Improve Your Writing

Photo by Don Erdhardt

Photo by Don Erdhardt

The Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication is here to support all writers at UBC. Because of projects from first-year papers to lab reports to creative writing projects to dissertations, this is a group that includes everyone – whether or not you specifically identify as a writer (or whether you want to!). The services we offer are based in the belief that everyone has a unique perspective to bring to the scholarly conversation, and our mission is to support this by working cooperatively with you to enhance your understanding of academic genres and discourse, your voice(s) as writers, and their ability to write efficiently and appropriately for all types of assignments and purposes. We do this in a number of ways, including:

  • Through one-on-one appointments, in person or online, booked through WCOnline
  • Through workshops for undergraduate and graduate students, schedule TBA
  • Through hosting and supporting writing communities for undergraduate and graduate students
  • Through Express Lane hours (12-1pm an 3-4pm), where students can stop by for a quick chat about common issues such as citation, punctuation, and questions about grammar

If you want to have a one-on-one consultation with one of our peers, here are some tips for making the most of your time:

  • Plan ahead! A consultation isn’t very useful if your project is due an hour later. Appointments must be booked 24 hours ahead of time.
  • No appointment? Check the schedule for a cancellation or open space, as we are happy to work with walk-ins. Please know that we see walk-ins on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Have questions! The appointment form in our online system will ask for some information, including your primary focus for the session. The more specific you can be, the better.
  • Want help setting some writing goals? Ask your consultant about a learning plan. Please know that your consultant may recommend a learning plan if you are working on a big project or if the questions and goals you bring to an appointment would be best addressed over a longer period of time.
  • Make time! Even though we are centrally located, it may take longer than you expect to walk to IKBLC. We have a comfortable waiting area if you are early, and we may have to give your appointment away if you are late (depending on the demand for walk-in appointments).
  • Do you just have a quick question? Come by our Express Lane between 12-1 and 3-4pm for an equally quick answer, or tweet @UBCLearn with the hashtag #WritingQuestion.
  • Come prepared! If you want to focus on a specific assignment or piece of writing, bring your assignment guidelines and any work you may have already done. Even if you don’t have a specific piece of writing to work on, coming prepared to talk about the kind(s) of writing you do regularly and the kind of writer you would like to be will help your consultant to be a better collaborator.
  • Already confident in your writing? Awesome! Come see us anyway to bounce around ideas for projects, continue to shape your writing process and practice, and create a new set of goals to meet.


Proofreading/Editing

To us, proofreading means that consultants go through a piece of writing and correct all of the errors in grammar, mechanics, and spelling. We do not provide this service, but we do offer something better: a consultant to look over your paper with you and teach you what to look for and how to find and correct individual errors and patterns of error in your own writing. We are happy to provide support for proofreading, but we cannot complete the proofreading itself.

To us, editing means that consultants go through a piece of writing and rewrite it as needed to ensure clarity, development, strong organization, and other higher order concerns. Again, we do not provide this service, but we do provide feedback as careful readers. We also work with you as you develop a revision process that works for you and offer support in navigating disciplinary and genre requirements.



Grammar

The number one request we get is for help with grammar. Since grammar refers to the entire set of rules that govern how language is used, this is a huge category. We can certainly help with grammar, but you will make the most out of your time with a consultant if you can be more specific with your request. For example, if a professor or TA has mentioned something specific they recommend you work on (e.g. verb tense or sentence structure), include that in your appointment request. If you don’t know exactly what you would like to work on but you know that your writing doesn’t “feel” right, taking some time to reflect on what isn’t working for you would help make your session as effective as possible. Want help pinpointing and articulating what isn’t quite working for you? No problem! Just let us know in your appointment report form, and we’ll start from there..

Consulting

This is a new term for writing support at UBC – in the past, the peers in this service have had the title of “tutors”. We feel that changing to “consultant” better reflects what the peers actually do in their time with you. Consultants are there to have a conversation about writing – your writing, in fact. They can offer guidance and feedback, serve as sounding boards for your ideas, answer questions and direct you to resources, and share their experience as peers, writers, and UBC students. We don’t assume that you are coming in with writing that needs to be fixed, and we don’t assume that you lack expertise, especially in your field. We’re here for a collaborative learning experience that is focused on your needs, whatever those may be.

Tutoring

The CWSC will open for consultations September 26. Plan ahead! You can book your first appointments starting September 5. Appointments will be available from 10am-4pm, M-F.



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Resources

As a university student, you will be required to do a range of writing, which will vary depending on which faculty you are in and which degree you are pursuing. When your professor gives an assignment, a good first step is to determine the type of project it is or the genre you are required to use. Knowing this will help you plan and research your project effectively without wasting time creating a framework or finding sources that would not be appropriate for what you are working on. The following resources offer more detail about some of the more common types of assignments at UBC, but please always ask your professor or a TA if you have questions about a specific assignment.

