FASS516M Thesis Writing (First Year Students only) - Cohort 1

Module description

This module is offered in two cohorts, one in Michaelmas Term and the other in Lent Term - you should register for either Cohort 1 or Cohort 2, not both.

This module is workshop-based, and is aimed at students at the beginning of the thesis writing process. Because of the workshop based / interactive format, places are limited to 30 in each cohort. Places will be allocated in the following order of priority: FASS students; students who need to take the module this year; order of date of receipt of application.  Students' attendance record at previous RTP modules will also be taken in to consideration. Unsuccessful applicants will be placed on a waiting list; alternatively, they may register for the online version of the module. As places on the module are limited, please inform the RTP Administrator as soon as possible if you no longer wish to take it, so that your place can be offered to another student.

Lynne Pearce offers a number of modules / short courses on thesis writing for students at different stages of their PhD studies. This module is for first year students who have just begun their doctoral studies and will focus, in particular, on skills, strategies and routines that will be helpful in making writing an integral part of your research from the moment you begin. The module is delivered as a workshop in order that participants can read and discuss examples of academic writing (downloadable from the VLE in advance of the sessions) and participate in a number of exercises designed to help them think about their own practices. Each cohort of the module will be delivered over two consecutive days in order to facilitate group work and homework exercises and also to enable new students from across the Faculty get to know each other. [Please note, however, that the emphasis of these workshops is on writing activity per se: not 'research skills' and methodology in a more general sense - these topics are dealt with in other RTP modules.] The outline for the four sessions is as follows:

  1. Students will introduce themselves and their research and be invited to share their experiences / difficulties as academic writers. The session will consider the different types of writing that may typically be undertaking during doctoral research as well as strategies for getting started (e.g., 'freewriting' and 'generative writing') and the crucial importance of defining research questions / hypotheses early on in the PhD. We will also consider the importance of 'Routines for Writing' since research suggests that discovering the locations / routines that suit you as writer can be crucial to the success of a long-term research project. There are many different ways of building writing into your life as a PhD student and the crucial thing is to discover early on what works for you.
  2. The second session will focus on 'the literature review' (i.e. how to 'survey the field' represented by your research area and present your own thesis within it). Although the literature review may take different forms across the Humanities and Social Sciences, it is expected that most PhDs will offer this sort of contextualization somewhere. During the workshop, we will look at examples of literature reviews from PhDs and in published works.
  3. The third session will focus on one of the most difficult transitions for any academic writer: 'from notes to drafts'. This will be combined with a discussion that looks ahead to some of the problems commonly faced by PhD students during their (full-time equivalent) second year: a phenomenon commonly referred to as 'second year blues'! A 'real-life' case story will be used to explore how the writing process can all too easily go off-track ('notes' that never become 'drafts'!) and what is needed to overcome the 'writers' blocks' involved.
  4. The fourth session will be on 'Audiences'. How many different 'audiences' does the PhD author have to cater for, and how can s/he juggle the different requirements and constraints involved in writing for several different categories of reader simultaneously? We will work with extracts from successful PhDs to see how other students have overcome this problem and participants will be invited to bring in samples of their own writing for discussion re style, address and empowerment.

NB: please note that this course cannot address the individual needs of students who require help with their writing in terms of language use, grammar, expression or argument. If you feel that you need to develop these skills please make an appointment to see the Faculty’s Learning Developer, Joanne Wood (joanne.wood@lancaster.ac.uk).

Reading list

Elbow, P. (1998), Writing with Power, 2nd Edn. Oxford, Oxford University Press

Murray, R. (2006), How to Write A Thesis, 2nd Edn. Maidenhead, Open University Press

Extracts from these books will also be available on the VLE site.

VLE / Moodle site: it is very important that students attending this module print off the materials to be used in the workshops in advance of the sessions. These materials will be available through the online site, and we will provide you with access to the site and / or a link shortly before the sessions begin.


Timing and Location




30/10/17 - 31/10/17

Number of sessions:

2 x 3 hour sessions and 2 x 2 hour sessions

Timing and Location:

Monday/Tuesday week 4

Monday 10.00-1.00: Charles Carter A19

Monday 3.00-5.00: Charles Carter A19

Tuesday 10.00-1.00: Charles Carter A19

Tuesday 3.00-5.00: Management School Lecture Theatre 09


Additional information

Available to 1st year full-time students, and 1st/2nd year part-time students ONLY

Minimum quota: 6

Maximum quota: 30