Revealing the Treasures of McGill’s Writing Centre: A Discussion with Dr. Yvonne Hung

Embark on a journey to uncover the lesser-known treasures of the McGill Writing Centre and Graphos as Dr. Yvonne Hung, the director and coordinator of Graphos, sheds light on the enriching experiences awaiting students. Most students, unbeknownst to them, are yet to explore the multifaceted nature of this academic tool.

Unlocking the Writing Centre's Secrets

Q: What is some general information about the writing centre and graphos that most students who have not accessed the service before may not know? What are some of the main features of the services? How can students best access the services?

YH: Most people don’t know that the McGill Writing Centre is an academic department that also has a strong service mandate! We offer a nice set of undergraduate classes that are on academic writing, creative writing, digital communication, and science communication, as well as a slate of graduate courses on academic writing and communication. On the service side, we have a robust tutorial service whereby students can access up to 7 hours of individualized consults on their writing, and a comprehensive set of graduate writing workshops, writing sessions, and specialized support for thesis and fellowship writing through Graphos. To access our courses, students would register in Minerva. For our non-credit offerings, e.g., writing tutorials, workshops, and other support, students can register by following the links on our website.

Mastering the Art of Writing Applications

Q: What are some common Do's or Don'ts for students either writing an essay or writing personal statements/research proposals for grad school applications? Are there any general tips you have for students writing applications for grad school?

YH: One common pitfall I’ve noticed is that students take the “personal” part of the “personal statement” too literally. Writing a personal statement can be tricky because you have share specific aspects about your background and experience but in service of telling a story about how going to that specific graduate program is a key part of continuing your academic trajectory and advancing your research and professional goals. One tip I would offer is to build in time to write, time to receive feedback (from trusted advisors or others in your network), and time to polish so that there are no little slipups. You don’t want to accidentally list another university’s name or the wrong professor! Ideally, you will also work backwards from the deadline to ensure you have given adequate time for referees to write good letters and for you to assemble supporting documents in line with the application requirements.

Q: Are there services that at the centre they can best utilize for this?

YH: The Tutorial Service would be an excellent way to get another set of eyes on your application. Other people can spot missteps in logic or structure or grammar far more easily than we can (especially if we’re tired or in a rush). Don’t forget, 7 hours per term! In addition, I urge all students to consider taking a writing or oral communication course during their studies so that they can benefit from structured teaching, regular feedback, and a supportive environment to continue honing their skills and craft.

Overcoming Writer's Block and Finding Your Muse

Q: Is there any general advice you would give to students who are experiencing writers block or just don't know where to start with an assignment?

YH: Set a timer for 20 minutes and start writing. You’ll be astonished at how giving yourself a fixed start and finish time can help to jolt oneself to get ideas onto the page. If you feel unsure of where to start, you can book an appointment with a writing tutor who can help you at any stage of the project. And if you’re a graduate student, you can sign up for one of our regular writing retreats, which are led by an experienced facilitator who will guide you to set reasonable writing goals, offer nature or stretch breaks, and be a source of good cheer as you lean into the difficult and rewarding work of communicating ideas in a clear and precise manner.

If you are interested in utilizing this service, there are multiple upcoming resources including:

- presentation tutoring pilot for May-June:

- Their work with First Peoples’ House whereby our dedicated writing tutor has been working with the first ever indigenous valedictorian.

- Their writing support for applicants to the prestigious Vanier and Banting awards in the summer. More details to come!

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