Grad students turn to online “Academic Writing Club” for help with dissertation writing

A low-cost alternative to dissertation coaching, many grad students turn to online “Academic Writing Club” for help with dissertation writing.
Gina Hiatt, Ph.D.
Gina Hiatt, Ph.D.
May 29, 2008 - PRLog -- MCLEAN, Virginia – “It just seems to be absolutely crystal clear that the Ph.D. takes too long.”  So says Claudia Mitchell-Kernan, vice chancellor for graduate education at UCLA.

In the same article in Inside Higher Ed, William Russel, the dean of the graduate school
at Princeton University, is quoted as saying, “The problem is many students who begin Ph.D. programs do not complete them.”  

About 50% of grad students actually complete the degree, and the time to completion can often be 8 years or more.  What’s worse is the fact that academics have no idea how to change this state of affairs.

What’s a graduate student to do?  Many of them turn to dissertation coaches.  These coaches are often psychologists or former academics, who provide accountability, feedback, structure and organizational and time management techniques.  Although coaching is an effective solution, the fee for coaching can be a little steep for many penny-pinching students.

Enter the Academic Writing Club, an online accountability tool created by Gina Hiatt, Ph.D., founder and president of Academic Ladder LLC.

The Academic Writing Club’s innovative methodology addresses graduate students’ key needs of direction, support, accountability and interactivity with others.  The online set of tools help dissertation writers get over writing blocks, stop procrastinating, and maintain writing productivity.  

Writing Club members have access to a unique website where they can log their writing progress daily, get feedback from academic writing coaches and other club members, and communicate via a message board.  They are able to see the progress of others and read their comments. This shared experience increases writing productivity dramatically.  Grad students are given ways to be less perfectionistic and to monitor the negative thoughts that stop them from being productive, and which lead to procrastination.

Hiatt originally conceived of the Writing Club as a place for graduate students, but then realized that post docs and professors also struggle to write regularly and productively as they work on their proposals, articles and books.  Now there are separate online “rooms” of 10-15 people, for graduate students and for professors.  Participants are able to remain anonymous if they wish.

The coaches who run the Writing Clubs have seen many dissertation proposals approved and dissertations finished.  Many participants have stayed with the Writing Club more than 18 months.  Some have started as grad students and now continue as professors or post docs.  Here are some typical comments from participants:

“The Academic Ladder Writing Club has been incredibly useful. Such a simple idea: write a little bit every day, tell the group your goals for tomorrow, and report on your progress. But almost magically, I got more writing done in 30 days than I had in the previous 60 or even 90. I don't think there's a better investment you can make in completing your degree.”  -- Ray W., 5th year Ph.D. Candidate, MIT

"This program ROCKS! The discipline PLUS the support is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time (career–wise)."  -- Assistant Professor

"Wow - end of week 3. I can't tell you how much this writing group has helped my productivity. This was money very well spent."  -- Grad Student

"I can see my work habits changing daily. For the first time EVER in my academic career I feel confident that I can not only live up to expectations but possibly even exceed them. (Immediate anxiety aside) work is fun".  -- Assistant Professor

“This is my third time in this writing group and I don't think I'll ever leave. I'll probably need this type of support after my dissertation when I'm working towards tenure. Thanks Gina, Jayne and all my fellow club members.” – Grad Student

“I actually managed to spend two more hours in the evening on my article, and just sent it to my editor (!)This feels really good.  Thanks to the Writing Club!  I don't think I would be so productive without it.”  -- Assistant Professor

Hiatt says, “The fee for four weeks of the Academic Writing Club is far less than one week of dissertation coaching.”   The next session of the Club starts June 2 and runs through June 29. The fee is $60; only $50 if you sign up by May 30.  For more information, go to

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Gina J Hiatt, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, tenure coach and dissertation coach who enjoys helping faculty and graduate students complete their dissertations and publish, while maintaining high teaching standards and other commitments.  She is president of Academic Ladder LLC, and also runs the Academic Writing Club.  In addition to dissertation and tenure coaching, she teaches workshops and teleclasses on time management, writing, career planning and grad student/advisor relationships. Sign up for her 3 free writing productivity boosters at You can write her at
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Tags:Dissertation, Grad Students, Academics, Dissertation Coaching, Academic Advising, Professors
Industry:Education, Lifestyle, Services
Location:McLean - Virginia - United States
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