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Explanation of the Writing Centre's mandate

Writing Centre mandate:

Writing is a lifelong learning skill that is essential to scholarly and professional communication. The Writing Centre helps RRU students become skillful writers by providing assistance face-to-face, by phone, and online for all types of academic writing (e.g., course assignment, major project, thesis/dissertation, scholarly communication). Students can receive timely assistance at all stages of writing through one-on-one support and online resources. We do not proofread or edit students’ work; instead, we help students build skills and confidence by empowering their development as writers.

Here's why we don't proofread or edit:

The Writing Centre’s mandate was set in 2007 through consultation with the program directors, and it was officially approved by the Office of the Vice-President (Academic). During the consultations, representatives from the program areas agreed that they wanted the Writing Centre to offer writing coaching to encourage students to achieve excellence in their academic writing, versus providing a proofreading or editing service. The mandate was updated in 2016.

The rationale behind the mandate is two-fold:

1.  This approach ensures that a student's paper is representative of his/her own writing and critical thinking skills and knowledge of a topic.

At Royal Roads, instructors assume that an assignment is the demonstration of a student’s knowledge, understanding, and ability to express himself or herself clearly. Unless the paper is a team paper, only the student should be involved in the actual writing of the paper. Part of the responsibility of any academic author is to review work to determine if the components of the paper (e.g., flow, logic, paragraphing, formatting) meet the expected standards. If writing centre staff proofread a paper before it is submitted and provide feedback on the mistakes in the paper, the paper is no longer exclusively the work of the student’s. Instead, the paper has become a shared effort between Writing Centre staff and the student. Submitting the paper without acknowledging the involvement of Writing Centre staff would be an authorship offense under Royal Roads University’s Policy and Procedures on Academic Integrity and Misconduct in Research and Scholarship. To ensure that students don’t face difficult questions of what work belongs to the student and which ideas/efforts may have been contributed by writing centre staff, the mandate states that the Writing Centre staff will not proofread or edit an unmarked assignment.

2.  The approach also encourages students to take a long-range view of improving their writing skills.

Having a paper proofread for errors before it is submitted minimizes the opportunities for a student to learn through the writing experience. If a student knows that errors will be detected by an editor, there is less incentive for the student to learn the correct rules, and in doing so, become a better writer and overall communicator. Since one outcome of all RRU’s programs is to graduate students who are proficient writers, the Writing Centre’s role is to promote the deep learning that will help students gain as many writing skills as possible.

Students can ask the Writing Centre staff any questions about academic writing while they're working on a document, but as the author, it’s the student's responsibility to decide whether or not something is correct because the paper needs to demonstrate the student's skills and abilities. The student may also be able to ask the professor for feedback on an unmarked document if he or she is willing; professors can provide that feedback because when it comes time to mark assignments, they will know how much influence they had on the papers. To illustrate this further, here are a few examples of the kind of assistance students can expect from the Writing Centre versus what the instructor is better positioned to provide:

  • Contact the Writing Centre to learn how to write a strong thesis statement. To learn if a draft thesis statement is appropriate for a specific paper, students should contact the professor for his/her feedback.
  • Contact the Writing Centre to learn how to construct a strong argument. To find out if the arguments in an unmarked paper are appropriate for the assignment, students should ask the instructor if he/she would be willing to provide that feedback.
  • To learn how to cite a resource, a student should contact the Writing Centre so that the staff can direct the student to information and examples, as well as answer any questions. Checking references, like checking other elements in a paper, is the author's responsibility, so the Writing Centre staff will not check references. However, once a student has an example to follow, the student can then check his or her formatting against the example to identify any errors.

In summary, the Writing Centre provides instruction to help students learn the necessary information to become better writers in their scholarly and professional communication. To learn more about the support offered by the Writing Centre and/or to book an appointment, please visit Writing Centre Services. If you have any questions about the mandate of the Writing Centre, please contact the Writing Centre.

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