Writer development 2018-2019


Communication skills

Target group

PhD students from any discipline at any stage of completion can take value from the course: those early on in their studies can establish good habits from the outset, and those closer to completion can refresh or reconceptualise skills, giving them a boost in the final sprint. Having an interdisciplinary group underlines the commonalities of all researchers and their writing, regardless of disciplinary difference. This creates a broad community that can enhance everyone’s practice.

Maximum 15 participants


Dr. Sarah Haas undertook her PhD studies at Aston University in England. Her research focused on Writer Development (mainly applied linguistics, but also drawing on didactics and educational psychology). She teaches writing, and facilitates
writer development workshops in Belgium, England, Denmark, Japan and the US. Dr. Haas has over 18 years of experience supporting research writers. She conducts practitioner-based research that aims to further improve the teaching of academic writing, and the facilitating of writer development. Relevant publications include:
--Haas, S. S. (2018) This essay makes me want to poke sticks in my eyes! Developing a reader engagement framework to help emerging writers understand why readers might (not) want to read texts. Journal of Academic Writing, forthcoming
--Haas, S. S. (2014). Pick-n-Mix: A typology of writers' groups in use. In C. Aitchison & C. Guerin (Eds.), Writing groups for doctoral education and beyond: Innovations in practice and theory. New York: Routledge.
--Haas, S. (2014). Writer development made accessible! Brookes eJournal of Learning and Teaching, 6(2). Retrieved from http://bejlt.brookes.ac.uk/shortarticle/writer-development- made-accessible/ .
--Haas, S. S. (2012). Using Story Cards to facilitate reflective thought and dialogue about science writing. In L. Clughen & C. Hardy (Eds.), Writing in the disciplines: Building supportive cultures for student writing in UK higher education. Bingley: Emerald.
--Haas, S. S. (2010). By writers for writers: Developing a writer-centred model of the writing process (Doctoral dissertation, Aston University, Birmingham, England)


The course alternates between input sessions and working sessions. The input sessions take the form of interactive workshops on topics relevant to managing writing, the writing process, and academic communication. The working sessions give participants the opportunity to immediately put the theory into productive practice. Thus, by the end of the course they will have already started establishing good writing habits that can serve them well not only throughout the PhD, but in any future writing situation. Input sessions include:

  • Taking control over distractions that keep one from writing; Keeping focused and staying working
  • Setting realistic writing goals, and increasing productivity; Setting up and maintaining successful writers’ groups
  • Writer-centred text vs reader-centred text; Giving/receiving feedback on scientific output (abstracts)
  • Understanding individual writing processes; Using understanding to take control and optimise
  • Keeping a writers’ log and using it to increase productivity

This course complements existing academic writing courses by emphasising learning the process of academic writing (while not ignoring the product). It also focuses on the writer , not only on the process or product of writing. The teaching philosophy is guided discovery, which starts from the points of the expertise that the participants bring with them to the course, and then takes them further. The non- hierarchical method shows the participants that they are taken seriously as research writers, and thus leads them to create their own sense of initiative and responsibility.

Learning objectives

This course starts from points of recognition that learning how to be an academic writer is not something that happens automatically, and that each writer is different. While theoretical material is introduced, the main goal is that participants use it to refine and develop their existing knowledge. By the end of the course participants will have:

  • developed a greater understanding of their own individual writing processes, and will be able to use this understanding to build sets of tools to help them increase writing productivity and decrease the stress associated with doctoral writing.
  • learned how to set and keep realistic writing goals by protecting time for writing and maintaining focus
  • created communities of writers to help sustain good habits started on the course, ensuring lasting benefits
  • practiced a simple yet effective way to look at text (their own and others’) and judge whether or not it is of the quality and standard necessary for PhD writing

Time and Venue

December 11-12, 2018 (Tue + Wed) and January 24-25, 2019 (Thu + Fri) (7 hours x 4 days, except 1st day ends at 15:00!)

Het Pand, Onderbergen 1, 9000 Gent.

Rooms: see programme


  • 1st day: Tuesday December 11, 2018 (9:00 – 15:00) - zaal Jan Gillis 1.3 (1st fl)

AM: Introduction -  Input session: managing distractions - Working session - Discussion -Working session
PM: Working session - Input session; writing process management - Workshop: individual writing process and writers’ logs - Working session

  • 2nd day: Wednesday December 12, 2018 (9:00 – 16:00) - Dormitoriumzaal 2.1 (2nd fl)

AM: Working session - Discussion and reflection - Working session - Input session: Setting up and maintaining successful writers’ groups
PM: Working session - Workshop: setting up own writers’ groups - Working session - Group discussion, strategy planning workshop

  • 3rd day: Thursday January 24, 2019 (9:00 – 16:00) - Sacristie (gr fl)

AM: Group discussion: writers’ group activities - Working session - Input session: global structuring of text and leading the reader by the hand - Working session
PM: Working session - Workshop: method for giving useful feedback - Working session

  • 4th day: Friday January 25, 2019 (9:00 – 16:00) - Sacristie (gr fl)

AM: Working session - Workshop: giving engagement feedback on abstracts - Working session
PM: Working session - Input session/workshop: participants’ choice - Working session -General discussion and wrap-up

Teaching methods & material

Articles and sample writers’ logs will be made available. Those with an iOS device will be given an app that will supplement the writer’s log.

Registration fee

Free of charge for members of the Doctoral Schools of Ghent University

Registration procedure

Use following link: https://webappsx.ugent.be/eventManager/events/writerdevelopmentcourse

If the course is fully booked, you can ask to be added to the waiting list by sending an e-mail to . Please mention your name and student nr.



Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

100% attendance, active participation, keeping a writer’s log, forming and maintaining writers’ groups (must meet at least twice for at least two hours each time between the two retreats).