Photo of Leanne Leanne C. Powner Practical strategies. Real results.

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. The language of most working groups is English.

See below for FAQ.

Registration for SAWG 2021 begins on Thursday, 1 April 2021, at this link. Please note that there is one form for participation in the SAWG, the 12-week-article groups, and the 8-week learn R with friends group. Simply select "no" fo all groups you do not want to participate in. More information on the other types of groups is avialable at The Summerpalooza '21 page.

First-round registration closes on Saturday, 15 May 2021. Initial clusters will be formed from all registrations received by that date and communicated to participants early in the week of 17 May.. First-round exchanges are due to your cluster mates by the week of Monday, 24 May, by the date and time you cluster determines. If interest exists, a second round of clusters may form from late applicants but I can't guarantee that.

Join us on Twitter! You can tweet your progress using the hashtag #sawg2021. Come and meet your fellow SAWG'ers! I'll also post reminders about due dates, work-together sessions like Writer's Boot Camp and Shut Up and Write, and group hangouts/chats, so be sure to follow me on Twitter or my professional page on FB to get all the news.
We'll probably have a summer networking event on Zoom and maybe some other activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does this work?
The registration form generates a spreadsheet entry with your responses that is visible only 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 the week of Monday, 24 May 2021, on the day and time decided by your cluster. Additional postings due on alternating weeks after that (again, unless your cluster chooses otherwise). 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 nearly 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 siteís goal is to help participants obtain external and, to the greatest extent possible, interdisciplinary feedback - feedback from people you wouldnít 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 isnít in English?
Non-English-language clusters are possible if interest exists, but previous years have failed to yield even one. If you are willing to help advertise to universities and other outlets (e.g., Twitter networks) in your home country/home language, we are unlikely to get enough 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, or I can give you the raw files to work from. Reach out to <"mailto:leanne@leannecpowner.com">Leanne@leannecpowner.com to talk about options.

What if Iím 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 clusterís members.

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.

What if Iím 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 questionís not on here - but I still want to know something.
Email the coordinator, Leanne Powner, at Leanne@leannecpowner.com.

Last updated on Saturday, 20-Mar-2021 14:53:01 PDT