by Cally Guerin, Doctoral Writing: http://doctoralwriting.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/writing-spaces-where-are-theses-written/
As I sit down at my laptop set up on the kitchen bench, I find myself
wondering where all those PhD theses get written. I’m not quite certain
why this is where I choose to write.
Sure, it’s a bit warmer here in
the kitchen during the cold, wet Adelaide winter, and I can get up every
now and then to stir the quince jam that’s bubbling away on the stove.
do have a perfectly good study here at home, but when I’ve got the
house to myself, I always seem to end up here on the kitchen bench to
write. And I know of others who actually prefer the busy life and noise
of the family to surround them as they settle into their writing at the
A friend confided that she really needed to go into her work office
to do any serious writing and never seemed able to make much progress
anywhere else. She described entering her office as ‘putting on her
carapace’ and harnessing herself to the intellectual activity of
Trying to write while in another country on study leave just
didn’t have the same soothing sense of habitual scholarly demeanor.
Laptops and wifi make it easier than ever to work in cafes with a
lively buzz of activity in the background (it’s harder to fall asleep in
such public places, too!). The local park might beckon in good weather.
For those with busy work and family lives who choose to undertake
doctoral studies part time, a lot of writing can be done in the car
while waiting for children to finish their sports practice.
Doctoral students are often encouraged to establish regular habits
around writing times and places (e.g., Kearns & Gardiner, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful PhD Students).
This writing might take place in in brief snatches of time (snack
writing) or it might be planned out in extended writing binges (Murray
When we talk about ‘writing as a social activity’ (Aitchison & Lee 2006), does this also call into play the social nature of those spaces at some level?
There are times when I grumpily tell students that they can’t
complain about feeling isolated during their candidature if they choose
to work at home alone every day and not participate in the collegial
life of their discipline.
But then those students have told me that
sometimes the spaces provided by their university are problematic
because of the noise and activity levels of open-space offices shared by
10 to 20 students.
While such arrangements might be great for creating a
sense of community, there is always someone chatting or taking a phone
call, or entering or leaving the space, distracting and disturbing
Where do you write or encourage your students to write? What kinds of
writing spaces are most conducive to the kind of rigorous intellectual
activity that is required at doctoral level?
Are we sometimes kidding
ourselves about how much writing actually gets done in those
institutionally sanctioned, relatively public spaces?
I’d love to hear
more about where theses are written and why those spaces work so well.
Murray, R. (2002/2011) How to Write a Thesis, Open University Press.