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.

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

Study: Peer Review Increases Impact of Published Scholarship

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Tomorrow afternoon, the WAC Program is sponsoring a talk at Fall for the Book on “The Future of Academic Writing and Publishing.”  The talk will feature five panelists who will consider how academic publishing is currently evolving and how scholars and editors might respond to that continuing evolution.  One facet of this evolution concerns the prevalence of metrics that quantify the “impact” of a given article or journal.  While impact metrics have been critiqued for a number of reasons, their use has remained prevalent, perhaps increasingly so.  And that prevalence lead researchers John Rigby, Deborah Cox, and Keith Julian to wonder what impact factor metrics might reveal about academic writing beyond the circulation of a particular text.  Continue reading

Join WAC at Fall for the Book


Writing Across the Curriculum is proud to sponsor “The Future of Academic Writing and Publishing,” a special event at George Mason’s annual Fall for the Book festivalPanelists Adam Winsler, Emily Green, John Warren, Laura Poms, and Doug Eyman will consider how academic writing has changed to reflect digital landscapes, diverse audiences, and new publishing platforms.  This multidisciplinary panel will also contemplate recent challenges to definitions of academic writing and how we might anticipate further changes in coming decades.

Please join us Thursday October 11, 2018 at 4:30pm on the 3rd floor of the Johnson Center in Meeting Room G.

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The Benefits of Faculty Writing Groups


A big challenge for faculty is finding time to write; especially during a busy semester, we can easily find a distraction that will slow down progress on any number of projects that we have just started, gained some momentum on, or almost finished.  To (re)claim time, faculty on Mason’s campus meet every Friday morning to write.  Our Friday faculty write-ins are popular with attendees who report a number of benefits, including progress on projects. Continue reading

Announcing Writers of Mason!

At heart, all university campuses are communities of writers.

In Mason’s Writing Across the Curriculum Program, we work with a diverse array of writers. Mason’s students write in multiple contexts, with different styles, and for a variety of purposes. Our faculty teach writing in classrooms, seminars, and as part of their local and global field projects. Students and faculty alike contribute to the literature of their scholarly, research, creative, and professional communities. Continue reading

Resources and Reflections from the Northern Virginia Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute 2016, Part 2

Image via The New York Times Learning Network

Image via The New York Times Learning Network

Emily Chambers is a former WAC GRA and is studying for her M.A. in Teaching Writing and Literature. Her main interests are faculty development and curriculum resources. Prior to coming to GMU, she taught sixth grade English in Culpeper County, VA; now she teaches composition at GMU. She can be reached at

Each year, teachers who participate in the Northern Virginia Writing Project Invitational Study Institute (NVWP ISI) create an incredible number of resources, and this year was no different. At the ISI, each teacher consultant (as graduates of the ISI are called) presents a demonstration of a writing lesson they have successfully taught in their classroom. This year, teacher consultants presented on everything from found poetry, to improv, to visual literacy. Each lesson is focused on teaching a writing skill to all students; what follows is a sample of just a few of those lessons.

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The Importance of A Writing Community: Reflections from the Northern Virginia Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute 2016, Part 1

Image via Peter Anderson

Image via Peter Anderson

Emily Chambers is a former WAC GRA and is studying for her M.A. in Teaching Writing and Literature. Her main interests are faculty development and curriculum resources. Prior to coming to GMU, she taught sixth grade English in Culpeper County, VA; now she teaches composition at GMU. She can be reached at

For four weeks this summer, 18 teacher writers met in a crowded conference room, with a beautiful view of treetops, and natural sunlight filling the room through a wall-length window. Three tables were pushed together to form a “U” shape, and the tabletops were crowded with journals, laptops, pens, and coffee cups. Each day, the teacher writers discussed their teaching practice and wrote page after page. With chairs pushed close together, they shared insights, inspiration, and struggles with each other. In the morning, the room filled with the smell of breakfast and coffee brewing, the tea kettle just about to boil nearby. The teacher writers’ voices reverberated and resounded through the halls outside the room.

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