The purpose of the writing group program is to (i) make writing easier and more efficient for the participants and (ii) improve the quality of the writing projects workshopped in the groups.

The writing groups are intended to follow a “cooperative model” emphasizing supportive suggestions for improving written work (e.g., new ideas, solutions for potential problems, new lines of research) rather than an “adversarial model” designed to battle-test arguments.

The writing groups can help members by providing:

  • opportunities to set goals and monitor progress
  • routine “soft” nonthreatening deadlines—for exchanging documents and discussion meetings—which can help keep writing projects scheduled on calendars
  • regular feedback from the group members on the presentation and substance of arguments
  • a support group of encouraging colleagues engaged in the same challenging project of producing scholarship for publication
  • information on writing methods (such as brief daily writing sessions, the Flowers paradigm, strategies for goal setting and monitoring progress) and a forum for discussing methods
  • new opportunities to foster scholarly relationships with colleagues

The writing groups typically have four to six members (often including a member from an outside discipline such as philosophy or history). Each group meets every two weeks for a total of five or six meetings during the semester. Meetings usually last from sixty to seventy-five minutes.

At each meeting, two members are typically in the “spotlight” for discussion. These members circulate draft documents a few days before the day of the meeting. The draft documents can range from a few pages of rough notes to a polished final draft ready for submission. The writing groups particularly encourage circulating early-stage work since suggestions are often the most helpful then.

Materials on writing methods are also circulated for discussion. One of the functions of the writing group is to encourage ongoing experimentation with writing strategies.

Overall, the atmosphere of the writing group is kept informal and supportive. The ultimate goal of the group is to foster constructive conversations about scholarship in which members feel comfortable exploring new ways to improve their work.