Post-PhD researchers working at universities are contributors to a country’s productivity and competitiveness mostly through writing, which becomes a means to establish their scholarly identity as they contribute to knowledge. However, little is known about researchers’ writing perceptions, and their interrelations with engagement in research, productivity and the influence of workplace climate, which, if negative, can result in burnout and abandonment intentions. In this paper, we explore these issues for the first time. Using a cross-sectional design, 282 postdoctoral researchers answered a cross-cultural questionnaire focusing on engagement, scientific writing, researcher community and burnout, and socio-demographic variables. Data analysis included exploratory factor analysis, T-test, ANOVA or Mann–Whitney U (SPSS, v.22). Results showed that adaptive perceptions of writing were related to higher levels of engagement, lower levels of burnout and productivity; maladaptive perceptions of writing were related to burnout experiences. The consideration of research writing as a developmental process that can take many years beyond the PhD is discussed. Critical to understanding such development is the extent to which a shift in perception of writing to knowledge creation may be a precursor to more adaptive functional behaviours. Educational insights related to constraints in writing, publication processes and related research conditions are also considered.