Graduate Writing Lab 1-on-1 Consultations

Individualized support and strategies to help you improve your work - theses and dissertations, class assignments, conference presentations, research articles and more. Bring your writing, presentations, and figures in for a one-on-one consultation.

The Graduate Writing Lab currently provides one-on-one consultation appointments for constructive feedback on writing, presentations, figures, and posters. Our trained consultants work with you to focus on common composition issues (paragraph or sentence structure, argument development, organization, clarity, etc.), develop writing strategies. Consultants are trained to work on common advanced ESL issues as well. Some are able to help with reference manager questions.

One-on-one consultation are currently open to Engineering graduate students, postdoctoral research associates (also called research associates), and postdoctoral fellows. If you are not an engineering graduate student or postdoc and are interested in consultations or other support, be sure to fill out the form linked at the bottom of this page to let us know and help us advocate for expanded offerings. Note that the UVA Writing Center (no affiliation with the GWL) is open to all students, faculty and staff at the university.


Consultants provide appointments for master’s and doctoral students, as well as postdocs (postdoctoral fellows and research associates) within UVA Engineering. Consultants meet by appointment. Appointments are scheduled for 50 minutes and can be made 5 weeks-12 hours in advance through our scheduling link. You may also use the request an appointment form to request appointments outside of the posted availability. You don’t have to have a completed draft of your document to make an appointment with a consultant, but we do ask that you bring a few items along to your appointment:

    For Zoom appointments (All appointments after March 12, 2020)

    1. A digital copy of your work on the device you plan to use for the meeting.
    2. The ability to screenshare and use clear audio on the device you use for the meeting.
    3. The guidelines for the document you would like reviewed (info about the journal, call for applications or proposals, evaluation criteria, abstract or article guidelines, etc.).
    4. see also the information and instructions specifically for online appointments

    For in person appointments (not currently available)

    1. One copy of your work for your consultant to use.
    2. One copy of your writing for you to use and take notes on.
    3. The guidelines for the document you would like reviewed (info about the journal, call for applications or proposals, evaluation criteria, abstract or article guidelines, etc.).

    Cancelling or if you are late- If you are unable to attend a scheduled appointment, please cancel (use the cancel button on your appointment confirmation email) at least 24 hours in advance to allow us to fill that time with another client who needs it. Cancel via the appointment confirmation email (preferred), email & your consultant or DM Kelly &/or your consultant in Slack as soon as you know you cannot make your appointment, even if it is just an hour before. If you are more than 10 minutes late for a scheduled appointment, you may need to reschedule. For last minute concerns or if you know you're running late, please also contact your consultant directly via Slack or email (your consultant's email will be in the reminder you recieve an hour before your appointment). After your second no-show, you may be prevented from scheduling additional appointments.

    • FAQ

      Am I eligible for one-on-one consultations with a consultant?

      Are you a part of UVA Engineering? If not, then at this time no. But you can indicate your interest on our suggestions & inquiries form to help us advocate for expanded support.

      If you are a UVA Engineering graduate student (Masters or PhD), then yes, you can make one-on-one appointments.

      UVA Engineering postdocs can also make appointments. Postdocs are postdoctoral research associates, research associates, or postdoctoral research fellows. You can check your designation in the UVA directory. If you see something other than postdoctoral research associate, research associate, or postdoctoral fellow, you would not be considered a postdoc.  If you are a UVA Engineering postdoc, then you can make one-on-one appointments.

      If you are not a UVA Engineering postdoc or graduate student, you are NOT eligible for one on one appointments with GWL consultants. Thus, faculty, staff, research scientists, etc. would not be eligible at this time. However, please indicate your interest on our suggestions & inquiries form to help us advocate for expanded support. You can, however, use the online resources and attend events.


      What does an appointment with a GWL consultant look like? How will they help?

      Your consultant will assist you in identifying key areas of improvement and offer feedback with respect to a number of potential concerns such as structure and organization, clarity, documentation, flow, and argument. It is not uncommon for a consultant to have you read parts of your work aloud to facilitate the process. You may also discuss writing strategies and concerns with your consultant. Your consultant will not edit or proofread your paper for you or review your work ahead of time. Note that they are able to offer an evaluation of the quantitative or technical accuracy of your document. Consultations should be one of many sources of feedback in your process. During your appointment, your consultant will help identify potential issues and suggest strategies to improve your document and your skills with respect to both higher lever concerns – like structure and organization – and lower-level concerns such as format and language mechanics.


