Student writing into a notebook

Thesis Boot Camp

Get back on track and make significant progress with your article or thesis

Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 June 2022, 10.00am - 5.00pm (BST)

Applications close on Wednesday 8 June 2022 at 12.00pm (BST). 

Are you a late-stage doctoral researcher in the writing-up phase of your thesis? Would you enjoy some focused time to write? Would you value the support of an experienced writer skilled in motivational tips?

Join us for our online weekend writing retreat: it offers structure, help with clearing your mind, and the space and time for pure writing.

Our aim is twofold:

  • Short term: make significant progress with your thesis (or other academic writing)
  • Long term: gain confidence, finding a constructive approach to move forward

After the retreat, we aim that you will have:


  • words on the page
  • insight into your own writing habits and methods
  • tactics to get to the desk
  • strategies to sharpen your focus
  • techniques for planning ahead

We'll send out pre-retreat tasks to help you get the most out of the weekend. We’ll use warm-up exercises, group feedback and peer discussion, and coaching with the experienced facilitator. We'll set goals; then we’ll make those goals more realistic. We’ll certainly aim to make progress, and to offer a supportive environment.

Please see below for the full eligibility criteria before completing the application form.


Please note, this is an online writing retreat and is hosted on Zoom. If you’re allocated a place, you’ll receive full joining instructions nearer the time with pre-course tasks.

Participants will need the following:

  • Computer, laptop, or smartphone with a stable internet connection
  • Sound (and headphones, if you're in shared space)
  • Microphone (if you'd like an optional 1-2-1)

Who can attend? Eligibility criteria

The two-day virtual writing retreat is a free event provided by the Graduate School and supported by your Faculty Research Degree Coordinators.

You are eligible to apply if you are:

  • A doctoral researcher at the University of Portsmouth.
  • In the final stages of completing your degree. That is, you have completed data collection (in whatever form is relevant to your project and discipline) and are currently 'writing up'. The ultimate aim of Thesis Boot Camp is to write 2,000 words of first draft material. It is not for editing, revising, preparing presentations or grant applications. In other words, you must be able to identify the particular chapter(s) of your thesis that you will work on as part of your writing retreat goal.
  • Able to clearly identify how you would benefit from an intensive weekend of drafting a particular section of your thesis.
  • Willing and able to attend most of the sessions, to complete preparatory tasks in the lead up to the event, and to commit to the ethos of dedicated writing required at the two-day writing retreat.
  • Able to provide details of an academic referee to support your application (e.g. your supervisor or Departmental Research Degree Coordinator).

Important notes for applicants

There is likely to be high demand for places and the event may be oversubscribed. We will be assessing each application carefully, so please answer the questions as fully as possible. We want to recruit only attendees who will make the most of the opportunity.

It’s important to note that the two-day writing retreat is an intensive writing environment and the focus is on productivity, not on style. If you want more general help with improving your academic writing, then one of our Graduate School Development Programme workshops would be more appropriate for you. Neither is there any specific support for attendees writing in English as an additional language. If you need this type of assistance, please see the English Language Development page.

The closing date for applications is Wednesday 8 June 2022 at 12.00pm (BST).

Apply for the Thesis Boot Camp

How the event works

The event comprises:

  • Prompts (sent in advance) to plan your weekend’s goals, asking you to write:

- a brief summary of your overall research
- a focused description of the section(s) you plan to work on

  • Two days of writing time, bookended by brief Zoom introductions and discussions.
  • Guidance and provocations on:

- planning your writing
- developing material
- improving focus
- boosting productivity

  • Optional individual break-out sessions with the facilitator.
  • Zoom group and/or break-out discussions at the end of sessions.

Zoom Schedule for both days


10.00am – Welcome, warm-up exercises. Goal setting and strategies for making the most of the weekend

10.30am – First Writing Session; individual break-outs

11.30am – Coffee break and Group check-in

11.40am – Second Writing Session; individual break-outs

12.40pm – Morning peer feedback. Goal-setting for afternoon

1.00pm – Lunch break

2.00pm – Group check-in. Wider writing and focus strategies

2.20pm – Third Writing Session; individual break-outs

3.20pm – Coffee break and Group check-in

3.30pm – Fourth Writing Session; individual break-outs

4.30pm – Peer feedback

4.45pm – Group check-in; Q&A; final thoughts

5.00pm – Finish


  • Between the check-in sessions, you take breaks as needed.
  • You may mute yourself and switch off camera whenever you wish or need to.
  • Leaving your camera on, however, can be a surprisingly dynamic way to keep yourself motivated and on track.

About the Facilitator: William Sutton

Besides being an experienced writer, tutor and workshop facilitator, I am a novelist, journalist and musician. I tutor students in many countries, as well as lecturing part-time at University of Portsmouth.

I coach writers from beginner classes through to advanced novel revision. I have appeared in writing festivals from CrimeFest to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and I have delivered workshops in diverse institutions, ranging from High Down Prison to Eton College.