April 10, 2012

Working Alone, Together – by Kate

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/researchexchange/space/planevent/shutupandstudy

So maybe I do have an agenda, but so what? Doesn't everyone. Here goes. I'm in the funny in-between phase when I've handed in my PhD thesis, but there is no date for the viva. I can't say that I've finished my PhD, nor can I say I'm writing it. Weird. Anyway, I've been reflecting on my experiences of writing my thesis, mostly forced on me by my new job in the Research Exchange.

Although I can't really bring myself to think specifically about my thesis, the process isn't quite so painful. We all come to realise that the PhD is a solitary process of writing and research. It’s a cold and dark universe, and we are floating alone in space, right?... WRONG! I've been reading about a movement which began in San Francisco called Shut Up and Write. Its premise is to bring writers together in one space. A facilitator introduces everyone, there is a brief period of chat, and then a solid period of quiet writing time. The idea is to create a community of writers who don't always enjoy working alone, and who want to experience working alone, together.

To a certain extent, the library and particularly the Wolfson Research Exchange provide this type of facility. However, I think some people would benefit from intense periods of writing structured by someone else. Like me, for example. So I'm setting up a series of Shut Up and Study sessions in the Research Exchange, starting at the beginning of next term.

Researchers will have to sign up to attend (click link at top of entry) and space will be allocated to them in one of the seminar rooms. The structure of the day will be based around intense periods of writing/reading etc, followed by short tea breaks and an extended lunch hour. The facilitator will introduce everyone, followed by 15 minutes chat time; and then the work starts for a period of 45-60 minutes, and so on; Facilitator introduces; 15 mins chat - 45 mins working - 15 mins tea break "may I introduce... "oh, how nice to meet you" .....#tap tap, scribble, scribble#...."I wrote 500 words!"

Two sessions of 45 minutes writing is a Half-Marathon Shut Up and Study, a Marathon session is the entire day. I guess my agenda is coming through clearly now. Maybe I do want people to attend these sessions, but only for their own good! It gives researchers a chance to focus for intense periods, have forced breaks and chat to others.

This would work really well for researchers needing to finish something, such as a chapter, which they have previously struggled with. The support of other researchers around them, working within the same time frame, is very valuable. I found that having variety in my work pattern, particularly including working alongside others, helped me counteract those feelings of isolation. There is no getting away from the fact that this is our own project, but working alone, together, is a motivating experience.

*the first session will run on Monday 23rd April, seminar room 2 from 09.30-12.00. A limited number of laptops are available for loan.

- 9 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Sian

    What a good idea. I had access to a shared office during the first few years of my PhD and working in the company of my fellow researchers was an invaluable support even though we were all working on different topics and were at different stages of our PhDs.

    This idea reminds me that I sometimes used the daily and weekly boards on the Phinished website http://www.phinished.org/ It was a way of making myself accountable for my daily writing plans, and checking in with other people using the boards to report on progress and support others helped to break the isolation as well (very useful when I was writing up at home and not able to use the shared office any more).

    10 Apr 2012, 10:13

  2. That sounds a perfect idea.It will prevent wasting time about writing or studying and provide excellent motivation!

    10 Apr 2012, 13:52

  3. lizith

    Very interested in reading this post. I’ve been wondering about initiating something similar at Sussex and will be very interested in hearing how this works out. How many people are you hoping to involve in the first session? Do you have tea on tap or do you have to go elsewhere to find it? Trying to think through the practicalities in our setting.

    10 Apr 2012, 16:27

  4. Thanks for your postive responses and recommendations! Fingers crossed it will take off.

    Answering your questions Lizith, the plan is to get 12 people attending the first session as we’re restricted on desk space and plug sockets! We’ll be supplying tea and coffee during the breaks and afterwards to get feedback on the session. I reckon that we all need a nice cup of something warm to get the ideas flowing! I’ll be blogging about it post-session so watch this space!

    11 Apr 2012, 11:04

  5. Catriona

    Hi Kate – great idea. Where can I sign up for this? Is there an online form?

    11 Apr 2012, 13:21

  6. Charlotte Mathieson

    great idea! I notice the first one is on the day of the next cake share, an even better incentive :)

    11 Apr 2012, 13:54

  7. Hi Catriona, thanks for your interest! There is an online form, follow this link to sign up;


    Looking forward to seeing you there!

    11 Apr 2012, 13:57

  8. Salma Patel

    Fantastic idea! :) Quite a few of my fellow tweeps take part in #shutupandwrite sessions, both offline and on twitter, and it seems to be a huge success for many!

    13 Apr 2012, 12:44

  9. Mary

    YES. I would like to do this. If other people around me are being studious it might guilt me into getting off pinterest and doing some work.

    19 Apr 2012, 10:22

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