Writing Resources

General writing advice, essay tip sheets, referencing and style guides, lab report writing tip sheets, reflective writing.

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PDF Documents

  • 10 Common Grammatical Errors and Conventions in Academic Writing
  • 6 Effective Tips to Write a Summary
  • 6 Effective Tips to Write a Summary  (alternative format) 
  • Critical Review
  • Comparative Essay
  • APA Formatting & Style Guide
  • MLA Formatting & Style Guide
  • Chicago Formatting & Style Guide
  • ASA Formatting & Style Guide  (from UTM Sociology Department)
  • 8 Essential Parts of a Lab Report
  • Lab Report Writing
  • Fundamentals of Reflective Practice (Reflective Writing)

The  U of T Writing Advice website  features comprehensive writing information (also available in PDF format). Topic areas include:

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  • Reading and Researching
  • Using Sources
  • Types of Writing
  • English Language
  • Grammar Check Resource (external website)

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How Not to Plagiarize

  • Printable PDF Version
  • Fair-Use Policy

From the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters :

It shall be an offence for a student knowingly:

(d) to represent as one’s own any idea or expression of an idea or work of another in any academic examination or term test or in connection with any other form of academic work, i.e. to commit plagiarism.

Wherever in the Code an offence is described as depending on “knowing”, the offence shall likewise be deemed to have been committed if the person ought reasonably to have known.

You’ve already heard the warnings about plagiarism. Obviously it’s against the rules to buy essays or copy chunks from your friend’s homework, and it’s also plagiarism to borrow passages from books or articles or Web sites without identifying them. You know that the purpose of any paper is to show your own thinking, not create a patchwork of borrowed ideas. But you may still be wondering how you’re supposed to give proper references to all the reading you’ve done and all the ideas you’ve encountered.

The point of documenting sources in academic papers is not just to avoid unpleasant visits to the Dean’s office, but to demonstrate that you know what is going on in your field of study. It’s also a courtesy to your readers because it helps them consult the material you’ve found.  That’s especially important for Internet sources. So mentioning what others have said doesn’t lessen the credit you get for your own thinking—in fact, it adds to your credibility.

That’s not to say that questions about ownership of ideas are simple. For one thing, the different systems for typing up references are admittedly a nuisance. (The file Standard Documentation Formats explains basic formats.) But the real challenge is establishing the relationship of your thinking to the reading you’ve done (yes, that includes the Internet). Here are some common questions and basic answers.

Can’t I avoid problems just by listing every source in the bibliography? No, you need to integrate your acknowledgements into what you’re saying. Give the reference as soon as you’ve mentioned the idea you’re using, not just at the end of the paragraph. It’s often a good idea to name the authors (“X says” and “Y argues against X,”) and then indicate your own stand (“A more inclusive perspective, however, . . . “). The examples in this file and the one on Standard Documentation Formats show various wordings. Have a look at journal articles in your discipline to see how they refer to their sources.

If I put the ideas into my own words, do I still have to clog up my pages with all those names and numbers? Sorry—yes, you do. In academic papers, you need to keep mentioning authors and pages and dates to show how your ideas are related to those of the experts. It’s sensible to use your own words because that saves space and lets you connect ideas smoothly. But whether you quote a passage directly in quotation marks, paraphrase it closely in your own words, or just summarize it rapidly, you need to identify the source then and there. (That applies to Internet sources too: you still need author and date as well as title and URL.  The handout Standard Documentation Formats gives examples for a range of types.)

But I didn’t know anything about the subject until I started this paper. Do I have to give an acknowledgement for every point I make? You’re safer to over-reference than to skimp. But you can cut down the clutter by recognizing that some ideas are “common knowledge” in the field—that is, taken for granted by people knowledgeable about the topic. Facts easily found in standard reference books are considered common knowledge: the date of the Armistice for World War I, for example, or the present population of Canada. You don’t need to name a specific source for them, even if you learned them only when doing your research. In some disciplines, information covered in class lectures doesn’t need acknowledgement. Some interpretive ideas may also be so well accepted that they don’t need referencing: that Picasso is a distinguished modernist painter, for instance, or that smoking is harmful to health. Check with your professor or TA if you’re in doubt whether a specific point is considered common knowledge in your field.