      How does the appointment process work?

      All appointments are booked online and include up to 50 minutes of one-on-one consultation. Appointments can be booked 12 hours to 5 weeks in advance through the online scheduler. If none of the available times work for you, you can also request an appointment using the request an appointment link (if a consultant is available, they will contact you to set up the appointment). Appointments with the director can also be made with Kelly by email or Slack DM for working through planning larger writing projects like dissertations. Appointments are limited to one or two per week per client and a maximum of 10 on a given document.


      I cannot come to my appointment. What should I do? (How to cancel)

      If you are unable to attend a scheduled appointment, please cancel at least 24 hours in advance if possible to allow someone else to book the slot. Once you know you cannot make your appointment, please let us know, even if it is an hour before. You can cancel and reschedule appointments using the links in your appointment confirmation email (best choice since it automatically opens the slot for others), email, or DM KellyC(GWL) or your consultant in Slack. If you have last minute concerns or know you'll be late, you can direct message your consultant in Slack or email them (consultant email is listed in the 1 hour reminder notice) to let them know. If you are more than 10 minutes late for a scheduled appointment, you may need to reschedule but please let your consultant know. After your second no-show, you may be prevented from scheduling additional appointments.


      How many appointments can I make?

      Graduate engineering students and post docs are permitted to make a maximum of 2 50-minute appointments per week. If you book more than this, your additional appointments may be canceled. If we have high demand, appointments may be restricted to 1 per week. If you book two appointments back to back, remember to give your consultant a break at the 50 minute mark. Do not book more than 2 appointments back to back. We found consultations to become less effective after the second hour due to fatigue.


      How many times can I bring my paper (or presentation or poster)?

      A particular paper, presentation, or poster is limited to a maximum of 10 consultation hours (50 minute slots), regardless of who is bringing it or how many authors it has. Think about how to use your appointments strategically. Remember, the types of things you find in one part of your paper are probably present in other parts as well. We recommend using your notes from consultations to help you look at the rest of your work with similar ideas in mind and apply what you learned to revising your work. Most clients never come close to the 10 hour limit. If you're getting close, it might be time to think about the most strategic ways to use your resources and your appointments- consider if it'd be easier to add another author or hire an editor, or decide if it might be time for the paper to be shared with lab mates/advisor(s) or be submitted. Note that a dissertation is typically not considered 1 document; it may be better to consider each chapter as a single document. Remember you also have other options for feedback, such as peers, advisors, peer review groups and the UVA Writing Center, where you can even make 1-on-1 appointments with ESL faculty for language concerns.


      My document isn’t finished; should I keep my appointment?

      Yes! A consultant can help you at any point in the writing process. You do not need to have a completed draft for an appointment. We have had very productive appointments going over outlines, early bits of writing, early slides and similar partial writings. It is often easiest to make changes when you don't feel your work is complete yet. Since it is unlikely that you'll be able to get through an entire article in 50 minutes, you can also think about focusing your appointment on a particular section. Additionally, if you aren't making your self imposed deadline or making the progress you hoped, a consultant might be able to help you map out strategies to move forward.


      Can I bring my Qualifier/Comprehensive Exam or take home exam?

      Probably not. Consultants are not able to provide feedback on or assist with a take-home exam, this includes the SIE, CEE, EE, and MSE comprehensive/qualifying exams. Just because your program is not listed here, does not mean it is OK to bring a qualifier to the GWL. It is always best to get confirmation from your program. Getting a response in writing through an official channel is in your best interest. If you are unsure if a given paper is allowed to have feedback or be brought for a consultation, please discuss it with your professor/advisor or committee in advance.


      How should I prepare for my appointment?

      Please come prepared with questions or concerns to address. This is likely going to be tied to where you are at with a given document (ex. organization in early stages, sentence level issues in later stages). Bring your document (most consultants appreciate a paper copy) and information about the goals (journal submission guidelines, fellowship mission, course assignment guidelines, etc.). Consultants often suggest starting with holistic concerns before moving to sentence-level issues. Document-level concerns such as structure and organization may affect the meaning and ideas of a document. Therefore, you may need to do significant revision before addressing sentence-level issues such as grammar and mechanics which are likely to change with document-level revision.

