The longitudinal impact of writing retreats on participants’ writing practices: a qualitative study

The Centre for Innovation in Higher Education (CIHE) and Anglia Learning & Teaching support colleagues engaged in pedagogic research in a number of ways.

An important element of this support is the full-day Writing Retreats which take place on both Cambridge and Chelmsford campuses several times per year. These events offer intensive time for writing in company with others, facilitated by a light-touch structure designed to help participants maintain their focus, write productively, and develop effective writing strategies.

This study will explore whether attending a Writing Retreat has an ongoing impact on participants’ writing practices and habits. Academic writing productivity is a crucial measure of impact for UK universities, unlocking research funding through the REF and contributing significantly to universities’ status and reputation. With the advent of increased accountability and productivity measures for UK higher education institutions, writing retreats have become a popular means to increase universities’ published outputs (Murray & Newton, 2009).

However, the longer-term developmental aspects of writing retreats have not to date been well explored, and only a minimal body of research evidence exists. This study will add concrete original data to the scholarly conversation around participants’ writing practices and how these can be supported and developed. It will thus contribute to the understanding of this important topic at a theoretical level as well as outlining practical means through which universities running writing retreats can foster long-term writing productivity.


The research will be conducted through semi-structured interviews with Anglia Ruskin University colleagues who have attended one or more writing retreats. It will explore:

  • participants’ reflective awareness of writing practices over time;
  • their conscious development of writing strategies;
  • comparison of writing performance at second (and subsequent) retreats;
  • how participants maintain (or don’t maintain) a writing habit between retreats;
  • whether and how participants move between disciplinary and scholarly identities in their pedagogic research writing.


Preliminary findings were presented at the 5th International Conference on Higher Education Advances (HEAd’19) held in Valencia, Spain, in June 2019.

Read the paper in the HEAd’19 conference proceedings

View the presentation on SlideShare

Further findings will be disseminated at academic conferences and through peer-reviewed articles in pedagogic research journals of international standing.


The study is being conducted by Dr Simon Pratt-Adams from the Centre for Innovation in Higher Education, and Dr Mark Warnes from Anglia Learning & Teaching, in their capacity as members of staff at Anglia Ruskin University.

If you have questions about the project, or would like to take part, please contact Dr Mark Warnes (

This study has received ethical approval from Anglia Ruskin University (ref. no. ESC-SREP-18-153).