Learning in a Writing Centre: How We Work and How to Work With Us

The fourteen or so writing centres at U of T provide individual consultations with trained writing instructors, along with group teaching in workshops and courses. There's no charge for any of this instruction—it's part of your academic program. The mandate of writing centres is to help you develop writing skills as you progress through your studies. All the undergraduate colleges have writing centres for their students, and so do most professional faculties and the School of Graduate Studies. Here are some general guidelines on how to take advantage of the specialized instruction available in your writing centre.

Access

Group workshops are usually open to all students: watch for announcements online. For individual instruction, you are entitled to make use of the writing centre in the college where you are registered or the writing centre in your professional or graduate faculty. You may also take work in most college program courses (e.g., the ones prefixed INI, NEW, TRN, UNI, VIC, or WDW) to the writing centre of the college that offers the program. (Note: During the summer, only some of the college centres are open, but students in other colleges can book at any of the open centres.) Students at UTM and UTSC also have their own writing centres. If you're an Engineering student, check out the Engineering Communication Centre, including the online activities. If you're in Dentistry, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physical and Health Education, or Social Work, you're eligible to go to the Health Sciences Writing Centre and to ask questions through its website. And now all U of T graduate students have access to individual consultations through the Consulting Centre that is part of the Office of English Language and Writing Support at the School of Graduate Studies. Each writing centre has its own policy on how often you may work with instructors; usually the limit is once a week.

Appointments

It's wise to book appointments for individual sessions well ahead of time, especially for a session in the last few weeks of term, but occasionally there are last-minute openings. The online booking system keeps a waiting list, then contacts everybody on it when an appointment becomes available. It's up to you to log in and secure the appointment for yourself. Please be sure to keep your appointments, or at least give ample notice if you must cancel one. Writing centres can't afford to let appointments go unused and will remove access for students who miss appointments. For locations and for instructions on how to book appointments, see the file How to make an appointment with a writing instructor.

What We Do

Writing centres are teaching facilities staffed by trained instructors. We give group instruction to help you work out strategies for common writing problems, and we work individually with you, using your course assignments in any subject at any level, to help you develop your capacity to plan, organize, write, and revise academic papers.

  • Our group instruction presents advice on common questions and concerns. You may find us giving a talk or a workshop as part of your courses. Some writing centres offer free non-credit courses that give more extended coverage and offer a chance to practise and receive feedback. Ask at your writing centre to find a session suited to your needs, and visit our news page for announcements.
  • In individual counselling sessions, instructors ask about your plans and discuss them with you to help you understand your topic and clarify your ideas. We do not design research strategies or provide ideas.
  • Instructors will help you develop your own skills in revising and editing, and will help you identify patterns of language errors and work to overcome them. But don't ask us to do your proofreading for you!
  • It's usually most effective to focus on work in progress, but we will look at past work on request.

What You Can Do to Help Us Help You

A little forethought and lots of followup can help writing instructors and students work together efficiently. Here are some pointers.

  • Bring in your assignment sheet and other course material to help define what is expected.
  • Come to a writing centre at any stage of work on an assignment, and leave plenty of time afterwards to make thorough revisions.
  • You will profit from your appointments the most if you come back regularly to work on a sequence of skills in a variety of assignments.
  • Instructors may refer you group sessions and to other services and resources in the university, and may suggest that you consult handbooks about writing or do exercises to practise specific skills.. Expect to do lots of independent work between instructional sessions.
 

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