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Chloe Lew: Students of all majors should take advantage of writing resources

By Chloe Lew

April 15, 2014 12:35 a.m.

Writer’s block is pretty much a universal phenomenon. But students of different disciplines may not realize that resources exist on campus to help them work through their difficulties as writers.

A misconception that pervades many academic departments is that writing resources such as the Undergraduate Writing Center are for students of the humanities and social sciences, and not for those hailing from fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

But in the job market, we make our first impressions with our printed words, and so the assumption that college writing resources are not all-inclusive only limits us.

Like all relationships, the one between students and student resources is a two-way street. In order for the Undergraduate Writing Center to truly extend its help to the entire student body as UCLA’s primary undergraduate writing resource, students must first recognize that it can serve them no matter what area of study they come from. And as more students visit the writing center, peer learning facilitators can gain more experience with a wider set of assignments.

For the most part, the writing center already does its part to reach out across multiple disciplines. A fair number of peer learning facilitators are undergraduates studying science or mathematics, and the center welcomes writing assignments far beyond the average essay: research papers, personal statements, lab reports, journal writing, business memos and so on.

But the students who come in for help do not represent the abundance of majors our campus boasts.

Students who come from classes outside of the humanities tend to be returning students who were first introduced to the writing center during their lower division introductory writing or general education courses, said Jonathan Carmona, a fourth-year English student.

Writing and the initiative to seek help with writing should not be limited to just lower division courses. If anything, as students make their way into upper division courses and closer to professional careers, writing becomes all the more crucial, whether it is writing specifically in their discipline or in drafting a worthy cover letter.

Writing for specific fields is often a far cry from what we learn in our writing II requirements, most of which are humanities-based and frequently teach an argumentative structure less befitting, for instance, a chronological methods section of a research paper.

Different disciplines expect different composition lengths too. In the upper division requirement for the business economics major “Specialized Writing: Business and Social Policy,” students move from the exhaustive multipage essays often assigned in writing II courses to quick 300-word executive summaries.

While resources like the new History Writing Center can offer specialized help in specific disciplines, they lack the advantage of peer facilitator feedback and an outside perspective from a different academic field. The Undergraduate Writing Center offers a casual environment to bounce ideas off of peer facilitators from various academic backgrounds who are trained to answer any prompt.

In cases like lab reports or research papers, a fresh pair of eyes can help ensure your findings can be understood and your instructions are clear enough to help someone else replicate the experiment.

Strong writing is a skill inseparable from strong reading or communication skills. Something as simple as a well-crafted email can get your foot in the door for an interview, and even after you score that coveted job, your employers will expect you to write intelligibly – journal articles, memos, proposals and, doubtlessly, more emails.

To get there, students must help themselves. On a campus too often divided by the subjects we study, we have to realize that some things are here for all of us.

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Chloe Lew
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