Developing Useful Teaching Material - NIU - Writing Across the Curriculum


The NIU Writing Consultants Handbook

Developing Useful Teaching Material

When Muriel Harris was charged with starting a writing center at Purdue University in 1975, she and her assistants spent the summer generating short documents designed to assist students with troublesome aspects of the writing process. To a certain degree, this is what a consultant will do, only on a smaller, more focused level.

A consultant working in the chemistry department, for example, might create a help sheet describing the format and content required for laboratory reports. Instead of coming from a science textbook, this help sheet would be drafted by someone trained to examine the rhetorical elements found in scientific documents; it would be more specifically tailored to the writing situation. Likewise, a consultant working with the political science department could create handouts that offer guidelines for writing policy analysis papers, amicus curiae briefs, and analytical book reports.

In these cases, the consultants are working to summarize and condense existing heuristics in academic discourse to make them more understandable. In some cases, consultants, after a period of observation, may create their own heuristics to help students work through a particular writing assignment.

We are currently archiving help web resources so that students will have fast and immediate access to reference materials (see Student Resources). For reference materials at other universities visit the Rensselaer Writing Center and the Purdue Writing Center. (There are also other links to WAC programs).

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