Higher Education

, Volume 66, Issue 1, pp 79–91 | Cite as

‘It’s not a hobby’: reconceptualizing the place of writing in academic work

  • Rowena MurrayEmail author


The writing activities involved in research are not fully articulated in discussions of academic work. In this context, academics say they have to disengage from other tasks in order to write, which raises fundamental questions about the place of writing in academic work. A study designed to find out more about this disengagement showed that it involved acts of engagement with writing. Reconceptualizing disengagement from other tasks as engagement with writing repositions writing as part of academic work. This is critical for new and emerging researchers: it provides concepts to underpin practices that will enable them regularly to write. This article provides a model for physical, social and cognitive engagement with writing and explores how it can be put into practice. Implications for academics and those responsible for developing research capacity are discussed.


Academics’ writing Engagement Academic work Research capacity 



This study was funded by Strathclyde University. Dr. Mary Newton was the researcher who developed, distributed and helped to analyse questionnaires. I would like to thank Dr. Sarah Skerratt at the Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh for providing feedback on early drafts of the model for engaging with writing.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Applied Social SciencesUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgowScotland, UK

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