      Please remember to have your document ready to screenshare via zoom for online appointments or bring at least one printed copy of your writing for the consultant to use if you have an in person appointment.


    • Online Appointments

      Appointments for Zoom consultations are booked on via the online appointments booking link. Zoom appointments may also be requested through the appointment request form the same as in person appointment but should specify zoom in requesting the appointment if in person appointments are also available.


      What do I need to do to participate in a Zoom consultation?

      Screenshot Zoom instructions


      You will need to

      • have a device (usually a computer) with a webcam (optional) and clear audio input/output and a strong high speed internet connection able to support video chat
      • have Zoom desktop or mobile app installed (currently only zoom desktop & mobile apps allow for screensharing- browser based zoom does not allow for the needed screen sharing)
      • have your document digitally available on your device so that you can have it up during your screenshare
      • have access to your UVA email the day of your appointment to click your meeting link
      • have a location where you will have enough privacy to have a consultation on your work
      • a quiet environment or a headset
      • have your uva zoom account set up so you can log in to it for your appointment

      It is recommended that you test your audio/video before your meeting and make sure you can screenshare your document.


      How does a Zoom consultation work?

      Screenshot Zoom instructions

      On the day of your consultation, you will receive an email with a link to join your zoom meeting. At the time of your consultation, open zoom desktop and click the link. This should connect you to your meeting in Zoom.

      Quick Tip: If you have trouble with the sound in Zoom, check that you do not have mute on in Zoom and that you have the correct audio input and output selected (click the arrow next to the mute button in zoom to see or change these selections).

      At the start of the meeting, your consultant will ask you about the document and your concerns. This usually covers what the document is, what stage you are at with it, the audience (this could be a specific journal, for instance) and where it is going next, what section you will be looking at and what concerns you would like to focus on.

      You should bring your document up on your screen and initiate a screenshare (See instruction on zoom or in the linked document above for help on this). This will allow the consultant to see the document but you remain in control of it and the document never leaves your device.

      You will discuss the document and your concerns with your consultant. 


      What if I have trouble with Zoom?

      Test your set up before your consultation if possible and consult our screenshot Zoom instructions  and Zoom's help pages to make sure you have sources of support if needed.

      Let your consultant know what trouble you are having - you can try this in Zoom and if that is not working, follow up via DM in Slack or by email.

      Late: If you will be late, please let your consultant know in slack and or email. Your appointment may be cancelled if you are late and have not contact your consultant.

      Common issues with audio: 

      • When you join the meeting, be sure to click join with computer audio/video.
      • Check that you do not have mute on in Zoom and that your device volume is set appropriately.
      • If you are using a headset or headphones, check that they are recognized, their volume is correct, your mic not muted and that you can hear other audio on your device.
      • Check that you have the correct audio input and output selected in Zoom (click the arrow next to the mute button in zoom to see or change these selections)<- this is usually the issue


      What else might I need to know?

      Be aware of your environment when using Zoom. This includes not including anyone else accidentally in the background of your video in image or audio. This can be easy to forget if you are in a public place or at home with others. If you are in a video chat with your headphones on, it can feel like you are in a one-on-one private space even if you aren't. Be mindful that people around you can still see your screen and hear your discussion. 

      Avoid back lighting yourself if you will be using video chat. Do not sit with a window behind you because this can make you look like a silhouette. Also avoid highly reflective surfaces behind you. Luckily, the majority of time your consultant will see your document rather than you on the screen.

      Use a headset if you need to. If you have a quiet environment and a decent laptop, you may not need headphones or a headset. Many laptops, tablets and phones offer good sound and noise canceling. However, if you have trouble hearing your consultant, if they are having trouble hearing you, you are in a public place, a less than quite location, a shared environment or even at home where family members or roommates might interrupt, you might be better off using headphones or a headset with a mic. 

      Annotations (like writing on the screen) in Zoom are an overlay on the screen. This means they are not attached to the document your are showing and are just a layer in zoom. So if you scroll your document, the annotations won't scroll. If you have useful Zoom annotations, you can use Zoom's screenshot button to automatically save a screenshot in a meeting folder. See the linked document above for more details. For more detailed notes, it's highly recommended that you make changes or take your own notes in your document (ex. insert comments in word) or elsewhere to make sure you have guidance for your next steps.

