Writing at UBC
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.
Argument and Persuasion
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.
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.
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.
Science Writing Resource
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.
- 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
Get help from UBC Writing Centre
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...
For more info, please visit: UBC Writing Centre