The writing consultation: developing sustainable writing behaviour

Rowena Murray

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The writing consultation (Murray et al., 2008) was developed to help academics address the challenge of prioritising writing over other academic roles (Murray and Newton, 2008). It consists of a one-to-one
motivational interview between pairs of academics, focusing on their writing goals, barriers they face in achieving them and strategies they will adopt for overcoming them. We evaluated the writing consultation in a study funded by the Nuffield Foundation. We interviewed twelve academics who used the writing consultation for eight weeks and asked them to assess its impact. To analyse interview transcripts we used the four constructs on which the writing consultation is based – stages of change,
decisional balance, goal setting and social support.

Participants reported change in writing behaviour leading to prioritising writing. Setting goals and achieving them felt good, and they ‘lost that constant feeling of low grade failure’. A significant change was realising the importance of timetabling writing in academic diaries: ‘The things that normally go in my diary are teaching classes and that’s legitimate, hard and fast, whereas softer things like writing get edged out’. Participants found the writing consultation ‘highly motivating’. The decisional balance was also reported to be motivational: ‘It crystallised my thinking about writing’; ‘it strengthened my values and beliefs about writing’.

Participants said they would continue to use the writing consultation. They said it would be useful to establish regular mutual peer support. Several suggested one writing consultation per term would take care of their writing needs.

This study confirms that academics’ writing can be sustained by peer support (Lee and Boud, 2003), shows a way to overcome the limitations of informal peer support (Hislop et al., 2008) and suggests that structured support based on principles of behaviour change is a mode of sustainable writing development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes
EventWriting Development in Higher Education: Annual Conference 2010 - Royal College of Physicians, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Jun 201030 Jun 2010


ConferenceWriting Development in Higher Education
Abbreviated titleWDHE 2010
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Motivation
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Academic writing


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