Strategies for Writing a Thesis by Publication: Book Review

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By Cally Guerin

Book Review: Lynn P. Nygaard & Kristin Solli (2021) Strategies for writing a thesis by publication in the social sciences and humanities. Insider Guides to Success in Academia Series. Routledge.

I was delighted to come across Lynn Nygaard and Kristin Solli’s Strategies for writing a thesis by publication in the social sciences and humanities; sensible advice on this topic from such well-informed scholars is welcome and timely. This book is the first one I’ve read in the series edited by Helen Kara and Pat Thomson and it makes me keen to see other publications in the series.

The primary audience for Nygaard and Solli’s work is doctoral candidates, but it is very useful for supervisors, writing teachers and researcher developers. It takes a straight forward, practical approach to the thesis by publication, outlining the challenges and offering implementable strategies to produce a document suitable for examination. The text is up to date with current thinking, cites extensively from recent literature and is clearly in tune with the discussions occurring at institutions around the world and in a broad range of disciplines.

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Reflective research journals and doctoral writing

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Our guest blogger this week is Dr Amanda Lee. Amanda is a senior lecturer in Business & Management at the University of Derby, with a professional and academic background in Human Resource Management. Her research encompasses individual and organisational effects of remote working practices, managerial control and surveillance, the changing nature of professional and academic identity, ethnography and qualitative research methodologies. Find out more about her research here. She is Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.

By Amanda Lee

PhD candidates are frequently encouraged by supervisors and researcher developers to maintain a journal during their studies. For doctoral writers, this can feel like an imposition on their time and effort, especially if that writing is unlikely to be used for the thesis itself. In this post, I’d like to explain how and why this process is so valuable, so that you’ll have some evidence to put to sceptical PhD writers.

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“Taming the baggy thesis monster”, or how to tighten up your writing

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Last month I ran an editing boot camp aimed at helping late-stage doctoral writers whip their theses into shape. My late dear friend, Heather Kerr, used to talk about the ‘large, loose, baggy monsters’ that PhD candidates often confront towards the end of candidature. The phrase comes from Henry James when describing big 19th-century novels, and seems particularly apt for those doctoral candidates who have been writing and writing for several (sometimes way too many) years. The boot camp was designed to tame those baggy monsters into tightly argued, concisely written documents ready to submit for examination. Here I outline four exercises we used to achieve this.

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Online resources for doctoral writers: an annotated bibliography

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Our guest blogger is Siân Lund from the Royal College of Art PG Art and Design college in the UK. She has been the EAP (English for Academic Purposes) Coordinator for almost 6 years. She has a background in language education and is passionate about exploring diversity in communication with a special interest in acculturation processes. At the RCA she is responsible for providing Academic Literacies support for all students at MA and Doctoral level as well as promoting pedagogic strategies for enhancing learning.

By Siân Lund

While building up support in academic literacies skills for our students, I was struck by distinct epistemologies of Art and Design disciplines and how this impacts on the way students develop their research and writing. Through interviews with staff, I recognised the importance of a reflective process of enquiry underpinning the research process in these fields. Tutors often expect the students’ experiences, inspirations and reflections to become part of the writing with individual perspectives and interpretations. Combining this creative and often very personal approach with more conventional and critically objective elements of academic writing has caused difficulties for many students. We are often asked ‘how can I combine my individual journey and voice with criticality and academic writing?’ At the risk of opening a huge can of worms here around terminology, I am thinking of ‘objective discussion’ as a genre along a spectrum of ‘academic writing’. Sometimes a tutor’s conversation with students which involves encouragement to use personal perspectives, narratives and a creative approach in the writing process can lead to a struggle for students to combine these elements with critical, more objective discussion. 

Not wanting to go down the rabbit hole of exploring what researching and writing in an Art and Design context might mean, it feels necessary to set this context for the annotated bibliography that I am including here.

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Doctoral writing across disciplines: style and voice in the borderlands

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By Susan Carter

I’m returning to a theme that intrigued me back when, as a doctoral learning advisor, I worked across disciplines with doctoral students who consulted me with their problems (Carter, 2011). Candidates sometimes wanted to talk about problems that surfaced specifically in the borderlands of doctoral interdisciplinarity. Back then, research interdisciplinarity was recognised as valuable but in my experience as a doctoral learning advisor, there was never a cohort of peers to ask for advice and mutual support.

Now, post-Covid, and in the face of evident climate change, it seems that solutions to tough global challenges might be best found by working across disciplines and we need to establish support for interdisciplinary doctoral research. And yet my hunch is that, in the tradition-hugging entrenched disciplinary norms and biases of academia, candidates could run into the same problems. Here’s my practice-based list of what can be tough.

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Crafting your personalised soundscape for writing

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By Dr Kay Guccione, a Senior Lecturer in Academic Development at Glasgow Caledonian University. Kay has been a teacher and educational development professional since 2010, working in Researcher and Academic Development at the University of Sheffield for nine years. Her specialism is in Dialogic Learning, as applied to Mentoring, Personal Tutoring and PhD Supervision. She was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2018 in recognition of her national profile in these areas, and she edits a blog on Research Supervision, and edits the Journal of Imaginary Research

Selfie by Kay Guccione wearing her ‘obnoxious headphones’

Researchers in music psychology (of which I am not one, to be transparent) have produced a huge body of evidence, documenting how music affects human behaviour and emotion within a wide range of performance contexts, varying music genera and tempo, task type, volume and the presence or absence of vocals. Writing to the right musical soundscape, can make you work faster (Bramwell-Dicks et al, 2016). This post will put you in touch with resources for choosing music to write by.

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