MI-AGEP Dissertation Writing Retreat

The aim of the Michigan AGEP Alliance Dissertation Writing Retreat was to help students focus on writing and completing the dissertation. With Western Michigan University as the lead institution, the retreat’s activities were targeted to areas where students typically have problems: managing their writing time, conceptualizing a topic, developing a dissertation research pre-proposal, writing a literature review, writing a dissertation research proposal, analyzing data, writing the last chapter, and editing.

Selection Criteria

The selection criteria identified applicants who:

  • Planned to finish their Ph.D. by Spring 2011
  • Are at least, at the proposal stage of their dissertation
  • Appear most able to benefit from the services offered at the Dissertation Writing Retreat
  • Were the earliest submitters

Making the Writing Retreat a Successful Event

Participants learned writing techniques that will be helpful to them throughout their careers. The following is a list of the promising practices that helped make the Writing Retreat a successful event:

Organizational Strategies for the Process

Students learned the various components of the Ph.D. completion process; how to organize their research, time and effort, and how to prepare the dissertation for publication.

Communication and Accountability

Students learned to be accountable to themselves as well as their committee. In addition, they learned to communicate more effectively with their advisor(s) and dissertation committee members who are difficult to “read.”

Time Management and Goal Setting

Students learned to set manageable writing goals during the sessions. It is expected that each student will come away with a workable writing schedule for finishing the dissertation or proposal.

Productive Working Environment

The students are isolated from all distractions, which allows them to concentrate exclusively on writing over the four-day period. The group supports any synergy during the writing process to eliminate the isolation that often accompanies writing a dissertation or long project.

Direct Feedback

The dissertation consultant gives direct feedback through one-on-one consultations on the student’s dissertation as well as on overcoming the obstacles that may be hindering the student’s progress in meeting the Ph.D. completion objectives.

Meeting Deadlines

Students learned the importance of setting deadlines to meet individual and committee objectives for Ph.D. completion.

Measuring Success

Each MAA partner institution was well represented with a total of fourteen Ph.D. candidates participating from both the STEM and SBES fields. Post retreat surveys were conducted two weeks afterward and revealed that overall the participants rated the retreat as excellent. Significant improvement was made in the areas of time management, goal setting and 92% strongly agreed that the Retreat helped develop strategies for organizing their work in a way that will make the dissertation writing process more effective. Success of the program is also evidenced in the fact that nearly 50% of all participants successfully defended their dissertations within six months of completing the Retreat with the remaining expected to complete their degree by the end of 2011.


This is just one of the many programs developed at Western Michigan University and supported by AGEP funding.

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1 Response

  1. Courtney McCluney says:

    I am an incoming doctoral student in Psychology at the University of Michigan and want to know how to get involved with this Alliance. Is there a graduate student group or listserv we can join?

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