AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

Learning to write by writing to learn : A postgraduate intervention for the development of academic research writing

by Cilla Dowse

Institution: University of Pretoria
Year: 2014
Keywords: Postgraduate study; Academic writing; Academic research writing; Academic literacies; community of practice; UCTD; Design research
Record ID: 1475308
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2263/43321


Within postgraduate studies, learning is assessed through the examination of modules making up a taught programme and the writing of a dissertation. However, research, nationally and internationally, has shown that although students are generally able to complete the modules making up a postgraduate programme successfully, often difficulty arises in the writing of the dissertation which begins with the conceptualising and writing of the research proposal. It seems that students are considered poorly equipped for postgraduate study, which puts their academic success and completion of their studies in jeopardy, particularly those for whom English is not a first language. Since 1994 with wider access to higher education, a concern has arisen about National figures for postgraduate throughput rates, which on average, are quite low. This current research originated with concern about the unpreparedness of some postgraduate students in a specific master‟s programme in a Faculty of Education at a South African university and about offering them the foundations for the development of their academic research writing, an aspect so vital to achieve success at this level. It seems that programmes which incorporate academic writing are put into place in some honours programmes (see Henning, Gravett & van Rensburg, 2005; Thomson, 2008 for South African programmes) but once the student progresses to master‟s or doctoral level, this does not seem to be the case. The main aim of this study was to obtain insight and understanding of the demands of academic writing at postgraduate level and to develop an effective intervention to assist in the development of proficient academic research writing. Thus, the development of an academic research writing intervention deemed most appropriate for postgraduates in education was designed and developed to assist students during the first stages of their research, that of conceptualising, writing and successfully defending the research proposal. The premise is that during this first year of study, acquiring and developing academic literacies, in order to become competent academic writers would provide the scaffolding1 for the move into the second phase of the research process, that of academic research writing. Design Research was considered most appropriate for this research as it is interventionist, iterative, process-focused, utility-oriented and theory-driven (Van den Akker, Gravemeijer, McKinney & Nieveen, 2006, p.5) and in addition, requires the involvement of practitioners (Plomp, 2013, p. 20). The sample for this study was drawn from a specific master‟s programme in education and consisted of students, the supervision team and the academic research writing practitioner. A mixed methods approach was used where data comprised quantitative data (questionnaire, evaluations and assessments) and qualitative data (personal writing, evaluative writing, interviews and assessments). Findings emerging from the context of this particular master‟s programme point to…