Need some New Year motivation? Come and try the Writers’ Retreat…

Submitted by James Nixon, Academic Skills Tutor (Birmingham) on Wed, 11/30/2022 - 17:09

The Library and Academic Skills team have been excited to run a series of Writers’ Retreats for students - online sessions which offer time, space and structure for independent study and reflection in an informal, supportive environment.  

As you’re spinning plates and juggling responsibilities, it is not always easy to eke out some quiet time during the week when you can focus on a task and maximise your efforts, which is why the Writers’ Retreats work so well. Each Retreat is one hour long - plenty of time to start some reading or to progress in a purposeful manner towards completing your current assignment. Though the Retreats encourage independent study, it’s a reassuring feeling to know that you’re working within a group of likeminded students who are beavering away alongside you.  

The Retreats are geared towards productivity and concentration. We use the Pomodoro technique to manage the sessions, which results in two 25-minute blocks of quiet study, with ambient music playing in the background, one break in the middle and a debrief towards the end. This is a tried-and-tested method for avoiding procrastination and gives everybody a chance to refuel with a cup of tea and a biscuit at the halfway point. 

One great thing about the Writers’ Retreats is that there are no strings attached. We just ask that you tune in with a clear idea of what you want to work on, while we offer assistance however we can. You might want to read through an iLearn lesson and take down notes; you might want to work on paraphrasing some quotes you’ve found in a textbook; you might try hunting down some academic journal articles tucked away within the Library Portal. Whatever you choose to do, the Writers’ Retreats give you the platform to do it.  

As an Academic Skills Tutor, I had the pleasure of working with Assistant Librarian, Becky Worthington, to deliver one of the recent Writers’ Retreats. The students who attended had the benefit of my advice about developing writing skills and Becky’s expertise in researching using the Arden Library. I also benefitted from Becky’s advice and patience when trying to set up some ambient background music to help students concentrate during the independent study!

The students who attended were a delight to work with, in what was a relaxed, conversational atmosphere. Most importantly, the students who attended were able to make clear progress with their chosen tasks; one student spent the time finding and evaluating library sources related to her assignment topic and another set to work on expanding upon the plan she’d drawn up for hers.  

Becky and I were able to answer some excellent questions our eBook platforms. We discussed how to eBooks (a) through the website, or b) through key texts in our subject guides, and how to search for textbooks using key words. We tested out some specific search terms relating to famous criminal cases and highlighted to students that when you search for specifics in BibliU, the database lists passages within books that use such terminology. This led us to finding chapters within several books that could help one student in building evidence in her assignment.  

One question we were asked was, “when will the next Writers’ Retreat be running?” If you’re thinking the same and could benefit from sessions where you have the freedom to focus on your studies with support from your peers, Academic Skills Tutors and Librarians, then don’t despair: the next round of Writers’ Retreats will take place in the New Year!

So if one of your resolutions is to apply yourself to your studies or seek some support in developing writing and research skills, then book a place here for our 2023 Writers’ Retreat sessions


Academic Writing