Learning to write a research article: Ph.D. Students' transitions toward disciplinary writing regulation

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This paper presents a study designed from a socially situated and activity theory perspective aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of how Ph.D. students regulate their academic writing activity. Writing regulation is a complex activity of a highly situated and social nature, involving cyclical thought-action-emotion dynamics and the individual's capacity to monitor his/her activity. The central purpose was to analyze how writing regulation takes place within the framework of an educational intervention, a seminar designed to help Ph.D. students write their first research articles. The seminar not only focused on teaching the discursive resources of disciplinary articles in psychology but also sought to develop students' recognition of epistemic stances (ways of knowing) and identities (ways of being) of their academic and disciplinary communities. While doing this, the seminar also aimed at helping students overcome the contradictions they encountered as they constructed their identities as researchers and writers through writing. We collected data on seminar participants' perceptions (through analyses of interviews, diaries, and in-class interaction) and practices (through analyses of successive drafts and peers' and tutors' text revisions). Contradictions represent a challenge for which the individual does not have a clear answer. Consequently, solutions need to be creative and often painful; that is, the individual needs to work out something qualitatively different from a mere combination of two competing forces. The unit of analysis was the "Regulation Episode," defined as the sequences of discourse and/or action from which a contradiction may be inferred and which, in turn, lead to the implementation of innovative actions to solve. Results showed that contradictions regarding students' conceptualizations of their texts-as artifacts-in-activity versus as end-products-and of their identities as disciplinary writers become visible through certain discursive manifestations such as "dilemmas" and "critical conflicts" (Engeström & Sannino, 2011). Dilemmas were more difficult to solve than other discursive manifestations, and they mostly appeared in regulation episodes when students were grappling with their identities as disciplinary writers. Regulation of writing identity was slower and more difficult than regulation connected to text conceptualization as an artifact-in-activity. The development of students' disciplinary writing identity was affected by their perceptions of peripheral participation in the disciplinary community and of contradictions between different communities. Two successful ways students resolved contradictions and regulated their writing activity were to redefine the output and consider the text as a tool to think; implementing these solutions resulted in substantial changes to drafts. These results might be used to design socioculturally oriented educational interventions and tools to help students develop as disciplinary writers.

Idioma originalAnglès
Pàgines (de-a)442-477
Nombre de pàgines36
RevistaResearch in the Teaching of English
Volum47
Número4
Estat de la publicacióPublicada - de maig 2013

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