OPINION: End writer's block with the University of Arizona Think Tank Writing Center

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Amy Bailey | The Daily Wildcat

UA student checking into the Think Tank at Bear Down Gymnasium on Friday, October 5, 2018 in Tucson, Ariz. The Think Tank is open to all students that need tutoring or advising. Students may also receive one-on-one tutoring for writing help. 

I’ve always found writing to be one of the most important skills a person can have in their life. Not everyone will become a best-selling novelist or a master prose writer, but I firmly believe that everyone has the ability to write just as well. It’s also important to note that writing is one of those skills that you’ll use in some capacity every day. This is especially true for college students.

No matter how much some students may dread it, college students can never escape the need to be able to compose a comprehensible piece of writing. The importance of being able to write is crucial and students, especially incoming freshmen right out of high school, will come to find that college writing does not compare to high school writing.

The main difference between high school writing and college writing is the fact that college writing expects students to write in a manner that demonstrates both their knowledge on the subject (of what they’re writing about) and their critical thinking skills according to an article written by the University of Maryland Global Campus. The formulaic style of writing we were taught in high school (introduction paragraph, thesis statement, three body paragraphs and conclusion paragraph) won’t be enough anymore to glide through classes.

Some students may be able to adapt to the change, and some students may even excel at this new level of writing, but for the rest, writing may become the bane of their existence. Professors may offer office hours to help the students who may be struggling but sometimes the time just doesn’t align with a student’s schedule or the professor’s help is not enough. Who else can a student turn to for help?

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For University of Arizona students, there is a resource readily accessible to us that can solve our writing woes. That resource is the Writing Center.

The Think Tank Writing Center is one of the many tutoring programs offered through the Think Tank program at the University of Arizona. Think Tank offers tutoring services for students that cover a range of topics such as math, writing, business, science and foreign languages, as well as offers exam prep according to the Think Tank’s List of All Services page. According to their 2020-2021 Annual Report, 5,736 students have used their services with 2,004 of those students utilizing the Writing Center.

The writing tutoring services offered at the Writing Center are divided up into five different formats that fit a student’s needs. According to the Writing Center website, they are divided up as follows: in-person appointment, Zoom appointment, Feedback Loop, Graduate Writing Lab and fee-based appointments. All appointments excluding the fee-based appointments are free for UA students to use. If students seek to make an appointment, it can be done through the Writing Center website, where they’ll be prompted to sign in to their scheduling system called “Retain” with their NetID and password in order to book an appointment.

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An in-person appointment, as the name suggests, is an in-person tutoring session located at the Bear Down Gymnasium. Appointment sessions last 45 minutes and students are paired up with a certified peer tutor.

A Zoom appointment is an online appointment done through the web conferencing software Zoom. These sessions last 30 minutes and students are also paired up with a certified peer tutor. These sessions have screen-sharing capabilities allowing for students to share their screen of the work they wish to receive help on.

The Feedback Loop is a unique service offered at the Writing Center where students can upload a document they wish to receive feedback on to their Retain system where a certified peer tutor will spend 45 minutes providing suggestions and feedback before returning it. The return time for feedback varies so it’s vital for students to be aware of the time restraints they give themselves with the requested document.   

The Graduate Writing Lab is another tutoring service offered solely to graduate students to help with their graduate work. Services are done through the following formats: in-person, Zoom or a Feedback Loop with an in-person appointment being located at the Graduate Center.

A fee-based appointment is an appointment where students can pay $50 an hour to receive tutoring from a staff member.

The certification process a peer tutor undergoes is thorough. According to UA English senior Erika Brittain, who works as a peer tutor at the Writing Center, tutors attend weekly training sessions that go over topics relevant to tutoring writing. Peer tutors do not have to take a certification test to be certified, but instead, certification is reliant on their training attendance which is overseen by the Writing Center admin team. According to Brittain, “a semester’s worth of training is equal to one level of certification.” In other words, the certifying of tutors is done on the job.

The peer tutors at the Writing Center are trained in particular to help students with all forms of writing. According to the Writing Center’s FAQ page, tutors can help with essays, creative works and even professional documents such as job applications and resumes. Students can even walk into a session with no document prepared. If you just need help with brainstorming or have a really rough draft, students can expect to leave a session having accomplished whatever tasks they sought. Tutors are trained beyond just recognizing grammatical errors, they also look to enhance a student’s style of writing. They offer a fresh pair of eyes to a piece of work and identify ways to strengthen a student’s own writing overall apart from just completing a single assignment.

I have personally used the Writing Center many times for my own writings and have found the experience extremely positive. I usually make Zoom appointments since it works better with my schedule, and the time slots they offer are very flexible. I would recommend making appointments ahead of time since, in my experience, trying to make an appointment the same day is hard as slots tend to fill up quickly.

I found the peer tutors to be very patient and very constructive in their feedback. Sometimes I would go into a session feeling super nervous and self-conscious about what I wrote, but the tutors had a way of making me feel comfortable and even confident in my work. The sessions are geared towards helping students recognize any areas they need improvement in, with the tutors there to give you suggestions on how to reach that level of improvement. I personally feel more comfortable seeking help from a fellow student since there is this mutual understanding of the struggles a student goes through, especially in regard to academics.

The Writing Center also sponsors a variety of workshops that can give in-depth lessons on different aspects of writing such as resume and personal statement writing, revisions, the writing process itself and more as stated on their Workshops and Studios page.

So, if you are suffering from writer’s block or are tired of having your roommate struggle through reading your rough drafts, make an appointment at the Writing Center. You’ll receive the best help that the UA can offer. 


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Tereza Rascon (she/her) is a senior majoring in English. She enjoys reading, writing and watching the latest movies and shows.


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