Remote support for doctoral writing during a pandemic – how different from usual practice?

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By Cally Guerin

Like most of my colleagues around the world, I’m working remotely with PhD candidates at the moment. The challenges of unplanned change to working from home have been documented extensively, but I’d like to focus attention on what this means for doctoral writing. I’ve argued elsewhere (Morozov & Guerin, 2019) that much of the advice regarding remote supervision suggests something not actually very different from usual practices, since so many of us in 2020 mobilise the affordances of digital technologies to do this work. Continue reading

Managing doctoral writing in English as an additional language (EAL): Supervisor perspective

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By Susan Carter

It is not new news that it is tough to write a whole thesis in formal academic prose in English when it isn’t your first language—Sabrina Islam’s post last week showed her strategic approaches to managing this massive challenge. She suggested an inclusive set of attitudes and actions that candidates can adapt.

The supervisor perspective matters in amongst practice too. I know that supervisors worry about supporting international or other EAL candidates’ writing because a few years back I did a research project and got data from 226 accredited supervisors. I was curious as to whether the challenges of sustaining doctoral writing were different across discipline, and sort of expected that they would because the prose styles differ between empirical science and Arts Humanities research writers. I didn’t ask about international or EAL writers, but 66 supervisors mentioned them. A few were negative, most felt that it took more work, and a few felt that international students were the best.  Most comments were that the considerable extra time spent on teaching English literacy at the highest level ever demanded of writers, doctoral writing, meant less time for feedback at deeper levels: content, theory, structure, ideas. This post is based on a workshop I host on this topic for supervisors. Continue reading

Academic Writing: Perspective from an English as Second Language Speaker

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This post comes from guest blogger, Sabrina Islam. Sabrina  is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, the University of Melbourne.

Sabrina is a rookie coder, trying to answer what committing to the response by serotonin means at cellular and evolutionary contexts by looking at biological data. 

Here she reflects on academic writing and doctoral identity.

 

 

The language tree image source is artist Minna Sundberg              Source: https://www.theguardian.com/education/gallery/2015/jan/23/a-language-family-tree-in-pictures

As I was parallel drafting both my thesis chapter and an editorial for the past couple of weeks, I realised how quickly I flipflop between different personalities when I write different pieces. From this realisation resurfaced a much bigger realisation—I switch my personality every time I communicate in English.

“Learning another language is like becoming another person”- said Haruki Murakami. I sort of agree. Donning a second language feels really very similar to donning a “work outfit”- I am a different person with my work shoes on vs what Aussies call “thongs”. Communicating in the language of academia adds another layer of complexity: it’s like putting on suits. To an outsider or someone who is communicating in English as a second language speaker, this may feel like a new dress-code with a new, more complex set of rules. Having multiple voices in the research arena can be an opportunity, but it can also be a challenge.

Pretty much every PhD student who communicates in academic English has been challenged with some aspects of it. Here are some of my insights to ease the friction of switching between personalities. I am organising my thoughts into two layers: being comfortable in your new outfit; and assembling a wardrobe. Continue reading

World-wide kindness towards doctoral writing during Covid 19 lockdown: shared resources

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This post comes from Lyn Lavery, director of Academic Consulting in Auckland New Zealand. Lyn established Academic Consulting in 1999 following a successful career in the tertiary sector. Her 20+ years background in education, combined with a PhD which examined self-regulated learning at a tertiary level, and her extensive consultancy practice have equipped her with fingers on the pulse. She shares some valuable resources.

These times of uncertainty and disruption bring significant challenges for all of us. In addition to the more obvious issues of adjusting to life in self-isolation, there are several unique challenges for researchers. Access to software, resources and equipment has become more difficult, regular support networks (such as thesis supervisors) may have limited availability, and there are many researchers whose data collection plans will require a considerable rethink.

Given these challenges, I’ve been increasingly impressed and heartened by the generosity of many businesses and individuals in responding to the needs of researchers and doctoral students at this time. Before sharing these resources with you, however, I do want to make a point – please don’t feel that you should be upskilling, rescheduling data collection plans, adjusting ethics approvals or engaging in any of the other (probably numerous) tasks that the present situation demands. Take the time you need to catch your breath, look after yourself and your family, and do what you need to adjust to the unexpected circumstances we all find ourselves in (you’ve probably read lots of resources on this theme already, but if not, my favourite is Why you should ignore all that coronavirus-inspired productivity pressure).

Having said that, if you’d like to use the next few months as a chance to upskill, there are plenty of opportunities for research-related training. Continue reading

The Year of Wonders: Doctoral writing in the time of COVID-19

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By Cally Guerin

My title comes from my current reading – Geraldine Brooks’s Year of Wonders, set during the Great Plague of 1666, and Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera (I also recommend Minette Walters’ The Last Hours for a good read on strong women taking the lead on self-isolation). These really are times when academics and doctoral writers need to protect themselves from the world pandemic. As universities around the world close campuses and move teaching online, doctoral writers are facing even more challenges than usual. What used to feel like a bit of a luxury when only occasionally possible, working from home is now mandatory for many of us. This post looks at how doctoral writers can be supported to stay on track in the current state of confinement. Continue reading

Social aspects of doctoral writing, courtesy of Marmalade the rabbit

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By Susan Carter

You probably don’t pay much attention to the image we have as our banner branding the DoctoralWriting SIG blog. Take a look at it now—there’s a hand at the keyboard of a computer, and it holds a ballpoint between two fingers telling of work on both hard and soft copies and thinking across both. Over to one side there’s the top of a notebook and a document held together with a binder clip, evidence of all the reading and interconnection of texts that sit behind academic writing.

That’s a pretty neat image for a blog on doctoral writing, right? But what you do not know about is the back story to this image, a story that contains a rabbit. This post discusses why the rabbit is missing as an analogy to what you might leave in or take out of doctoral writing. Continue reading