FAQ
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Summer Academic Working Groups 2020

The Summer Academic Working Groups are a free and voluntary forum that allows academics to collaborate electronically for feedback and mutual accountability during the long, unstructured summer months. Many participants are working on their dissertations or prospectuses, but others are writing book chapters, working/conference papers, pre - prospectus research, or creative writing. Participants are divided into clusters of 4 - 6 individuals in the same academic division (social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, etc.), who share work in progress on a regular basis and provide each other with feedback. Participants from all fields of academia and all institutions are welcome. There is no charge to participate in the SAWG. Feel free to forward this page to friends at other universities or in other fields.

See below for FAQ.

Registration for SAWG 2020 begins on Friday, 1 May, 2020, at this link.

Join us on Facebook! We now have a group site on Facebook, where anyone can post. You can also tweet using the hashtag #sawg2020. Come and meet your fellow SAWG'ers! I'll also post reminders about due dates, work-together sessions, and group hangouts/chats, so be sure to follow me on Twitter or my professional page on FB to get all the news.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does this work?
The registration form generates a spreadsheet entry with your responses that is visible to the coordinator, Leanne. Leanne then creates small groups, called clusters, of about 4-6 people who share some research interest. Sometimes it's broad, like literary analysis; other times it's pretty specific, as in the group doing 19th century American history. The groups then exchange working documents using email, Google Docs, Slack, Dropbox, or similar services. This happens typically every two weeks with feedback due to your group member(s) on their work on the off-weeks. Groups are encouraged to have everyone submit something every week for accountability, but the group decides on a cycle for providing feedback.

When does it start? When does it end?
The first posting will be due Monday, 25 May 2020, with additional postings due on alternating Mondays after that. Clusters should expect to persist until late August; some may choose to continue beyond that.

How much work do I have to do?
The SAWG expectation is that you post every two weeks and provide feedback to your cluster (typically 3-5 people) on a cluster-agreed schedule in the intervening weeks. Most people produce one or two sections of new text per cycle, so the reviewing load is manageable. Free riding isn't tolerated, so if you're not doing your part to give feedback, you'll be removed. The length of the posts, and the quantity/extent of feedback, are determined by each cluster. The goal is not to make you do a certain amount of work; it's just to make you do work, period. So how much and what specifically you post is entirely up to you. Some people end up posting a half-chapter every couple weeks; others work on a single prospectus document all summer.

Is this for PhD students only?
Nope! Faculty and other PhD-holders are welcome, as are Masters' students working on theses or other significant papers. (In fact, faculty are the fastest-growing segment of SAWG participants.) Clusters normally form of people at or near the same level of academic development to help ensure that all participants receive valuable feedback. In unusual cases of very close substantive match, cross-level clusters will be formed with permission from the senior members. We regret that in the past we have been unable to assist those working on Bachelor theses. We regret that in the past we have also generally been unable to assist those working outside of an academic or quasi-academic framework for their writing product; the expectation among clusters is for academic-quality and academic-style work. Some years we've had creative writing clusters, but again, they're usually composed of people in academia.

Is my work secure?
In the half-dozen years that I've run the SAWGs, we've never once had an allegation of academic impropriety as a result of sharing documents and ideas. In fact, to the contrary, we've had several instances of cluster members citing each others' work and thanking SAWG and its members in their acknowledgements. Participants generally agree that working in a small group all summer builds trust and a sense that you know who your groupmates are. Multilateral sharing (among the group, instead of one-on-one) also helps prevent idea theft.

Do you set up sites for us, or what?
No. In the past Leanne used to set up groups for clusters on another platform, but each year the majority of groups would bail on the rather clunky platforms and just emailed each other. You can consider Google Drive, Slack, a school-hosted platform, just plain email, or any other platform you'd like to exchange documents and feedback.

What if a bunch of us from my department join? Can we be in a cluster together?
A major part of this site’s goal is to help participants obtain external and, to the greatest extent possible, interdisciplinary feedback – feedback from people you wouldn’t normally get feedback from in the normal course of work. Depending on interest, clusters may form for specific subfields – American history, ancient and medieval literature, astronomy – but in general we aim to have interdisciplinary or at least inter-institutional clusters.

What if my term doesn't end for another couple weeks (like quarter-system schools)?
No big deal. Register anyway and just let your cluster know when you'll be able to start.

What if my work isn’t in English?
Non-English-language clusters are possible if interest exists; please note your interest in your registration, along with your working language. In the past, however, we have not had enough participants from a single language unless those participants help advertise in their home countries to bring in more participants. I am happy to provide versions of the Twitter/etc. graphics if you provide the translated text you'd like to see on it.

What if I’m doing primarily lab work or field research?
If interest exists, clusters can be created to facilitate postings of field/lab notes. While these documents themselves may not be useful for obtaining feedback, posting will create an accountability mechanism among the cluster’s members. Please note your interest in your registration.

What if my work is creative rather than scholarly?
Poetry and fiction clusters are also possible. Other forms of creative work such as music composition and studio art can also benefit from feedback and accountability groups; clusters will be created if interest exists. Please note your interest in your registration, along with an indication of the type of creative work involved.

What if I’m out of contact for an extended period of time, say, moving?
A hiatus for legitimate reasons is possible. Coordinate this with your cluster to avoid being removed for inactivity.

My question’s not on here – but I still want to know something.
Email the coordinator, Leanne Powner, at sawg@leannecpowner.com.

Last updated on Friday, 01-May-2020 08:32:08 PDT