can be an overlap between primary and secondary sources. For example: while news articles are considered secondary sources, the quotes in them can be primary sources if they were taken from people who witnessed or were involved with the subject. It mostly depends on your research question (“Primary Sources: A Research Guide”). Either way, no great research project is complete without either of them.

So now that we know what a primary source is, that leaves us with one question: Why are they so important? Well, primary sources allow a more in-depth look at a subject because it was written by someone who had tangible experience with it. Not to mention, there are less chances of bias or other people’s interpretation of the subject affecting them. You may not be able to find the full, unvarnished truth about a subject, but primary sources are often the closest thing to it.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Works Cited

“Primary Sources: A Research Guide.” Healey Library, Accessed 7 April 2023.

Streefkerk, Raimo. “Primary vs. Secondary Sources | Difference & Examples.” Scribbr, 20 June 2018, Accessed 7 April 2023.

Wesson, Stephen. “What Makes a Primary Source a Primary Source?” Library of Congress Blogs, 4 October 2011, Accessed 7 April 2023.

The Difference Between an Abstract and an Introduction

Introductions and abstracts are two things that seem very similar, but are actually quite different. However, once you know the difference, they are easy to keep separate from each other.


An abstract is, at its most basic level, a summary. It outlines all of the important parts of your paper to the reader, so they can figure out if your paper is worth reading. This is why abstracts are important in the scientific field. They are a fast way for someone to analyze what is going to be said, and if that information is going to be beneficial for them.


An introduction provides the reader with detailed background information about a topic. This helps the reader make sense of what is going to be said later in the paper. If they do not understand the most basic parts of your topic, then they are not going to understand what you are trying to convey.


Now that you know the difference between the two, here is some advice for writing them:


The abstract is easiest to write last. By that point, you will have already written everything else, and you should know the important takeaways of your work. In the abstract, you should introduce your topic, discuss why you choose this topic, state your hypothesis, and reveal the results of your study. Remember, the abstract is like a summary. You should not go into a lot of detail here. Provide the reader with enough information that they can digest what you are saying. You will explain everything else in detail later in your paper. 


The introduction is one of the most important parts of your paper. However, introductions vary based on the genre of paper. For this blog post, introductions for scientific papers are going to be discussed because abstracts are a staple of scientific reports. An introduction for a scientific paper should explain the reasoning behind why you choose this experiment, provide background information about the topic, reference other studies done on similar topics, and state your hypothesis. You want to make sure your reader can understand what is going to be said later in the paper. 


Here are a few websites that have some more information about the two: