3The Clueless Student  

Students who visit the Writing Center come in all shapes and sizes—and in all stages of the writing process. The Clueless Student is one who has yet to begin the writing assignment and has no idea where to start. “I don’t have anything to say about this topic!” the Clueless Student will say exasperatedly. Thus begins the tutor’s job of helping with pre-writing, or generating and developing ideas. 
The purpose of pre-writing is to help students flesh out ideas below the surface, ideas that they may not be aware are lurking beyond what’s easily observable. Provocation is usually in order at such times. You, the tutor, can rely on several different writing techniques to help students generate ideas. Pre-writing not only helps students to come up with the raw material of writing, the ideas from which their writing will take shape, but prewriting also helps students to gain more self-confidence about their ability to think and to write. Just as the sculptor needs a medium from which to sculpt, just as a painter requires paints and canvas to paint, so, too, does the writer need to generate ideas before these ideas can be organized and developed into an effective piece of writing.

What the Clueless Student needs more than anything is to get started, to generate ideas so that he will have something to work with. Using whatever techniques prove beneficial, you, the tutor, can approach students in this stage of writing from whatever angle proves most productive.

Key Idea
You should also, at this stage, emphasize that the writing process is in no way linear. While some writers might begin at the beginning, more writers must work out of sequence, working first, for example, on the introduction, then skipping to the third body paragraph, then back to the introduction, and then perhaps on to the conclusion. 

Writers must feel free to work on idea development in any section of the writing assignment. While a major objective for you in this prewriting stage is to help the student develop a clear sense of focus or purpose, another critical objective is to help the writer keep moving; feeling stopped may mean that it is time to move on to another section of the assignment. Any ideas are better than no ideas. Writer’s block, or the anxiety which can prevent writers from being able to add anything to the blank page, can be managed and overcome through the use of prewriting techniques.


Digging Deeper Assignments

For Further Reading




The Writing Center: Past and Present The Student/Tutor Relationship The Clueless Student The Unfocused Student The Disorganized Student The Underdeveloped Student The Unrevised Student The Unpolished Student ESL Strategies Research Strategies Discipline-Specific Assignments Documentation Styles Writing Center Ethics Writing Center Publicity

© 1999, 2000, 2002 Virginia Bower (Mars Hill College), Charlene Kiser (Milligan College), Kim McMurtry (Montreat College), Ellen Millsaps (Carson-Newman College), Katherine Vande Brake (King College). All rights reserved. This manual was made possible by a Culpeper grant from the Appalachian College Association; click here for information. If you encounter difficulties with these web pages, please notify kmcmurtry@montreat.edu.