  • How can I tell what’s my own idea and what has come from somebody else? Careful record-keeping helps. Always write down the author, title and publication information (including the specific identifying information for online publications) so you can attach names and dates to specific ideas. Taking good notes is also essential. Don’t paste passages from online sources into your draft: that’s asking for trouble. As you read any text—online or on the page—summarize useful points in your own words. If you record a phrase or sentence you might want to quote, put quotation marks around it in your notes to remind yourself that you’re copying the author’s exact words, whether electronically or in handwriting. If you record a distinctive phrase or sentence you might want to quote, put quotation marks around it in your notes to remind yourself that you’re copying the author’s exact words. And make a deliberate effort as you read to notice connections among ideas, especially contrasts and disagreements, and also to jot down questions or thoughts of your own. If you find as you write that you’re following one or two of your sources too closely, deliberately look back in your notes for other sources that take different views; then write about the differences and why they exist. See the advice file Taking Notes from Research Reading for more tips. 

So what exactly do I have to document? With experience reading academic prose, you’ll soon get used to the ways writers in your field refer to their sources. Here are the main times you should give acknowledgements. (You’ll notice many different formats in these examples. See the file on Standard Documentation Formats for advice on these systems.)

Quotations, paraphrases, or summaries : If you use the author’s exact words, enclose them in quotation marks, or indent passages of more than four lines. (For more on the mechanics of quoting, visit our file on using quotations .) But it’s seldom worthwhile to use long quotations. In literary studies, quote a few words of the work you’re analysing and comment on them. In other disciplines, quote only when the original words are especially memorable. In most cases, use your own words to paraphrase or summarize the idea you want to discuss, emphasizing the points relevant to your argument. But be sure to name sources even when you are not using the exact original words. As in the examples below, it’s often a good idea to mention the author’s name. Mentioning the author’s name indicates where the borrowing starts and stops and gains you some reflected glory for responding to the experts. e.g. As Morris puts it in The Human Zoo (1983), “we can always be sure that today’s daring innovation will be tomorrow’s respectability” (p. 189). [APA system] e.g. Northrop Frye discusses comedy in terms of the spring spirit, which he defines as the infusion of new life and hope into human awareness of universal problems ( Anatomy 163). The ending of The Tempest fits this pattern. [MLA system—short title to distinguish among different works by same author]. Specific facts used as evidence for your argument or interpretation : First consider whether the facts you’re mentioning are “common knowledge” according to the definition in point 3 above; if so, you may not need to give a reference. But when you’re relying on facts that might be disputed within your discipline—perhaps newly published data—establish that they’re trustworthy by showing that you got them from an authoritative source. e.g. In September 1914, more than 1300 skirmishes were recorded on the Western Front. 8 [traditional endnote/footnote system] e.g. Other recent researchers (4, 11, 12) confirm the findings that drug treatment has little effect in the treatment of pancreatic pseudocysts. [numbered-note system for biomedical sciences] Distinctive or authoritative ideas, whether you agree with them or not : The way you introduce a reference can indicate your attitude and lead into your own argument. e.g. Writing in 1966, Ramsay Cook asserted that Canada was in a period of critical instability (174). That period is not yet over, judging by the same criteria of electoral changeability, economic uncertainty, and confusion in policy decisions. [new MLA system] e.g. One writer (Von Daniken, 1970) even argues that the Great Pyramid was built for the practical purpose of guiding navigation. [APA system]
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As a former student of English, Sarah’s expertise as a writing tutor lies in humanities-focused scholarly conventions, though she is happy to meet with students from all disciplines and has experience tutoring in both the humanities and sciences. Additionally, her previous tutoring experience includes assisting students at the ESL level, brainstorming essay topics, strengthening essay structures, improving writing style, and formatting citations.

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UofT Writing Advice

Graduate centre for academic communication.

  • Other TST Library LibGuides

The University of Toronto Writing Centres have published numerous short guides on specific topics .


The Graduate Centre for Academic Communication provides graduate students with advanced training in academic writing and speaking. It is open to TST students enrolled in a PhD, MA, ThM, or DMin programme.

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How do I write an annotated bibliography?

Writing at the University of Toronto has advice for specific writing styles including annotated bibliographies .

Can't find what you're looking for?   Contact us.


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  1. Writing Advice

    The advice files on this site answer the kinds of questions that University of Toronto students ask about their written assignments. Most were created by writing instructors here—people who are familiar with U of T expectations.

  2. Writing an Annotated Bibliography

    An annotation of an academic source, for example, typically identifies its thesis (or research question, or hypothesis), its major methods of investigation, and its main conclusions. Keep in mind that identifying the argument of a source is a different task than describing or listing its contents.

  3. PDF Links for Students

    Here is a complete list of printable PDFs for advice files on this site intended for student use. Abstract Academic Proposal Annotated Bibliography Application Letters and Résumés Articles Book Review or Article Critique Comparative Essay Critical Reading Towards Critical Writing Dealing with New Words Developing Coherent Paragraphs

  4. Some General Advice on Academic Essay-Writing

    Some General Advice on Academic Essay-Writing. Miscellaneous observations on a topic are not enough to make an accomplished academic essay. An essay should have an argument. It should answer a question or a few related questions (see 2 below). It should try to prove something—develop a single "thesis" or a short set of closely related ...

