Research conceptualization in doctoral writing Part Two

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We hope you enjoy Part 2 of this post from Cecile Badenhorst, Professor in the Adult Education/Post-Secondary program in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University, Canada. Cecile explains her approach to teaching postgraduates about research conceptualisation and how this can be woven into the writing.

How can we teach research conceptualization as a process as well as a written product?

In Part 1, we looked at the link between research conceptualization and writing.  In this post, we will focus on a technique to help students conceptualize their research which will then help them write. The research conceptualization technique that I have used in classroom practice with research students is well-known qualitative researcher Sharan Merriam’s (2009) Problem Purpose Statement and Questions (PPS&Q).  Feedback from students indicates that this technique is helpful in guiding them through the beginning stages of their research, as well as the later stages of keeping focused and on track conceptually. The PPS&Q provides scaffolding for making decisions as one sorts out the complexities of setting up a research project. It has specific components and there is an element of alignment where all the components are arranged and placed with coherence and logic.

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Research conceptualization in doctoral writing 

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We finish the year with a two-part post from Cecile Badenhorst who is a Professor in the Adult Education/Post-Secondary program in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University, Canada. Her research interests are post-secondary, higher education and adult learning experiences, particularly graduate research writing, academic literacies and qualitative research methodologies. She explains her approach to teaching postgraduates about research conceptualization and how this can be woven into the writing.

Research conceptualization is the process of transforming ideas into an operationalizable research project. This involves delimiting the research, identifying and developing core concepts and establishing a research design and agenda. Research conceptualization is often not viewed as a central part of the writing process and yet without a coherent framing of their research project, countless students find themselves stuck in their writing.  It’s important to realise that research conceptualization is usually part of the messy pre-writing thinking, conducted before writing happens, but explaining and justifying it is also very much part of the written documents students are expected to produce.

At the start of a research project, students are involved in the complex task of decision-making around delineating the research project.  Research is usually activated in response to a problem and these puzzles, challenges and dilemmas create the need and rationale for doing the research.  For many research students, constructing and communicating the research problem presents an immense hurdle and is often the most difficult part of the process (Ellis & Levy, 2008).  It is challenging for several reasons. 

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Supporting candidates to write about the literature

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By Claire Aitchison

Recently I was chatting with a colleague who supports doctoral students at a large Australian university, and she confirmed the enduring challenge for candidates to understand both the processes of reviewing literature, and what the review should look like in a thesis.

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Writing back to reviewers, assessors and examiners

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By Claire Aitchison

Writing a thesis is only one of numerous writing tasks in doctoral candidature. Writing for a reading audience across multiple forms (journal articles, social media, grant applications and so on) is increasingly expected of doctoral scholarship – and this also means learning how to respond to feedback and critique.

This post for supervisors and candidates focuses on the often-occluded practices of writing rejoinders for grant applications, scholarly journal reviews and PhD examiner reports. I acknowledge what we’d like to say – and what we should!

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Writing to your audience – consider the examiner

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By Claire Aitchison

The regular advice to doctoral candidates to write with their audience in mind usually refers to a generalised notion of who the examiner might be. We’ve long advocated that reader-awareness ought to be incorporated into thesis writing since this practice requires the writer to step out of their own shoes and to (re)consider how the text will be read by another. To see the writing from a different perspective is a useful tool for testing how meaning may be interpreted. Seeking feedback from supervisors, peers and critical friends helps to refine audience-awareness, however, examiners are the penultimate readers of the doctoral output since they are charged with assessing its merits. For doctoral candidates, their views matter the most.   

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Writing oneself into the PhD oral defense: preparing a response to examination reports

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This blog comes from Dr Fae Heaselgrave, a Communications scholar and lecturer from the University of South Australia, who recently undertook an oral defense of her PhD.  Here she explains how she used writing to rehearse – both to prepare what she wanted to say, but also to prepare herself mentally for the task ahead. 

I recently engaged in a viva, the oral component of a PhD examination, where I met my examiners via Zoom link and received their recommendation for award.

You may be wondering what an oral examination has to do with a blog about doctoral writing! Well, working through examiners’ reports in preparation for an oral defense is not an easy feat, but it does engage many of the skills learnt during the course of a PhD, namely critical thinking, analysis and interpretation, and effective and persuasive writing. Continue reading