How to conduct a writing group

What is a writing group?
Near the beginning of the course, we will place you in a small writing group (normally four to six persons) with colleagues in your discipline (or as close as we can find). The purpose of your group is to provide support to one another whilst writing an article for scientific publication over the autumn semester. You will achieve this by meeting regularly to critically discuss each other’s drafts. Please note, that you can change your writing group if you feel that you belong more in another group. In this case, do let us know.

The importance of writing group meetings:
A face-to-face group meeting is one of the last stages of the peer feedback process and it takes place after the written feedback stage. As a reviewer, this is your opportunity to expand upon the feedback you gave to your colleagues. As an author, you can ask for clarification on any feedback points you do not understand. There is a strongly suggested procedure for conducting the meetings (see below) to ensure that the session is effective. Please ensure that you are fully prepared. If you cannot attend, please inform your group as soon as you can as these writing group meetings are carefully planned.

Suggested agenda for feedback meetings (general points)
1. Appoint a time-manager and find out how much time there is for each member (download writing group time management sheet below), and remember to allocate time for scheduling a new meeting before the time is up.
2. Choose one author’s draft to start the group meeting (e.g. start with Ann’s draft in a group consisting of Ann, Bob, Claire and Dave).
3. Each reviewer in turn gives feedback to this author’s draft (e.g. Bob gives feedback to Ann, then Claire gives feedback to Ann, and finally Dave gives feedback to Ann).
4. After everyone has given feedback to this author’s draft, move on to the next author until all the authors have received feedback in this cyclic process.

Suggested agenda for feedback meetings (specific points)
1. The first person receiving feedback starts the round by briefly telling if there is anything the group should know that has not been mentioned in the cover letter.
2. The first person giving feedback has the floor and comments on the text, while the writer stays quiet. If the person giving feedback spends more time than allocated, the time-manager must stop the person and move on to the next reviewer.
3. Other reviewers get to speak one at a time and comment on the text in the same way.
4. If there is any time left, the author may ask the reviewer questions.
5. The same applies for the drafts of your other group members.

If you are the person receiving feedback (the author), you should help and respect your reviewers (your group members) as follows:
1. Give a very short summary about the most important aspects of your draft.
2. Make notes on the feedback you receive from your colleagues.
3. Listen attentively and only interrupt with necessary clarifying questions.
4. Do not reject the feedback with negative body language.
5. Thank your reviewer for his/her feedback

Similarly, when you give feedback to your colleagues, you should help and respect the authors as follows:
1. Prioritise your feedback
2. Do not ask the author questions.
3. Illustrate the feedback by pointing at passages in the text.
4. Give positive feedback on areas the author has written well.
5. Repeat briefly whether you agree or disagree with the comments of the previous feedback givers

After the meeting
It is a good idea to turn on the computer and start writing useful feedback and your own thoughts into the text as soon as the meeting is over while you can still remember the feedback. To help you organise your thinking process, you could consider writing a revision plan. A revision plan is where you systematically record what you do with your received feedback comments (see resources: how to revise your text for more info.). Do not use the writing-group meetings as an excuse not to work anymore on the project that day.

Remember
1. Start on time.
2. Do not wait for those who are late.
3. Allocate a time keeper (use a timer).
4. Follow the rules.

Access: Writing Group Time Management Sheets

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