Getting graduates to publish from their theses – an online Writing Bootcamp

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This week’s guest bloggers are based in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Peter Rule is an associate professor at the Centre for Higher and Adult Education in the Faculty of Education at Stellenbosch University. Liezel Frick is an associate professor and director of the Centre. Magda Fourie-Malherbe is a professor at the Centre.

By Peter Rule, Liezel Frick & Magda Fourie-Malherbe

Encouraging graduates to publish from their theses, and so share their findings with a wider audience, can be a challenge. While universities encourage such publication, Anthony Paré (2010) notes that the kind of pedagogical work needed to support student (co-)publication is often not well understood or supported within institutions. The challenge is even greater when graduates have left their alma mater and are enjoying the relief and normality of ‘a life after the thesis’.

Some students do manage to publish from their theses, before or after graduation. However, we have also seen many of our graduates’ theses disappear into libraries or repositories, even though we felt they had something to contribute more widely. While graduates might intend to publish from their theses, it often does not happen because of loss of support and momentum, and because life just ‘takes over’. With this in mind, we decided to initiate an online ‘writing bootcamp’ to facilitate the writing and publication of graduates’ work. Here we share research in progress on the writing bootcamp process. Continue reading

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Learning how to theorise data in doctoral writing

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In this post our guest blogger, Kirstin Wilmot, explains how her research into thesis writing provides insights into how students can learn to move effectively between concrete data and abstract theorising. She uses the concept of ‘semantic gravity’ from Legitimation Code Theory to explore this movement in doctoral theses. Kirstin is a final year PhD student in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney.

By Kirstin Wilmot

Theorising data in PhD research is a daunting task. It’s easy to get lost in the wilderness of data, and when the commonly given advice is to just ‘apply theory to your data’, it’s easy to see where anxiety creeps in. What does ‘theorising’ even involve?

There is little consensus on how to theorise. Most studies tend to adopt a focus on the importance of using theory in research, but don’t provide much guidance on how to actually apply theory to data.

I have used ‘semantic gravity’ from Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) to better understand the theorising process. Continue reading

How many chapters and pages are there in a doctoral thesis?

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In a follow up to his post on ‘When is enough reading enough for a doctoral thesis’, Ian Brailsford provides some fascinating metrics on the size of doctoral theses. Ian is Postgraduate Learning Adviser in the Libraries and Learning Services at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. 

By Ian Brailsford

The digitisation of doctoral theses is a great boon to current doctoral candidates: reviewing recent examples of doctoral work in their institution is only a few clicks away. New candidates can appraise doctoral work done by former scholars in their department to get a feel for aspects such as chapter structure, page length, academic writing style, and referencing conventions: reading a thesis to write a thesis as Cally Guerin recently advised. Moreover, they can readily access doctoral work globally and, with a bit of research savvy, probably locate a PDF copy of their supervisor’s doctoral thesis!

As a postgraduate learning adviser one of my regular weekly routines has been to check our digital repository to see which new doctoral theses have been uploaded. This reconnaissance is a nice way to see who has finished, who has been thanked in the acknowledgements, whether or not the thesis includes publications, and if I’m able to understand the abstract. Although a few new doctoral theses are embargoed, there are usually six or seven new ones to scan through each week.

Just over three years ago I started keeping an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of how many pages there were in each thesis and the number of chapters. Once I got a sample of 100 theses from 2015 I began looking for patterns in the data. Continue reading

When is enough reading enough for a doctoral thesis?

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Ian Brailsford is Postgraduate Learning Adviser in the Libraries and Learning Services at the University of Auckland. Here he shares insights from his recent research into thesis bibiliographies.  

By Ian Brailsford

If I had a dollar for every time in the last decade I’ve responded to a question in a doctoral writing workshop with a succinct ‘it depends’, I wouldn’t be able to retire. But I could go on a nice overseas vacation. My answer is commonly voiced when running sessions for new doctoral candidates embarking on the literature review when the question relates to how much reading is required. This is one of the core ‘how do I know when it’s enough?’ research dilemmas (recently identified by Dr Inger Mewburn) that experienced postgraduate learning advisers are familiar with.

When it comes to the ‘how much literature is required (or expected)’ question, I have teased out my ‘it depends’ answer with a few questions of my own, Continue reading

Reading theses to write a thesis

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By Cally Guerin

One of the major challenges of writing a doctoral thesis is that the document submitted for examination doesn’t usually look much like the texts that PhD candidates read. For many students, the first six months or so is spent reading masses of articles, chapters and books, and the focus is on the content of those texts. Then they turn their attention to writing a markedly different genre. Even for those writing a thesis by publication, the document submitted for examination includes sections that do not resemble much of what they have been reading during candidature. Continue reading

Publishing about publishing: a review of ‘Global Academic Publishing’ (eds Curry & Lillis)

By Cally Guerin

Mary Jane Curry & Theresa Lillis (eds), (2018). Global Academic Publishing: Policies, Perspectives and Pedagogies. Studies in Knowledge Production and Participation: 1. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

In response to increasing pressure from institutions and funding bodies for academics to make their research public, there is a great deal of advice—and anxiety—for those seeking to publish their research. Doctoral writers, too, are often caught up in this ‘push to publish’ and, as emerging scholars, they are likely to be even less well informed about the challenges and nuances of navigating the system than seasoned researchers. When I saw that Mary Jane Curry and Theresa Lillis had published a collection of essays about publishing, I was keen to get some fresh insights into the current state of play in this vexed area—and I have learnt a great deal from their new book. Continue reading