Citation: what you might cite for and how you might show critical analysis

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By Alistair Kwan

Alistair Kwan is Susan Carter’s colleague and his thoughts on citation in a recent conversation prompted this post. Alistair envisions a workshop from his thoughts, and you could respond with a comment to let us know whether you agree. He provides the learning objectives and enough examples to prompt substantial thinking.

I have been complaining for years that students and learning assistance staff don’t understand how citation works, and in fact our support people and supervisors often guide students unwittingly onto the wrong path. One of our students, and some journal submissions that I’ve reviewed this year, have me at last thinking that it’s time to act.

So here is a start of an idea. Continue reading

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Doctoral writing: Exercises for stylish writing

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By Susan Carter

To what extent should those of us who support doctoral writing aim to help candidates to write succinctly, clearly and with a control that makes reading smooth and even pleasurable? I puzzle over that, aware of what a marathon writing task the thesis presents, how emotionally challenging doctoral writing can be, how life can throw study off-centre and what an extraordinary amount of diligence has often gone into learning English as an additional language to the level of fluency and sophistication required at doctoral level. Might it demoralize doctoral writers to include tips about further authorial skill with feedback on content, structure, and ideas? Continue reading

“Writing doctoral research”: Learning through peer critique and feedback

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Our guest blogger today is Pia Lappalainen. She has a PhD in Science (Technology) and an M.A in English and French Philology, Communications and Pedagogics. Currently a lecturer at Aalto University in Finland, she pursues new pedagogy promoting doctoral-level curriculum design.

By Pia Lappalainen

If doctoral candidates are pained by various aspects of their research process, so are their supervising faculty! While pressure is accumulating for expediting thesis completion and for increasing high impact factor publications, universities everywhere are feeling the strain of fewer resources to support those outcomes. Higher engineering institutions in Finland, too, are struggling with fiercer competition for state- and private-sector funding and the subsequently tighter finances. To survive, Aalto University has taken some drastic decisions, cutting down on post-graduate course supply and contact hours in those courses that survived a recent downsizing. This forces pedagogues to re-think their pedagogical approaches to the already dwarfed course foci and contents. I’d like to share here how we harnessed peer critique as an instrument ensuring sufficient feedback while shrinking teacher contact hours.  Continue reading

Managing feedback on writing in team supervision

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By Cally Guerin

Team supervision has many advantages for doctoral candidates and supervisors, as demonstrated in the emerging literature on this topic (see, for example, Guerin & Green 2013; Kobayashi, Grout & Rump 2015; Lee 2008; Manathunga 2012; Robertson 2016). But it can also bring some challenges, not least of which is how to handle the feedback from two or more supervisors who may not always completely agree on what the writing needs. This can become a source of anxiety for the student, and can also create tension between supervisors themselves. In some research I undertook with Ian Green and Wendy Bastalich, we talked to PhD candidates about the logistics of managing feedback from a team of supervisors. We called the paper “Big Love”, since it seemed that part of the task was to keep everyone in the supervision team happy, much like the husband with multiple wives in the TV show of the same name.

Supervisors can offer all sorts of advice on writing, from the big picture issues around structuring the material to the sentence-level details of grammar and word choice. When those comments are in conflict, students can feel torn between whose ideas they ought to follow: the principal supervisor? The advice that makes most sense to the student? Find some middle path that may not really address any of the divergent opinions? Continue reading

Helping students write a literature review – Part II

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This is Part II of the guest post by Cecile Badenhorst of Memorial University in Canada. For an extended discussion of these ideas, go to her article on “Literature reviews, citations and intertextuality in graduate student writing”

In the first part of this blog post, I suggested that explicitly teaching students the genre of literature reviews and the many ways experienced academic writers use citation practices can help students understand this challenging genre. In this post, I want to focus on complexity in literature reviews. These papers require complex higher order thinking skills and the ability to critique, evaluate and review knowledge in sophisticated ways. Reproducing this complexity is often the most challenging for students. It is even more challenging for those of us involved in teaching this genre: How do we make the complexity more visible and accessible? Continue reading

Helping students write a literature review – Part I

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Cecile Badenhorst MA (UBC), PhD (Queen’s) is an Associate Professor in the Adult Education/Post-Secondary program in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University.  Her research interests are post-secondary, higher education and adult learning experiences, particularly graduate research writing, academic literacies and qualitative research methodologies. In this 2-part guest post she explains her approach to teaching postgraduates about literature reviews.

By Cecile Badenhorst

After many years of running workshops on “How to write literature reviews”, I realized that postgraduate students often left with a few useful tools but without that deep understanding of what was required. Without a doubt, the literature review is one of the most challenging genres students face. It is also one of the most challenging genres to teach. How do you explain in an hour or two a process that takes years of practice, feedback and revision to hone and refine? Recently, I conducted research on literature reviews with the specific aim of helping me to teach this genre to postgraduate students (Badenhorst, 2017; forthcoming). In this and the following blog post, I will explain what I’ve learned. In Part I, I’ll explain the useful tools and in Part II, I’ll explain what’s missing from most pedagogies on literature reviews. Continue reading