dissertation writing retreat
Thanks to generous support from the Graduate School, Student Writing Support offers a free annual Dissertation Writing Retreat. Each May Term, fifteen dissertation writers from across the University gather in 15 Nicholson Hall for three weeks of concentrated dissertation-writing time in a supportive group setting.
See the bottom of this page for information on applying for the 2013 retreat, which will take place Mondays–Thursdays, May 28–June 13 (no session on Monday, May 27, Memorial Day). In the meantime, visit our especially for graduate writers page.
retreat expectations and activities
Participants in the retreat…
- do focused, sustained work on their dissertations in scheduled blocks of writing time
- participate in optional meetings with experienced SWS consultants
- participate in brief warm-up activities designed to facilitate writing
- pledge not to use the internet or email during the hours of the retreat
- participate in three Tuesday lunch discussions on issues and strategies related to dissertation writing
- participate in two 15-minute assessments of the program during the course of the retreat (to help make the retreat as useful as possible for current and future participants)
- have no other teaching or research responsibilities during May Term
writing retreat location and schedule
If you are selected, you will gather with other retreat participants Mondays through Thursdays, May 28–June 13 (no session on Monday, May 27, Memorial Day), from 9:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. in 15 Nicholson Hall, the location for Student Writing Support, which also houses a computer lab. Coffee, tea, and healthy snacks will be available. We will break for lunch from 12:15–1:15 each day. On Tuesdays, participants will be provided with lunch during a discussion of dissertation writing issues and strategies. Participants must commit to the full 11-day retreat schedule.
why participate in a dissertation writing retreat?
Past participants have told us that the retreat was “invaluable”:
- The structure and positive environment of the retreat made my work feel less burdensome and POSSIBLE! This is what I have needed most in my dissertation writing process: hope and confidence. The retreat has given me both of those things.
- [This retreat] has changed my ideas about writing and demystified a lot of the process. It is also good to be reminded that my work benefits so much from talking it over with people (besides my advisor).
- This was the perfect environment for making my goals come true. The respectful space, words of encouragement, and chance to quickly talk through problems with the writing consultants all made it possible.
- Prior to the retreat my dissertation seemed huge and overwhelming. This retreat has given me skills to take on small chunks and work through my writing difficulties. I would like to thank you especially for providing us with resources that we can use now and in our careers. Because of this retreat I have learned to enjoy writing as much as research.
When asked if they would recommend the retreat to other dissertators, participants told us:
- Yes! Great to connect with other dissertators, great to get some fresh perspective on how writing gets done. Great to have access to writing consultants, and to discuss my work with people outside my field.
- YES! YES! YES! I would recommend the retreat as it was truly life changing. I wish there was something similar for grad students when I started out my PhD. Writing is a lonely task, but working silently with a community of writers was very motivating & helpful.
- Absolutely! I already did. I found it to be inspiring (in the sense of finally realizing that I could actually finish this dissertation—this is the first time I have felt like this is doable and that I WILL finish). The sense of community gave me the feeling that the worries and fears I had were pretty common and that people had worked through them and actually finished.
how to apply
Applications must be emailed to Katie Levin at firstname.lastname@example.org no earlier than Monday, March 25, and no later than Monday, April 8, 2013, at 5:00 p.m. The application consists of the following three parts:
from your advisor
- a brief email endorsing your participation in the retreat. This email should be sent directly from your advisor to Katie Levin at email@example.com.
- a statement (no longer than one single-spaced page) describing how participating in this retreat will help you make progress on your dissertation. In other words, what would you gain from this dissertation retreat that you couldn’t do on your own?
- an abstract of your dissertation (no longer than two single-spaced pages). Because so much of the retreat is devoted to sustained writing (rather than research) time, writers whose prospectuses have not yet been approved by their departments or who still need to complete fieldwork should wait until next year to apply.
- Our goal is to accept fifteen participants from a wide variety of disciplines. Our first consideration will be the quality of each application; ultimately, in the event of numerous highly competitive applications, we will favor applications representing candidates from a diversity of disciplines to enrich the retreat.
- Applications from writers who have not won Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships in previous years will be favored over applications from those who have previously won Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please feel free to get in touch with Katie Levin (firstname.lastname@example.org; 612.624.7720).
For a sampling of the disciplinary diversity of the retreat, see our list of defended dissertations completed by retreat participants.
Light bulb photo by Kat Clay, used with permission under a creative commons license. See more of this photographer's work here.