Resources to get you through the slump of paper-writing season

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Have you ever stared at the blinking cursor on a blank Word document? Watching in agony as it mocks you for not having a clue what to write, or how to start? 

I’m pretty sure we’ve all been in that position, and with exam season right around the corner, the deadlines for many of those final papers that used to seem like they were due far in the future are quickly approaching.

If you haven’t started, or are struggling, to write an academic paper, you aren’t alone. The University of Waterloo reported that a 2019 study by researchers from four Canadian universities found more than half of the 2 000 students studied felt they needed better basic skills — such as writing — to succeed at the post-secondary level. 

Fortunately, resources are available at UVic to help you with the tedious (and nightmare-ish) task of typing words on a blank Word document. The Centre for Academic Communication (CAC) is a writing service located in the McPherson library, and is available to help students meet university expectations in areas such as reading, writing, and speaking. 

The CAC is a free service open to all UVic students that helps them with their academic writing and reading skills through one-on-one tutoring sessions, workshops, and blogs

With seven tutors on staff, the CAC offers tutoring help to students in three different ways. You can book a face-to-face session with a tutor anytime from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday through the CAC’s online booking system. The sessions last 25 minutes at a time, or can take the form of a back-to-back 50-minute tutorial. 

Students are restricted to a maximum of two sessions a week and 10 for each semester, so one 50-minute session would put you at the max for one week. 

If you are a student taking online courses, or cannot come to campus for in-person feedback, the CAC also provides online tutoring and assistance. You can book a session online, and submit your paper to receive critiquing and feedback on issues such as grammatical errors within 48 hours. 

While it’s an offence against the UVic Policy on Academic Integrity to use an editor to correct and alter your work, consultation and review by a tutor or a fellow student that doesn’t include editing is allowed. The CAC doesn’t provide explicit grammar correction, citation correction, or help with take-home exams through online tutoring, and therefore is in compliance with the policy. 

The CAC also has a calendar with workshops for students, including one-hour sessions to help with grammar, literature reviews, and academic proposal writing. 

UVic’s Technology Integrated Learning department also offers a tutorial on academic writing for students looking for a straightforward, self-taught way to learn. The online tutorial breaks down the writing process into four parts — understanding, planning, drafting, and revising — and provides PDFs and links to help break down the topics for students. 

For students with a learning disability or mental health issue, the Centre for Accessible Learning offers help with papers and assistance with other academic needs.

Although these resources are all readily available to help you create a fully fleshed-out, well-researched paper, I’ll also leave you with some of my own advice (as a writing student) to help you get through this final stretch. 

Set daily goals such as, “I’m going to start my introduction and first main point today” to break down an eight- or 10-page paper into stages. Writing a paper is a process, and I’ve found that you will feel accomplished by completing daily victories on your way to the final product. 

Give yourself breaks so you can come back to your computer screen with fresh eyes, and start the paper well before the due date. I know it’s often easier said than done, but giving yourself a head start on the project gives you more time to review and self-edit your paper to ensure it says what you want and meets the assignment criteria. 

I hope these resources and tips help you on your way to overcoming one of the more tedious and stressful aspects of university.