DoctoralWriting: a resource for practice



From Claire Aitchison, Susan Carter and Cally Guerin

After 11 years of working together on this wonderful blog about doctoral writing we realise that the time is right to reimagine our roles and the operation of the site. From June 2023 the DoctoralWriting blog will move from being a place of regular blog-posting to become a repository of resources. This means we will cease putting up new posts; however, the Doctoral Writing Discussions hosted from this site will continue, as will the rich array of resources we invite you to mine.

We have just under 400 blogs on all things to do with doctoral writing – and these live on here available as a public resource for researcher educators, doctoral supervisors, and research candidates to access. While the DoctoralWriting blog chronicles our own personal and professional relationships with research writing and doctoral writing, it has also become a library of critical reflections on what writing is, and how it is done, within the context of doctoral studies. The posts include our own writing plus contributions from many guest authors featuring well-known scholars, as well as local practitioners and doctoral students. All our blogs are a mixture of sage practical advice and actionable reflections on writing scholarship and practice.

Those who host workshops for doctoral writers will find great teaching suggestions; doctoral writers themselves can find inspiration and sensible advice; and supervisors can use and direct students to these posts.

Accessing the resources

There are two ways to search for particular topics or simply to browse the resources:

  1. Use the search function on the top right-hand side of the blog,
  2. Use the ‘Categories’ headers on the right-hand menu to pull up blogs themed under these headings:
    • The Thesis/Dissertation
    • Grammar/Voice/Style
    • Writing Practices
    • Publication
    • Identity & Emotion
    • Community Reports

In addition, in 2020 we curated our blogs into a book, Doctoral Writing: Practices, Processes and Pleasures. Please ask your library to hold a copy or access it yourself.

Doctoral Writing communities

While we will no longer be posting blogs on this site, we do encourage you to continue to engage with the active community of scholars led by Drs Juliet Lum and Susan Mowbray who will continue to host regular live conversations about doctoral writing.

If you would like to join this community please contact Juliet or Susan.

Sincere thanks and sad goodbyes

We thank our many guest contributors who have brought new perspectives and audiences over many years, helping us build this remarkable library on doctoral writing.  We also thank those who have commented on posts, making this more visibly a community of interest. Thank you, too, to those who used our resources, followed us, and shared this blog with colleagues. We will miss engaging with you. And, on a personal note, we’ll miss working together as editors and authors on this landmark site.  It has been a labour of love that will be sorely missed.

Please continue to make use of the posts here. Should you wish to be in touch with any of us, please do so as indicated in the ‘About’ section.


Carter, S., Aitchison, C. & Guerin, C. (2020). Doctoral Writing: Practices, Processes and Pleasures. Springer Nature.

Guidelines for doctoral peer review of writing


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By Susan Carter

Doctoral peer review of each other’s writing is something that we discuss from time to time on this blog. We have covered  practical issues and Dr Pia Lappalainen, as she described a course for doctoral candidates hosted at the Aalto University in Finland, included an extensive list of steps to support peer review.

I have been prompted to review this list against two other writing group guides because, as I commenced 2023 with a doctoral writing group that mostly peer review, we reconsidered  reviewing guidelines in our first meeting.

In my experience it can be hard to get a peer review group that really bonds, with a strong trust factor, and the likelihood of feedback that is genuinely helpful in terms of the ability to improve writing, and also in terms of emotional support. So here I’m drawing on the two earlier posts, and introducing another one that has long-standing use at the University of Auckland, as a way of opening up some of the knotty issues in the practice of peer review. Continue reading

Critical pragmatics of doctoral writing: fluency, plagiarism, structuring, procrastination


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By Susan Carter and Cecile Badenhorst

Years of participating in and hosting doctoral writing workshops has led me to believe that, when time and care are given to the pedantry of academic writing, the benefits are significant.  When grammar and syntax are impeccable, writers avoid annoying examiners. That factor is quite important. But I think that carefully edited writing improves more substantially than a surface level tidy-up.

So, some workshops focus on such mundanities as grammar, syntax and punctuation while facilitators hope that the talk in their workshops will take writers further, into the deeper level of how language conveys quite critical significance. Cecile Badenhorst has provided the answer to the dilemma of what to call such workshops: they are critical pragmatic writing workshops (Englander, K. & Corcoran, J. 2019).

“Critical pragmatics” encapsulates an approach that many of us like. The  word pragmatic shows awareness that students want to succeed within the status quo no matter how inequitable or taxing it may be. Then the word critical encourages students to assess their options rather than just being socialized into the discourse. Continue reading

Helpful videos: Doctoral writing as thinking


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By Susan Carter drawing on Cecile Badenhorst

Cecile Badenhorst MA (UBC), PhD (Queen’s) is a Professor in the Adult Education/Post-Secondary program in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University in Canada.  Her research interests are post-secondary and adult learning experiences particularly graduate research writing and academic literacies.  She has written three books in this area:  Research Writing (2007), Dissertation Writing (2008) and Productive Writing (2010). She has also co-edited with Cally Guerin, Research literacies and writing pedagogies for masters and doctoral writers (2016); and with Britt Amell & Jamie Burford Re-imagining doctoral writing (2021) which is available via open access:

The value of videos

While I have long appreciated Cecile Badenhorst’s publications as her interests overlay my own, only recently have I found the rich trove of videos that she has given to the world. I am keen to share these gems with the DoctoralWriting community over the next few posts. There will be four posts in total: this one focusing on doctoral writing as thinking will be followed by one on some of the pragmatic factors of doctoral writing (for example, fluency, structuring, plagiarism avoidance), then one on different genres (article, conference abstract and presentation, different thesis chapters), and finally a post relating to literature review.

