Last month I ran an editing boot camp aimed at helping late-stage doctoral writers whip their theses into shape. My late dear friend, Heather Kerr, used to talk about the ‘large, loose, baggy monsters’ that PhD candidates often confront towards the end of candidature. The phrase comes from Henry James when describing big 19th-century novels, and seems particularly apt for those doctoral candidates who have been writing and writing for several (sometimes way too many) years. The boot camp was designed to tame those baggy monsters into tightly argued, concisely written documents ready to submit for examination. Here I outline four exercises we used to achieve this.Continue reading
By Susan Carter
I’m working with several doctoral students who are approaching submission deadlines, so careful revision is much on my mind. There are a few things I am picking up across their work, and I wondered if maybe there are common considerations so that a checklist would be helpful.
My list below relates to what I am doing here and now, and is limited by that—what I’m thinking about now. I’m sure that there is more to be said, and would love it if thoughts about revision checklists surfaced in your own ideas and teaching to add to advice. You could add a comment, or contact us if you could offer a blog post on the same topic: presubmission revision.
Cally Guerin has written before in this blog about presubmission with a focus on formatting, and Claire Aitchison had acknowledged the psychological stress of the presubmission state that seems inevitable, but this post focuses on the seemingless endless checking that revision entails.Continue reading
By Susan Carter
Whenever I correct articles in doctoral writing, I get tangled trying to explain why, and often, like now, can only conclude that English is a sod of a language with tricky slithery rules that you simply have to learn and apply. Rules with English grammar do not always have an apparent logic. Those little prefixes to nouns, the troupe of articles, are as troublesome for many doctoral writers as getting journal articles published is for others.
It’s quite hard sometimes deciding whether a noun needs an article, and which one it might need. That is because many nouns in research writing are abstract, sometimes influenced by theory. It’s sometimes hard to tell whether abstracts are countable or uncountable, for example. This post grapples with the task of suggesting how to make those ‘to article or not to article’ decisions. Continue reading
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
So much has been written about voice in research and thesis writing and yet it continues to be a perennial concern amongst bloggers, writing teachers and researchers. In a recent supervisory discussion, I was reminded again of just how contentious this issue can be.
What is voice?
Some people consider voice simply in terms of rhetorical and linguistic devices, but for me, it is SO much more.
I think of ‘voice’ as the sense of the author conveyed, intentionally or otherwise, through a host of interacting features including affect, tone, style, self-revelation and involving complex issues of identity, intent, and academic and disciplinary practice. In other words, I regard voice as a social practice of identity making. In this, I am heavily influenced by the work of Ros Ivanič (1998) who sees voice in relationship to an author’s struggles with authority, self-representation and personal history. For doctoral writers and their practices, these struggles are in direct relationship with questions of the ‘autobiographical self’ (the writer’s life-history, the motivations driving their research scholarship), the ‘self as author’ (i.e., the authorial self, the authority they bring to their writing) and the ‘discoursal self’ (a writer’s representation of self). Some of this identity formation through writing is conscious and some unconscious, sometimes it is conflictual, and it is always contextual – influenced by the norms and practices of the discipline, the methodological approach, the topic itself, the impending examination, and perhaps even the preferences and predilections of the supervisor! Continue reading
by Cally Guerin
I’ve been preparing a workshop that includes a short section on writing titles. It’s an area of writing that I’ve always found difficult myself, and I am full of admiration for those who come up with clever, witty, memorable titles that perfectly encapsulate the subject or argument of the piece of writing. Within a specific field of research, it can sometimes feel like all the journal articles have almost the same title, with tiny variations to point to their very specific focus and contribution to the conversation. What advice can researcher developers offer to doctoral writers? Continue reading