“The world is larger and more connected”: experiences of an online Thesis Writing Group


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By Dr Susan Mowbray with Christina Green and Rachel Westcott

In last week’s post about a virtual writing group, participants were self-managing regular opportunities to do writing together – this week’s post describes a regular online writing group where participants do their writing separately and then come together to discuss their writing.

Two participants and the group facilitator tell us how it works. Christina is a professional music therapist and composer, songwriter and performer based in Melbourne and working on her doctorate part-time. Rachel is a practising veterinarian and volunteer coordinator for South Australian Veterinary Emergency Management; she is based in Adelaide and is completing her PhD (by papers). As the Academic Literacy Advisor at Western Sydney University, Susan facilitates the group.

The Online Thesis Writing Group: practices and processes

Online Thesis Writing Group (TWG) members meet in virtual online spaces (via ZOOM) for up to two hours once a fortnight.  Groups are small and meetings are facilitated so that each piece of writing is allocated equal time for group discussion. Continue reading


Survival and solidarity: Virtual shut up and write, parents’ edition


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This guest post is written by Katrina McChesney from the Virtual Shut Up and Write Parents Edition Facebook group. Katrina has just finished her PhD through Curtin Universitys School of Education (Western Australia), researching teachers experiences of professional development within education reform.

There’s no easy way to get a PhD, but many doctoral students have learned the power of community for easing the journey in important ways – motivation, accountability, encouragement, celebration of milestones, support with questions that arise along the way.

Previous posts in this group and elsewhere have described various ways this community can look – bootcamps, AcWriMo, retreats, writing accountability meetups and hands-on ‘Shut up and write’ gatherings, either in person or online via social media or web conferencing.

For a large number of doctoral students, though, the tight time frames involved in many of the above activities are problematic. I am a survivor of that highly-frazzled, multi-tasking, socially-absent, time-poor, no-longer-master-of-our-own-time experience: parenting while PhD-ing. PhD parenting was described this way in a recent blog post:

“Whether it is a ‘solid’ work day squeezed into school hours, an important paragraph stopped in its tracks by the needs of a small person, or carefully laid fieldwork or lab plans scuppered by an unexpected dash to the doctor with a sick child, interruptions to schedules are the norm, not the exception. The flexibility of PhD time can be both a blessing as well a curse. Most parents would do anything to avoid having to drag a small child along to a medical appointment or grocery shopping. For a PhD parent fitting these things into your day becomes a breeze. A breeze that is, until you realize that school pick-up is only 45 minutes away and you haven’t written a sentence since 10am.”

In this context, it can be almost impossible to carve out a whole weekend for a bootcamp, or turn up on Twitter at just the right time for #SUAWTues. Instead, we PhD parents need a ‘tribe’ with a whole lot more flexibility and understanding – a place where we can access support, encouragement and accountability whenever we happen to have a few minutes available (without necessarily knowing in advance when this will be!).

Continue reading

Creating and sustaining #MelbWriteUp



As AcWriMo rolls into its second week, we expect this contribution from two incredibly productive bloggers -Tseen and Jason – will inspire you to arrange your own no-fuss, low cost writing retreat asap!

Tseen Khoo is a lecturer in research education and development at La Trobe University. She is one half of the Research Whisperer team.

Jason Murphy works as a communications professional at RMIT University and is a part-time PhD candidate at La Trobe University. He is the founder of #MelbWriteUp.


The first #MelbWriteUp started as an experiment, to see if momentum from a 3-day writing retreat at La Trobe University (where Jason is a PhD candidate) could be sustained.

In his own words, here is what #MelbWriteUp is, and what it’s for:

“An initiative of Jason Murphy, but founded on the power of writing socially, #MelbWriteUp is a monthly, intensive, weekend-based writing day that uses the pomodoro method. Researchers at all levels of experience and from many institutions are using #MelbWriteUp to work on book chapters, journal articles, conference presentations and doctoral theses.

Photo:Jason Murphy

While writing is the main focus of our activity, researchers are also using the event to perform any research related activity, such as coding, transcription and data analysis. The day gives you the opportunity to dedicate intense, distraction free focus to your research – and to meet other researchers during the breaks.”

Jason has written about the project twice in the Research Whisperer, from its early days 5 months after beginning (May 2016) and 18 months later (August 2017). Continue reading

Shut up and Write! Weekly writing with coffee and colleagues


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Welcome to our series on writing events. This initiative followed a call for contributions from readers on their practices and experiences as facilitators and participants in writing groups. The result is a fabulous series of posts starting from today. Over coming weeks we feature guest posts from many people and places covering all manner of social writing events including virtual and physical get-togethers, boot camps, writing retreats, writing groups, and café events.

We hope you enjoy the stories we’ve collected so that the love of writing in the company of others will continue to be enriched. For the yet-to-be-converted, maybe you will be inspired to try some of the approaches, tips and suggestions? We begin with a delightful exchange about a cafe writing group from Pam Mort.

Pam has worked in the Learning Centre at UNSW (the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) for over 20 years.  She works in collaboration with academic staff to develop students’ academic literacy and communication skills, develops independent learning resources in the disciplines of engineering and science and co-facilitates a variety of doctoral writing events. Here she describes their café writing event ‘Shut up and Write’.

‘Shut up and Write’ has been running for over two years. The weekly one-hour meeting is advertised in The Learning Centre’s website, on a café noticeboard and during on-campus workshops on thesis writing. I regularly attend and run the meeting, collect contact details of new writers, and maintain an email list for sharing links to resources and upcoming events related to thesis writing.UNSWsuaw 2 Continue reading

Citation: what you might cite for and how you might show critical analysis


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By Alistair Kwan

Alistair Kwan is Susan Carter’s colleague and his thoughts on citation in a recent conversation prompted this post. Alistair envisions a workshop from his thoughts, and you could respond with a comment to let us know whether you agree. He provides the learning objectives and enough examples to prompt substantial thinking.

I have been complaining for years that students and learning assistance staff don’t understand how citation works, and in fact our support people and supervisors often guide students unwittingly onto the wrong path. One of our students, and some journal submissions that I’ve reviewed this year, have me at last thinking that it’s time to act.

So here is a start of an idea. Continue reading

Doctoral writing: Exercises for stylish writing


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By Susan Carter

To what extent should those of us who support doctoral writing aim to help candidates to write succinctly, clearly and with a control that makes reading smooth and even pleasurable? I puzzle over that, aware of what a marathon writing task the thesis presents, how emotionally challenging doctoral writing can be, how life can throw study off-centre and what an extraordinary amount of diligence has often gone into learning English as an additional language to the level of fluency and sophistication required at doctoral level. Might it demoralize doctoral writers to include tips about further authorial skill with feedback on content, structure, and ideas? Continue reading