Writing in doctoral programs: examining supervisors’ perspectives

Gabriela González-Ocampo, Montserrat Castelló

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the current context of doctoral education students are required to develop a range of complex academic literacy skills to accomplish optimal performance in their academic communities of practice. This has led to increase the interest in research on doctoral writing. However, research on how supervisors contribute to doctoral writing has not been extensive. The purpose of this study is to analyze the supervisors’ perspectives on doctoral writing by addressing three questions: a) What role do supervisors attribute to writing in doctoral training? b) What type of writing support do supervisors intend to provide to their students? and c) What are the relations between the role supervisors attribute to writing and the type of writing support supervisors offer to their students? Participants were 61 supervisors in the social sciences and humanities with diverse levels of expertise. Using a cross-sectional interpretative design, we collected qualitative data using an open-ended survey. Categories based on content analysis were established (Miles and Huberman 1994). The results demonstrated that supervisors attributed different roles to doctoral writing, ranging from process- to product-oriented and focusing on 1) producing appropriate academic texts, 2) generating epistemic activity, and 3) promoting communication and socialization. A significant number of supervisors did not attribute any role to writing but acknowledged writing as an important and neglected activity. Three categories of writing support were identified based on the type of activities supervisors reported and their involvement: 1) telling the students what to do, 2) reviewing and editing students’ texts, and 3) collaboratively discussing students’ texts. The results suggest that there are complex relations between the role that supervisors’ attribute to writing and the type of writing support supervisors are able to offer. The relations appear to be mediated by supervisors’ awareness and resources concerning doctoral writing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-401
Number of pages15
JournalHigher Education
Volume76
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018

Keywords

  • Doctoral education
  • Doctoral writing
  • Supervision
  • Supervisory writing support

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