The Social Framework: a model for writing

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Writing is a social practice, and mutuality of engagement among writers is part of writing (Murray & Newton 2009). Holding writing as the primary task relies on social processes (MacLeod et al 2011), and engaging in writing may involve change processes that benefit from, and perhaps require, social support (Murray et al 2008). Currently, the social function of writing is perhaps most completely played out in structured writing retreats, but there are limits to what retreats can achieve (Murray & Cunningham 2011). Moreover, dedicating time to writing often involves disengaging from other tasks and other people (Mayrath 2008). We now need a model that resolves this potential conflict. This study aimed to discover if disengagement from other tasks is seen as part of writing and, if it is, what it involves. Forty-two UK academics responded to an email questionnaire about disengaging from other tasks in order to write. All respondents associated writing with disengagement from other tasks in three ways: physical, cognitive and social disengagement. While writing is, therefore, implicated in other processes, there is a perception that it must be performed apart from them, although social disengagement may involve engaging more regularly with those who write. This paper develops a social framework theory of writing, which consists of writing-oriented relationships, ‘outing’ the writing process – as part of a social process – and constructing a ‘firewall’ around writing. Writers can experience this framework through participation in structured writing retreats (Murray & Newton, 2009) and through practices they develop using this framework. The social framework explains how writers develop writing practices, and it resolves the potential conflict between engaging in writing and disengaging from other activities. Clearly, writing is implicated in many other activities, but there must be some way of preventing them from impinging on writing. The social framework is one way of doing this. MacLeod, I, Steckley, L & Murray, R (2011) Time is not enough: Promoting strategic engagement with writing for publication, Studies in Higher Education, 37, 5. DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2010.527934. Mayrath, M (2008) Attributions of productive authors in educational psychology journals. Educational Psychology Review 20: 41-56. Murray, R & Cunningham, E (2011) Managing researcher development: ‘Drastic transition’?, Studies in Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2010.482204. Murray, R & Newton, M (2009) Writing retreat as structured intervention: Margin or mainstream? Higher Education Research and Development 28(5): 527-539. Murray, R, Thow, M, Moore, S & Murphy, M (2008) The writing consultation: developing academic writing practices, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 32(2): 119-128.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event14th International Conference Writing Development in Higher Education 2012: Enacting thoughtful pedagogies and inclusive values in writing development - Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Jul 20124 Jul 2012


Conference14th International Conference Writing Development in Higher Education 2012
Abbreviated titleWDHE
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Academic writing


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