Books on Writing

Basic Books about Academic Writing

These books explain and demonstrate the standard expectations for university essays, and discuss the best ways of putting them together from start to finish. You can browse them at length or look up answers to specific questions.

  • Heather Avery et al. Thinking it Through: A Practical Guide to Academic Essay Writing, 3rd ed. LB2369 T45 2005. A self-help book from Trent University. Relevant examples and useful exercises on organizing and focussing your reasoning.
  • Diana Hacker. Canadian Writer's Reference, 5th ed. PE1408 H33 2012. A useful handbook on correct style and format for academic writing. Offers a brief but clear review of grammar.
  • William Messenger et al. The Canadian Writer’s Handbook, 5th ed. PE1408 M47 2008. This classic handbook is particularly good on grammar and sentence structure.
  • Margot Northey and Margaret Procter. Writer's Choice: A Portable Guide for Canadian Writers. LB2369 N677 1998. Compact advice on many aspects of university writing, from understanding the assignment to revising your final draft.
  • Randall VanderMey et al. The College Writer, 4th ed. PE1408 C65 2011. Provides strategies for writing in a wide variety of genres.

Guidebooks on Style

These books—and many others—show how to use language correctly and appropriately for academic purposes. Find the approach that works for you.

  • Matthew Clark. A Matter of Style. PE 1421 .C595 2002. Teaches style through a close reading of good prose, past and present. Looks at word order, rhythm, metaphor, and more.
  • Claire Kehrwald Cook. Line by Line. PE1441 C66 1985. How to improve your writing by becoming a more skilful and perceptive editor of your own prose.
  • Patricia T. O'Connor. Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, 3rd ed. PE1112 O28 2010. A sensible, jargon-free primer on grammar, punctuation, and usage.
  • Ben Yagoda. When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It. PE1199 Y34 2006. This enjoyable tour through the nine parts of speech covers the history of the language while offering helpful advice on usage.
  • William Zinsser. On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction. PE1429 Z5 2006. This lively book discusses good style in various situations—university, work, journalism. Sit down and browse through it for pleasure.

Writing in Specific Subjects

We have a good collection of books giving advice on the special demands of writing in certain subject areas. Most include good examples of student papers.

  • Sylvan Barnet. A Short Guide to Writing about Art, 10th ed. N7476 B37 2011
  • Timothy Corrigan. A Short Guide to Writing about Film, 8th ed. PN1995 C5977 2012
  • Roseann Giarrusso et al. A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers, 6th ed. HM569 G95 2007
  • Andrea A. Gilpin and Patricia Patchet-Golubev. A Guide to Writing in the Sciences. T11 G55 2000.
  • Richard Marius. A Short Guide to Writing about History, 8th ed. D13 M294 2012
  • Aloysius Martinich. Philosophical Writing: An Introduction, 3rd ed. B52.7 M37 2005
  • Margot Northey and Lorne Tepperman. Making Sense: A Student's Guide to Research and Writing: Social Sciences, 5th ed. H91 N67 2012
  • Jan A. Pechenik. A Short Guide to Writing about Biology, 8th ed. QH304 P43 2013
  • Edgar V. Roberts. Writing about Literature, 13th ed. PE1408 R593 2012
  • Christopher Thaiss and James F. Sanford. Writing for Psychology. BF76.7 T53 2000


These manuals offer authoritative guides on the four main referencing systems used at U of T. Use the one suited to your discipline. For briefer coverage, see the basic handbooks listed above under Basic Books.

  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. PE1478 M57 2009. The MLA Handbook explains the formats for acknowledging sources in the humanities, including ways to refer to non-print sources (films, paintings, e-mail, etc.).
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. BF76.7 A46 2010. This handbook sets out the parenthetical author-date format most used in the social sciences. Also offers good advice on style in the social sciences, and on using numbers, tables, and illustrations.
  • Kate L. Turabian. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, 8th ed. LB2369 T8 2013. This manual has long been the most useable guide on the traditional system of providing endnotes or footnotes still preferred in history and a few other disciplines.
  • Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 7th ed. T11 S386 2006. A thorough manual on scientific writing. Includes guidelines for the three main conventions of scientific referencing: citation-sequence, name-year, and citation-name.

English as a Second Language

These books provide indispensable support for second-language learners seeking to expand their range as speakers and writers.

  • Collins Cobuild English Usage, 3rd ed. PE1460 C63 2012. This manual includes many practical tips. Look up troublesome phrases or idioms; review the way specific words are used.
  • Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. PE1628 L64 2009 [shelved in DICTIONARIES]. This dictionary packs a lot of useful information about each word and illustrates its definitions with well-chosen example sentences. Comes with a DVD-ROM that provides pop-up definitions and reads sentences aloud to you. Oxford and Collins Cobuild also produce fine advanced learner dictionaries.
  • Janet Lane and Ellen Lange. Writing Clearly: An Editing Guide. PE1128 L3375 1999. A good self-help guide that will help you master sentence structure and grammar.
  • Betty Schrampfer Azar. Understanding and Using English Grammar, 3rd ed. PE1128 A97 1999. More elementary yet also more exhaustive than Lane and Lange's Writing Clearly. Lots on verbs and parts of speech. Comes with a two-volume companion workbook that includes answers to exercises.

Other Academic Skills

We also have books about research, studying, and other skills needed to succeed at university and after. Here are a few:

  • Wayne C. Booth. The Craft of Research, 3rd ed. Q180.55 M4 B66 2008
  • Tom Burns. Essential Study Skills: The Complete Guide to Success at University, 3rd ed. LB2395 B84 2012
  • Mary W. George. The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know. Z710 G44 2008
  • Andrea A. Lunsford and John J. Ruszkiewicz. Everything's an Argument. PE1431 L86 2004
  • Colin Neville. How to Improve Your Assignment Results. LB2369 N385 2009
  • Peggy Noonan. On Speaking Well: How to Give a Speech with Style, Substance, and Clarity. PN4121 N66 1999
  • Walter Pauk. How to Study in College, 11th ed. LB2395 P3 2014
  • R.J. Stelzer. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School. LB2351.52 U6S74 1997
  • Catherine Taylor et al. Making Your Mark: Learning to Do Well on Exams, 2nd ed. LB3060.57 M34 1994
  • Bonnie L. Tensen. Research Strategies for a Digital Age, 4th ed. ZA3075 T46 2012