Classes, General, How-to, Student Life, Study

The Perks of Going to a Writing Centre

I have been to a writing centre for every assignment I’ve had since I began attending U of T. It’s November (a.k.a. essay season) and I have six essays due between now and the end of the term. Winter Break, I see you. You are so close, but also so not within reach. Recently, I had to complete a research essay about women writers in the Renaissance period. I wasn’t too familiar with how to structure research essays, but luckily my professor had provided us with a list of scholarly sources we could use.

Photograph of computer screen with the words "I don't know what to write" written on Microsoft Word

This is literally how all of my essays start out.

I tend to book my writing centre appointments well in advance (they book up very quickly!) and thankfully, you’re allowed to schedule up to three appointments at a time. Writing Centre appointments can be booked at your home college (mine is Innis) or colleges where you are taking courses (such as SMC, VIC, NEW courses, etc.). Writing centres can see you for any aspect of your assignment that you’re working on, as long as you bring your assignment sheet and work on paper! Usually, I try to have a rough draft completed before I go to the writing centre because knowing that I have an upcoming appointment gives me the motivation to actually complete my essays.

For this research essay, I was feeling apprehensive about it as it wasn’t a format or topic I was completely familiar with. This time around, I didn’t have a rough draft finished because researching took me longer than I had anticipated. I showed up to my appointment with a tentative thesis and two body paragraphs, research notes, and my assignment sheet. I wasn’t sure how much help I would receive as I felt like I hadn’t done that much work. However, the writing centre instructor was very helpful!

She looked at my assignment sheet and work while asking me to explain what my assignment was about. When she had finished looking at everything, she offered some words of advice which she also wrote down so I could take them with me later. She noted that my tentative thesis was really a focus rather than a thesis and we discussed what aspects of my body paragraphs could be further developed to create a solid argument. It was also helpful to know which parts of my work weren’t necessarily compatible with the focus I had chosen. My favourite aspect of the writing centres is that you’re able to discuss your work with an academic professional, so they’re very familiar with the type of assignments you’re completing. We wrote down lots of guiding questions for me to develop in my research and analysis because I was having issues with creating a fully formed argument.

Photograph of direction sign to writing centre

This nice and big sign led me to the writing centre!

With these guiding questions (like How does this poem relate to the poet’s major themes and thesis?), I left the appointment feeling much better about the work that I had completed so far, even though it wasn’t much. Even though appointments are only 50 minutes long, writing centre instructors can be extremely helpful during any stage of your essay writing. The writing centre instructor also referred me to online resources for writing and citation methods, so I could look at them later on in my writing process.

Now that I have a more fully articulated direction of what I can do with my essay, I feel prepared to tackle it. Also, once I’ve completed the essay as per the writing centre instructor’s suggestions, I can feel confident about bringing my topic to my professor and asking any questions I may have in office hours. Essay season is now upon us, but take advantage of the writing centres because they are a fantastic resource.