About the project

The Wellbeing When Writing project was run by the Graduate School at the University of Westminster during 2018–2019. It was funded by Research England/OfS’s Catalyst fund for PGR Mental Health and Wellbeing and by the University of Westminster. 

The project was based on our sense in the Graduate School that the wellbeing of doctoral students was strongly linked to their experience of writing. At the points in the year when doctoral students needed to submit work for their annual progress review, we noticed a spike in applications for suspensions and mitigating circumstances, the evidence for which suggested high levels of stress and anxiety. In response to this, at the heart of the project was a series of interactive workshops, each directed at a specific year of the doctorate and addressing the particular demands of that year in terms of writing. 

For each workshop, exercises and practices developed through the pedagogies of Creative Writing were adapted to the demands of doctoral writing across subjects and disciplines. These were designed to mitigate the stress and anxiety so often associated with writing, to increase doctoral students’ confidence as writers and to improve their overall wellbeing.


We hope that colleagues across other institutions will find the following resources useful in developing such workshops or materials for their own doctoral students. 

Exercises and activities

The workshops were led by experienced teachers of Creative Writing, all of whom had doctorates. The exercises and activities that they developed and used can be found in the document below. The activities and exercises for each year are addressed to doctoral students, but it’s easy to see how the materials can be used by research development managers, trainers and academic staff responsible for the development of doctoral researchers.

Session templates

The following templates were used for each session and can be adapted to the needs of your own institution and students:

Facilitator's manual

The Facilitator's manual, produced by Vitae, maps the exercises and activities to the Vitae Researcher Development Framework. It offers a reference document for researcher developers wanting to run Wellbeing when Writing sessions at their institution.