This paper critically evaluates the pilot of a Thesis Writers’ Circles program offered to Education PhD and DEd students at the University of Melbourne in semester 2, 2005. The analysis focuses on the needs of those students that were felt to be well-met by this model of support. Broadly, the paper identifies two distinct but inter-related themes: firstly, the challenge of developing writing skills to a level sufficient to meet the demands of preparing a research thesis; secondly, the importance for research higher degree students of building confidence as apprentice academic writers. In relation to the latter theme, the paper identifies the benefits of community participation and peer-collaboration in working towards the aim of consolidating a thesis-writing identity. It is in this capacity, we argue, that thesis writers’ circles have distinct advantages compared with other forms of candidature support, making them a valuable supplement to both conventional supervision practices and generic English language and thesis writing programs. The paper affirms the importance not only of equipping international and non-English speaking background (NESB) students with writing tools and strategies, but also of creating opportunities for all postgraduate research students to receive (and offer) non-judgmental feedback on work-in-progress within a discipline-specific learning and discourse community.