Undergrad Writing Centre

Undergraduate Writing Centre

Shine new light on your writing.

Whether it’s a fully drafted assignment, essay outline, or even scrap pieces of notes that don’t fully make sense just yet, we offer writing assistance that can help you achieve your writing goals. Meet with one of our trained upper-year or graduate Writing and Academic Skills Tutors to speak about a writing assignment or your academic writing questions.

Reasons to visit the Undergrad Writing Centre:

  • You are great at writing, but want to be mentored by upper-year and graduate students who are at the top of their class.
  • You struggle to get started with writing assignments and feel stressed-out while working on them.
  • You are always getting the same feedback from TAs and instructors, but don’t know what their input means.
  • You want someone to talk to about the stuff you’re working on.

Tutors cannot proofread, edit, or write your work for you. They can, however, identify areas of improvement and teach you to correct your own work.

CLRA Logo
The training that we offer our Writing Tutors has been externally recognized by the College Reading and Learning Association (CLRA).

What We Do

Services

Here are some of the things our Writing Tutors do:

  • Teach skills and strategies so that you can become a stronger writer for both present and future assignments.
  • Help you recognize how your ideas are communicating in your writing, and pinpoint areas where you can be clearer and more direct.
  • Build your awareness of your strengths and weakness so that you know what habits you should keep and what you need to work on.
  • Identify the grammatical errors that you often make and help you build the skills needed to correct those errors yourself.

CLRA Logo
The training that we offer our Writing Tutors has been externally recognized by the College Reading and Learning Association (CLRA).

General Tips

  • Read and try to edit your own work before your appointment. We can give the most helpful feedback when you bring your best work.
  • Think about comments and feedback you have received in the past.
  • Be prepared to ask questions, participate, and take an active role in your appointment.
  • Manage your time: It is most helpful to see a Tutor at least one week before your assignment is due.
  • If your essay is due within one or two days, focus on specific areas to improve, not a general overview.
  • Know where you are in the writing process. First draft? Final draft? Still brainstorming?
  • If you have questions or concerns about the content, speak to your TA or instructor; content and accuracy are the student’s responsibility.

Before school started, I was so worried about how I was going to succeed in university. All you hear about is the ‘ten percent’ grade drop, and how you are on your own in university… That is exactly what I thought, until I was told about the Student Success Centre. At first, I was hesitant to go, but I gained many skills that helped me succeed in my first semester at McMaster.

McMaster University Student

Book an Appointment

About

The Undergrad Writing Centre is located in the Learning Commons (Mills Library, second floor), L213H, L213D, and L213E. Appointments can be booked on OSCARplus, under “Appointments” on the left menu.

For the Fall term, appointment availability begins the third week of September. Students can schedule their appointments starting the second week of classes.

For the Winter term, appointments will be available for booking by the third week of January. Appointments begin the same week.

Please note that there are no appointments during both reading weeks and during the Winter break.

Appointment Guidelines

Appointments are 50 minutes in length. You can make up to ten appointments each semester.

What to Bring

A printed copy of your work
Your syllabus and instructions for the assignment, including a grading rubric if available
Specific goals for what you want to accomplish in your appointment
Ideas and questions about your writing

Frequently Asked Questions

You can expect a conversation about your work throughout your session, so come prepared to talk! Here are some general practices we follow with our sessions:

  1. You and your Tutor will review the assignment description and set a basic agenda for the session. We recommend some prep in advance of your session! You might be worried about the flow between your paragraphs or there might be a particularly awkward section in the writing that you want to rephrase. On the other hand, you might be at the beginning of your project and need help with brainstorming. It might seem limiting to set a goal for your session, but most students discover that this helps them make the most of their time with the Tutor.
  1. Your Tutor might progress through the agenda by asking you questions designed to help you restate your ideas, giving you small tasks to do so that you can reorganize your thoughts, or teaching you new rules or concepts that you can apply to your work. You also might read your assignment aloud to work out any problems.
  1. Your Tutor will sum-up what you discussed in your session. You might also write down any questions you have for your TA or professor at this time so that you’re prepared when you visit their office hours.

You can book up to 10 sessions per semester!

You can cancel appointments in OSCARplus. If you have difficulty using OSCARplus, email skills@mcmaster.ca.

Please try to cancel appointments as far in advance as possible so that another person can take advantage of that time.

No shows can cause problems for our services because appointments are then blocked for other students who need them. If you fail to show up for an appointment three times, you will be unable to book more appointments at the Undergrad Writing Centre for the remainder of the semester.

Generally, seeking a writing tutor from your Faculty isn’t necessary.  This service is designed to help you build your skills in writing. We cannot support you in the disciplinary content. Examples of disciplinary content include interpreting statistics, performing analyses of Old English manuscripts, communicating the purpose of spectroscopy, and so on.

