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Friday, June 24 • 10:00 - 10:50
CON11.16 - Empowered to write: Exploring graduate student writing groups

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Productive writing has been described as “painless, efficient, and successful” (Boice, 1990, p. 3). Unfortunately, this description is hardly reflective of our own writing experiences, and, consistent with literature (e.g., Aitchison, 2009; Boice, 1990), we have heard many academics and fellow graduate students describe their writing experiences as stressful, frantic, lonely, or worse yet, nonexistent. Despite the potential challenges associated with writing, it is a central feature of academic life (Boice, 1990), and something that many of us would like to streamline into an efficient, productive process.

Writing groups facilitate academic writing, providing external accountability, motivation, and support. Cuthbert and Spark (2008) found that writing group participants collectively drafted and submitted numerous journal articles, book chapters, and conference presentations. Despite the popularity and benefits of writing groups, “we actually understand relatively little about how they work” (Aitchison, 2009, p. 914); these groups merit further exploration. We therefore draw upon on an ongoing self-study of our graduate student writing group and a review of twenty leading resources on academic writing to provide practical considerations for starting a writing group. We will focus primarily on structural aspects of the group, including the initiation process, the frequency, duration, and location of meetings, and the possible aims or purposes of the writing group.

One learning objective of this session is to introduce participants to the writing group literature, including the potential benefits of participating in a writing group. Participants will also develop an understanding of recommendations from the literature about forming and fine-tuning a writing group, and consider how these recommendations relate to their own writing preferences. Throughout the session, participants will engage in small group activities and discussions related to possible aims, structures, and barriers associated with engaging in a writing group.


Aitchison, C. (2009). Writing groups for doctoral education. Studies in Higher Education, 34, 905-916. doi 10.1080/03075070902785580

Boice, R. (1990). Professors as writers: A self-help guide to productive writing. Stillwater, OK: New Forum Press.

Cuthbert, D., & Spark, C. (2008). Getting a GRiP: Examining the outcomes of a pilot program to support graduate research students in writing for publication. Studies in Higher Education, 33(1), 77-88. doi:10.1080/03075070701794841

avatar for Jacqueline Beres

Jacqueline Beres

Jacqueline Beres is a PhD student in Social, Cultural, and Political Contexts of Education at Brock University. Her interests include higher education, mentoring, teaching and learning, and research methodologies.

Additional Authors
avatar for Karen Julien

Karen Julien

PhD Student, Brock University
Karen Julien is an PhD student in Cognition and Learning at Brock University. She has been a teacher, an early childhood educator, and has worked for school boards at the local, provincial, and national levels. Karen is interested in the teaching of writing, student self-regulation... Read More →

Friday June 24, 2016 10:00 - 10:50 EDT
Weldon Library 121 (Teaching Support Centre) Western University