EUI Academic Writers Groups Groundrules
To function successfully, every group needs to start with some basic ground-rules for each meeting. The ground-rules below have been guiding Writers' Groups at the EUI for many years. Each individual Group may, of course, agree on additional ground-rules that work for them.
The Writers' Group is a safe space. Respect and trust are of the utmost importance. This also means confidentiality - do not share other people's work outside the group without their permission.
Before the session
You as writer
- Number the paragraphs for easy reference.
- Explain briefly what stage the writing is at - early draft, draft, close to finalisation etc.
- Genre and intended audience, e.g. Reseach Article, thesis chapter, blogpost; intended publication venue
- List eventual important restrictions, e.g. word limits
- Brief your readers on what kind of feedback you would find useful at this time: e.g. lengthening/shortening a section; order of sections; making it more reader-friendly; upping its attractiveness; etc.
- Let your readers know if you have particular concerns you would like addressed.
You as reader
- Read each piece written by your colleagues, taking into consideration their notes on stage of writing and what kind of feedback they are looking for.
- Consider readability, your reaction as a reader. What works for you as a reader, what doesn't?
During the session
- Make sure all writers have a chance to obtain feedback. Timing will be guided by the facilitator.
- Each reader should be allowed to give their reader's reaction in turn. This will be orchestrated by the facilitator.
- Readers should not interrupt the other readers, but wait their turn.
- All readers must have the chance to provide feedback on each paper. The feedback may be a new point, but it may also concur with or reinforce the comments of the other readers.
Readers providing feedback
- Provide a reader's perspective: persuasiveness, accessibility or readibility, ordering of information, etc.
- Engage with the text, not the writer.
- Use the 'sandwich' method of feedback: begin by pointing out strong points, then move to points that may need rewriting or reworking, and finish on a positive note.
- Be specific about what works for you as a reader and what does not, e.g. not simply 'I loved reading this' but 'I loved reading this, because I particularly enjoyed the balance between longer and shorter sentences, reflecting x, y, z.' Or 'The way you introduce illustrations of each point makes it very clear, enjoyable and easy to read'. Or, 'While the signposting provides clarity, as a reader I found it disturbing to have every sentence in the paragraph to begin with However, Nevertheless, Furthermore etc'
- If you can, suggest alternatives. (You might not always be able to do so, of course, and that's ok too). For example, 'These signposts aren't all necessary - you can indicate connections by... or you can put some in second mention ... or you can change the order of the sentences to create clearer connections.' 'The table here needs a better discursive introduction to encourage me to look at it as part of the text. One way of doing this might be...'
Writers receiving reader feedback
- Listen to each reader's comments.
- Remember that the comments are not critiques of quality of thought, but are about readibility - how to make sure your text reaches your intended readers in the clearest, most elegant way possible.
- DO NOT SPEAK until all your colleagues have given their feedback. Do not try to explain (Yes, but what I meant here was...) When it is published, your text will not have you sitting there ready to explain every word. Moreover, if you interrupt, the reader is likely to stop giving useful reader feedback.
- After everyone, including the facilitator, has given their readers' feedback, you may reply. This may be a simple 'thank you'. You may also respond to points, asking for clarification or elaborating on your thought. You may find it useful to put into words how you will use the feedback to change your text.
After the session
- Decide on a time for your next session. Some groups make a timetable for the whole term; others decide time by time.
- All members must always be present, unless there are exceptional circumstances. If one person is on mission, for example, the group meets hybridly.
- If your group has a designated notetaker, they should share these notes with the group.
- Share any written feedback you may have made on texts with the whole group.
- As soon as possible after the meeting, work on your text, incorporating what you learnt about its readability and accessibility.
EUI ACADEMIC WRITERS' GROUPS