      You can get a Zoom Pro account through UVA  with just your netbadge login.

      Please do not record your consultant in audio, video or image without first obtaining their consent.


    • Proofreading etc.

      Consultations at the GWL are focused on working with clients toward improving documents and developing skills and are one potential source of feedback among many. GWL expertise and capacity currently does not cover paper services where documents are submitted and work is done on them by someone other than the author. Such services might include layout, formatting, certain types of editing, indexing, and proofreading. These are skilled and often specialized professions.

      What if I want my dissertation (or paper) 'edited' or 'proofread' for me?

      That is a perfectly normal request. Note that your advisor may also help with this.

      1) Identify what you need done: goals/expectations, document type, timeline

      The first thing to consider is what that editing or proofreading means and looks like to you. Your needs may change document to document. These terms are often used interchangeably by authors and to mean a wide variety of things. In generally, editing involves more work and more changes while proofreading is closer to catching those last little things like typos. However, because it is not that simple or transparent, listing out exactly what you are looking for will help you find an appropriate solution. It is not uncommon to have someone proof your dissertation, in the form of identifying small errors or typos, or even format it. However, if you mean for someone to rework your writing for you, this would be something else entirely. Are your goals to have someone take you through a small section and help you develop strategies to improve particular areas of your writing that you know you struggle with? Are you looking to send a paper to someone and have them only fix typos and punctuation? Are you hoping to send a paper to someone for some specialized purpose- help with language editing, feedback tailored to a particular grant, reworking a paper for some purpose, formatting it to particular guidelines? How quickly do you expect the paper to be returned? When will your paper be ready for this type of work? What type of expertise might be needed for what you are seeking? 

      2) Identify potential sources & move forward

      You can read about what GWL consultants can do, but if your request falls outside of this- perhaps into specialized formatting or proof reading or paper services, what can you do? There are a wide variety of options and the right one for you will depend on your own needs and situation. In all cases, be sure to discuss the project specifics (document, expertise, needs, timeline, and pay/exchange) up front and ideally in writing with those you plan to work with. In nearly all cases, note that a faster turn around will likely cost more. The GWL is not an authority on paper services & does not endorse any individuals providing such services. You should always check with your advisor or program to be sure the type of service you pursue is allowed for your particular situation and how you may need to acknowledge or credit that work. Below are some options you could consider but this is not exhaustive.

      For graduate students, the most common concern is often proofreading services or something similar. Note that your advisor may also help with this, both in turns of reading your work and suggesting options if needed. There are a number of options but by far the most common, aside from your advisor, pursued is to have another graduate student read through your work. Here are a selection of potential options:

      1) Exchange papers with another engineering graduate student or someone else (you are more easily able to identify issues in someone else's writing than your own)- your exchange is the compensation; this may help you develop partnerships that can help with papers beyond graduate school. Consider adjusting the exchange- if you are more skilled in slide design and they are better at proofing, maybe you go through their presentation and they read your paper. You might find someone through your lab or program, events, student organization, GWL slack, a GWL workshop (esp. self-editing), a PRG or other group.

      2) Pay a graduate student who is willing and at least somewhat 'good' at proofing to read your work. This may be someone in engineering who will be able to better assess the writing in your discipline for conventions or it might be someone in another discipline with enough familiarity with your disciplinary community and writing conventions. You might also consider someone only with expertise in writing but be sure to outline your discipline's conventions. From our experience we have seen pay for grad student editors from $25-$75/hour (ex. 2-3 hours for an article in field for basic proofing without reference checking) or for negotiated document level rates. You can also suggest before hand what you are able to pay, the document details, and the expectations. How do you find these people?- word of mouth, email lists, asking, job boards, etc.

      3) Offer a skill exchange with someone you know. Perhaps you don't want to read someone else's paper or pay them to read yours. What could you offer instead that would benefit a busy graduate student. Maybe it is something tangible you have to trade- like a surplus of coffee shop gift cards that you never use. Maybe you have a large vehicle and could help someone move or pick up a large purchase or give them a ride to Ikea. Maybe you can bring them homemade lunch for a week, give them rides, babysit, bake, help with slides or visuals, do their grocery shopping, or make them something.

