Taking a lot of essay-heavy courses this semester and not sure how to navigate the workload? McGill’s Writing Centre is the one-stop-shop for any questions, concerns, and clarifications you may have on how to write the perfect essay.
As we are launched into yet another semester of papers, exams, and reading responses, any Arts student – both new and returning – can take advantage of the writing support resources offered through the McGill Writing Centre.
Knowing how to write an effective essay is crucial in any Arts discipline, but can also be extremely beneficial in STEM, business, and more. Honing your skills within an academic setting sets students up for success both in their professional careers post-graduation, and in life in general. Having the skills to communicate effectively translates to any interpersonal interaction or piece of written correspondence, and the first step in establishing these skills might just be booking an appointment with the McGill Writing Centre. We spoke to Dr. Yvonne Hung about her involvement in the McGill Writing Centre, and she pointed us to some useful resources to keep in your back pocket this semester.
How did you get involved with the McGill Writing Centre?
I started at the McGill Writing Centre in 2015 as the coordinator of our graduate communication program, Graphos, where I oversaw our courses, workshops, fellowship writing support, and writing retreats. My preparation for this role was informed by a two-year writing fellowship in teaching writing across the disciplines, that I’d received during my doctoral studies in Environmental Psychology. My role has since expanded to include oversight for our undergraduate courses and the writing tutorial service - and it is work that I find intellectually challenging and gratifying!
What kinds of resources are available to students who are looking for help with their writing, e.g., composing a paper or preparing an abstract or working on a funding application?
Students can take advantage of the Writing Centre’s Tutorial Service to advance their writing by booking up to 7 hours per term of individual writing consults with our trained Writing Tutors. Students are welcome to bring writing at various stages, from works-in-progress or solid drafts in need of polishing. Students will interact with tutors with experience in giving feedback on a diversity of assignments and prompts.
Tutors are usually current graduate students, writing instructors, or editors who are prepared and enthusiastic to work with students from across the disciplines. Still, the Tutorial Service is not a drop-off proofreading and editing service – rather, tutors aim to empower writers by offering constructive and actionable feedback to strengthen their work.
What can motivated students do to develop their mastery of written and oral communication? What can one expect in a Writing Centre course? How do strong communication skills help students beyond their coursework?
Writing is a craft, and like honing any skill, you improve by practicing, giving and responding to feedback, and receiving excellent coaching. For students who are seeking more structured opportunities to enhance their written or oral communication skills, we recommend taking an undergraduate or graduate course.
In all of our courses, students can expect to study and apply craft elements of various genres, including research essays, creative writing, blogs, podcasts, and other forms of communication. Students will also benefit from the act of offering and responding to feedback, both peer review as well as close readings from their instructors. The small class size and structure of the course means that students benefit from regular practice, pair or group learning activities, and a constructive approach to teaching writing.
Many of our undergraduate course can be taken as electives and can prepare students to communicate effectively in academic as well as professional settings. Learning a process with which to approach a communication task, having done research and critical thinking, is a practice that can be applied to a research essay as well as a policy paper. Also, our courses often include portfolio assignments that can open students up to career possibilities in research, communications, creative writing, or digital storytelling. Rather than only relying on grades, students can demonstrate capability as an effective communicator with a variety of polished examples.
Consider also the learning community fostered in our classes, taught by writing specialists and published writers trained in pedagogy. For example, in our creative writing classes (WCOM 203, WCOM 333), our teaching corps is comprised of published writers who have received accolades for their work and are experienced writing instructors. Several students have later submitted their writing assignments, which have been published or awarded recognition as well!
- 2022 Heartwood Lit Magazine - “Warm Soup” Victor Wang (student)
- 2022 University of Alberta Press “We Have Never Lived on Earth” Dr. Kasia Van Schaik (instructor)
- 2021 Quebec Writers’ Federation carte blanche Prize – “Tricks” Noa Padawer-Blatt (student)
- 2020 Quebec Writers’ Federation A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry – “A Common Name for Everything” Sarah Wolfson (instructor)
In terms of becoming a more polished writer, does the Writing Centre distinguish its services for students based on language background?
Writing and rewriting are processes that many people struggle with, even professors, regardless of language background! Many of our courses, e.g., creative writing (WCOM 203, WCOM 333), science communication (WCOM 314), or digital communication (WCOM 317) engage all student writers, regardless of language background, to become adept at communicating effectively in these disciplines or contexts.
We also value multilingualism and appreciate how multilingual people enrich McGill’s learning community. For English language learners, there can be significant benefit from learning about tools and other strategies to further enhance their proficiency at the university level. Therefore, we maintain a small core of offerings (WCOM 235, 245, 255) designed to promote greater fluidity and mastery of academic communication in English.
Can students receive peer-tutoring through the Writing Centre? How can students become a peer tutor?
Supported by student ancillary fees, the MWC’s Tutorial Service offers undergraduate and graduate students individual writing consults with trained Writing Tutors. Graduate students who have experience in tutoring others in writing are welcome to contact the Tutorial Service about employment opportunities.
Are there any resources provided by the Writing Centre for graduate students?
Graduate student and postdoctoral fellows can benefit from the Graphos program, the Writing Centre’s graduate communication program. Graphos offers 1-credit courses, workshops, Vanier/Banting fellowship writing support, writing retreats, and a new set of thesis writing support.
Thanks to Dr. Yvonne Hung, you now have the perfect all-inclusive rundown of the McGill Writing Centre – a great resource to get into contact with whether you need help for a class, or even if you want to improve a piece of your work for publishing!