You might be worried that your Tutor will not be able to understand the content of your writing, but don’t worry! Even if we’re unfamiliar with the content you are discussing, we will be able to identify if your sentences are concise, your ideas are organized, and your information is well-sourced.

Writing isn’t a skill that can be mastered; there is always the possibility of going further. This means that you can improve your writing throughout your life (even your professors are constantly improving their writing skills!)

Also, you can learn tips and tricks from Tutors that will help you to gain confidence and become more efficient. You can learn strategies to make your work easier!

Writing Contest

Graphic that says Writing Contest. This year's theme is community. The graphic includes a photo of students at the arch, a laptop, and a pencil, pen and eraser.

Share your creative writing with us

Our 2019 topic is: Community!

Not the Amazon Prime sitcom but the theme for this year’s writing contest! What does it mean to be part of a community? Think global, think local, but above all else, think creative!

We will be accepting submissions of poetry and prose of up to 200 words starting January 2019.

This year’s prizes:

First prize: $150 gift card to the Campus Store

First runner-up: $100 gift card to the Campus Store

Second runner-up: $50 gift card to the Campus Store

How to Enter

  • The contest is open to students and the McMaster community
  • Contest theme and prizes announced in December 2018
  • Contest opens for submissions Tuesday, January 1, 2019
  • Submissions due on or before Thursday, January 31, 2019
  • You must submit your entry by emailing it to skills@mcmaster.ca with the subject “2018/2019 Writing Contest”
  • Submissions must include your full name and email address
  • Submissions will be evaluated for creativity, writing style, language, and mechanics
  • Winners will be announced in February 2019

Rules and Guidelines

By participating in the Contest, you must ensure that the work:

  • is original and that you have all necessary rights in and to the entry submission used to enter the Contest;
  • does not violate any law, statute, ordinance or regulation;
  • does not contain any reference to any identifiable third parties, unless consent has been obtained from all such individuals and your parent/legal guardian if you are under the age of majority in their jurisdiction of residence;
  • will not give rise to any claims of infringement, invasion of privacy or publicity, or infringe on any rights and/or interests of any third party, or give rise to any claims for payment; and
  • is not defamatory or trade libellous, and will not contain, depict, include, discuss or involve without limitation, any of the following:
    • explicit, graphic or excessive sexual activity;
    • crude, vulgar or offensive language and/or symbols;
    • derogatory characterizations of any ethnic, racial, sexual or religious groups;
    • content that endorses, condones or discusses any illegal, inappropriate or risky activity, behaviour or conduct;
    • personal information of individuals, including, without limitation, names and addresses;
    • commercial messages, comparisons or solicitations for products or services of third parties;
    • any identifiable third party products and/or trade-marks or brands;
    • any other content that is or could be considered inappropriate, unsuitable or offensive, all as determined by the Sponsor and/or the Contest Parties in their sole discretion.

Last year’s writing contest theme was integrity. Here was the winning submission:

atlas

By: Manveer Kalirai

MICAH: What is the greatest untruth you’ve ever known?

KARAM: There is a myth the Greeks had come up with, you know

MICAH: There was a myth for everything, Karam.

KARAM: [The corners of her mouth curved upwards.] True. It’s how they answered the why’s and what’s, the who’s and how’s. It’s part of how they understood. But, Micah, there’s this one myth in particular…

KARAM: The titan Atlas taught us about the worlds above, while he held up ours. He was sentenced to hold up the earth and the sky for warring against Olympus. That never sat well with me, to be honest.

MICAH: You don’t think he deserved it?

KARAM: Holding up the weight of the world shouldn’t be a punishment, Micah. It’s a responsibility. Not a question of whether he deserved it or not. I think Atlas was just staying true to himself.

MICAH: Yeah?

KARAM: Yeah. I think the king of the stars would’ve shouldered the weight, regardless of the circumstances—simply because he valued this precious world of ours, because he valued it enough to bear its weight upon his shoulders. Not because he had to, Atlas was just doing the best he knew how.

Legal Stuff

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY: Contest open to residents of Canada (excluding the province of Quebec) who are over the age of majority and are full-time students enrolled in an undergraduate program at McMaster University. Contest opens on January 1, 2019 at 12:01 a.m. EST and closes on January 31, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST. To enter, visit the Student Success Centre and follow instructions to complete the submission. Limit one entry per person.

Full Rules

This writing contest (the “Contest”) is conducted by McMaster University (the “Sponsor”) and is intended for current McMaster University undergraduate students who are residents of Canada (excluding the province of Quebec) and will be interpreted according to Canadian law. By participating in the Contest, each entrant agrees to be bound by these Official Rules and by the interpretation of these Rules by the Sponsor. Entrants acknowledge that the Contest is in no way sponsored or administered by, or associated with Facebook or Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are completely released by each entrant of all liability arising out of or related to the Contest. Any questions, comments or complaints regarding the Contest must be directed to the Sponsor and not Facebook or Twitter

ELIGIBILITY: The Contest is open to residents of Canada (excluding the province of Quebec) who are over the age of majority in their province or territory and are full-time students enrolled in an undergraduate program at McMaster University at the time of entry, except employees (and persons with whom they are domiciled) of the Sponsor, its affiliated institutions and service providers.

