Joining an academic writers’ group is a method by which researchers can foster and maintain an effective strategy for giving and receiving constructive feedback on the readability and effectiveness of their English texts.
PhD candidates who want to get feedback on the quality of their writing (building of arguments, fluency of text, academic style and much more) from their peers.
How does an academic writers' group work?
An arrangement is made among a small group (max. 5 people) of researchers and/or fellows to meet and critique a sample of each other’s written work. The participants are usually from the same discipline and at the same or similar stage in their career) and the sample text (max. 4-5 pages) is generally from a work in progress. The meeting is facilitated by a native speaker expert in academic writing.
The text samples are circulated to all members of the group in advance and comments are prepared for sharing during the meeting. The facilitator will coordinate the time allocated to each critique and ensure that the comments remain relevant to the actual writing (stylistic features, coherence, grammar etc).
A typical session lasts about one-and-a-half hours with each piece of writing discussed in turn. The facilitator will round up or consolidate the comments made and add any observations of their own. During the session, one member of the group will be asked to record key points and be responsible for distributing these notes among the participants later.
At the end of each session, the group decides on any objectives and dates for the next session. It is a key feature of the writers’ group idea that there should be regularity and consistency so that a sense of momentum is maintained. Such an ongoing process of text creation and critique, with its intermediary deadlines, has clear, constructive benefits for instilling discipline in your writing.
Dr. Jeffrey Verhey (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Language Centre) has also taught at the Freie Universität Berlin, at UC Berkeley, UC Davis and the Max Planck Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung in Cologne among other institutions and was a Fellow in 1992-93 at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.
Jonathan Fitchett, PhD, is a teacher, teacher trainer and lecturer in academic English, currently working at the University of Kent, UK. He was also recently employed over a number of years at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, where he created and delivered several courses in academic writing for postgraduate researchers across a range of disciplines. He also established successful writers' groups where researcher-led peer feedback was encouraged. He divides his time between the UK and Italy. He recently completed his PhD in the linguistics of improvised drama.
Sara Daub (Doctoral Programme in Governance 2020): The writers' group encourages me to write regularly and get valuable feedback from a professional facilitator and my peers about my academic writing style. I share work in progress in a confidential space and improve my academic writing skills. Besides this, the writers' group offers me the chance to get to know my colleagues’ research while commenting on their writing style.