Dissertation Writing Retreats

The Graduate School Office of Professional Development is pleased to offer multiple writing retreats for dissertation writers each year. Open to graduate students from all departments who are at the dissertation-writing stage, these retreats offer extensive structured time to write and develop effective writing strategies alongside fellow dissertators.

During the retreat, graduate student writers will:

  • Have sustained writing time to develop effective rhythms for writing and make significant progress on a lengthy piece of writing.
  • Participate in a community of writers: discuss their writing process, share goals, and offer support to build structures of accountability.
  • Experiment with best-practice writing skills for things like drafting, goal setting, and time management.

Retreat Dates

2023 Dates: 

  • January 23-27, 2023 
  • March 13-17, 2023 (Spring Break)
  • Due to the extended spring semester, there will be no May retreat this year. 
  • June 5-9, 2023 APPLY HERE!

How Do I Apply?

Acceptance in the program is competitive, and acceptance is based on the strength of the completed application form. We prioritize applicants who are actively writing dissertation chapters as full-time UMass graduate students and who express interest in having sustained writing time, participating in a community of writers, and experimenting with best-practice writing skills. Participants must commit to attending the entire retreat to be considered for acceptance. Preference is given to PhD dissertation writers. MFAs, master’s students, and those at the prospectus/proposal stage, as well as prior participants, will be considered if space is available.

Applications are solicited a few months before each retreat (approximately October-November for Winter; January-February for Spring, and March-April for Summer). This timeframe allows the accepted applicants to plan the logistics of being on campus that week and prepare their research for an intensive writing week. When an application period is open, a link to the application form will be posted here.

Apply here for the January retreat (deadline: November 15).

Retreat Structure

We cover best writing practices in a three-hour Bootcamp on Monday morning. Then, the rest of the week, from 9am-4pm, will be structured time to work, reflect on, and experiment with best practices. Lunch, coffee, tea, and snacks are provided.

Attendance all day for the entire week is mandatory, and participants should not plan to arrive late or leave early.

These writing retreats are offered at NO COST through the support of the Graduate School. Childcare scholarships for up to $150 per family are available from the Graduate School.

How Will I Benefit?

Multiple participants have described the retreats as “transformative”!

Although it is only a one-week commitment, students complete an extraordinary amount of writing. Some cite the retreats as the “single most important thing in helping me get my dissertation completed” and others claim that they “got more done in four days than in the previous three months”!

Perhaps more importantly, participants join a community of writers and learn strategies for making progress. Writing a dissertation is hard and often isolating. The retreat has helped many strengthen their confidence and motivate them towards the finish:

  • “The retreat taught me the necessary strategies and skills to effectively maintain progress on my dissertation and feel positive about the process.”
  • “Participating in the retreat renewed my confidence in my writing ability and gave me the tools I needed to finish the dissertation process.”
  • “[This week was] helpful to reflect on your own writing habits and connect with other graduate students regardless of your background or stage in the process.”
  • “Yes, you'll get a lot done but, if you're like me, even more worthwhile will be the self-confidence you'll gain in finding a community that shares your same anxieties, fears, and goals.”
Sonny Nordmarken, PhD graduate, Sociology

The dissertation writing retreat was helpful to set aside time to sit and write with people. Having the time broken up in manageable chunks was helpful because it was structured and I felt accountable to accomplish something. I loved the exercises of reviewing what I did that day and what were my smaller, short-term goals.

Sonny Nordmarken (PhD '19, Sociology)


Contact us for more information on the Dissertation Writing Retreats.

Discussion during a dissertation retreat