The paper reports on the findings of a community learning approach to doctoral education involving scholarly writing groups (SWGs) which was developed and implemented in the context of a higher degree research programme within the social sciences in an Australian university. The research evaluated the impact of the teaching intervention on students' perceptions of the community learning experience, their knowledge of scholarly writing and their attitudes towards writing. The findings are suggestive of the advantages of community approaches to learning in higher degree research education as a supplement to independent supervision. The SWGs were associated with improvements in both participants' knowledge of scholarly writing and their attitudes towards writing. However, a variety of characteristics of doctoral education are potential impediments to the creation of ongoing and regular interactions in learning communities such as SWGs. The paper concludes that a flexible approach to the recognition and enhancement of community approaches to learning is required to acknowledge the complex and diverse context of contemporary doctoral education.