      On occasion, you may have a really great friend who will proof or edit your work for free. It is always a good idea to send a thank you.

      4) Hire a professional. Editing, proofreading and formatting are skilled professions and depending on your needs, hiring a professional may be your best choice. You can find professionals through word of mouth and online. One place to start would be professional associations such as the EFA (US) or sfep (UK). They tend to have directory listings where you can find someone with expertise matched to your needs and listings of minimum rates.

      5) Maybe all your work, revisions, and strategies, and all the feedback and all the read throughs you've had from a wide variety of people combined with technology enabled tools are enough and you decide not to use any of the above options. That is also a perfectly normal outcome.

    Schedule an Appointment

    Online Scheduler for Zoom Appointments

    Book appointments via the scheduler 5 weeks to 12 hours in advance. These are synchronous video chat appointments where documents are shown through screen sharing; you must have the Zoom app installed on a device with your document to screenshare. Please read the 'online appointments' section of the one-on-one webpage for additional information.

    One-on-One Request Form (Zoom appointments at other time): 

    Open appointment times not working with your schedule? Use the one-on-one request form to request another time, a same day appointment, reoccurring appointments, etc. A consultant or the director will follow up via email with a booking link or more information. 

    Limits & Notes

    • Max number of appointments per week: 2 50-minute appointments;
    • Max number of consultation hours on a given paper/presentation/poster: 10 hours (regardless of who brings the document)
    • There are no in person appointments with the GWL at this time. All consultations are conducted via Zoom. 
    • The Graduate Writing Lab does not offer writing, rewriting, copy-editing or proofreading services for students or postdocs. You may consider swapping papers with others to edit or hiring a professional editor.

    Meet the Consultants

    • Natalie Thompson

      Natalie Thompson

      PhD Candidate, English | GWL Consultant

      Natalie is a PhD candidate in English literature, studying the ways 19c novels recursively negotiate domestic (and epic) spaces, places, & journeys. She helps writers develop clear, active, & insightful scientific articles, dissertation projects, & fellowship/job application materials.

      Workshops: Paragraph Structure, Readability & Flow, Sentences & Punctuation, Self-Editing, Verb Tense & Passives in Research Articles
      Familiar with NSF GRFP application process and essay requirements.

    • Brooke Dinsmore

      Brooke Dinsmore

      PhD Candidate, Sociology | GWL Consultant

      Brooke is a doctoral candidate in the Sociology department, researching inequalities in education with a focus on school cultures and digital technologies. She specializes in helping students develop strong arguments and clearly communicate supporting evidence.

      Workshops: Learning from Examples, Integrating Sources, Reading Strategies for Research Articles, Writing Research Proposals

    • Kelly Dunham

      Kelly Dunham

      PhD Candidate, Chemistry | GWL Consultant

      Kelly is a Chemistry PhD candidate in the Venton lab. Her research focuses on developing electroanalytical and genetic tools in Drosophila (fruit flies) to measure serotonin in brain tissue to better understand antidepressant mechanisms of action. She helps students outline “story” ideas and review writing principles for presentations, articles, and other important documents.

      Workshops: Writing Abstracts

    • Online Resources

      The Graduate Writing Lab has compiled a selection of online resources relevant to the writing and communication needs of UVA Engineering graduate students.

      View Online Resources
    • Get Involved

      The Graduate Writing Lab provides a number of opportunities for faculty, post docs, and graduate students to get involved. Those with research or grant writing experience might considering being on a panel or leading a workshop. Future opportunities may exist for assisting with research projects, text cleaning, text analysis, qualitative coding, resource development, consultant training and more. See our current opportunities including position announcements by following the link below.

      See Current Opportunities

    Graduate Writing Lab on Slack

    Have a quick question or want up to date announcements? Join us on Slack. (use your UVA email)

    Not a UVA Engineering grad student or postdoc & want help from the Graduate Writing Lab? Help us advocate for wider support by letting us know your interest via the SUGGESTIONS & INQUIRIES FORM Not finding what you need? Submit your suggestions via the SUGGESTIONS & INQUIRIES FORM.