Last week, the Hook and Eye blog had a great post on finding community in graduate school. In particular, Melissa Dalgleish talked about the value of her writing group. In her words, here’s what they talk about:
Structure. Application of theory. Voice. Organization. Negotiating our committees. Publication. Productivity tools. Grammar. Turning conference papers into articles into chapters. Syntax. Analysis.
I’ve mentioned thesis writing groups in the broader context of finding autonomous sources of support for thesis writing, but I haven’t talked about them in any detail. While I was working on this post, @AnkeBrock sent me this link to Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s very helpful round-up of possible writing group configurations. I see no need to create a duplicate taxonomy, so I will instead provide a few potential questions that can be used to identify your own optimal type of writing group:
- Accountability or support? Do you just need some form of structure to make sure you write or do you actually need the support of writing in a disciplinary context?
- Friends or colleagues? Would your ideal support group be a warm and friendly place or do you like a more formal environment?
- Connected or independent? Do you want this support in the context of your own department or do you need to go further afield for your support (within your broader university community or in an online space)?
- Easily distracted? Could a writing group be a distraction for you? For some—especially if they find themselves in a group that involves extensive peer review—a writing group can become an obstacle to their own writing, rather than a source of support.
- Role of the supervisor? While most groups that I see are completely independent of the supervisor, some groups do have some supervisor involvement. Some function with the supervisor present; others are composed of writers who share a supervisor without the supervisor being there. If the supervisory relationship is challenging, the latter can be particularly useful; the group can help to decipher unclear advice and can try to compensate for insufficient support.
I think the benefits of a good writing group are obvious: community, accountability, provisional feedback, broadening expertise, developing a range of useful collegial skills. But any thesis writer should also be alert to the potential disadvantages: a drain on time, a locus for competition, another source of anxiety. Overall, I think the benefits will outweigh the costs for most writers, but it is useful to be armed with a little insight before entering into any situation that may affect your life as a writer.
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Recent links from @explorstyle on Twitter
docwritingSIG, practical advice to think about formatting issues throughout the thesis writing process.
PhD2Published, a step-by-step description of turning a conference panel into a special issue of a journal.
From Inside Higher Ed, some thoughts on being strategic in deciding what literature to cite in your academic writing.
In case you missed this lovely little video from a Toronto book store the first time it made the rounds.
Once you understand the genre of the research article, you can use it for anything, even romance.
qui_oui, balancing thesis writing, professional development, and paid work, while still finding time to think.
Have you ever felt that our existing punctuation marks just weren’t enough? Have you ever needed the ‘andorpersand’?
readywriting in the @academiccoaches blog, a post on the link between enthusiasm and voice in academic writing.
From The Monkey Cage blog, an interesting reply to David Brooks’s ‘data’ column.
From Ruth Starkman in Inside Higher Ed, a great collection of questions on the role of digital scholarship in professional advancement.
From Geoffrey Pullum in the Lingua Franca blog, a defence of adverbs and a call for careful, nuanced writing advice.
From the New APPS blog, a discussion of tacit knowledge in academia: how do graduate students learn what they need to know?
cplong, interesting thoughts about the value of adding an internship to doctoral education in the humanities.
From @DocwritingSIG, interesting account of the types of writing support available to doctoral students.
This Phillip Lopate piece in the New York Times made me wonder about the similarities between academic blogging and essay writing.
From Stephen M. Walt, a call for better academic writing. I don’t fully agree, but I like the way he frames ‘discovery versus presentation’.
From Barbara Fister in Inside Higher Ed, why suing librarians isn’t the answer.
LSEReviewBooks, @ PJDunleavy gives a helpful account of the decline in the status of books in social sciences.
charlottefrost, interesting reflections on @ PhD2Published: how it works, what it takes to run, where it is going.