Building for Sustainability: Dissertation Boot Camp as a Nexus of Graduate Writing Support

steve simpson


Dissertation boot camps, often formed as partnerships between writing centers and graduate schools, have become a popular way of addressing (inter)national concerns about graduate completion rates and of providing graduate-level writing support. In addition to meeting these immediate needs, however, dissertation boot camps, if used strategically, can be an effective first step in building more sustainable graduate writing support across campus. This article describes a boot camp started at a science and engineering university. Drawing from surveys and follow-up interviews with participants, the article describes these students’ post-boot camp experiences starting writing initiatives in an Earth sciences department. The goal of this article is to provide writing centers at smaller to mid-sized universities with strategies for implementing similar initiatives in their own institutions.


Graduate writing support; writing groups; Writing in the Disciplines; dissertation writing


Aitchison, Claire. “Writing Groups for Doctoral Education.” Studies in Higher Education 34.8 (2009): 905-916. Academic Search Premiere. Web. 17 Aug. 2012.

Aitchison, Claire, and Anthony Paré. “Writing as Craft and Practice in Doctoral Education.” Reshaping Doctoral Education: International Approaches and Pedagogies. London: Routledge, 2012. 12-25. Print.

Council of Graduate Schools. “Cumulative Ten-Year Completion Rates by Program, Broad Field, STEM Vs. SSH, and Overall.” Ph.D. Completion Project. Dec. 2007. Web. 28 Dec. 2012.

From Triage to Outreach: Raising the Institutional Profile of Writing-Center Work, spec. iss. of Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 8.2 (2011).

Gere, Anne Ruggles. Writing Groups: History, Theory, and Implications. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1987. Print.

Gillespie, Paula. “Graduate Writing Consultants for PhD Programs.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 32.2 (2007): 1-6. Print.

Golde, Chris M, and George E Walker. Envisioning the Future of Doctoral Education: Preparing Stewards of the Discipline (Carnegie essays on the doctorate). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2006. Print.

Kamler, Barbara, and Pat Thomson. Helping Doctoral Students Write: Pedagogies for Supervision. London: Routledge, 2006. Print.

Lee, Sohui, and Chris Golde. “Completing the Dissertation and Beyond: Writing Centers and Dissertation Boot Camps.” The Writing Lab Newsletter 37.7/8 (2013): 1-5. Print.

Mastroieni, Anita, and Deanna Cheung. “The Few, the Proud, the Finished: Dissertation Boot Camp as a Model for Doctoral Student Support.” NASPA: Excellence in Practice 2011: 4-6. Web. 28 Dec. 2012.

Palmer, Parker J, and Arthur Zajonc. The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. Print.

Phillips, Talinn. “Graduate Writing Groups: Shaping Writing and Writers from Student to Scholar.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 10.1 (2012): n. pag. Web. 30 Dec. 2012.

Raising the Institutional Profile of Writing-Center Work (Part 2 of 2), spec. iss. of Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 9.1 (2012).

Simpson, Steve. “Graduate Learning Communities? Integrating Language Support for ESL and Native-English Speaking Graduate Students.” SLW News: The Newsletter of TESOL’s Second Language Writing Interest Section 5.3 (2011): n. pag. Web. 21 March 2013.

---. “The Problem of Graduate-Level Writing Support: Building a Cross-Campus Graduate Writing Initiative.” WPA: Writing Program Administration 36.1 (2012): 95-118. Print.

Smallwood, Scott. “A week at Camp Dissertation.” Chronicle of Higher Education 16 July 2004: A10. Print.

Starke-Meyerring, Doreen. “The Paradox of Writing in Doctoral Education: Student Experiences.” Supporting the Doctoral Process: Research-Based Strategies. Ed. Lynn McAlpine & Cheryl Amundsen. New York: Springer, 2011. 73-95. Print.

Thomas, Sharon, Leonora Smith, and Terry Trupiano Barry. “Shaping Writing Groups in the Sciences.” Writing Groups Inside and Outside the Classroom. Ed. Beverly J. Moss, Nels P. Highberg, & Melissa Nicolas. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004. 79-94. Print.

Full Text: PDF HTML

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.