The CGU Center for Writing & Rhetoric offers Dissertation and M.A. Thesis Writing Groups in addition to our Dissertation Bootcamp and M.A Thesis/Post-Coursework Writing Retreats. These groups typically meet weekly, biweekly, or monthly and are either "sit down and write groups", peer review groups, or a combination of both. They often differ depending on the needs of the group.
If you are interested in signing up for one, please fill out this form and email it to us at email@example.com.
LONG-TERM PROJECT WRITING GROUP INFORMATION
- Commitment to self and peers to collectively move the work forward.
- Cultural capital. The group is a "locus for learning the ‘working knowledge' required for successful PhD candidature" (Aitchison, 2009; p. 909), e.g. navigating academia, data and ideas exchange, research strategies etc. in addition to working on writing.
- Reflexive practice. Becoming a better writer – "learning by critiquing". (Aitchison, 2009; p. 909), and writing development through reflection on writing (Wingate, 2006). Talking about writing builds explicit awareness of writing structures (Leander & Prior, 2004), i.e. metacognition of writing process and genres.
- Safety and support. A safe space for exploring and pushing your writing, what Peter Elbow (1997) calls low-stakes writing.
- Regularity. Fix on a day and time and stick to it. Everyone must commit. No skipping meetings unless dire circumstances prevail like flood and hail … and screaming children.
- Leadership. There must be a group leader who sends out reminders, checks-in on group members if they do not come to a meeting, and facilitates and enforces the process.
- Structure and Ritual. Use the same process so that it becomes a habit of mind that you can engage in – ideally, even on your own in between group meetings.
- SET UP
- Set goals before the meeting. Email your goals to the group leader.
- Set-up to begin. Turn off Internet, put away phones, open up your working document.
- Timer is set. Everyone writes for 90 minutes.
- Pre-Break Set-Up. At 90 minutes, take 5 – 10 minutes and set-up to begin by leaving a note to yourself of what to start with when you come back.
- Break. 10 minutes. Restroom, whining/cheering, water, snacks, stickers. Check goals.
- Repeat Writing-Break cycle the designated number of times.
- Closing check-in. Review goals and share progress.
- Closing goals. Set goals for work to be done and any action steps like meeting advisor etc. before next writing group meeting.
- Online Options. Depending on individual preferences, members can participate virtually using Zoom, Google, or Skype.
- Send goals to the group leader before the meeting.
- Virtual members and group leader log on to acknowledge virtual members presence.
- When the writing cycle begins, log off and write. Log on during the break to check in with the group. Log on for Closing to share progress and set action steps for work before the next meeting.
The above practice focuses on generating writing; the aim is productivity. Writing groups can also be used as a way to create a safe and regular space for feedback and development of one's research and writing. Peer review benefits the writer and reviewer. In intentionally reading someone's writing, especially actively reading to answer specific questions, we become more cognizant of aspects of writing like structure, narrative or argument logic, transition, and coherence and are better able to be self-aware and critically evaluate our own writing (Lundstrom & Baker, 2009).
Process for Peer Review
Every other meeting, plan to read and discuss someone's writing.
- Writer sends everyone a few pages of his/her writing. Include any specific questions or instructions for peer review. If there are no instructions, use the following:
- What is the main argument/s or assertion/s in the document?
- What makes this argument convincing?
- How can this argument be improved?
- What questions or connections does it raise in my mind?
- What am I curious about?
- How is this writing and/or research the same/different to mine?
- Everyone reads, annotates, and comes ready to share responses.
- Use the first part of the writing group meeting for the peer review.
- Sharing Responses. Peers share responses briefly. Writer is silent and takes notes.
- Discussion. Writer asks questions about areas that might not yet have been addressed. Group engages in exchange of perspectives, ideas, strategies that help the writer.
- If the group has agreed, writer types up 5 most salient points he/she learned about improving his/her writing and shares with the group. Over time, you will have a collection of best practices.
- Take a break. Celebrate the process. Resume focused writing time.