The Academic Identities Conference 2018, Hiroshima, Japan



By Claire Aitchison, Cally Guerin and Susan Carter

Following directly from the IDERN Conference we three editors were lucky enough to stay on and attend the International Academic Identities Conference which was convened by A/Professor Machi Sato of the Research Institute for Higher Education (RIHE) and hosted at Hiroshima University, 19-21 September.

Hiroshima Peace Park
Image by Cally Guerin

The location was a fitting reminder of the historical significance of Hiroshima for global peace, and the conference theme, ‘The Peaceful University: Aspirations for academic futures – compassion, generosity, imagination, and creation’ prompted a reconsideration of academic priorities and challenges.

The focus on identities fostered a wide range of theorisations and explorations of practices, hopes and aspirations for academic work and for students, including inspirational presentations for contesting the challenges arising. While there were relatively few presentations with a particular emphasis on academic or doctoral writing, it was remarkable how, despite significant cultural, historical and contextual differences, there was a common recognition of the impact of marketisation on our academic lives and options as writers. Continue reading


my supervisor says I need help with my writing

Great way to be proactive about writing help

Think Ahead Blog

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Dear Thesis Writer,

Thanks for contacting me and for being proactive about developing your writing!

My first question is to ask you whether you have got specific and detailed feedback from your supervisor(s) about what they think and how you can improve? Have you talked to them about the feedback they have given you, so you can understand how to move forward? This is the most personalised and relevant way to improve writing, as it is within the context of your discipline area, and specific to your learning needs. It’s well worth a chat if you haven’t already, as it means you aren’t operating on assumptions about what they think.

If you have had this discussion about your feedback, and agreed with your supervisors(s)that you need further opportunities to develop — below are some ideas you can try out:

Are you taking into account that writing at this level needs…

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A stimulating collegial event: the 2018 meeting of IDERN (International Doctoral Education Research Network)



By Susan Carter, Claire Aitchison and Cally Guerin

We three editors of the DoctoralWriting SIG had the re-energising experience of attending IDERN at Hiroshima University in Japan, 15-17 September, 2018.  IDERN is a loose group of people who come together every two to three years to discuss trends in doctoral research. The business of meetings is steered by a committee that organises key sessions including an introduction from the hosting country and followed thereafter by a series of provocations to stimulate discussion groups. This year the meeting was beautifully hosted by Machi Sato (Hiroshima University) and her team.

We learned about doctoral education in Japan from Professors Yohsuke Yamamoto and Shinichi Kobayashi, who described successful Japanese doctoral programs but nonetheless identified a need for reform, and for international collaboration. Continue reading

My questions now: preparing a thesis conclusion



By Cally Guerin

Conclusions continue to be a challenge for thesis writers, not least because they need to bring together a whole range of ideas and step back from the detail to look at the bigger picture of what all these words and findings mean. This is the moment when examiners are assessing whether the whole text has persuaded them that, yes, this thesis makes an original and significant contribution to knowledge in its field and is therefore worth a PhD. Yet, as Trafford, Lesham and Bitzer (2014) point out, a surprising number of theses fail to make a direct statement about the originality of the research and its contribution; in fact, some don’t even have a chapter labelled ‘Conclusion’. While it is still possible to succeed in exhibiting ‘doctorateness’ without fulfilling the standard requirements, my own approach is to make it as easy as possible for readers (here I mean examiners) to identify the elements they are looking for and thus be firmly confident that the thesis meets the established criteria. Continue reading

Why do supervisors contradict themselves? Development of feedback


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By Cally Guerin

One of the ongoing challenges for doctoral writers is the confusion (and frustration) that arises when supervisors seem to change their opinions about what the writing needs. It can look like supervisors contradict themselves if they offer feedback on writing, and then later advise something different. Why does this happen? We need to consider how, just as the writing develops, the feedback itself also develops over time. I think there are several reasons that supervisors’ feedback can change. Continue reading

Generic doctoral writing programmes: What do you do and why do you do it?


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E Marcia Johnson, our guest blogger, has been the Director of the Centre for Tertiary Teaching & Learning (CeTTL) since 2012. Coming from a background in eLearning and Applied Linguistics, she has taught and researched in Canada, Japan, and New Zealand. Marcia and her team have introduced a number of cross-disciplinary, cohort-based initiatives to improve the student experience of learning, particularly doctoral writing and academic integrity. In particular, their weekly Doctoral Writing Conversation has facilitated the development of a range of strategies to help PhD students become successful thesis writers.

By E Marcia Johnson

Given the increasingly large, diverse cohort of doctoral students in many New Zealand and Australian universities (and elsewhere), additional pressure is being placed on academic staff to supervise more and more students. However, the rhetorical demands of thesis writing are quite specific, with Carter (2011) proposing that doctoral writing is its own literary genre. A strong case can thus be made for generic thesis writing programmes to be offered by specialists with expertise in writing; such programmes could not only aid students’ emerging thesis writing competence, they would provide welcome support for supervisors. What I’ll describe in this post is an example of what can be done as part of a generic thesis writing programme (the Doctoral Writing Conversation (DWC)), but – importantly – the underlying reasons for doing it. Continue reading