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This issue of CDTL Brief on Balancing Teaching and Research discusses the delicate relationship between teaching and research and offers tips on how to balance them optimally.

August 2004, Vol. 7, No. 7 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Research/ Writing Groups
Associate Professor John Whalen-Bridge
Department of English Language & Literature

One stubborn problem for lecturers at NUS is the balancing of teaching and research. As one might always do a bit more to prepare for a class, and as many other demands on one’s time can arise during a semester, many feel it is difficult to block out time for research and writing, especially during term. One strategy that helps is to form research and/or writing groups that meet regularly during term and which create a ‘counter-demand’ to match the existing demands of teaching and administration. Since lecturing, grading and student supervision present constant external demands on one’s time and attention, it can feel selfish or irresponsible to take time away from class preparation in order to further one’s research aims. By working within the context of a writing group, a writer may create an external demand to compete with the ever-present demands of teaching and administration.

At a workshop held in English Language and Literature in August 2003, K. P. Mohanan, Lionel Wee, Valerie Wee and myself presented various models of how a writing group might work, based on past participation. Usually, members of the group set up a weekly or a bi-weekly schedule, with one member presenting on the given day. It is useful if the piece of writing under discussion (usually between ten and twenty-five pages) is emailed to the other participants at least two days in advance, though in practice we often cannot get drafts out much before the end-of-business of the previous day. Writing group members can then, after having had a chance to read the material, meet for an hour or so to discuss strengths, problems and venues for publication (if that has not already been decided). This process can be very helpful in developing a conference paper into an article-length draft.

In addition to the formation of writing groups, the workshop offered a few more ways of making writing possible during term. One suggestion, from Robert Boice’s Advice for New Faculty Members: Nihil Nimus, is that one try to write everyday, for however short a period, in this way avoiding the frustration of ‘binge writing’: by reserving as little as a half-hour each day for writing or revision, one better maintains fluency. While everyone agreed that it is quite a challenge to maintain a writing habit towards the end of the semester when student work is rapidly piling up, many participants in the workshop complained about the difficulty of resuming a writing job after being away too long and felt it was worthwhile to write as often as possible.

If one has the fairly typical experience of intending to put more time into research, only to find at week’s end that one has put all the effort into grading papers, preparing for class, answering student questions, and perhaps seeing to administrative duties, it might be useful to track one’s time. Boice recommends “brief daily sessions” and one could chart exactly how the hours are spent (perhaps by dividing the time spent on the categories of ‘research’, ‘teaching’ and ‘administration’) in order to see how the time spent on writing tallies in comparison with time spent on other tasks. This way one can see how one week stacks up against another, and one can also get a better sense of which parts of the week are more possible for writing—and which time slots are just impossible.


Boice, Robert. (2000). Advice for New Faculty Members: Nihil Nimus. Massachussetts, Allyn and Bacon.

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Inside this issue
Strengthening the Teaching-research Nexus
Balancing Teaching & Research: The Struggles of a New Assistant Professor
My Ride on the MRT: Marriage between Research and Teaching
Research/ Writing Groups
Integrating Research into Teaching