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Academic Writers' Groups

Academic writers’ groups at the EUI


The English Unit runs writers’ groups for small groups of young academics, from the second year of doctoral research to the post-doctoral level. The aim of these groups is to support the later stages of thesis and related writing, as well as writing for publication. Academic writers’ groups provide a way for the participants to work on their writing in a semi-structured setting.

Second-year researchers can participate in what we call academic writing groups, which are very similar to writers’ groups, but with more taught input where requested/needed. 

What are academic writers’ groups?


In recent years, increasing attention has been paid in research on English for Academic Purposes, Writing Across the Curriculum, as well as Academic Literacies, to supporting dissertation writing and related publishing. Experience in various contexts (Aitchison, 2003; Murray/Moore, 2006; Rollinson, 2004) has shown that writers’ groups are an effective method for receiving constructive feedback on the readability and effectiveness of texts for both native and non-native writers of English in various contexts. 

How do academic writers’ groups at the EUI function?


A group of researchers and/or fellows (either in the same discipline or in neighbouring disciplines) arrange to meet on a regular basis (every few weeks) in order to read and critique each others’ work in progress. 

The group (usually 4-5 members) also includes a facilitator (a member of the English Unit staff), whose role is to chair discussions, to prompt group members to articulate their observations in a focused way, and to promote a problem-solving approach to removing writing barriers.

Before each session, short segments of text (e.g. introductions to chapters, commentary on tables, literature reviews, etc.) are circulated to all members of the group. Experience shows that to allow adequate time for discussion, an upper page limit is 4-5 pages per writer per session.  

In a typical session (usually about one and a half hours) each piece of writing is discussed in turn.

Each writer first briefs his/her peers by indicating what stage the writing is at (e.g. first draft, first revision, about to be sent to supervisor), what kind of feedback he/she feels would be useful, and if there are any specific parts of the text that he/she would particularly like the group to focus on.

The group then provides feedback to the writer.

After having discussed the various texts, there is usually a round of de-briefing in which the writers identify which points they have found most useful and how they intend to use their colleagues’ observations in revising their work.

At the end of each session, the group decides on their objectives and work plan for the following session. 

Why join an academic writers' group?


There are several advantages to this mode of work for an academic author at the Institute:

  1. it fosters writer autonomy while providing pedagogical support and expertise;
  2. it improves clarity and readability of drafts to be presented to supervisors, as well as eventual thesisrelated conference presentations and related articles;
  3. it provides a structured opportunity to give and receive peer feedback, of formative value for the following stages of an academic career.

How do I join an academic writers' group?


You can join or set up a writers' group at any time during the year. 

Contact Nicola Owtram and Nicola Hargreaves stating 

  • your department
  • your year
  • your area of interest e.g. economic history, human rights law, political philosophy, microeconomics
  • if you already have a small group of colleagues interested in working together in a writers' group, provide us with their names, years and areas of interest

Further reading about writers' groups in the academic world


  • Aitchison, C. (2003) Thesis writing circles. Hong Kong Journal of Applied Linguistics, 8:2: 97-115.
  • Murray, R. and S. Moore (2006) The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach. McGraw Hill: Berkshire.
  • Rollinson, P. (2004) Experiences and perceptions in an ESL academic writing peer response group. Estudios Ingleses de la Universidad Complutense, 12: 12: 79-108.

Page last updated on 11 January 2016