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On the first day of the 11th Quality in Postgraduate Research (QPR) conference in Adelaide, South Australia this week, we held the first official meeting of the Doctoral Writing SIG. Some of our readers might remember that the impetus for the DoctoralWriting group arose at the end of the 2012 QPR conference when Claire Aitchison suggested that a special interest group (SIG) on doctoral writing would be welcome. Following that call, we established this blog as a first step towards building a community with shared interests in this area. How special it was, finally, for our community to meet in person this week.

The Doctoral Writing Special Interest Group – Conference Round Up

We began by reviewing what we’d done so far on the blog site – and luckily, the meeting gave the blog the tick of approval and confirmed that it was a valued resource (phew!). The QPR SIG members also agreed that it would be useful to establish an email list to enable a different way of connecting this conference community. It was suggested that the SIG meet for a day before or after the main conference to share our latest thinking, research and experiments relating to doctoral writing. To this end, a group of doughty academic and doctoral student volunteers rolled themselves together into a steering committee to ensure that this happens at the next QPR Conference in 2016. They were enthusiastically applauded—the method of election by self-selection seemed to suit the way this SIG will achieve its aims. It was also felt that we needed someone to oversee the SIG more generally, and Claire has graciously agreed to take on this task.

Web 2.0 and Social Media: Options for Supporting Doctoral Writing

We also spent some time exploring the ways in which social media and Web 2.0 technologies are being used by others in doctoral writing. Some of our members reported on their success using webinars or badge calls, others use software to talk or work collegially on writing, for giving and talking about feedback on writing—seems there is exciting potential there and those amongst us with the skills to lead us technologically.

Our discussion of how SIG members are using Web 2.0 technologies focussed on tools such as Skype for conversations between students, and between students and supervisors. One group reported using Skype to allow remote students to join a face-to-face classroom session, other use it for writing groups and to facilitate research days for students at remote locations. Tools like Facebook were being used by members to facilitate peer support, often outside the structures created/endorsed by university administration. Still others described how they contributed to online magazines and blogs to join in conversations in their areas.

Other groups discussed the software they were using (e.g. Research Master, Attlassian) to share documents with students and supervisors, which they had found particularly useful for time-poor students and supervisors. Such programs can alert others to when drafts have been submitted, to track and record revisions, and to notify members when others have (or haven’t!) opened the documents to read. Similarly, templates for meeting notes can be used to track decisions and actions taken.

While there was extensive and innovative use of the available tools (especially the freeware), discussions did also register that not everyone involved in doctoral education was comfortable using these technologies. There are many who embrace what the group described as the ‘anarchic, feral’ possibilities afforded by Web 2.0 technologies, but there are others who bemoan the time they find themselves expending on learning these newer technologies.

The Doctoralwriting Blog

Our Doctoralwriting blog will continue under the helm of the current editors as a separate entity functioning alongside the SIG. We will continue to encourage guests to contribute blogs to the site, and to write reviews and share details of useful resources.

It seems like an interest in doctoral writing really does bring out a desire for a sense of community—we want to feel like we’ll be coming home to each other at the QPR conferences of the future. There is a healthy sense of something growing, growing more solidly than just our shared interest in writing.