2019 has been another busy year for DoctoralWriting, just as it has been for our readers around the world. Recently we passed the 15,000 followers mark. We’ve published another 35 posts this year, with the following guest bloggers based in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa contributing to the conversation – thank you all! Continue reading
My guest co-blogger this week is Hannah James, a doctoral candidate in the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University where she traces ancient human and animal migrations using oxygen and strontium isotopes. She also works in the Research Skills and Training Unit and in Research Management admin where she spends a lot of time reading and writing emails to and from doctoral writers.
By Hannah James and Cally Guerin
One writing genre that is often overlooked in research communication is the humble email. In many universities, email is still the main communication channel for correspondence between supervisors and their PhD candidates. As we know from other contexts, email can be a complex communication where misunderstandings can result from rushed or simply ill-conceived messages. The following offers some advice that we think is useful for supervisors and doctoral support people to pass onto doctoral writers. Continue reading
By Cally Guerin
It might seem obvious, but it’s always worth reminding doctoral writers to make sure the Introduction and Conclusion to their thesis match. Sometimes, a lot of effort is spent writing an ‘Introduction’ to the thesis in the early stages of candidature. But over time, the focus or emphasis of the thesis can shift – new ideas come to the forefront, and some of the original ideas have faded away into the background. As Mullins and Kiley (2002, p.377) made clear: examiners do look to see whether the conclusions follow from the introduction. Continue reading
By Cally Guerin
November is Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) – the perfect time to get some writing done before the end of the year. Inspired by Kay Guccione’s WriteFest at Sheffield University over the last few years, I’m trying out some extra events in my new role at ANU. I’ve reported previously on my experiments with AcWriMo, and am keen to keep refining the process. Things have moved on a bit since my first attempt in 2013, but the core concept remains the same. Continue reading
Our guest blogger this week is Ruth Weatherall, a lecturer in Not-for-Profit and Social Enterprise Management at the University of Technology Sydney. Her research uses feminist, queer, and ethical perspectives and is broadly concerned with how social justice, particularly related to gender inequality, is achieved in and through community organisations. She is also interested in how academics can write to achieve social justice. Two of her recent articles: ‘Writing the doctoral thesis differently’ (Management Learning) and ‘Even when those struggles are not our own’ (Gender Work and Organization) epitomise these concerns.
By Ruth Weatherall
Writing a thesis can be a daunting task. Where do you even begin? Happily, there are numerous sources offering guidance to aspiring PhDs. These books have promising titles like How to Write a Better Thesis or Writing your Doctoral Dissertation or Thesis Faster: A Proven Map to Success. Such books guarantee to answer key questions about doctoral writing: Do I write in the third person or the first person? What chapters should I include? How do I know if what I’m writing is ‘original’? How do I structure a literature review? What am I even doing here?
In the early stages of my PhD journey (in the field of organisation studies), I was a prolific reader of these books. I absorbed their advice and used it to start mapping my thesis in my mind. But the deeper I got into my fieldwork, the more I started to feel that such advice was constricting. The models offered in the books simply didn’t fit with my research experience. I felt like I was ‘reverse engineering’ my research journey into a neat formula. Importantly, it felt like this ‘formula’ was restricting how I was understanding the social world and the contributions I wanted to make. So I decided to explore how to write my thesis differently. Continue reading
By Susan Carter
My eight years of being a consultant for doctoral students taught me what supervisors sometimes do not see: that candidates can struggle over whether or not to take supervisory advice. Here, I want to defend two suppositions.
1) It is always wise to pick your battles, and on that assumption, students do well to defer to supervisors when the issues are relatively minor.
2) When writing decisions are important, students need to learn how to refuse advice that they disagree with and demonstrate why.
Because students transition towards independent researcher status when they are able to make decisions and then make them work, academics who support them could initiate talk about how to manage disagreement with supervisors.
Often it is tricky responding to supervisor feedback on writing for candidates who don’t really agree with it. Learning how to negotiate diplomatically is a very useful skill that is not gained lightly. The power differential between student and supervisor can make it quite hard for students to hold on to their own choices. Those who come from a culture where it is inappropriate to contradict a teacher could be advised about Western expectations that there are intellectual benefits to arguing. It’s tricky, though, for many candidates, to disagree. Continue reading