n South African Journal of Higher Education - Promoting writing for research : the 'writing retreat' model




Research papers take a long time to write and in an academic environment where the 'publish or perish' clause applies, writing retreats are a way of creating time and space to write academic articles in a concentrated period of time. This article examines ways in which academics can write more articles for publication. In particular it focuses on the writing retreat as a possible model that institutions can follow in order to increase publication output without over-burdening academic staff. The aim is to examine how the writing retreat model can be used to suit the needs of individual academics. It is often argued that academics' heavy workloads are not conducive to productivity in research. In higher education institutions (HEI) were there is an established culture of research and where there is adequate funding for research, publication output is relatively high. However, in historically black universities (HBUs), this is not the case. The problem is that research output is low and shows no trend of increasing. Therefore, this article argues for use of the 'writing retreat' model to promote writing for research. The literature reviewed suggests that this type of model is commonly used at HEIs with positive impact on research output. The research conducted on writing retreats was based on the experiences of academics who attended writing retreats for various purposes. Data was collected from three sources. The first was from postgraduate students who went on a writing retreat with their supervisor; the second source was a group of 15 academic staff who attended a Ph.D. writing retreat; the third source was the personal experiences of the researcher who attended a few writing retreats aimed at women academics and postgraduate students. Data was qualitatively gathered using interviews, evaluation forms and accounts of personal experiences. The findings from the research indicated that academics and postgraduate students welcomed this model of writing for research. It was found that the respondents wrote more in a concentrated period of time; they could concentrate better without distractions; they were motivated within the group and their research progressed at a faster pace. Based on the findings, a writing retreat model is proposed. The purpose of this model is to encourage academic writing for various purposes. It is also intended to motivate writing for publication in a research environment for different groups of academics so that HEIs, and in particular HBUs, can begin to increase research activity. Finally, a writing retreat model can be used for wider purposes like encouraging excellence in writing, reading and researching.


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