Academic Transition & Support

Making the transition to a new learning community is a process. You might experience new or different academic expectations, like how to communicate with instructors, different approaches to research, and new types of assignments.

  • Asking questions when you don’t understand something is a strength 
  • Seeking support does not mean you have failed as a student. It means you are open to developing your skills through practice and expert support
  • The academic support you receive is confidential and will not go on your transcript
  • Academic and other types of support available at Queen’s are covered by your student fees and are intended for all students to use
  • It may feel like accessing support takes up some of your studying time, but it will make you a better student, so it's a good investment!
  • Not sure where to start? Get in touch with one of QUIC’s International Student Advisors for connections to services and resources on campus

Overcoming Academic Culture Shock

Are you experiencing academic culture shock? Access our online tutorials for tips and strategies on making a successful academic transition to Queen's:

Did you know that by completing the overcoming academic culture shock tutorials and some additional requirements, you can earn a certificate? Sign up for the Learning Across Cultures Certificate today

Academic Support with Student Academic Success Services (SASS)

QUIC has created a partnership with Student Academic Success Services (SASS) so that you can easily understand and access academic supports on campus. The friendly and welcoming SASS team, located on the ground floor of Stauffer Library, are experts in the science of learning and the art of writing. Whether you’re an undergraduate, master's, or PhD student, SASS can help you:

Check out the SASS Events Calendar for more workshops, request a customized workshop, presentation, or site visit.

Graduate Student Resources

Check out the School of Graduate Studies and Post-Doctoral Affairs' graduate supervision resources. Review them on your own and discuss them with your supervisor. Establishing a good foundation of communication and feedback early in the supervision process is important.

  • The Centre for Teaching and Learning offers workshops, consultations, opportunities to practice teaching skills, and access to information about teaching and learning. Check out their Teaching Assistant Toolkit
  • The School of Graduate Studies offers a suite of workshops and resources that support academic, professional, and personal success
  • Want to connect with a community of graduate writers? Check out the Grad Writing Lab, a virtual space to drop in and work on your writing with the support of your peers and SASS experts. The lab runs Mondays and Thursdays from 9 am–12 pm on Microsoft Teams. Stay for the full three hours or just drop in to ask a question

Academic Dictionary

Academic Appeal

If there have been circumstances beyond your control that have negatively affected your academic performance, you can bring forward an academic appeal. Learn more about appeals from the Office of the University Ombudsperson or your faculty office.

Academic Term

A portion of the academic year when the university holds classes. Queen’s has three academic terms within a calendar year.

  • Winter term: January–April
  • Summer term: May–August (session lengths vary)
  • Fall term: September–December

See your Faculty Academic Calendar for specific dates.


An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and often used as a word. There are a lot of acronyms used at Queen’s. Here are some of the most popular:

  • QUIC: Queen’s University International Centre
  • JDUC: John Deutsch University Centre
  • SASS: Student Academic Success Services
  • SEO: Student Experience Office
  • AMS: Alma Mater Society
  • ARC: Athletics and Recreation Centre
  • KGH: Kingston General Hospital
  • ITS: Information Technology Services

Your faculty and department may also use their own acronyms. If you’re not sure what they mean, ask!


The grounds and buildings of the university. Queen’s has two campuses in Kingston: Main Campus and West Campus (where the Faculty of Education and the School of English are located).


A graduation ceremony where degrees and diplomas are granted. Find more information about Queen’s convocation.


A degree is earned after completing the requirements of a program. A major is the discipline of focus of a degree. For example, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies means that “Bachelor of Arts” is the degree, and “Cultural Studies” is the major.


An academic department is a division or unit within a faculty that focuses on a particular academic discipline, or a field of study or knowledge. For example, the Department of History is focused on the discipline of history.

English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Students with “English as an Additional Language” are students who learned to speak English after their first language, or are multilingual. Queen’s has switched to using the term “English as an Additional Language” (EAL) instead of "English as a Second Language" (ESL). The reason for this is to acknowledge that some students speak more than two languages. Visit SASS’s EAL page for EAL support.


A word that can mean two different things:

  • A group of university departments in a specific subject area. For example, Faculty of Arts & Science, Faculty of Engineering, etc.
  • The teaching body of the university. For example, a professor or instructor is a member of the faculty.


The different kinds of classroom structures at Queen’s. Lectures include classroom-based instruction where the focus is on the presentation of information. Tutorials and labs supplement lectures and allow for discussion and interaction. Seminars are also classroom-based, usually in smaller groups for upper-year classes, and include discussion of, and engagement with, class material.


An acronym for the Student On-Line University System. SOLUS is Queen’s electronic registration system where you can register for courses, see your daily class schedule, and check your account fees, among other things. It is accessible through If you need help registering for courses, book an appointment with an advisor in your faculty.


An official document prepared by the Office of the University Registrar that contains a student’s educational record. See more information about Queen’s transcripts.

Academic Integrity

The practice of honest and responsible scholarship. Violations can have serious consequences – you can read about violations on the Queen’s Academic Integrity website. Complete SASS’s Academic Integrity module to learn more about this important subject.


An academic assignment might ask you to demonstrate various skills, like analyzing or evaluating content. Read through some common assignment terminology and gain an understanding of what an essay or project is asking for. Additionally, always clarify assignment expectations with your instructor. To get an idea of how much time the various steps of an assignment should take, use SASS’s Assignment Planner.

