Reshaping HDR supervisor writing advice through unpacking Discourses

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 33 : Reshaping Higher Education

July, 2010, 654 pages
Published by
M. Devlin, J. Nagy and A. Lichtenberg
0 908557 80 9

This paper aims to enhance supervisor writing advice and its uptake by research candidates through unpacking supervisors’ written comments and candidates’ perceptions of these comments. Effective commentary on research writing requires that supervisors and candidates have a mutual understanding of tasks, their responsibilities, standards and initiatives (Cargill & Cadman, 2005) and that the research candidates are able to “feed- forward” this understanding into future tasks as part of a self-management strategy (Rae & Cochrane, 2008). In this paper, we contend that a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) unpacking of supervisor comments can benefit all parties in the supervision relationship, particularly in the case of English as an Additional Language (EAL) candidates. Supervisors’ awareness of their implicit pedagogies and their role in the supervisory relationship can transform praxis (Janks, 2005). Additionally, candidate understanding of what supervisors mean by ‘good writing’ and the categories by which they judge ‘good writing’, along with the institutional, disciplinary and individual relations that underlie these categories, can empower them as research writers and as participants in the supervisory relationship (Cadman & Cargill, 2007). This research involves an analysis of supervisor comments on eleven research proposals according to Fairclough’s (2003) steps of CDA. The supervisor comments are categorised according to the types of feedback (discourse) they contain as well as the social and ideological relationships (Discourse) they reveal. Then the research candidates’ experience of the comments are analysed. Finally, pedagogical implications aimed at enhancing the supervisory relationship are discussed.

Keywords: researcher education, writing advice, supervision pedagogy