Top Ten Tips: Research

Cobi Ladner

PWC students are always learning new things, and once in a while we like to share some top tips. From professor Cobi Ladner, who teaches the Writers as Researchers course, here are (in no particular order) ten tips on her topic:  

Always check with the organization you’re working for about which style guide to use (also check on the dictionary).

Consider the credibility of the sources you use (rely on official sources or those who are paid to do research, such as journalists or government).

Go beyond the first page of Google when you’re searching for information, and experiment with more complex searches.

Avoid using sources that are out of date, unless they are central to the topic.

Always proofread citations to make sure your punctuation is in the right place.

Don’t wait too long to transcribe your interviews so that the conversation is still fresh in your mind.

Make sure you re-read the assignment or research brief so you understand what is being asked for.

Keep fact-checking in mind by documenting your research and sources as you’re doing it – don’t assume you’ll remember where information came from.

Consider bias in your sources and aim for a variety of perspectives.

Fact check your own work before submitting it to save your editors the trouble.

Eileen Magill: My mom, the Superwoman


PWC student Eileen Magill shares a personal reflection on her mother’s experience with Celiac disease.

I must have been 12 or 13 when I realized my mom wasn’t well. She was showing signs of illness before then, but I had been too consumed with teenage affairs to notice. She was Superwoman, and to a naïve 13 year old, Superwoman could defeat any and every type of adversity.

In her 20’s, she was nothing short of stunning. She had thick brown hair, a flawless tan the colour of beach sand, and the body of a supermodel. But most importantly, she was healthy.

When she was 35, she was finally diagnosed with Celiac disease, but was sick for a long time before then. For years, she experienced massive weight loss, chronic pain, constant fatigue, anemia, and confusion. I remember at one point she had become so thin and fragile that I could see the bones protruding from her skin. Her face had developed so many wrinkles and her hair had grown so gray that people were astonished when shown photos of her in her 20’s. She was hospitalized 18 times before doctors finally discovered what was wrong with her. But by then, it was already too late. The Celiac had already eaten away at her digestive tract and it can now never be repaired.

Celiac disease causes the immune system to mistake gluten as a toxin and therefore sends out immunities to attack it in the intestines, destroying them in the process. It causes both physical and mental breakdown – nausea, pain, weight loss, dental enamel, depression, anxiety, irritability, and more.

The day I learned how serious my mom’s illness was, we were baking a cake for my 13th birthday. We were laughing at something my little sister did when my mom sneezed and cake batter flew and showered her face – her mouth, her nose, her skin – with gluten. We knew she wasn’t allowed to consume it, but we were ignorant of the consequences if she did.

Later that day, my friends and I were playing video games on my Nintendo 64 when I heard a big bang from upstairs. I ran up to discover that my mom had fallen over in pain and was too confused to find her way to the bedroom. Terrified, I called an ambulance and they arrived right away. I felt just as confused as my mom when I finally realized the source of her pain– the cake batter she had accidentally inhaled earlier was quite literally destroying her. Gluten was her kryptonite.

Today, my mom is much more careful around gluten, but even a crumb the size of a grain of salt can trigger an episode of violent illness, confusion, weakness, suffering.

While I was home visiting her this past weekend, I tagged along to one of her doctor’s appointments. I learned that her Celiac had progressed so much that it created other health problems such as hypothyroidism and collagenous colitis.

She doesn’t tell anyone about her illnesses because she doesn’t want them to think any differently of her. “My having Celiac may limit me from doing the same things as other people” she says. “But it will never change the one thing I really care about – my ability to be a good mother.” And she is right. She doesn’t let her kryptonite disable her. She has and will continue to be my mom, the Superwoman.


Natalie Richard’s Reflections on Her Internship

NRichard_HeadshotIn the third semester of the PWC program, students participate in internships that help them apply everything they’ve learned throughout the year.

Natalie Richard reflects upon her first few weeks interning in the Communications Department at The Kidney Foundation of Canada.

When I helped my brother, Daniel, move out of his place last year, it took us hours to get all of his equipment and prototypes packed. Daniel has gizmos and gadgets galore to help him think through his ideas and study his course work. I never realized there were so many different types of cords, wires and batteries before that move-out day.

Daniel and I have always had different interests. When we both went away for school, Daniel went to study biology and genetics while I pursued the visual arts.

Now, I have a chance to understand a little bit of Daniel’s world.

