Improve Your Writing

Photo by Don Erdhardt

Photo by Don Erdhardt

The UBC Writing Centre offers writing support for all UBC students. If you are working on a class project that is writing-intensive, whether it is a formal essay or not, come and meet with one of our tutors for feedback, to get questions answered, or just to brainstorm. If you are working on a project that is not related to a specific course, feel free to bring that as well. The only requirements for meeting with a tutor are that you are a UBC student and that your question or concern has something to do with writing.

Please note that we have updated our policies. Our new policies that apply to students are as follows:

  • If a student is more than 10 minutes late for an appointment at Ponderosa, it is considered a missed appointment and will not be held. Tutors can work with a drop-in student if there is someone waiting.
  • Students may only drop in once per day at IKBLC. Tutors will monitor student use and are empowered to ask a student to remove their name from the waitlist if they have already seen a tutor.
  • Our goal is to help students become strong, independent academic writers. If a student wants to bring in work they are doing on their own in service of this, that is fine; we will only review creative work at the tutor’s discretion, however. If a student brings in a resume or cover letter, we can offer feedback on style and clarity, but the session would necessarily come with a referral to either the Canaccord Learning Commons or Centre for Student Involvement and Careers. Students working on graduate school essays need to have clear boundaries set on what we can and cannot comment on; tutors must refer those students to a contact in the program they are applying to for more specialized feedback.
  • Since we are focused on helping students improve their writing overall, rather than getting a good grade on a specific assignment, content help is outside of our mandate.
  • Students are not to “camp out” in the IKBLC pavilion to do their work; they are welcome to work while they wait for a tutor, but cannot return to the reception area to work after their session. The same applies to the Ponderosa space.

We offer three main services, all free to UBC students: one-on-one tutoring, self-learning resources available online, and workshops that are developed and led by tutors in response to student requests or recurring questions they encounter in tutoring sessions. Please note that our appointment booking process has changed: appointments must be booked online through WCOnline ( and are available in 30-minute time slots, with a limit of two per week. Time slots can be booked back-to-back. Please see this sheet for more information on using the system: WCOnline Tutorial

Defining Terms Used at the Writing Centre


To us, proofreading means that tutors go through a piece of writing and correct all of the errors in grammar, mechanics, and spelling. Our tutors do not provide this service, since our goal is to help you become an independent, confident writer. What our tutors can do, however, is look over your paper with you and teach you what to look for and how to find and correct 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 tutors go through a piece of writing and rewrite it as needed to ensure clarity, development, strong organization, and other higher order concerns. We cannot provide this service because it does not support you in becoming an independent, confident writer, nor does it work with UBC’s academic integrity policy. What our tutors can do, however, is to let you know how they are reacting to your paper as readers. They can also offer feedback on your work and give you strategies for strengthening anything from your thesis/argument to organization.


To us, tutoring refers to a session where a tutor and student meet to talk about the student’s writing and writing process. We see tutoring as an opportunity to offer support and guidance to students who are working towards becoming independent writers; to us, the goal of tutoring is not to have students rely on tutors to perfect every piece of writing they do, but to use tutors to help them develop their own writing process and approach to creating and revising every piece of writing they do on their own. This often takes many sessions with a tutor, and that’s fine – we just want to ensure that every session is another step towards independence for the student.

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Writing Centre Information

WCOnline Student Tutorial


The Writing Centre Tutorial Service hours are below. If you prefer an online tutor, please go to to submit a paper for feedback.


Chapman Learning Commons

3-7pm, M-Th; 3-5pm F, Jan 12-Apr 10, 2015

By Appointment

Ponderosa C, 2021 West Mall

10am-3pm, M-F, Jan 12-Apr 10, 2015

For an appointment at a wheelchair accessible location, please call 604-822-1986.

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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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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

2 responses to “Improve Your Writing”

  1. Winona

    Reflection Paper


    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.


  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!

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