Skip to content

My experience teaching residential academic writing workshops

A few years ago, Dr. Andrew Fischer invited me to teach a workshop that would help doctoral candidates with structuring their dissertation and write it. Though the course is called “Post-Fieldwork Workshop“, I designed it to combine combine research design with research methods, project management, and academic writing.

I started teaching this workshop online, which was very complicated because obviously I had to teach at a reasonable hour for my students in The Netherlands, which is 7 hours ahead of Mexico City. Waking up at 1:00am to start teaching at 4:00am is really absolutely insane.

Over the past couple of years, I have been teaching this course in person, at the beautiful Buitengoed de Uylenburg in Delft, The Netherlands.

Cohort 2024


As an academic, a substantial part of what I do is to analyze, and think. I have spent the past few weeks and months pondering what makes my residential workshops so successful.

Here are four factors that I believe make my residential workshop effective and an experience that all participants would want to repeat.

  1. The setting (The Buitengoed de Uylenburg)
  2. The workshop design (combination of academic writing, research desgin and qualitative methods)
  3. The in-residence component (including all meals)
  4. The composition of the cohorts

1. The setting (Buitengoed de Uylenburg)

The hotel that hosts my workshop every year (Buitengoed de Uylenburg) is absolutely beautiful, secluded, located just outside of Delft, in the Delfgauw region.

Buitengoed de Uylenburg

Buitengoed de Uylenburg

The hotel is obviously well fitted to host large(ish) groups, and we all had lodging that enabled us to write from within our own rooms too. Plus we could sit and have meaningful conversations and do nature walks around the site.

2. The workshop design.

I originally was asked to spend the entire week teaching how to develop a writing practice, and how to write a dissertation. Since the workshop’s goal was to help those who had just finished their fieldwork. But once I started teaching the course, even after having read a survey asking them what they needed support with, I realized much of my work had to focus on helping them craft a good research question, rethink their research design, manage their dissertation project, AND apply qualitative and mixed methods.

Cohort 2022

I have now designed the course to be a combination of research design, research methods, academic writing and project management. It’s only 4 full days (1 afternoon, 6 morning/afternoon sessions and 1 morning session on Friday for a total of 8 sessions) though we are together Monday through Friday. It IS a VERY intense course and both students and I end the week very tired, but really happy.

3. The in-residence component.

I will confess that I was initially a bit wary of doing a residential workshop. For better or worse, doing EVERYTHING together meant that they would see me in my pyjamas come down for breakfast, and that we would be sharing each and every single meal together.

Buitengoed De Uylenburg (Delft, The Netherlands)

But in hindsight, one of the best things about this residential workshop and specifically the in-residence component is that precisely, you are forced to eat each and every meal together and that creates and fosters a sense of camaraderie that perhaps wouldn’t be obtained without the on-site living arrangements component. Also, we were provided with all three meals, so nobody had to really think about cooking or shopping for groceries.

Buitengoed de Uylenburg

I cannot say enough good things about the Buitengoed de Uylenburg, both the facilities and the staff. And the food was FANTASTIC.

We ate breakfast and lunch within the facilities of the hotel, and for dinners, we ate at the Cafe Du Midi, right outside the gates of the hotel.

Buitengoed de Uylenburg

4. The composition of the cohort.

This is perhaps what seems most random of the four elements but in hindsight it really does make a difference. Whenever I have taught a residential workshop, many of the participants belong to the same PhD cohort or know each other one way or another, sometimes through the CERES School, or through their own universities.

Cohort 2024 CERES Connecting the Dots Workshop (Delft, The Netherlands)

Even when I’ve had participants from outside CERES, The Netherlands, they have completely develop a fantastic camaraderie. This closeness among course participants makes it easier to teach an entire group the same skills, because there’s continuous and collegial support among peers.

Cohort 2022

Overall, what makes me come back every year to teach this residential workshop is the very positive experience I have with every cohort I have worked with. Of course, I also loved teaching the same course online, but the in-person, in-residence component is definitely worth it.

You can share this blog post on the following social networks by clicking on their icon.

Posted in research, research design, writing.

Tagged with , , .

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.