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Resources for Students

If English is an additional language for you, it’s important that you continue to advance your knowledge of the language while you are taking your courses. To some extent this happens naturally while you are immersed in English at U of T, but there are specific actions you can take to speed and enhance this process. Likewise, even if English is your first language, you can benefit from using these techniques to become more proficient in language use.

Reading Online

Becoming as effective a reader as possible is at the heart of success for any university student. Your goal should be to read in English each day and to keep up with the reading for your courses, even if you read some materials more closely than others. You can also take advantage of the links posted in ELL’s Reading eWriting section to find interesting, relevant online reading material. If you have even fifteen minutes to spare, try going to Arts & Letters Daily. You’ll find a large collection of links to topical articles in good publications. Reading articles in the media helps to build vocabulary and gives you a sense of the English-language culture surrounding you. This in turn makes it easier to understand course material and to find conversation topics in common with English-speakers.

Effective Academic Reading

Reading strategically can help you to advance your knowledge of English vocabulary and to absorb typical patterns of argument in academic reading material. This in turn will help you to benefit more fully from your course work and to write more effectively. The following collection of handouts is designed to introduce you to some strategies for critical reading. They are posted here as PDFs which can be downloaded.

  1. Previewing
  2. Skimming and Scanning
  3. Active Reading
  4. Learning Vocabulary from Context Clues
  5. Summarizing
  6. Distinguishing Between Information and Argument
  7. How Information is Used in an Argument
  8. Distinguishing an Author's Opinion
  9. Visual Mapping

Effective Listening

Do you need more listening practice? Try watching movies in English (with the subtitles turned off) or watch videos on You Tube. Don’t feel you’re wasting your time on popular culture; it has much to teach you about English usage and the patterns of thought that underlie much of what you read and hear at the university. Popular culture is also entertaining, so it motivates you to spend additional hours immersed in English. Try watching a movie or You Tube video on a subject of interest and writing down or typing what you think you’re hearing. Discuss what you’ve watched in English with friends or acquaintances at the university. The following PDF file has further tips for listening practice:

Strengthening Listening Comprehension

Effective Writing

In this section, you’ll find advice about writing which is relevant for students in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. In particular, the handout on “Essay Structure” is aimed at students who want clarification about some of the frequently seen elements of a university-level essay. You can also try using the “Guide for Revision” as a method for rethinking your paper after you’ve written a draft. Remember that the requirements for writing assignments vary, so read carefully any instructions given by your professor or TA. Try to start your assignments early, so you can write a draft and then put it aside for a while. Many people are not initially aware of how much thinking time goes into a good paper. Use strategies like active reading and summarizing (detailed at the links above, in the Effective Academic Reading section), as ways to increase your skill in writing on the material prior to writing a graded paper.

  1. Essay Structure
  2. Models for Thesis Statements
  3. Introductions and Conclusions
  4. Guide for Revision or Peer Exchange of Drafts
  5. Writing in the Sciences


Useful links:

The Writing at U of T website contains a wealth of information on aspects of academic writing, including quoting, paraphrasing, and using research sources. http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/

The college Writing Centres provide individualized instruction to undergraduate students who are writing papers in all subjects. To find your college writing centre, go to: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/writing-centres/centres/arts-and-science

The Health Sciences Writing Centre’s Comprehensive Guide, by Dr. Dena Taylor, contains a variety of information on science writing as well as a page listing common transitional words. The handouts on verb use are also recommended for science students. http://www.hswriting.ca

The ELD site at UTSC has many useful resources for learning vocabulary, improving writing, and enhancing research skills. http://ctl.utsc.utoronto.ca/eld/online

The OWL at Purdue explains many aspects of English grammar. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/5/

The OWL also contains information about writing resumes and cover letters. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/6/23/

U of T’s Academic Success Centre offers workshops on time management, coping with stress as a university student, and more. http://asc.utoronto.ca/index.htm

U of T’s Centre for International Experience provides an English Communication Program, with sessions on pronunciation, general conversation, and more. http://cie.utoronto.ca/

Please note:

If you are not a U of T student and you are looking for language instruction, you may want to look into the English Language Program at U of T’s School for Continuing Studies. (These courses are also open to enrolled U of T students). http://english.learn.utoronto.ca/

If you are a U of T graduate student, the English Language and Writing Support program is available to you through the School for Graduate Studies. (This program is for graduate students only). http://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/informationfor/students/english

The ELL Program’s activities, including the Communication Cafe, Reading eWriting, and ELL010H1F, Intensive Academic English, are open only to currently enrolled undergraduates in the Faculty of Arts and Science on the St. George campus, University of Toronto.

Instructors who wish to reproduce for classroom use or post on a course Blackboard site materials posted at this ELL site may do so, and permission is not required for these uses. Copyrights must remain on all materials. Aside from brief quotations, none of these materials may be republished on the Internet or in any digital or print form, anywhere in the world, without the author’s permission. Please contact ell.newcollege@utoronto.ca