Teaching PhD Students How to Write (and How to Publish): EdJoWriWe and LLC Writes

in the school

Is it really possible to write a journal article in seven days?

Edinburgh Journal Article Writing Week (or EdJoWriWe for short) first took place in December 2013, created and run by Muireann Crowley and Eystein Thanisch, PhD students in English Literature and Celtic Studies respectively. In part, the idea for a journal article writing workshop was inspired by an Institute for Academic Development event that Muireann and Eystein attended called ‘How to Write a Journal Article in Seven Days’ by Dr Inger Mewburn. After hearing all the wisdom that Dr Mewburn had to offer, they decided to put her advice into practice and discover: is it really possible to write a journal article in seven days?

More than this, Muireann and Eystein also wanted to create a peer writing community in which postgraduate students would feel comfortable with experimenting and exploring different writing techniques and strategies. They designed EdJoWriWe as an intensive week of writing workshops and structured writing sessions which would both inform PhD students about the publishing process and give them the opportunity to write as much as possible. Academics and journal editors ran workshops on various topics such as ‘Writing for Publication’, while others provided drop-in sessions for the postgraduate students to consult with them about their work. The postgraduate participants were also encouraged to review one another’s work.

This format worked so well that EdJoWriWe went on to run twice more, in 2015 and 2016. Georgina Barker, one of the organisers in 2015, wrote in the handbook that she took over the project because she and the other 2013 participants finished the week ‘feeling newly enthused about our writing, with replenished reserves of motivation, fresh writing techniques under our belts, and even new friends’. As a result, it was a project she was ‘reluctant to see disappear!’.

In terms of meeting its aims, EdJoWriWe proved to be a great success. Each year, several people completed their articles or thesis chapters and everyone reported having made significant progress on their work as well as having learnt many new writing techniques that would help their work in future. In the feedback surveys, participants commented on aspects of the week such as the ‘camaraderie’ and the ‘opportunity to get new insights into academic writing’. One participant commented that:

‘the whole week has helped me learn how to write more effectively and be healthy, happy and productive at the same time. This week has been invaluable to me’.

For me personally, one of the most valuable aspects of EdJoWriWe was that it showed the strong sense of community that exists in our departments, where staff and postgraduates are willing to help and learn from one another. EdJoWriWe would not have been possible without many staff and students in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, the School of History, Classics and Archaeology and beyond, generously volunteering their time and we are very grateful to all of them.

One of the other successful outcomes of EdJoWriWe was the creation of LLC Writes, a structured writing day retreat that takes place once a month. LLC Writes is still going strong and has led to the creation of similar groups in two other schools: SPS Writes (School of Political Science) and HSS Writes (Health and Social Sciences). All three writing groups meet at least monthly and anyone who wants to join is welcome!

Next steps:

Find out more about EdJoWriWe and LLC Writes (including writing aids and resources) on the EdJoWriWe and LLC Writes website and the EdJoWriWe blog.

Laura Beattie

Laura is a PhD student in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. She ran EdJoWriWe and LLC Writes in 2014/15 and 2015/16, along with colleagues from LLC: Georgina Barker (Russian and Classics), Olivia Ferguson (English Literature) and Barbara Tesio (Scandinavian Studies).

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