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Writing groups

Writing a text such as a master’s thesis requires you to work steadily for an extended period. When working with a text, it is wise to allow others to read your text. This is a useful way of finding out how effectively your text communicates your ideas to the reader. Join a writing group to present your drafts, give and receive feedback, and find support from a community of fellow students. Participation in a writing group does not replace, but supplements your supervisor. A good writing group is a group of students who are all studying the same subject, preferably at the same level but who are at different stages in their thesis writing process (Dysthe og Lied, 1999).

University of Bergen PhD students Kajsa Parding and Sandhya Tiwari talk about their writing club, and how it has helped them with their thesis work.

How to give and receive feedback

The writing group is somewhere you can present texts and where you can receive and give constructive and specific feedback on theses. By creating a writing group you can provide other students with input about their ideas and receive feedback about yours. It is just as valuable to comment on other students’ ideas as to receive their feedback. You  learn a lot about writing by analysing other students’ texts and putting your responses into words. Students should submit their texts to the group at different stages of completion. Before you submit a text to the writing group:

  • Tell your group what type of text you are submitting and where it belongs in your thesis
  • Tell the group if there are any particular aspects you would like feedback on

When it is your turn to give feedback, make sure that you:

  • Have read the text in advance
  • Have prepared your comments in writing
  • Begin with some positive comments. Any text will have some good points that the author can develop further.
  • Explain aspects you think are successful and the reasons why. Non-specific praise is not useful.
  • Ask about anything that is unclear. Make constructive suggestions instead of simply criticising.
  • Remember that submitting a text for other people to read may have been a big step for your fellow student. Make sure you read it thoroughly and make your comments constructive.

Good feedback is specific, constructive and friendly.


Writing groups. Photo, UiB.

When you receive feedback:

  • Be open to comments from the other students in your writing group. Remember that they have put effort into understanding your text.
  • Listen and take notes about their comments instead of arguing or being defensive. Even if you disagree with their comments, remember that they reflect a valid reader experience that you should take in consideration in your subsequent work. Your response to their comments will be your next draft.
  • A text can always be improved. Having other people read your text will give you a wider perspective on the possibilities that lie within it.
  • You are in charge of decisions about your text. Pay attention to comments that you think are relevant and ignore the rest.

The group should agree to meet regularly. The members should commit to attending the meetings well prepared. Participation in a writing group will give you invaluable help in completing your thesis. And when the submission deadline approaches, you will know where to go for a final review of your text.

Joint writing tools

If you participate in a study group where you are to hand in a text togehther there are several joint writing tools. Word, e-mail or a virtual learning environment are not always suitable when you want to create texts jointly with other writers. A simple and useful option is the document and spread-sheet modules in Google Drive, which is a free, low-threshold online service.

You can decide who is included in the writing group, others are denied access. The service allows flexible text editing by several writers simultaneously on-line. A joint writing tool manages and maintains control of contributions so that you can write while in direct virtual communication with the rest of the group. Text can be saved in many formats or be published as a blog. For those who would like to find out more about the tools from Google, we refer to the Wikipedia article.

Keep the writing process going

To keep the writing process going it can be useful to write a log, or a diary on what you have done, and what you need to do. You can also create a blog to get feedback on your writing, or on your thoughts during the process. A blog can be used in many ways. Create your own personal blog, or make a blog together with fellow students.

Remember that a blog can be accessed by anyone. Anyone can read your blog and post comments. You decide whether to publish comments made by others. The writing genre is informal. The threshold for starting your own blog is low – assuming of course that you are used to using digital media.

Some bloggers use the intimate style of a diary, others are intended to act as a professional discussion forum. Most blogs are published using one of the many blog tools available on the Internet, such as

  • blogger.com
  • www.wordpress.com
  • blogg.no

Dysthe, O., & Lied, L. I. (1999) Skrivegrupper (No. 2/99). Bergen.

Last updated: May 28, 2019

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