Wednesday, June 28th, 2017...2:00 pm

Graduate Writing Groups — a community to get you through your writing woes

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Throughout my time as a grad student, I have found that as soon as I need to sit down to write a grant application or a manuscript, a number of other very important tasks magically appear. Making the time to write can be challenging, especially when it comes to writing something as long and daunting as a thesis or a dissertation. This is where the Academic Success Graduate Writing Groups come in handy!



These groups are small meetings facilitated by learning strategists and graduate student mentors that provide a time and space for you to dedicate to your writing. The idea for the groups came from one of Academic Success’ Learning Strategists, Dr. Janelle Joseph, who found that there were a number of common challenges that graduate students had to contend with when it came to writing. “Some students have trouble managing their time, they can’t find the time or space to write, and they often feel isolated in their experience,” she states. And so, in January 2015, the first Graduate Writing Group was established, with three main aims: to create a dedicated time and place for graduate students to write, to help build a community of interdisciplinary graduate students, and to provide students with productivity strategies and tips. That first Graduate Writing Group consisted of eight students meeting on a weekly basis. Currently, there are 13 writing groups that meet at various times throughout the week (including evenings and weekends), all over campus. Each group is also equipped with a Grad Mentor, a current graduate student who helps facilitate goal-setting and shares tips and tricks for writing.

The writing group runs for 2.5 hours and is fairly structured. Each group starts off with a check-in where members are asked to set an explicit goal for the session. This type of concrete, measurable goal-setting can help break down large tasks and maintain motivation. The bulk of the session is dedicated to silent writing. Finally, the session concludes with a debrief where students are asked if they had accomplished their goal, if their goal had shifted, and discuss the challenges they are facing and strategies to overcome them. The groups are kept fairly small, with up to 14 students each. The size of the group is a factor that Dr. Joseph is very conscious of. “Small groups help keep you accountable and they also help foster a sense of community,” she says. And it seems that each group does become its very own supportive community, with some students even choosing to meet up outside of the scheduled group for a DIY writing session. “Students are not alone in this. Going through the process of writing is better when you are in a community,” says Dr. Joseph, “and these groups help students build organization and project management skills that will come in handy beyond their thesis or manuscript.”

In addition to designing the groups to address writing challenges, Dr. Joseph wanted to ensure that they were accessible to students with hectic schedules. Registration for the writing groups is open year-round, but the groups are roughly based on the academic semesters, running from September to December, January to April, and May to August. Students can sign up for up to three groups per week and are encouraged to attend the groups as long as they need. “The groups are designed such that you can build your schedule around your writing time,” explains Dr. Joseph. The schedule for available Graduate Writing Groups can be found on the Academic Success website.

Summer schedule for available Graduate Writing Groups. Source:

Summer schedule for available Graduate Writing Groups.

There are also a number of resources available to students to assist with the writing process at the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication (GCAC; formerly known as the Office of English Language and Writing Support). Starting in August, the GCAC will offer various workshops, individual writing centre consultations, non-credit courses, and writing intensives. You can find more information on GCAC offerings here.

If you’re looking for virtual support, Shut Up and Write Tuesday is an excellent international community for academic writers. Check out their website and the Shut Up and Write North America Twitter account to see what they’re all about.

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