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The Research Commons provides writing support services to SFU graduate researchers across all disciplines. We are developmental and instructional in our approach to working with students on their writing. We use individual pieces of writing that are shared with us as opportunities to support writers in their understanding of specific writing skills. Our philosophy is therefore oriented towards supporting writers as a whole, rather than improving or polishing a single piece of writing. In order to accomplish these goals, we prioritize feedback on higher order concerns, such as thesis development and argumentation, paragraph structure, and cohesion. We typically give feedback on lower order concerns (including grammar and sentence structure) only where there are few higher order concerns in the draft or where such lower order concerns are interfering with the meaning of the text. We take this approach because, as writing specialists, we are aware that the higher order concerns can require more time for mastery and that they tend to make the greatest difference for establishing effective writing skills and habits.
If you have specific questions about lower order concerns, such as grammar or sentence structure, the writing team may encourage you to book a writing consultation to have a conversation about writing mechanics, separate from working on a specific draft.
A Writing Services Coordinator and a team of Graduate Writing Facilitators are available to work with graduate students at any stage of the writing process. Support is not just limited to theses and dissertations but to any type of academic writing. Learn more about the team.
Students are invited to request a Read Ahead to get intensive writing support that may include one-on-one in-person or electronic consultations with a Graduate Facilitator or the Writing Services Coordinator. Graduate Facilitators and the Writing Services Coordinator comment on student writing (but do not edit student work) and suggest resources and ways of making progress.
Once a Read Ahead request is received, a student will normally receive a reply within 48-72 hours (excluding weekends) confirming the request and making plans about how to proceed. Students should not expect that feedback can be provided with less than 72 hours notice (excluding weekends). The time to respond to student work varies depending on the length of the submission, the number of students requesting feedback, and the Facilitators’ and Writing Coordinator’s existing commitments. Be sure to submit your request well in advance of course or semester deadlines.
Students can book in person one-on-one consultations with a Graduate Facilitator or the Writing Services Coordinator to discuss any aspect of the writing process. Consultations can include discussions around time management and goal setting for writing, stages of the writing process, and planning for different writing assignments. Writing consultations are 30 or 60 minutes long and may be available at all three campuses. Students interested in having their written work reviewed in advance of a consultation should submit a Read Ahead request.
Once a Writing Consultation request is received, a student will normally receive a reply within 48-72 hours (excluding weekends) confirming the request and making plans about how to proceed.
Submit a Consultation request and choose "Writing" as the Consultation Type.
Responding to a call for papers or preparing for a defense? Graduate Writing Facilitators or the Writing Services Coordinator offer consultations for students who are interested in the process of developing a presentation based on their written work. Presentation consultations can help students to prepare for conferences, in-class presentations, and defenses.
Once a Presentation Consultation request is received, a student will normally receive a reply within 48 - 72 hours (excluding weekends) confirming the request and making plans about how to proceed.
Submit a Consultation request and choose "Presentation" as the Consultation Type.
Thesis Boot Camp is a multi-day workshop which provides graduate students with the opportunity to spend three days dedicated to making serious progress on their dissertation or master’s thesis. Along with a comfortable, quiet working environment, writing and research support, and snacks and lunches, the program offers students community and motivation in that final push towards the completion of their dissertation or thesis.
The Graduate Open Writing Lab is for all graduate students who want the time and a quiet, dedicated space to work on their writing. A Graduate Writing Facilitator will be available for consultations and to answer questions. Registration not required - please drop in!
Spring Semester 2020 [January 10 to April 6]
Effective March 13, 2020 - Open Writing Lab at all SFU locations has been postponed until further notice
Graduate Open Writing Lab -
Mondays, 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm, SFU Burnaby, W.A.C. Bennett Library, Research Commons, Rm 7010
Graduate Open Writing Lab -
Fridays, 10:30am to 1:00pm, SFU Vancouver, Harbour Centre - Room HC 7400*
Attend writing workshops on a variety of topics including:
- Writing and Researching your Literature Review for Students in the Humanities and Social Sciences
- Writing and Researching your Literature Review for Students in the Sciences
- The Writing Process
- Concise and Coherent Writing for Graduate Students
- Outlining and Reverse Outlining
- Revising and Proofreading
- Writing More Concisely
- Drafting and Revising
- Using and Applying Feedback
"My supervisor/professor says my writing isn’t clear and I want to do better on my next assignment. I’ve already written a draft of my assignment."
"I’m submitting an article to a journal and I want to make sure that I transition between ideas and that my overall argument makes sense."
"I’m having trouble finding time to write. I want to make progress but I’m not sure how to organize the material I have to make everything fit together into my thesis."
"I have to write a literature review but I’m not sure what to include."
"There are writing mechanics (for example, specific grammar rules) that I would like to learn about."
"Writing at home isn’t working so well for me. I want to schedule my writing so I don’t get distracted."
"I know my grammar isn’t very good – I need someone to proofread my work."
Graduate Writing Services do not include editing or proofreading.
For more information, see hiring an editor.
Q. I have met with a facilitator before but I have a new piece of writing I want help with, what should I do?
A. You need to make a new request, but you can request a particular facilitator. Note that responses are dependent on facilitator availability.
Q. How many times can I have a facilitator look at the same piece of writing?
A. Facilitators will normally review the same piece of writing two times.
Q. Do I need to attach the document to the read ahead request?
A. No, once you are contacted by a facilitator, you will be asked to email your document.
Q. I made a request on Saturday, when will I hear back?
A. Normally you will hear back within 48 hours- 72 hours, however, this does not include weekends so you should have a response by Wednesday.
Q. How far in advance of my deadline do I need to submit my work?
A. The volume of requests at any given time of semester combined with the size of the document under review will impact the time to complete the process. Students should not expect that requests made with fewer than 72 hours to a deadline can be accommodated.
Q. Will you proofread or edit my work?
A. No. We are developmental and instructional in our approach to working with students on their writing. We use individual pieces of writing that are shared with us as opportunities to support writers in their understanding of specific writing skills. Our philosophy is therefore oriented towards supporting writers as a whole, rather than improving or polishing a single piece of writing. We are able to provide grammar support and comment on issues related to flow, structure, cohesion, and argumentation, but may not do so in a first round of feedback if there are higher order concerns that we feel need to be addressed first. Typically, our feedback will focus on offering suggestions and resources for learning to proofread and edit your own writing effectively -- an incredibly important aspect of scholarly writing!
Q. Can I request a particular facilitator?
A. We will attempt to specific facilitator requests, but responses are dependent on facilitator availability.
Graduate Writing Facilitators provide support for graduate students seeking to improve their writing. Services include:
- Writing Consultations: one-on-one consultations to discuss strategies for time management, planning writing tasks, elements of style, and writing for different audiences
- Read Ahead: asynchronous feedback on virtually all types of graduate level writing to improve clarity and coherence
- Presentation Consultations: support for developing oral presentations based on a student’s writing.
Students may be referred to the services by their instructors, advisors, and supervisors, but please note that consultations are confidential and will be managed in accordance with BC's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The Writing Services Coordinator can also develop Course Integrated Workshops, which may be delivered by the Coordinator and/or Graduate Writing Facilitators. These in-class sessions are created by request and are designed to meet students' needs related to specific assignments or course goals. Please contact the current Coordinator for graduate student writing, Robyn Long, for more information (Phone: 778.782.7165 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
See Graduate writing resources for more information on different types of writing.