Over the summer and during the autumn term we have been piloting Shut Up and Write sessions for researchers up on Level 13 of the Edward Boyle Library. Similar sessions have been running successfully for some time for undergraduates, but we weren’t sure what the interest would be from RPGs and staff.

It was considerable!

Sessions booked up quickly which led us to schedule weekly slots – alternating morning and afternoon – for the whole of the autumn term. We continue to monitor progress.

Il pomodoro

The sessions utilise the ‘pomodoro technique‘, named after the tomato-shaped timer used by Francesco Cirillo who developed the technique 30 years ago. Rather than a tomato we tend to use an Apple (iPhone), more sophisticated if less characterful, but the principle is the same with over 2 hours dedicated to focused writing time split into 25 minute ‘sprints’. The idea is that this structure enables you to concentrate and not become over-tired. After each sprint there is a short break to grab a brew and a biscuit or chat. The full process is outlined on our handout (word.docx) which includes links to useful resources as well as tips to running your own sessions.


So why do researchers who may have their own workspace want to come and sit in a structured, silent session in the Library? Why did we have good sign up over the summer when there are lots of free spaces to study in all the University Libraries?

Here are some of the reasons people find the session useful:

1. For PhD candidates in particular, writing can be a lonely pastime. It’s easy to feel isolated. In SUAW, the individual is part of a group and has opportunities to chat to others and feel part of a community.

2. For academic staff, it can be difficulty to carve out protected writing time. If you’re in your office, there are the regular distraction of emails, knocks at the door and all the other work you need to be getting on with. Shut up and Write is in your calendar; it’s protected, quiet time.

3. Getting out of your usual space can be stimulating and lead to greater productivity or new ideas. The same old four walls may not always be doing you a favour.

4. One PhD candidate noted that the regular writing slot is helpful psychologically and also in terms of ensuring there is new written work to discuss in supervision sessions. Put simply, if you know you’ve got time to write, you don’t have to worry about not writing the rest of the time.

5. Free tea and biscuits!

Turn up and Talk

As a counterpoint to Shut up and Write we’re hoping to pilot a series of sessions to facilitate conversation among researchers.

The Research Hub provides a great space for informal events and we would like academics from across the campus to use it to present their research and to develop cross-disciplinary networks.

Some ideas might be:

  • Speed networking – facilitated networking via timed one-on-one conversation
  • Data conversations – come and talk about your quantitative or qualitative datasets and associated issues
  • Conference clinic – come and practice your presentation in a supportive environment

Let us know what you think and get in touch with any ideas of your own.