Make writing social

cropped-cropped-cropped-2110144017-2.jpg“Isolation is killing.” (Thomson & Kamler, 2016, p. 50)

Writing a dissertation can feel isolating. Even if you are traveling the PhD journey with a cohort, you may get out of sync with others or feel different from the group. One way to break out of isolation and kick-start your writing is to connect with your peers and either write together and/or share your writing. Wendy Belcher, editor, teacher, and the author of Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks, is a proponent of making your writing social and collaborative, whether through involvement in a writing group or with a writing partner. Writing with others can allay writer’s block and other forms of anxiety, make you more productive, and help you feel connected to others.

Following are some ideas to get you started in creating a sense of writing community:

  • Thesis Writing Starter Kit: This resource provides tips on how to form a writing group or partnership.
  • The Centre for Academic Communication: Working with a tutor at the CAC can help you deal with writing challenges that you don’t necessarily want to bring to your supervisor. You can book a 50-minute session once a week, working with the same tutor for continuity or trying out different tutors.  Create a profile and start making appointments. Questions? Email to inquire about our face-to-face and online tutoring.
  • Check out the twice-yearly Thesis Boot Camps for graduate students.
  • Blogging about your PhD experience can help you feel less isolated on your journey and, according to Thomson and Kamler (2016), is an important part of performing your “scholarly identity” (see pp. 116-121). As a UVic student, you can use the Online Academic Community to start a free WordPress blog with technical support from the experts at Technology Integrated  Learning, UVic. To kindle ideas about PhD student blogs, go to The Thesis Whisperer and locate the tab on the right: “Read some PhD student blogs.” Inger Mewburn, author of The Thesis Whisperer, cautions readers to use critical assessment when considering advice posted in any of the blogs, just as she cautions readers to do the same for her own posts. Many of the blogs are no longer active, likely because the bloggers have defended, gotten jobs, and moved on.  If you don’t want to start your own blog but would like to share your story, get in touch with me at and we can talk about getting your story up on the Graduate Student Writers’ Community blog.
  • You may not relish the idea of connecting with a writing partner, writing group, or writing tutor. Have you considered reading academic blogs on topics relevant to you? Reading academic blogs can make you feel connected to the wider community of academic writers, PhD students, and researchers. A few recommended blogs follow; please let me know if you have a favourite one you’d like to add:

The Thesis Whisperer. From the blog: “The Thesis Whisperer is a blog newspaper dedicated to the topic of doing a thesis [PhD dissertation] and is edited by Dr Inger Mewburn, Director of research training at the Australian National University.” Mewburn and guest writers from across the world post about every possible topic related to writing a dissertation. Her approach is humanizing, playful, and encouraging.

Patter. From the blog: “Patter is Pat Thomson, Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham.” Thomson blogs often on scholarly writing, writing a dissertation, publishing, and writing or research problems and solutions. Her posts are organic—springing from what is happening in her busy life as an academic.

(If you buy just one book about dissertation writing, let it be Thomson’s [March 2016] book (with co-author Barbara Kamler), Detox your writing: Strategies for doctoral researchers.  The product of many years of working closely with graduate students, this book is interesting, practical, and user-friendly. It will get you going and keep you going on your dissertation journey. This book is available as an e-book from the UVic library.)

Doctoral Writing Sig: This Australian blog is a lively place for discussions about doctoral writing. From the blog: “DoctoralWritingSIG is a forum where people who are interested in doctoral writing can come together to share information, resources, ideas, dreams (perhaps even nightmares!) in a spirit of building knowledge and skills around higher degree research writing.”

Get a Life, PhD: In this blog, California sociologist Tanya Golash-Boza writes about everything academic: time management, writing, conferences, how to prepare for a TED talk, how to make an video about your research, and much more.

Explorations of Style| A blog about academic writing. From the blog: “Explorations of Style offers readers an ongoing discussion of the challenges of academic writing. The ability to formulate and clarify our thoughts is central to the academic enterprise; this blog discusses strategies to improve the process of expressing our research in writing.” Dr. Rachael Cayley, from the University of Toronto, covers many topics of interest to dissertation and other academic writers in a down-to-earth style.

Do you have a recommendation about how to “make writing social”? Send your ideas and resources to Madeline at

Page written by Madeline Walker; last updated February 16, 2023