Study groups

Discussing texts with others is a good way to engage actively with a text. You are likely to read more attentively if you are planning to discuss the text. Discussions also let you practise applying concepts and articulating arguments.

Efficient group work needs planning: agree on a topic and text(s) to discuss, and assign different texts or portions of text to different members of the group. Each person is responsible for presenting their material to the rest of the group. By taking turns, all group members will practice oral skills such as presenting, explaining and commenting on relevant material. Even though unstructured group work can also be rewarding, the group is less likely to endure in the long run.

Forming a group early in your studies will give you a kickstart. You may begin to read and discuss course readings. Once you start writing assignments, you may be each others’ readers. Comments from fellow students can be very useful.

Writing groups

The writing of long assignments and theses requires a steady work process. To keep the process going, inviting readers can be very helpful. Commitments are helpful for keeping deadlines, and in addition you will find out how your work communicates with a reader. As a member of a writing group, you can submit drafts, give and receive feedback, and find support in a community of students. The writing group is a supplement, not a replacement for your supervisor. Ideally, a writing group is a group of students from the same discpipline/subject who are at different writing stages. If you already have a reading group that works well, use that.

The PhD students Kajsa Parding and Sandhya Tiwari at UiB have greatly enjoyed their writing group in the final phase of their doctoral work (this video is in English):

Response groups: How to give and receive feedback?

Sharing feedback is an effective way to develop as a writer. Sometimes giving feedback can be just as helpful as receiving it - because you learn a lot by analyzing other people’s texts and putting what you observe into words.

The texts that are shared can be more or less completed. We recommend sharing drafts that can be revised and improved after feedback.

When sharing a draft with your writing group:

  • Inform your readers what type of text it is, and where it fits in the larger context.
  • Think carefully about what you would like to receive feedback on at this stage, and request the response you need.

When giving feedback, observe the following:

  • Read the text in advance.
  • Prepare and formulate your comments in writing.
  • Start with what you perceive to be the main message.
  • Be positive. There is always something good in a text that the author can further develop. Comment on what you think the author has succeeded in and why it works. Unspecified praise is of no use.
  • If something is perceived as unclear, ask if it could have been formulated in a different way instead of just criticising.
  • Remember that sharing a draft with others can be a big step to take for your fellow student, so read well and thoroughly, and give constructive comments.

Good feedback is concrete, constructive and friendly.

When receiving feedback

  • Ask for feedback that is appropriate for the stage you are at (idea phase, discussion or editing phase).
  • Be receptive and open: your fellow group members have set aside time and tried to understand your text.
  • Listen carefully and make notes of the comments instead of arguing or defending yourself. Even if you do not agree with the comments, they reflect a reading experience that you can take into account in the further work. The new draft will be your answer.
  • A text can always be better. When your text is read by others, you may find new perspectives and possibilities in your text.
  • You decide over your text. Pay attention to the comments you think are relevant, and ignore the rest.

Arrange to meet regularly, and always meet prepared. As member of a writing group, you will have invaluable help throughout the writing process. And when the submission is due, you know where to turn for a final reading.

Study group discussing an academic text
Study group. Photo: NHH
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Western Norway University of Applied Sciences
Western Norway University of Applied Sciences
University of Bergen
University of Bergen
University of Oslo
University of Oslo