FASS642A: PhD Writing Groups (Second and Third Year Students only) – Cohort 1

This module is offered in six cohorts, two in Michaelmas Term, and four in Lent Term.  Please can you register your interest by signing up and we will assign you to a group. When you are offered a group, it is essential that you can commit to attending all four sessions.  

Educational Aims

These are facilitated small-group sessions. Based around peer readings of short extracts of your writing these group sessions aim to help you to develop your writing confidence and skill.  Seeing your writing from a reader perspective (and providing the reader perspective for other people’s writing) will help you to develop your writing awareness and to improve the clarity and effectiveness of writing for an academic context.  The flexible and supportive workshop format is responsive to the particular needs of the different students within each cohort. Groups are encouraged to continue meeting beyond the facilitated sessions.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  • reflect constructively on the writing process and its implications for their PhD
  • show awareness of how effective writing operates
  • sequence ideas and use sources more effectively
  • demonstrate awareness of their own style and the effects of stylistic decisions
  • communicate complex ideas in different writing contexts

The explicit focus of the workshops is on the higher-level skills of academic literacy (communicating complex ideas effectively and appropriately, in different academic writing contexts). We analyse text together, looking for effective ways of demonstrating criticality, creativity, accuracy, rigour in order to meet the expectations of PhD-level writing. We consider the impact of choices relating to structure, vocabulary, style and tone and look at some technical aspects of ‘good’ academic writing.

Beyond this, the modules have an important implicit focus: encouraging participants to understand themselves as capable and independent researchers. The workshops encourage the development of enthusiasm, perseverance, self-confidenceand our abilities to be self-reflective about writing and research, as well as developing ‘voice’. Writing is emotional and ultimately exposing – practising talking about writing and about the ideas we wish our writing to express can help us to find a writing style which feels comfortable. The writing groups offer a space to test our writing integrity and honesty.

Our discussions often touch on research management – particularly with regard to setting appropriate limits and an appropriate scope, as well as prioritising objectives. The sessions require the skill of working with others: listening to and working constructively with peers. These skills can also support useful reflection on the relationship with our supervisors.

Finally, the workshops often return to the question of different genres of writing appropriate for research dissemination, as writing samples include abstracts, conference papers and articles, as well as thesis chapters.


Session 1:

  • Share experiences of writing (moving toward discussion of common problems)
  • Introduction to workshop format, including critical reading and constructive feedback
  • Discussion of writing samples provided by the facilitator, focusing on strengths and weaknesses, developing ability to reflect upon what constitutes effective writing.

Sessions 2, 3 and 4:

  • Workshops focused on short piece of participants’ work; two participants per session.
  • Discussion of work
  • Discussion of other issues arising, e.g. preconceptions underpinning approaches to research/writing

FASS642C timing

Timing and Location




to be confirmed

Number of sessions:

4 x 2 hour sessions

Timing and Location:

to be confirmed


Additional information

Minimum quota: 6

Maximum quota: 6