Citations, Citation Styles, and Citation Managers

Academic writing depends on the ability to properly give credit to other scholars for their ideas, through citation. Citation styles “are a set of rules or standards established by a specific society, association, or publisher for documenting various sources of information” (Queen’s University Library – learn more about citing sources). Citation managers help collect, organize, cite, and share references. Explore the Library’s overview of citation managers.

Office Hours

Most professors set aside a few hours a week to meet with students who have questions. Office hours are usually indicated on the syllabus and are great opportunities to discuss challenges, clarify information, ask questions, get feedback, and get to know your professors.


The name of Queen’s learning management system. It is used to deliver online academic courses and to supplement face-to-face instruction. To understand all of its functions, read about OnQ support here.


A course that must be completed before you can take another course at a higher level. It is important to ensure that you have the prerequisites for a course before registering. Check in with an academic advisor or department administrator for support.


A habit of postponing doing your work that often causes stress because of the self-motivated nature of studying at Queen’s. Access some resources about motivation and procrastination on the SASS website. Book a one-on-one Learning Strategies Advising appointment with an advisor to help improve your academic motivation.

Syllabus/Course Outline

A document received at the beginning of a course that communicates the content and expectations of the course. It usually includes contact information for your instructor, the learning outcomes of course, the schedule of readings and assignments, the course policies, and more. The syllabus is your guide for the course, so it is important to understand all of its content.

Teaching Assistant (TA)

These are individuals, usually graduate students, who help professors mark assignments and may run tutorials or labs. Tutorials are less formal than lectures and allow students to ask questions about material taught in lectures. Some courses may have a scheduled tutorial every week, but other courses may not have any at all. TAs also hold office hours.

Textbook/Course Pack

Courses may require the purchasing of textbooks or course packs to supplement in-class content. These are books on the study of a particular subject.

Thesis Statement

The central argument of an academic essay. Usually stated in an essay’s introduction to inform the reader of the argument that will follow in the body of the essay. Learn more about developing a thesis statement from SASS.


A group of graduate students who start their program in the same year and progress together for the duration of their program. Your cohort has the potential to become a supportive community as you all move through your program.

Conference Presentation

An oral or poster presentation given at an academic conference to present research.

Doctoral Candidate

A PhD student who has completed all their coursework and comprehensive exams and is working on a dissertation. They may also be referred to as ABD (All but Dissertation).

Graduate Chair/Graduate Program Assistant

Every department with a graduate program has a graduate chair that oversees the program. The graduate program assistant or graduate coordinator is responsible for the daily administration and operation of the program. Along with your supervisor, these individuals should be your main sources of information and support.


A detailed written study on a particular subject, usually in book form.


The process of a group of experts in a field evaluating the work of a scholar to determine suitability for publication.

Qualifying or Comprehensive Exam

An assessment that shows your understanding of a field of study and determines if you are knowledgeable enough to be a doctoral candidate. Exam requirements differ across departments and disciplines.

Scholarly Journal

A collection of research articles that is published regularly throughout the year in a specific academic field or area of research. The articles contain original research and are usually peer-reviewed.


An acronym for the Society of Graduate and Professional Students. It is the student society that represents and advocates for graduate, law, and consecutive education students at Queen’s.


An acronym for the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. The school houses 125 Queen’s graduate programs, and offers support services and professional development experiences for graduate students. 


These terms are often used interchangeably, but generally a thesis is completed as part of a research-based master’s degree. A dissertation is completed as part of a doctoral degree. Both support candidature for a graduate degree.

Writing Process

Effective writing in graduate school is a process that takes work before getting to a final draft. Take advantage of writing and learning support programs on campus to develop skills and effectively engage in this process. SASS has a page dedicated to graduate student academic support.

Textbooks and Libraries

Wherever you buy your textbooks, make sure you buy the correct edition of the textbook. Sometimes earlier editions can be out of date.

The Campus Bookstore 

The Campus Bookstore is a not-for-profit business that stocks all required and recommended materials for Queen’s courses. Used books are shelved with new ones and generally cost 25% less than new books. Used books also usually sell out faster. In addition to books, the Bookstore also has magazines, stationery supplies, services, and clothing. You can return both new and used textbooks for a full refund within three weeks of the first day of class. You may be able to sell some of your textbooks back to the Campus Bookstore at the end of the term for a small amount.


Many new or used textbooks can be found for sale online. Queen’s students also have a dedicated textbook exchange group on Facebook where many of the most common textbooks can be bought or sold.

The Queen's Library’s mission is to stimulate excellence in research and scholarship through its physical and virtual environments, and its people, collections, services, and partnerships.

Physical Environments

There are eight campus libraries at Queen’s. They are excellent locations for studying, researching, and writing. Your student card also functions as your library card.

Virtual Environment

Queen’s provides access to Omni, an easy-to-use academic search engine that allows you to search for high-quality resources from 14 university libraries across Ontario.


Librarians are highly trained professionals who can help you with your research questions and projects. Contact a subject librarian based on subject or specialization.


The Library contains a number of collections that offer a variety of information resources. 


The Library can help with developing research citation skills. Learn how to cite sources and access citation managers, which can help you collect, organize, cite and share references.