  5. Introductions and Conclusions

    Avoid sweeping generalizations. If your essay has a thesis, your thesis statement will typically appear at the end of your introduction, even though that is not a hard-and-fast rule. You may, for example, follow your thesis with a brief road map to your essay that sketches the basic structure of your argument.

  6. Writing Resources

    General Writing Advice. 10 Common Grammatical Errors and Conventions in Academic Writing; ... We wish to acknowledge this land on which the University of Toronto operates. For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit. ...

  7. Write effectively

    The University of Toronto Undergraduate Writing Centres offer advice on academic writing, including planning and organizing essays, lab reports and literature reviews, as well as one-on-one appointments. Graduate students can receive writing support at the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication.

  8. Writing Centres

    Writing centres provide free individual and group instruction in the many different kinds of writing done by University of Toronto students. You can work individually with a trained instructor to develop your ability to plan, organize, write, and revise academic papers in any subject.

  9. Home

    University of Toronto - Writing Advice A repository of PDF resources written by faculty and writing instructors on grammar, punctuation, style, and expectations for essays, proposals, and résumés - all in accordance with UofT standards. For resources for students click "Student PDFs" Research Help Have a question?

  10. Get Help (Writing or Research)

    Advice & Handouts on Academic Writing : The advice files on this site answer the kinds of questions that University of Toronto students ask about their written assignments. Most were created by writing instructors here—people who are familiar with U of T expectations. Books on Academic Writing: A selective list of books that will show you how ...

  11. Support

    The University of Toronto offers a rich support network. The resources listed in these pages offer help for international learners; resources for aspiring writers, of fiction, poetry, and drama; counselling on essential study and research skills; personal and career counselling and other essential support services; and online reference tools.

  12. How Not to Plagiarize

    Here are some common questions and basic answers. Can't I avoid problems just by listing every source in the bibliography? No, you need to integrate your acknowledgements into what you're saying. Give the reference as soon as you've mentioned the idea you're using, not just at the end of the paragraph.

  13. Writing Courses at the University of Toronto

    ENG100H1 (Effective Writing) provides practical tools for writing in university and beyond. JEI206H1 (Writing English Essays) teaches students who already write effectively how to write clear, compelling, research-informed English essays. For more information, see the Arts and Science calendar entry under English.

  14. Creative Writing Support

    Creative Writing Support Undergraduate students interested in developing their skills may choose from a variety of course options. Visit our page on Writing Courses at U of T. Students interested in developing their skills as creative writers can take advantage of opportunities outside of their courses:

  15. WRR103: Writing Essays

    Explore Writing.Utoronto.ca. Advice & Handouts on Academic Writing: The advice files on this site answer the kinds of questions that University of Toronto students ask about their written assignments. Most were created by writing instructors here—people who are familiar with U of T expectations.

  16. Writing Support

    At the Learning Hub, we aren't singularly focused on helping you with a specific paper; we want to help you develop as a writer in ways that will continue to benefit you across your scholarly and professional life. Thus, we have multiple goals: Helping students with writing assignments in their courses. Supporting students' ongoing writing ...

  17. UofT Writing Advice

    UofT Writing Advice The University of Toronto Writing Centres have published numerous short guides on specific topics. The Abstract. This link opens in a new window; The Academic Proposal. This link opens in a new window; Application Letters and Resumés. This link opens in a new window ...

  18. How do I write an annotated bibliography?

    About Us How do I write an annotated bibliography? Writing at the University of Toronto has advice for specific writing styles including annotated bibliographies. More information Writing an Annotated Bibliography Can't find what you're looking for? Contact us.

  19. Uoft essay tips : r/premedcanada

    That's a combination of making sure your grammar and sentence structure is impeccable and that your narrative flows and is compelling to the reader. The goal is to intrigue them and thus make them want to get to know you better by offering you an interview. For mine I actually took a risk and made myself vulnerable by discussing a situation I ...

  20. How many essays do I need to write for my UofT application?

    The number of essays that you need to write for your UofT application will depend on the specific program to which you are applying. Some programs may require only a single essay, while others may require multiple essays. As a general guide, you should expect to write between two and four essays as part of your UofT application.

  21. First-Year Advice : r/UofT

    You usually get the course syllabus near the start of the year, probably from a week before the start of the school year to the first day of class, whenever the professor gets the course up on Quercus. If by 'materials' you mean the lab coat, goggles, notebook, gloves, then yes, you need to get them yourself.