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Writing retreats as a milestone in the development of PhD students' sense of self as academic writers

Papen, Uta and Thériault, Virginie (2017) Writing retreats as a milestone in the development of PhD students' sense of self as academic writers. Studies in Continuing Education. ISSN 1470-126X

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Writing retreats are structured events during which a group of people write in the same room over several days. In this paper, we report on findings from a study exploring the impact of writing retreats on PhD students’ writing and their sense of self as academic writers. A second aim of the study was to contribute to the search for appropriate pedagogies to support writing at the PhD level. The data consist of interviews with 19 PhD students who had taken part in writing retreats as well as evaluations and pre- and post-retreat reflections by these students. In the interviews, we discussed the role of writing retreats in the context of the students’ wider biographies as writers, looking into their autobiographical selves and how it relates to their experiences of writing. Our findings suggest that writing retreats can be important events for PhD students positively affecting their relationship with literacy [Besse, J.-M. 1995. L’écrit, l’école et l’illettrisme. Paris: Magnard]. Taking part in a retreat generates pleasure, emphasising the role of emotions in academic writing. Writing retreats and the opportunities they offer students to write and to reflect on their experiences as writers are a valuable part of PhD training.