METM17 keynote talk

Looking for insights into the writing process: lessons gleaned from writing retreats

Rowena Murray
If we only see academic writing in its full draft or final form, we can improve the text, but can we have an impact on clients’, students’ or colleagues’ writing? For example, as a PhD supervisor I should be delighted when my students submit draft chapters and journal articles – and I generally am – but if we have not discussed their writing-in-progress, I will have had less insight into their writing as it developed. For translators and editors, seeing writing in its later or final stages restricts insight into the production of writing. One way of looking into text production is a Structured Writing Retreat. Retreats provide insights into the multitude of decisions writers make, the writing problems they face, and what they are really trying to say. Retreats offer insight into how writers transform research into writing, and how they manage collaborative and individual writing. There are opportunities to observe writing behaviours and see patterns and differences among writers. We invoke the role of talking in writing (Elbow 2011). Crucially for researchers, we open up conversations about what constitutes "quality" in academic writing. In this talk I will report on what I have learned about the writing process through organizing Structured Writing Retreats.
Rowena Murray is an expert on academic writing. Professor of Education and Director of Research at the University of the West of Scotland, she was also Visiting Professor at Swinburne University, Melbourne, and is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK. She has published numerous articles and eleven books including How to Write a Thesis, Writing for Academic Journals and Writing in Social Spaces, and co-authored The Handbook of Academic Writing. As well as her work in this field, her teaching and research cover educational leadership and frameworks for writing. Her structured writing retreats are a popular training resource for writers and students.