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OWL FAQ's

writing assistance

Who can use the OWL ?
The OWL is currently open to all members of the Boston College community with valid BC e-mail addresses and usernames.  Submissions originating from other e-mail services (AOL, Yahoo!, etc.) cannot be honored.

 
How much does the OWL cost?
Like the in-person tutorial services offered at the Connors Family Learning Center, OWL tutoring is completely free to eligible users.

 
When is the OWL available?
The OWL is open for business Sunday through Friday and follows the same calendar as the Connors Family Learning Center's in-person tutoring services.  It is not available during the winter, spring, or summer breaks, nor is it available during periods officially designated as university holidays, and closes on the final day of undergraduate classes each semester. During regular business hours, OWL submissions will be processed three times daily: at 10:00 AM, 2:00 PM, and 6:00 PM. Wait times for submissions received after a given process time will not begin until the subsequent processing time (e.g., if your paper arrives at 6:30 PM, it will not be processed--and your expected 48 hour waiting period will not begin--until 10:00 AM the following day). Please plan accordingly.

 

What types of submissions can I get help with?
The OWL currently limits submissions in any discipline to 8 double-spaced pages or less.  If you are working on a longer writing project, you may wish to send only a portion of your draft, or to break your essay into parts and submit them separately. Long research papers, theses, and dissertations are not eligible, nor are assignments designated as "take-home" midterm or final writing examinations.  We will, however, accept non-coursework related writing, such as cover letters and application essays. Questions regarding dissertations and writing projects longer than 8 pages should be directed to Sue Barrett.

 

How often can I use the OWL?
Students are encouraged to submit to the OWL as often as they like; however, we ask that students limit pending submissions to one at a time. In the event that multiple submissions are received simultaneously from a single user, they will be read in order of receipt, with each response processed only after the preceding ones have been completed and returned.

 

Who will be reading my submission?
The OWL, like the Connors Family Learning Center's in-person tutoring, is staffed by qualified graduate and undergraduate readers who have been trained to read and respond to the work of their peers both critically and constructively.

 

What kind of feedback should I expect from my reader?
In the same way that sending an e-mail differs from face-to-face conversation, on-line tutoring differs from in-person tutoring.  Rather than comment upon the sentence level, your OWL tutor will emphasize broader, more global, conceptual and rhetorical issues.  Such comments may include affirmation of parts of your writing that work well, questions to consider as you revise, and advice about general ways of improving your work.  Your tutor may also offer you the opportunity to engage in an active dialogue about your writing in progress.   Sample feedback.

 

What kind of feedback shouldn't I expect from my reader?
The OWL is not an editing or proofreading service.  Any requests for such services will result in your paper being returned to you exactly as it arrived.  Your tutor will not attempt to comment upon everything in your paper, and you should not assume that your paper is "perfect" after it has been read by a tutor.  We believe that improvement is a gradual process achieved primarily by the writer, so you should expect to have to do additional work on your own.  Your tutor also will not evaluate your writing or predict a grade.  Finally, your OWL tutor will comment upon your writing only insofar as it affects its subject content; our tutors are not subject experts, and will not attempt to provide subject area direction or clarification.   Sample feedback.

 

How soon can I expect a response to my submission?
Any submissions received during regular OWL business hours will typically generate responses within 48 hours.  Writers submitting during peak business periods (e.g., midterms, end-of-semester, etc.) may experience a wait time of as much as 72 hours.  Tagging your submissions with time-sensitive headings, such as "urgent" or "ASAP" or "due tomorrow," will not expedite the process or generate special priority handling.  Always be sure to budget at least a three-day turnaround window between the date of your submission and its due date.