Once you have made contact with your partner, the next step is to have an interactive meeting to get to know each other and discuss the general aims and expectations for the student’s writing and the reader’s background in relation to the writing project. This meeting should help the reader get a sense of what the student is expected to produce, and to help the student begin to get a sense of their audience. If the student already has something written, this is a good item to have on hand to get the discussion started. Meet either in person or by webcam if at all possible. Plan for 30 minutes or so.
Here are some guidelines for having a successful meeting:
Before the meeting:
- Exchange phone numbers. Whether you will be meeting in person or online, a phone call can make it easier to work out any problems that arise at the last minute.
- If you are meeting by web cam, make sure you have the appropriate contact info (e.g., Skypename) and that your equipment is working before hand.
- If you are meeting in person, make sure each of you knows precisely where to go.
- Before the meeting, review any information you have about the schedule of interactions during the project.
- Read the bio of your partner, if available. Think about what you might want to know about his or her background, experiences or interests.
During the meeting:
- Take some time to get to know one another.
- Students: Find out about the reader’s connection to Duke. Get a sense of what s/he knows about the general area and the specific subject on which you’ll be writing; this can help you get a sense of what kinds of things you’ll need to explain or define in your paper, and which you might not. Ask about any relevant experiences your reader has had, and the kinds of things she reads in her professional and personal life. You might even ask your reader to describe the activities in a typical day or week–since students rarely get to find out what people in various lines of work actually do!
- Readers: Learn about the student’s professional and personal interests. You might even ask the student to hypothesize about the outcome of any research they’re doing, how they are collecting data or finding source material, etc.
- Readers: Be sure to let the student know how what kinds of questions and interactions you would be open to. Short emailed questions about a paragraph of writing? Reading an extra draft at the end of the project? Questions about your profession and career advice?
- If it’s appropriate for the project, you might brainstorm together about ideas for the project, or think out loud about the challenges or opportunities that might lie ahead for the writing.
- Discuss the general expectations for the writing project. How long will it be? What kind of paper is it? What are the reader’s expectations for this type of writing based on their past experience: does it have a typical structure? What kinds of information and materials are typically included? And so on.
- Schedule as many of the next steps as you can at this point. Scheduling gets harder the longer you wait.