A blog for tutors to share their ideas, experiences, and insights.

Author Archives: rdjain

I was hesitant to blog at the beginning of the semester. I consider myself a fairly private person, and so the thought of sharing my thoughts on a public forum with strangers across the nation freaked me out (to put it lightly). I actually felt a lot like this guy…


So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that I didn’t just jump into the blog – I read a lot of posts before I published my first. The experience of reading people’s posts made me feel more comfortable with the idea of blogging. I realized that none of us are too different from one another. We come from diverse backgrounds, different schools and modes of learning, but, at the end of the day, we’re connected by our mutual interest in improving not only our own writing but also that of others. I mean, why else would we take this class?

As the semester wore on and the blogging continued, I fell into a sort of rhythm. I had new post alerts sent to my email, so I could read every one. I was fascinated with the things people wrote. Some I could identify with while others opened me up to a perspective or situation I had never previously imagined.

Because writing in the blogs was an academic assignment, I strove to maintain some semblance of academic form though I didn’t want to come across as too straight-laced or boring. By writing from a personal point-of-view and relating my posts to my thoughts or my experiences, I found that I could be both casual and academic.

I’m extremely glad to have had this blogging experience. It’s helped me think about tutoring in a more holistic way. Just like I’ve read and processed multiple blog posts, some from strangers and some from friends, so too will I need to read and process papers and thoughts of writers during my future tutoring sessions. So thank you, everyone, for helping me along my process to becoming a writing tutor. I wish everyone the best of luck in their future roles as writing tutors!

The Paramedic Method utilizes a number of steps to help writers analyze and clean their prose. For each sentence, writers should:

  • Circle prepositions.
  • Draw a box around instances of passive voice.
  • Locate the action in the sentence.
  • Change the action to a verb if appropriate.
  • Ensure that the subject is the “doer.”
  • Eliminate redundancies and unnecessary wordiness.

Here is a pictorial example of the Paramedic Method in use. (Image taken from the Purdue Online Writing Lab):


Tutors should follow Jordan’s previously described “3 Step Method” when utilizing the Paramedic Method in their sessions. Consider the following hypothetical scenario:

Tutor – “Your argument is sound and nicely supported by your content. However, I wasn’t able to reach that conclusion without reading through your paper a few times. You should consider making your message clearer to your reader.”

Writer – “Okay, how do I go about doing that?”

Tutor – “The Paramedic Method! We apply this method, which helps pare down wordiness and improve clarity, to each sentence of your paper. We’ll walk through it together, and then you’ll be able to apply it to your entire paper.”

Writer – “Sounds good.”

Tutor – “So let’s start with the introduction…”

Following this, the tutor and writer apply the Paramedic Method to the first paragraph of the paper. Then, the tutor points out another instance in which the Paramedic Method will be helpful and asks the writer to employ the Paramedic Method to that section. Finally, the tutor points to a general area of the paper that needs improvement and asks the writer to apply the method on his own.

This method is especially nice because it encompasses a wide range of sentence level errors. It is not always necessary, especially if the writer seems to only have issues with certain errors, like comma splices or the passive voice. But if the writer’s prose is messy or unnecessarily dense, then the Paramedic Method provides a channel through which both tutor and writer can explore the possible rationale behind that style of writing.

In writing a four-page research paper in my intermediate level Spanish class, I came to appreciate the complexity of the Spanish language. In high school I never paid much attention to what I was writing in my Spanish classes. I would simply squish my ideas into a preconceived writing model based on what I had learned in my English classes. However, forcing Spanish into a predetermined model does a disservice to the language and to me as the writer. Sentences in Spanish are structured differently than sentences in English. This in and of itself necessitates a different writing model, one specific to the Spanish language.

The basic structure of a research paper is the same whether it’s written in English or Spanish. A thesis statement must be supported with evidence. However, it is the presentation of the thesis and evidence that must be manipulated based upon the language. This lesson – that we cannot force ourselves to work within one specific writing model – is one that will help me in tutoring non-native speakers. First, it is important to know what kind of writing model the writer has used most consistently. Once I know this, the writer and I can discuss how to best manipulate that writing model to fit the one he needs in his paper. If the writing model is vastly different, then that will allow us the opportunity to discuss the differences and to brainstorm approaches to the new or foreign model. 

Maintaining Control

Until last week, I had never formally been tutored in writing. The writing studio tutoring session began as I would imagine most do. I read my paper aloud while Zack, my tutor, followed along on his own copy, making slight notes here and there as we moved through the paper. When I finished reading, we addressed the issues I felt needed to be addressed. Zack didn’t bring up any concerns outside of ones I had already voiced. In fact, I don’t think I can actually pinpoint a specific instance in which he exhibited any sort of control over my text. Maybe it happened coincidentally that he and I both noticed the points of my paper that needed attention. Even so, I feel like Zack truly understood that “tutors need to be aware of the rhetorical complexity – both interpersonal and intertextual – that any given tutorial can entail” (153). He was very good about showing me how to fix my paper instead of fixing it for me. He asked me questions that made me think instead of just giving me the answer.

 For instance, in one paragraph of my paper, I tried to incorporate a metaphor. While I love reading and analyzing metaphors, I’m not great at writing them. Mine was weak and forced. It would’ve been so easy for Zack to tell me to scrap the metaphor, but he didn’t. Instead, he helped me see how the reader might be confused by the metaphor. We then worked together to brainstorm the different directions in which I could go: I could’ve omitted the metaphor entirely, or I could’ve shortened it. I could’ve reframed the metaphor, or I could’ve left it as was.

Never did Zack try to force me down one path or another. Throughout our session, I constantly felt like I was in charge of my paper and that any changes I made would be of my own accord. To answer the prompt more directly, I would say that authority and control were never an issue in my tutoring session. I was very lucky to have a tutor who so accurately understood how to give me the guidance I needed without imposing his opinions upon my text. 

I put together a short Prezi to help map the tutoring session I shared with Zack. In it, I’ve included a “before and after” look at the paragraph and metaphor referenced in my post. 

Greetings! My name is Roshni Jain, and I am a sophomore at Duke University. As a resident of the great state of Kansas and as a pre-med student majoring in English , I find myself a bit of an anomaly here at Duke.

Writing, much like my interest in medicine, has been a constant in my life. When I was young and unable to overcome my fear of verbally expressing my emotions, I found solace in a blue notebook, a notebook which I still have today. Writing down my thoughts made them real. I was able to better understand my thoughts and feelings when I could see them laid out in front of me. And this is something that remains true even today.

I want to become a writing tutor so I can help writers find significance in their writing. I want others to make the same realization I have. I want them to see that they can find themselves in anything and everything they write. Of course, I’m not naive. I realize that many of my tutees will not appreciate writing as much as I do. And that’s okay. But if I can help even one writer find his or her potential, I will consider myself successful.

Fun fact: I write a weekly blog series about restaurants in Durham entitled “Delectable Durham” for Duke’s student newspaper. I get to eat delicious food, and then I get to write about what I ate…..it’s perfect.