This summer, I am interning with the Communications Department at The Kidney Foundation of Canada. I get to learn about kidneys, hear patient stories, and read about the programs and services available for those touched by kidney disease. The research is interesting, and the creative writing and editing assignments have been engaging. I see the internship as a wonderful opportunity to ask questions and work alongside seasoned communications professionals.

In the past, Daniel has tried to explain to me how fascinating, and vital, the kidneys are. While these stories were interesting, I never took the time to fully understand Daniel’s enthusiasm.

With The Kidney Foundation, I am able to learn about a new field of study, witness the communications work of a national non-profit organization and take on projects that engage and challenge me daily. More than anything, my internship with The Kidney Foundation is a great way to learn through hands-on experience and develop a better understanding of the world of communications.

Spring Networking Session Highlights

PWCGroup_NetworkingEvent_April2016This past April, our PWC students met with industry professionals in the gorgeous Art Commons at Humber College. The informal session included lunch with some of our PAC members, Jackie DeSouza, Sharon Aschaiek, Janice Dyer, Jaclyn Law, Margaret McCaffery, David Topping, and Susan Typert.

Students loved the event because they had the opportunity to connect with professionals they might not have out side the program. A few students even approached PAC members with story ideas, who were open to hearing these ideas and encouraged the students to contact them after the networking event!


Christina Williams: Learning to Breathe

We love sharing great writing from our students. Here’s a piece from Cristina Williams, class of 2015-16.

Will you let stress consume you or will you take a breath?

By Cristina Williams

I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a cream-coloured MINI Cooper, crawling through an unlit industrial area of a Toronto suburb. My friend Louise is driving, and I’m peering into the darkness, looking for the yoga studio where our friend Kate, a mindfulness coach, will be holding her meditation event Reboot 4.0.

It’s 6:57. The event begins at 7 p.m.

It’s too dark to see street numbers. I’m ready to suggest we go home but remember Google maps on my iPhone. I only ever use my phone for texting and checking email a million times a day. I’m grateful for it at this moment more than usual.

I type in the address. We appear as a blue dot. I’m relieved to see we’re only one minute away from the studio. As Louise drives, the blue dot moves further away from our destination.

We’re going the wrong way.

We turn around. Louise and I have both been under a lot of stress lately, for different reasons, and the stress in the car feels palpable. I almost expect it to materialize in some beastly form and laugh at us before devouring us. I begin to wonder if I’m too stressed to meditate. Is that possible?

A shop window beckons us. Filled with incandescent chandeliers, the shop is magical in the barren landscape. A beacon in the darkness. Next to it stands a discreet building. The yoga studio.

We pull in, park and rush inside. I’m eager to see Kate. This is the first time I’ll see her in action, doing what she loves.

A man and woman standing behind a table with an aqua glass top greet us and usher us into a room. About 50 people sit in fold up chairs that face a window lined with burning candles.

We spy Kate. Her blond hair is growing out. A big smile on her face, she comes over. We all hug and chat for a few moments. The energy in the room feels good, and Kate is serene, vibrant and glowing.

Louise and I take seats in the second row. Kate walks up and begins her talk. She is cerebral and self-contained. Dressed in a grey tunic, leggings and tall boots, she struts back and forth, delivering facts about stress.

Technology has sped up the pace of life. We receive on average 176 emails per day. Sixty per cent of Canadian workers are stressed, on the edge of losing it. Stress makes us sick.

Kate shares her story. She lived on autopilot until cancer stopped her in her tracks. With the help of mindfulness meditation, she learned how to face cancer with openness and to accept it as a chance to change the way she lives her life.

Her presentation rivets her audience. But facts and theory never measure up to practice. Before engaging us in a seated meditation, Kate has us stand in mountain pose, stable and rooted but ever changing.

Stress melts away. Moments of focused breathing usher in awareness and my being lightens. Nothing matters in those moments. I’m present. All I have is now. And it is beautiful.

Although I’m thankful for technology, I know I can live without it for an hour, even two. Even my email can wait.

Tip from Kate: Take 3 Deep Breaths. If you can’t meditate for 5-10 minutes you can likely take 3 deep breaths. Breathe deeply so that your belly moves in and out. Take a few deep breaths before a meeting to clear the noise in your head.


Welcome to the official blog of Humber College Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning’s one-year Professional Writing Communications graduate certificate.

Here, we will feature the latest news about our program, highlighting the incredible work from our faculty and students.