Introductions and conclusion: How same, how different?


By Susan Carter

Introductions and conclusions bookend or mirror each other. But they also differ from each other in significant ways. Doctoral writers need to be aware of the generic expectations of introductions and conclusions.

Recently, I was in a workshop with academic writers revising their introductions and conclusion. We were working on identifying strong rhetorical moves in these two significant sections, talking about what sort of moves, syntax, and word choice equated with persuasive beginnings and endings. The idea was that once we itemised what was strong, we could all improve the style and power of our own drafts. Continue reading

Best 8 of 8 years of thoughts about doctoral writing


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by Susan Carter, Cally Guerin and Claire Aitchison

It’s now the 8th anniversary of the first DoctoralWriting SIG post. To celebrate this with a quietness that befits doctoral writing in the time of Covid 19, we’ve chosen what could be regarded as the eight top posts, with links to these posts so that you can view them if you haven’t already. That slyly evasive passive verb ‘could be regarded’ of the last sentence is deliberate: it was a tough job choosing 8 bests from 344 posts, and other options would be equally defensible. So, although we have numbered these to ensure there really are 8, the order has no significance whatsoever.

First criteria for our choice was most viewed. Views give an inkling of what people in the doctoral writing community are looking for. We think that this signals more than just how cunningly baited the click bait was, and points instead to topics that are troublesome or that matter to doctoral writers and those who support them. We began the best eight with the three most viewed posts. The most viewed by far and away (209, 377 views) was, surprisingly … [DRUMROLL] Continue reading

Creative arts and industries: the practice-based arts voice


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By Susan Carter with Fiona Lamont

Fiona Lamont is a Research Services Advisor at the University of Auckland. Her job entails assistance to researchers, and often these are doctoral writers.

Over the Covid 19 lockdown in New Zealand, Fiona and I (mostly Fiona) facilitated a digital workshop for students from the University of Auckland’s Creative Arts and Industry Faculty (CAI). That faculty spans disciplines where practice, performance or the production of artefacts make up the majority of the candidate’s original contribution. But candidates must also submit a dissertation or exegesis.

The need to write a doctoral dissertation when you are a skilled musician, artist, dancer, choreographer or architect means crossing semiotic systems, and that can be a frustration. To what extent could that dissertation itself map onto the creative work? Structure and voice in writing seem like the dimensions where the best fit between creative practice and text could be considered. Continue reading

Evaluative Judgement – how do we know when doctoral work is good enough?  


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Claire Aitchison

How can doctoral students (and their supervisors) be confident their work is up to scratch? When are students ready to judge the quality of their own work and their developing expertise? And how do doctoral students and their supervisors know when the PhD is ready to send for examination?

Answering these questions requires critical reflection and accurate judgement – but how are these skills learned?

Doctoral students commence their PhD from a place of strength; they’ve been admitted through a competitive system into the highest level of university accreditation. It’s rightly a proud moment. But as the doctoral journey progresses, other mechanisms will be needed to inform candidates and their supervisors of their performance.

Being able to make accurate judgements about quality, ‘doctoralness’ and readiness is central to becoming a knowledgeable, confident, independent researcher. Continue reading

Life online: Zoom survival and etiquette in supervision


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Claire Aitchison

Can you see me?  She’s muted, she can’t hear you. Turn up your volume.  Write it into the chat function. Hello – can you hear me? That background is amazing.  I still can’t see you.  Down on the bottom, on the left, the picture of a microphone: press it.  And, so it goes – even still, even 100s of zoom meetings later…

Before Corona, whether in the laboratory or the office, by chance or scheduled, most supervisors met with their students face to face on campus. With students readily on hand, the expectation was for synchronous, physically co-present meetings – and for most, there was simply no need to consider alternatives. However, virtual supervision had been increasing with the growth in transnational doctoral study options and to meet the need for student and supervisor flexibility more generally. With the Covid-19 pandemic, what was a trend, now seems quite routine.

So, how do we best operate in this new environment? What are the etiquettes, traps and advantages of virtual meetings and of giving and receiving feedback on virtual platforms such as zoom? Continue reading

Supporting students through the “messy times” of finishing the dissertation: Voices of completers

We are delighted to share this contribution from Mary Jane Curry who is an associate professor in the Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester, New York. She is co-author or co-editor of six books, including Global academic publishing: Policies, perspectives and pedagogies (2018), Language, literacy, and learning in STEM education: Research methods and perspectives from applied linguistics (2014), A scholar’s guide to getting published in English: Critical choices and practical strategies (2013) and with six doctoral students is currently writing “An A-W of academic literacy: A reference for graduate students” (2021). With Theresa Lillis, Mary Jane co-edits the book series Studies in Knowledge Production and Participation (Multilingual Matters).

Mary Jane Curry 

Like marathon runners, students at the end stages of writing the doctoral dissertation/thesis often struggle with exhaustion and motivation. While I have never run a marathon, 20 years ago I completed my dissertation, and have thought deeply about how to support doctoral students. Recently I asked some former advisees—now graduated—to identify the strategies and practices that helped them.  Like many students in our school of education, all of them had children/families, many were part-time students, and most were working, even the full-time students. Some also cared for aging parents and other relatives. Two students had to move away from Rochester for family reasons before finishing. Continue reading