Writing for academia can be a daunting task, not just for early career researchers but also for seasoned experts, which has led to the emergence of academic writing groups. A lack of time, the pressure to publish and the consequent build-up of anxiety often translates into a situation where researchers find themselves struggling to write. A study undertaken in the US some years ago surveyed 40,000 academics and found that 27% had never published in a peer-reviewed journal, 43% had not published an article in a journal in the past two years, and an alarming 26% spent zero time on writing.1 For those struggling to keep up with their writing, academic writing groups can be an invaluable support system!
What are writing groups?
Academic writing groups provide both early career researchers and faculty members a conducive environment where members can share their writing with others, receive feedback, and gain motivation and accountability for their writing goals. Online writing groups for academics are becoming increasingly popular with universities often encouraging students and faculty to join. Academic writing groups spur members to stay abreast and aware about reading and writing sources through regular interactions and networking. These groups provide a forum for researchers to come together frequently, either physically or online, to discuss theses or dissertations, journal articles, grant writings, and other kinds of academic articles or manuscript writing for publication.
The primary objective of writing groups is to help members to improve their writing skills with constructive criticism. Members of these academic writing groups evaluate and address specific challenges that members could be facing and also acknowledge and applaud progress milestones. In academia today, universities and academic institutions have specific, devoted faculty and PhD writing groups to help research students and scholars achieve their writing goals. While this broadly explains the increasing trend of researchers and scholars joining academic writing groups, let’s look at the specific benefits they offer.
Advantages of academic writing groups
Being part of physical or online writing groups for academics can benefit you in managing uncertainties in your publishing journey and professional growth. Here are 5 ways in which they can support research authors.
1. Providing a social anchor
The process of writing can often be a lonely effort that can be counter-productive and create apprehensions and doubt within the researcher or student. By being part of academic writing groups, you can always be assured to peer support and constructive feedback to your writing process. This can make the task more enjoyable. The constant interaction and exchange of ideas and perspectives imbues members with a sense of motivation. Moreover, being part of a social support group enthuses them to move ahead with their writing tasks while successfully balancing work and home requirements.
2. Observing a writing schedule
Researchers and students are often constrained for time. They not only have to attend classes but also have to juggle multiple important tasks like reviewing literature, conducting lab experiments, data collection and analysis, along with taking on part-time teaching and attending seminars and conferences. Being a member of an academic writing group can help you reserve and devote specific time to focus only on your writing tasks and get assistance when required.
3. Increasing output and productivity
There is sufficient proof to show that being a member of an academic writing group increases productivity and output levels of members. There has been an increased rate of publications and grant proposals that have been submitted by members as part of writing groups.2 Members are usually motivated to write more, and the regular writing group meetings and timelines enable them to be consistent with their writing goals.
4. Improving academic writing skills
One of the most beneficial aspects of being a member of an academic writing group is getting answers to any questions and/or doubts that you may have regarding your writing. The sustained process of exchanging information in a writing group means that one receives helpful advice and tips that can elevate the writing process and help you evolve as a better academic writer.
5. Creating a love for writing
Early career researchers, PhD students, and even experts sometimes, lack confidence in their own writing skills, which leads to a sense of fear and apprehension about the writing process. This gets worse when you don’t have English as your first language or when frequent rejections put a halt on your publishing journey. Here, academic writing groups come out as a supportive community, instilling confidence and empowering researchers and students to evolve as competent academic writers.
Making the Most of Your Academic Writing Group Experience
To fully benefit from your academic writing group experience, consider the following tips:
- Set clear goals: Define your research and writing objectives at the outset to ensure that the group’s feedback and discussions align with your aspirations.
- Actively participate: Engage proactively in discussions, provide constructive feedback to others, and share your insights openly.
- Be open to feedback: Embrace feedback with an open mind, as constructive criticism is an integral part of the learning process.
- Respect diverse perspectives: Embrace the diversity within the group and appreciate the array of perspectives and research backgrounds.
- Establish regular meetings: Consistency is key to the success of an academic writing group. Set a regular meeting schedule to maintain momentum and progress.
So, if you are an early career researcher or student, you may want to explore online writing groups for academics. Find out more about the group’s focus and interest, whether it is a PhD writing group, a specific thesis writing group, or a broader academic writing group, make a choice and join. Not only do these groups act as a valuable resource to improve your writing skills, it is also a great way to build and strengthen your professional networks.
- Majumder, K. Why are researchers joining writing groups. Editage Insights, September 2022. https://www.editage.com/insights/why-are-researchers-joining-writing-groups
- Kwan. P.P., Sharp, S., Mason, S., Saetermoe, C.L. Faculty writing groups: The impact of protected writing time and group support, International Journal of Educational Research Open, Volume 2, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedro.2021.100100
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