HOW TO ENTER: The Contest opens on January 1, 2019 at 12:01am EST and closes on January 31, 2019 at 11:59pm EST (“Contest Period”). To enter, during the Contest Period, entries must be submitted to the Student Success Centre in Gilmour Hall 110 or by email at skills@mcmaster.ca. There is a limit of one entry per person.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: By participating in the Contest, each entrant warrants and represents that his or her submission:

  • is original to him or her and that the entrant has all necessary rights in and to the entry submission used to enter the Contest;
  • does not violate any law, statute, ordinance or regulation;
  • does not contain any reference to any identifiable third parties, unless consent has been obtained from all such individuals and their parent/legal guardian if they are under the age of majority in their jurisdiction of residence;
  • will not give rise to any claims of infringement, invasion of privacy or publicity, or infringe on any rights and/or interests of any third party, or give rise to any claims for payment; and
  • is not defamatory or trade libellous, and will not contain, depict, include, discuss or involve without limitation, any of the following:
  • explicit, graphic or excessive sexual activity;
  • crude, vulgar or offensive language and/or symbols;
  • derogatory characterizations of any ethnic, racial, sexual or religious groups;
  • content that endorses, condones or discusses any illegal, inappropriate or risky activity, behaviour or conduct;
  • personal information of individuals, including, without limitation, names and addresses;
  • commercial messages, comparisons or solicitations for products or services of third parties;
  • any identifiable third party products and/or trade-marks or brands;
  • any other content that is or could be considered inappropriate, unsuitable or offensive, all as determined by the Sponsor and/or the Contest Parties in their sole discretion.

Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to edit or modify any entry submission, or to request an entrant to modify or edit his or her entry submission, in order to ensure that the entry submission complies with these Official Rules, or for any other reason.

GRAND PRIZE SELECTION: The prize(s) (“Prize(s)”) will be awarded by a panel of judges consisting of Student Success Centre writing assistants as well as staff members. The jury will award the Prize(s) based on creativity, writing style, language, grammar and content. The relative weight for the criteria to be used for judging will be as follows: 25% creativity/originality, 25% writing/mechanics (grammar, structure, readability), 25% text structure (rhythm, sequence, flow), 25% descriptive language (writer’s voice and description). A copy of the scoring rubric can be obtained by emailing skills@mcmaster.ca. The Prize winner(s) will be determined by Wednesday, December 14.

PRIZES: There are three (3) Prizes available to be won. Prizes must be accepted as awarded and are not transferable. Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a Prize or Prize component for one of equal or greater value.

PRIZE AWARD: Potential winners will be notified by email. Winners or their parents or legal guardians, for winners under the age of majority may be required to sign and return a declaration of eligibility and a liability/publicity release within ten business days of notification. If a selected entrant cannot be contacted, or fails to return the contest documents within the specified time if required, he or she will forfeit his or her Prize, and an alternate winner will be selected.

GENERAL: The Contest is subject to all applicable federal, provincial and municipal laws and regulations. By entering the Contest, participants agree to be bound by these Official Rules and by the decisions of the Sponsor, which shall be final on all matters relating to the Contest. All entries become the property of the Sponsor and none will be returned. The personal information provided by entrants will only be used for the purpose of administration of the Contest, unless the entrant otherwise agrees in accordance with Sponsor’s privacy policy available at http://www.mcmaster.ca/legal.cfm

The Sponsor is not responsible for lost, stolen, delayed, damaged, incomplete or misdirected entries, or for typographical or other errors in the offer or administration of this Contest, including but not limited to errors in promotional materials and these Official Rules.  No more than the stated number of Prizes will be awarded.  All entries are subject to verification.  No correspondence will be entered into except with potential winners.

The Sponsor is not responsible for any problems or technical malfunctions of any telephone network or lines, computer online systems or servers, computer software problems or traffic congestion on the Internet or at any website, and assumes no liability for damage to entrant’s or any person’s computer resulting from participating in the Contest. In the event of a dispute as to the identity of a winner based on an e-mail address, the winning entry will be deemed to have been made by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address at time of entry. “Authorized account holder” is the natural person who is assigned an e-mail address by an Internet service provider or other organization responsible for assigning e-mail addresses for the domain associated with the e-mail address in question.

If this Contest is not capable of being completed as planned because of any cause beyond the control of the Sponsor, Sponsor reserves the right to cancel, suspend or modify the Contest.