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Dyson College of Arts and Sciences


(Adapted by Eugene Richie from University of Richmond WAC Online Writing Fellows Program Handbook)

Sample List of Possible Responsibilities for Writing and Technology Assistants

To the professor/class:
  • meet with the professor (and other Writing and Technology Assistants) as early as possible in the semester to discuss the syllabus, assignments, and expectations;
  • attend at least a portion of one class meeting to introduce yourself and the Writing and Technology Assistants Program to students;
  • collect, read, and provide written commentary on 2-3 sets of papers for approximately 15-30 students;
  • schedule and hold individual writing conferences within one week of reading each set of papers to discuss your written commentary;
  • promptly inform the professor and the Writing and Technology Assistants Program Director of any difficulties you encounter in fulfilling these responsibilities.

    To the Writing and Technology Assistants:

  • check your e-mail account at least once per week;
  • promptly respond to all requests for meetings and information;
  • keep the Writing and Technology Assistants Program Director informed of any change in your address (campus or home), phone number, or e-mail address;
  • inform the Writing and Technology Assistants Program Director of any plans you have to leave the program and of any plans to return;
  • promptly inform the Writing and Technology Assistants Program Director of difficulties you predict or encounter in fulfilling these responsibilities.

    Note: The workload may vary from semester to semester. Call the Writing and Technology Assistants Program Director if you have any questions about the amount of work you're asked to do.

    Hints for Effective Conferences

  • Discuss grades with a writer
  • Critique a writer, her instructor, a syllabus, or an assignment
  • Forget an appointment with a writer. Standing someone up even once will mean dismissal from the program
  • Write for the writer. Ask questions instead or, in the case of a grammatical correction, assist with a representative example.
  • Give your reading of a text or idea. This is the writer's job.


  • Focusing on grammar or mechanics when larger problems are present
  • Doing most of the talking. Let the writer's agenda be the focus of the conference, except when the writer's goals are at odds with the assignment, your other responsibilities, or the honor code.


  • Be courteous and patient before and during the conference
  • Provide grammar, editing, and revision information for writers, as needed
  • Invite the writer to make another appointment with you or another tutor
  • Bring concerns about a conference to the Writing and Technology Assistants Program Director.

    Do's and Don'ts for Writing Commentary

    (adapted from guide by Adria Bader, University of Richmond Writing Fellow, '96)

    This checklist works well in any course that involves written peer critique of papers. You will develop your own way of commenting as you gain experience, so don't be afraid of creating your own system as long as it works well with your peers.

    Commentary DO's:

  • Read a draft all the way through BEFORE you begin to comment on it
  • Spend at least 20 to 40 minutes commenting on a single draft
  • Use a number/comment system instead of LONG marginal comments
  • Raise questions from a reader's point of view; points that may not have occurred to the writer
  • Focus on the overall problems of content before looking at surface level errors (i.e. grammar, spelling)
  • Phrase comments clearly and carefully (Any student should be able to read the commentary and understand what needs to be changed.)
  • Make comments text-specific, referring specifically to that writer's draft (NO "rubber stamps" such as "awkward" or "unclear" or "vague"
  • Direct comments to breaks in logic, disruptions in meaning, and/or missing information
  • Structure comments to help writers clarify their purposes and writing strategies in that specific draft
  • Offer SUGGESTIONS, not commands, when possible. For example, suggest changes in positions of paragraphs to aid organization.
  • Comment through the use of questions ("This sentence confuses me a little, can you reword it to make it more clear? OR "Could you make a stronger transition between these two points?")
  • Look for unexplained "Code Words" in the draft and ask the writer about them ("What exactly does `Different aspects' mean here?")
  • End comments should include the main STRENGTHS in a writer's draft as well as 2 or 3 of the most important things that need improvement
  • If something appears too complicated to write in the commentary, just mention that you have something that you would like to talk to the writer about when you have your conference.
  • Ask for citations when it is apparent that sources have been used but not identified.
  • Suggest sources.

    Commentary Don'ts:

  • DON'T write commentary in red ink.
  • Avoid turning the writer's paper into YOUR paper.
  • Avoid saying an idea is wrong. Instead, ask student to check the accuracy of an idea and cite evidence for it.
  • Do not contradict yourself ("Condense this sentence," followed by, "You need to be more specific and develop this paragraph").
  • Don't overwhelm a writer with too much commentary .
  • If the writer is not sure that he or she has understood the assignment, and you aren't sure either, DON'T be afraid to tell the writer to talk with his or her professor.
  • Don't take forever in your commenting on a draft; remember that the writer needs ample time to revise.


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