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It seems incredible that the DoctoralWriting blog is moving into its 8th year. Academic blogging and the scholarship of doctoral education has blossomed during this time—so too, has our reach and readership (Guerin, Aitchison & Carter 2019).  Cally, Susan and I have been blessed to have been working together as editors, authors and reviewers engaging with our readership and the numerous guest contributors over these years.

We have noticed both continuity and change in the themes and concerns regarding doctoral writing. Of long-standing interest for supervisors and students is the nature of new and traditional doctoral texts, and the resultant implications for creativity and voice. Secondly, and unsurprisingly, the craft of writing—from grammar and structure to argumentation—is an enduring theme. Alongside this, there has been a growing interest in writing practices—the lived experiences and emotions of doctoral writing, and how to increase writing productivity. With this expanding scholarship on doctoral writing we’ve also noticed a welcome increase in research and the uptake of evidence-based practices for supporting and doing doctoral writing. The blog has actively sought out contributions from researchers in the field, who bring new insights and best practices to our community.

In 2019, as we reflected on our contribution through this blog, and we were surprised to see just how much we had achieved. And in reviewing the whole body of work we realised more acutely how the format of blogging brought immediacy and vigour—but also, that much good work is buried over time.

Doctoral Writing: Practices, processes and pleasures

And thus, we decided to bring the posts together into a more accessible format. So we set about reviewing our blogs to categorise and curate over 100 posts into one volume. And, we are pleased to announce Doctoral Writing: Practices, processes and pleasures has just been published by Springer.  

Making one publication out of some 150 blog posts kept us busy for most of last year. Our process was akin to analysing data; collectively and individually, we reviewed individual blogs to identify themes, then we sorted and grouped blogs to remove repetition and to curate and juxtapose contributions into coherent chapters. Interestingly, in this process we found that the categories we set up so many years ago largely retained their validity.

The published volume begins with an overview on doctoral writing as an object of interest and then goes on to overview the book. Chapter two Being and developing writers brings together reflections on the experiences of doing writing and of supporting doctoral writers, especially through the emotionality of supervision and feedback. Managing productivity is devoted to practices arising from a desire to make writing enjoyable and sustainable; it contains many and varied tales of writing as a social activity. Crafting writing brings together numerous tips and tricks alongside careful advice about clarity, style and voice in doctoral writing. The largest chapter, Writing the thesis, contains rich array of useful information for supervisors and students about the thesis and its components—and about navigating the tricky textures of disciplinary expectations, of story, fact, argumentation, theory and analysis—and personal preferences and values. We move beyond this focus on the examinable thesis to other kinds of research writing in the chapter called Disseminating research. Here the entries explore the changing role of the supervisor as candidates and institutions seek alternative routes for disseminating research and for career building through writing. The brief concluding chapter reflects on the impacts and effects of doctoral writing—as a practice, product and process as explored across the volume.

Making the book

A year ago we naively thought our task would be relatively quick and easy—of course it wasn’t—writing rarely is! We spent quite some time exploring options for an online rendition that would accommodate live links, colour and interactivity. As we began to appreciate the technical challenges and how much ongoing maintenance this would require, we modified our ambitions deciding to work with the Springer team to create something that would be as practically close to our aim as possible. We are happy with the outcome—and hope you are too!

Our early intention was not to rework blogs substantially but simply group them; however, in scrutinising the individual posts we found some could benefit from editing and tweaking. Some were dated, too, and so excluded. And, we rediscovered yet again, how hard it is to resist eternal tweaking, especially of one’s own writing, as we each struggled to resolve the tension between desire for perfection and the pragmatism of deadlines. We set out to minimise repetition—but we were delighted to find that even where themes were revisited by different authors and/or years apart, we had taken new research or a different perspective to the topic.

Our new year’s wish is that you will enjoy the book and use it frequently in your work with doctoral candidates. We think we have managed to create something that allows readers greater and easier access to the full range of blogs we’ve written since 2012.  And we think we’ve managed to do so in a way that retains the essence of the blogging style; the liveliness, immediacy and idiosyncrasies of three practitioners in the field of doctoral writing. We hope you agree.

References

Carter, S., Guerin, C. & Aitchison, C. (2020). Doctoral Writing: Practices, Processes and Pleasures. Springer Nature. Singapore. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-15-1808-9

Guerin C., Aitchison C. & Carter S.  (2019). Digital and distributed: learning and teaching doctoral writing through social media, Teaching in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2018.1557138