Below, we answer some questions frequently asked by faculty.
How are you related to the Writing Center? How are your services different from the Center’s?
Although we are housed in different departments, our approaches to writing support are relatively similar. While the Writing Center offers face-to-face appointments, in the OWL, the dialogue occurs through a detailed submission form, comments made in the margins and at the end of the paper, and follow-up email conversations. Many students use both the OWL and the Writing Center, and we refer students to the Writing Center when we expect they might benefit from a face-to-face conversation about a writing issue.
One other difference is that while the Writing Center employs English department faculty, the OWL consists of staff writing instructors. Finally, the Writing Center serves all St. Edward's students, but the OWL is for graduate and New College students only.
What kinds of issues can you help my students with?
We can help with any writing issue, from content to commas. Via the OWL submission form, students have the opportunity to identify specific areas in which they would like help. However, we won't ignore higher-order issues at the expense of lower-order concerns. So if a student wants help with APA formatting but his or her paper isn't responding to the assignment, we will triage our feedback accordingly.
Does a student's paper need to be complete before the OWL can review it?
Why can't you review a revision of the paper my student submitted to you in an earlier draft?
I asked my student to submit to the OWL for grammar help, but there were still grammatical mistakes in his or her paper. Why?
Our larger purpose is to help the student develop as a writer, rather than simply "fix" the paper. When a student needs help with grammar or other localized issues, we typically look for patterns of error and then provide explanations, examples, and links to other resources to help the student understand the errors and how to find and correct them. Although we may model a few specific stylistic changes or grammatical corrections, we leave it up to the student to apply the feedback to the entire paper. We do not copyedit for the student, and we never type in the text of a student's paper. (See an example of what our comments look like here.) Most of our comments require the student to make some sort of decision, thereby maintaining the student's autonomy as author.
My student turned in a plagiarized paper. The student said he or she submitted the paper to the OWL. Why didn't you catch the plagiarism?
If we identify or suspect plagiarism in student work, we note this in our feedback, strongly suggest the student revise to avoid plagiarism, provide a link to the university's Academic Integrity Policy and any relevant handouts and resources, and invite the student to contact us or the Writing Center for more help. If the plagiarism is pervasive and not simply a case of the student not understanding proper citation and documentation, we may notify you of the incident. However, we do not use plagiarism filter software and cannot guarantee identification of plagiarism. The student, solely, is responsible for the paper.
Can you tell me about the feedback you gave my student?
Since the OWL serves adult students, we generally leave it up to students to share their OWL feedback with you. If a student has showed you the feedback, told you about the feedback (for example, "The OWL told me ot do it this way"), or just offers to share the feedback, we are happy to discuss it. Please do contact us with any questions or concerns about our feedback!
From time to time, you may receive an automated email stating that a student of yours submitted a paper to the OWL. This generic email is requested by the student on the submission form. (If a student doesn't request this option, no email will be sent.) If you'd like to know what was in the feedback, just ask the student.
Finally, we reserve the right to notify instructors directly of plagiarized work.
Can I provide you with information about my course and assignments?
Yes, please do! We keep syllabi and assignment sheets on file so we can reference them if a student supplies vague or incomplete information on the submission form. We cannot review an entire syllabus before each submission, nor can we keep them all straight in our heads, but we will refer to any information we have on file if we believe something in the student's description of the assignment is amiss. In most cases, we rely on the student to provide accurate assignment information on the submission form.
How can I encourage my students to use the OWL?
Include a blurb about the OWL in your syllabus or on Blackboard. Here are some to choose from.
The OWL Coordinator and OWL Mentor are available to help introduce and promote the OWL during class visits, workshops, and events, and we can provide you with printed materials to hand out to your students. Just email us with your request.
In addition, some faculty members encourage (sometimes with incentives, such as extra time for revision) or require students to use the OWL or Writing Center. It's usually best to begin the encouragement or requirement early in the semester, so the student has more time to take advantage of the feedback. It's also generally best to allow the student to use either the OWL or the Writing Center, so the student can choose the option that works for his or her schedule and preferences.
If you have additional questions, concerns, or feedback for us, please feel free to contact the OWL Coordinator.