Marking the boundaries: knowledge and identity in professional doctorates

Jane Creaton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Writing is a central feature of all aspects of the doctoral process. Students are engaged in textual activities such as the taking of notes, the keeping of research diaries, the analysis of interview data and the preparation of reports and conference papers well before they write their thesis. Hence Barbara Kamler and Pat Thomson (2006, p. 4) conceptualize doctoral research as a continuous process of inquiry through writing, and for David Scott and Robin Usher (1996, p. 43) research is “writing and the production of a text.” However, despite the dominance of writing in the process of knowledge production, the area of doctoral writing remains relatively under-theorized as a social practice. While there is a profusion of selfhelp and advice books on the market, most take a skills-based approach in which deficits in writing can be addressed through learning a set of decontextualized tips and techniques (Kamler & Thomson, 2004). This “study skills” model (Mary Lea & Brian Street, 1998) treats writing as a set of technical transferable skills, failing to recognize how academic writing practices are situated in wider social and institutional contexts. Although there are guides for supervisors (Kamler & Thomson, 2006) and students (Rowena Murray, 2011) which do acknowledge writing as a social practice, Claire Aitchison et al. (2012, p. 2) conclude that relatively little is known about “how doctoral students actually learn research writing, how supervisors ‘teach’ or develop the writing of their students and what happens to students and supervisors during this process.”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorking with academic literacies
Subtitle of host publicationcase studies towards transformative practice
EditorsTheresa Lillis, Kathy Harrington, Mary Lea, Sally Mitchell
Place of PublicationFort Collins, Colorado
PublisherThe WAC Clearinghouse and Parlor Press
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Publication series

NamePerspectives on writing series


  • academic writing
  • doctorates
  • WNU


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