Improve Your Writing

Photo by Don Erdhardt

Photo by Don Erdhardt

The UBC Writing Centre offers writing support for all UBC students. Come and meet with one of our tutors for feedback, to get questions answered, or just to brainstorm. 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. We offer three main services, all free to UBC students: one-on-one tutoring, self-learning resources available online, the occasional workshop, and writing groups (please see our blog for more details).

Some things to note before you meet with a tutor:

  • 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 give yourself time to get to your appointment. If you are more than 10 minutes late, your appointment will be cancelled.
  • You may only drop in once per day at IKBLC.
  • Our goal is to help students become strong, independent academic writers. You are welcome to bring in work that is not course related, but that is in service of this goal. Creative writing will be reviewed at the tutor's discretion.
  • Feel free to bring resumes and cover letters for review, but note that tutors will focus mostly on clarity and style. For assistance with content, we recommend the Canaccord Learning Commons or Centre for Student Involvement and Careers.
  • Students working on graduate school applications 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, content help is outside of our mandate. If you need assistance with content, ask your instructor.
  • There is space available for students waiting to see a tutor at IKBLC, but we ask that students who have already seen a tutor find another place to complete their work.


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.

an icon person reading

Writing Centre Information

WCOnline Student Tutorial


The Writing Centre Tutorial Service is now closed for the term. If you wish to submit a paper for online review, please go to starting May 2, 2016.

Our Blog

Support for the Writing Process

Whether you are a new or experienced writer, writing is a process! When it comes to university courses, the process of writing starts from the moment you receive your assignment. While the UBC Writing...


Hi everyone! The team here at the UBC Writing Centre is excited to begin the new fall semester with you. We will officially open up shop this year on September 21 at the Chapman Learning Commons, loca...

5 Tips for Creative Writing Assignments & Projects

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes The field of Creative Writing encompasses a variety of genres, including fiction, poetry, screenwriting, lyric writing, graphic novels and translation. It’s fun and...


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.

an icon person reading
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.
an icon person reading


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.

an icon person reading
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.

an icon person reading
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

an icon person reading
Science Writing Resource PDF

7 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!

  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:

  4. Wade

    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.


Leave a Reply