How Do We Make Time? Faculty Share Their Research and Writing Advice

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A lot faculty struggle to find time to keep up on their research agendas during the semester.  Between meetings, teaching, and all of the other things that add up to a faculty member’s work life, time often gets away from us.  So, how do we make time for our research and writing?

A number of faculty from various institutions and disciplines shared their thoughts about writing and research productivity in an article for the The Chronicle of Higher Education.  We thought that we would share some of their advice to help you think about making time for your writing and research:

  • Rachel Connelly advises self-awareness: “One of the most important ways to increase your productivity is to know yourself.”  She suggests structuring your writing around the time of day when you know you are productive.
  • Richard M. Felder offers advise that writing faculty often share with their students: “Do your creating and editing sequentially, not simultaneously.”  Writers often get bogged down when they focus on production and polishing simultaneously.  Felder’s advice to get the ideas out first is effective.
  • Shelley Fisher Fishkin prefers long span of time to write, but she recognizes that “those half-hour chunks of time are not to be squandered either.”  Theresa MacPhail adds, “The truth is, none of us have time enough to write. Those of us who write regularly make time, fitting small chunks of writing time into our schedules wherever and whenever we can.” This advice resonates with research on the habits of productive writers who take advantage of the few free minutes they have in-between meetings and classes.
  • Kristen R. Ghodsee adds to Fishkin’s  and MacPhail’s advice: “Look at some of the more substantial items on your schedule and see if you can break them into smaller bits. Keep a running ‘to do’ list of things that require between five to 20 minutes of your time, and then only do those things in your moments of time confetti.”
  • Several faculty suggested simple technologies or workflow processes that assist their productivity: Melanie Nelson uses a Kanban board, Theresa MacPhail uses Google Drive on the go, and Tim Slater emails himself “ideabank” emails when he is away from his desk.

One other practice many faculty find helpful is to join a writing group or participate in a writing retreat.  Groups and retreats often provide supportive networks that facilitate productivity and hold people accountable.  Mason hosts weekly write-ins and biannual retreats in January and May; applications for May’s retreat are due May 3rd.  If you are interested in participating in either, visit the WAC Program’s webpage for more information.

Writers of Mason: Hanna Vandergrift


“I hear a lot of writers and a lot of people worry that they’re not good enough, they’re insecure about their writing, they don’t think that they’re a good writer and that nothing is ever going to come of it. And that’s really sad because probably someone saw their writing at some point and was like ‘oh that’s stupid’ and they don’t ever want to write again. So my mentality now has been ‘fuck it, write it,’ if you want to write it then do it.”

Hanna Vandergrift is an English Major at George Mason University.

Exploring One Faculty Member’s Decision to Stop Writing on Student Papers

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When it comes to feedback, students often fear the image of a professor armed with red pens, poised to slash away at the words that they have lovingly crafted.  As professors, however, we are more often than not trying to give students insight into how we might develop their drafts so that they might move their work forward.  But, frequently, the revisions students make don’t seem to connect with the feedback that we give. So we have to wonder: do these painstaking comments really make a difference? Continue reading

Helping Students Revise

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In our last post, we discussed the qualities of good feedback.  But as many writing teachers know, giving good feedback is only part of the equation; students still need to use that feedback in order to revise their drafts and develop as writers.  And this second part of the equation can be a significant challenge for many writing teachers and students alike; as Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj note, drafts can sometimes become “like concrete:” once they begin to set, they aren’t likely to see changes deeper than the surface.  So, the question becomes: how do we help students use our feedback and revise their writing? Continue reading

Characteristics of Effective Feedback

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Writing intensive courses are built on the concept that students improve as writers when they are given frequent opportunities to revise their writing based upon feedback from faculty.  While providing feedback can seem simple, many writing teachers recognize that the task is complex, and it’s common for faculty to feel unsure of how best to provide feedback on writing.  In consultations and informal conversations, faculty often ask us: how do I provide effective feedback, and what should I be mindful of as I provide my student’s feedback? Continue reading

Writers of Mason: Byunghwan Son

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Writing is a job, a part of my job, a big part of my job actually–research is like 90% of it. And I’m a political scientist, so my work is represented in a written form, at the core of my job description. I wanna be good at it, but I don’t know if I’m good at it… [For my projects], I fill the gap with writing skills, so that’s where I’m struggling right now…I never thought I was a good writer. I think I’m getting better at making things clear, but I still think I have horrible prose. So I doubt myself all the time. Going back to the idea that I can still cut out some of the unnecessary stuff in drafts was just a gradual process that came to make me feel better.”

Byunghwan Son is an Assistant Professor of Global Affairs.

What Works in Teaching Writing


People new to teaching writing aren’t often sure what proven teaching strategies are and whether those practices are linked to research or simply lore.  

Doug Hesse addresses concerns that are often posed by many writing teachers in programs across the country, such as Professor Joseph Teller who worries about his students’ writing abilities despite much instructional effort.  Hesse, however, attempts to correct Teller’s position by stating that there are proven, research based practices to teach writing. Continue reading

WAC Mason Hosted Its 10th Faculty Writing Retreat

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On January 9th and 10th, Mason’s WAC Program held its 5th winter faculty writing retreat and its 10th overall.  Mason’s WAC Program began hosting retreats in May 2014 to provide a distraction-free environment for faculty to work on scholarly projects.  Since that time, the retreats have garnered a steady interest, but this retreat was our largest one yet: a total of 48 energetic writers convened in Fenwick Library for two productive days. Continue reading

WAC Celebrates National Day on Writing 2018


This year, our National Day on Writing celebration was a bit more familiar but no less exciting. According to the NCTE website, the National Day on Writing is a day to recognize all forms of writing, built on “the premise that writing is critical to literacy but needs greater attention and celebration.” This mission is one near and dear to our hearts. So, with tweets prepped, pens at the ready, and sticky notes shining brightly in the sun, we were ready to call attention to the diverse voices of the Mason community as they let us know their thoughts on writing. Continue reading