Why my excitement? Continue reading

Doctoral writing 2023: Where’s this year heading?


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By Susan Carter

Somehow we’re in February and what was a nice new year to be celebrated a few weeks ago has cranked up into taking itself seriously and we are back at work in the wilds of doctoral pedagogy.

For many of us, that means we are back thinking of different ways to support doctoral writing strongly, so that authors can both crack through obstacles to doing it—Paul Silvia is a help with this—and clearly see what examiners are looking for and how the weird genre of the doctoral thesis works.

Claire, Cally and I would like to begin this year with an invitation by asking readers who routinely provide writing workshops for doctoral writers to consider offering this blog a post in 2023.

Make that asking you, dear reader….If you facilitate writing workshops for undergraduates, for academics, or for creative writers and can see how your session design could be adapted, we’d welcome new approaches. If you have advice or exercises you have developed as a supervisor, you could also consider sharing them. And if you are a candidate with insights into doctoral writing that you think are both fairly novel and distinctly useful, here’s an opportunity to contribute to colleagues. You could email us here with a rough idea for a post to kick it off.

You might find stimulation for thinking about doctoral writing practices amongst the doctoral writing discussions that Juliet Lum and Susan Mowbray coordinate—these occur live, and then Juliet and Susan report on what was covered. Towards the end of 2022 topics including how to see writing as healing, and how supervisors and academic developers can work together to support doctoral writing. The discussions have the vitality of a community with shared interests yarning together, taking a topic from different points of view and sharing experiences. That ability to share interests, empathy and strategies makes this blog and these conversations worth continuing into this new year.

Moving along from an invitation to publish a post with us, I’d like to post a provocation prompted by the last few traumatic years of a pandemic with subsequent lockdown and climate extremes that have devastated some regions and disrupted lives. There’s some good empirical evidence of this (e.g., Byron, 2020; Bukko & Dhesi, 2021; Levine et al., 2021), besides the videos on the news.

So yes, this is a newish year, but many of us feel less secure than we might have done a few years ago. It seems unrealistic to ignore what is happening outside of academia when much is so intrusive as to affect what happens within it.

So what do you think about this: Should the academic community encourage doctoral writers to include mentioning any external trauma that has affected their research in the same way that they would if experiments failed, or data proved unexpectedly impossible to get? Are some external disruptions as legitimate an aspect of doctoral research as internal disruption? Is how doctoral researchers handled such disruptions a vital part of demonstrating their development into independent researcher professionalism? Does this relate to discipline, with HASS more likely than STEM to see the epistemological relevance of contextualising research within the experience of doing it?

I’d like to do more on this on this blog, and I am wondering if there’s a research project on the issue of writing about personal trauma affecting research experience. Could we start a discussion on how that writing could be framed, and where in the thesis it might go, so that academic integrity is maintained? Susan would be pleased if you sent her an email with your thoughts on writing in the thesis about the impact of the pandemic or climate change on research experience and then if there’s interest, she will assemble ideas into a post to follow this one.

Meanwhile, over the break Cally, Claire and I have been putting together another book, this one a guide to editing a journal special issue or a monograph with chapters from different authors. It’s for a great Routledge series edited by Pat Thomson and Helen Kara that is aimed at early career academics perhaps including doctoral candidates and especially new graduates seeking an academic career: Insider guides to success in academia. These are little books where authors with experience offer suggestions that they hope will be helpful for those taking on work they haven’t done before. You may find something of interest amongst them.

For us, it took us back into the sharp reality of academic writing: producing academic writing to a deadline, writing in a slightly different genre than usual, and doing this over the summer break. Admittedly, it’s been a stormy summer down here in the Southern Hemisphere, rather denying the idyll of sunshine, beach, outdoor walks, so urgency at the computer has seemed appropriate. But thinking about how to keep at writing for longer than is quite comfortable, how to savour what works well while staying alert to what needs more clarity, and how to write within the genre is now alive in our minds. Sometimes the gap between experienced academics and doctoral novices is not too huge.  


Byrom, N. (2020). COVID-19 and the research community: The challenges of lockdown for early-career researchers. eLife , no page numbers.

Bukko, D. & Dhesi, J. (2021). Doctoral students living, leading and learning during a pandemic. Impacting Education: Journal on Transforming Professional Practice, 6(2), 25-33. 

Levine, F. J., Nasire, N.S., Rios-aguilar, C., Gildersleeve, R. E., Rosich, K. J., Bang, M., Bell, N.E., & Holsapple, M. A. (2021). Voices from the field: The impact of COVID-19 on early career scholars and doctoral students (Focus Group Study Report). American Educational Research Association: Spencer Foundation.

Wrapping up 2022



Again we have the pleasure of wrapping up another calendar year of the Doctoral Writing blog. As always, we note how quickly the year has passed – and 2022 is no exception.

Adelaide Bus Stop painting Artist Unknown

This year Covid continued to dominate our lives despite the desire of our governments to ignore it, and, increasingly, we have seen the impacts of global warming on our everyday routines. In Australia, like elsewhere, weather events have caused great upheaval – following massive fires in previous years, in 2022 we’ve experienced devastating floods. Continue reading