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Rhetorical Analysis PDF



Most written communication contains an argument of some kind, whether persuasion is the purpose of the paper or not. One of the most important skills you can develop as a writer is the ability to make your points in a logical, well-supported fashion. No matter what you are arguing, from the idea that comedy is an effective way to address current events to a subtle point about social behaviour in crows, avoiding fallacies and ensuring that your points are well-supported will go a long way towards creating a strong argument that readers will respond to. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • A fallacy is a flaw in logic. To avoid fallacies, be sure to test your arguments and the support you use for them thoroughly. Look at your arguments from an opposing and potentially hostile point of view and see how well they would stand up to that type of critique.
  • How you make your appeal is important. Do you want to engage your readers emotionally, logically, or both? How can you make your appeals in an ethical way that does not manipulate readers?
  • Be sure that the source material you use is credible and up-to-date. A strong argument can be quickly undermined by bad support.
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Media:Argument.pdf

Getting started on a writing project can be a daunting task, between figuring out what your professor wants, what topic you want to write about, what you want to say about that topic, and how to do research... not to mention grammar, style, development, citation, formatting, and all of those other little things that turn out to be very important.

A writing project becomes much more managable when you follow the writing process: take some time to prewrite, where you plan and generate ideas; when drafting, focus on turning those ideas into something resembling an essay, rather than a perfect essay draft; take plenty of time to revise so that you can shape your draft into a polished, effective essay; lastly, be sure to edit so that your polished essay is also grammatically and mechanically correct.

The following resources will help you with any writing project. They address some of the most common concerns when it comes to essay writing.

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Writing FAQs PDF
Thesis Statements PDF
Grammar, Diction, and Tone PDF



Once you have ideas mapped out and research done to support those ideas, it's time to start writing. One of the biggest concerns is style: how do you want your paper to be organized? How do you want it to "sound"? How do you want to develop your ideas? There are a few simple points to keep in mind when drafting in order to make your writing flow smoothly and reach readers effectively.

  • Think about which mode you want to use to develop ideas. For example, if you want to discuss the differences between Canada's legal system ang the legal system of the United States, comparison and contrast would be the most effective mode to use.
  • Think about how you are going to unify your ideas with transitions. Are you organizing your ideas chronologically so that simple time transitions will work, or do you need to develop your transitions so that they explain the relationships between the ideas you are sharing?
  • Think about what point of view you are using: first person, second person, or third person. The point of view depends on your audience and how much of yourself and your own experiences/opinion you can share in the paper. Generally, writing done at UBC will be in the scholarly voice, which requires third person. Reflection papers may require first person. Check with your instructor if you are unsure about which point of view to use.


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Style PDF



Writing in the sciences can be quite different from writing in other disciplines. Types of scientific documents that you may be asked to write are: lab notebooks and protocols, published abstracts, original research articles, reviews of research articles, responses to published review articles, and grants.

The following resource has been created to help you navigate the process of writing in the sciences.

Topics include:

  • What is scientific writing?
  • Organization of research papers
  • What makes science writing unique?
  • How to write clearly and concisely
  • Passive vs. active voice
  • Citations in science
  • Reporting statistics
  • The use of visuals in science writing
  • Strategies for organizing a scientific argument
  • Variation in science writing
  • Writing about science


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Science Writing Resource PDF

7 responses to “Improve Your Writing”

  1. Winona

    Reflection Paper

    Hello,

    is there a format example for a reflection paper that is available to students?
    I am required to write a 10 page reflection paper on a community project that I have completed for one of my courses.

    Thank-you

  2. Nick Thornton

    Hi Winona,

    I encourage you to drop by the Writing Centre tutors in Irving K Barber (Monday-Friday, 3-7pm). Because the type of reflection paper can vary greatly, I encourage you to also connect with your professor to ask some questions around the format they are expecting.

    I hope this helps!

  3. Nick Thornton

    Hi there,

    The Learning Commons does not offer classes- the English Language Institute (ELI) does offer some courses, including prep for the tests: http://eli.ubc.ca/iep/IEP-electives.html

  4. Wade

    Hi,
    Can we bring an personal practice essay which is not from any class to the writing center to let the tutor give some comment for us?
    Thank you

  5. Nick Thornton

    Hi Wade, you can bring in any assignment or example of writing to the Writing Centre and they will be able to assist you.

  6. Susie

    Do you proof-read for students? do I have to make an appointment?

  7. Nick Thornton

    Hi Susie, the Writing Centre accepts drop-ins and appointments. You can bring in any writing assignment and the tutors will go through it with you and look for common errors, strengths and room for improvement.

    Nick

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