Postgraduate Writing in a Globalised World
  • ISSN 0155-0640
  • E-ISSN: 1833-7139
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


Writing at the doctoral level presents many challenges for second language writers. This paper reports on a longitudinal study investigating English as a second language (ESL) doctoral students’ writing problems and the strategies they developed to meet these challenges. Eight students were interviewed four times over a two-year period during their doctoral program and a questionnaire was sent to over 150 postgraduate students to investigate their major writing challenges and their self-initiated strategies. The findings suggested that students’ writing challenges were in two main areas: difficulties with expressing complex ideas in a second language; and difficulties with developing confidence and a convincing academic voice. This paper focuses on the strategies students developed to deal with their writing challenges and uses one case to show how these evolved over a two-year period. Strategies used consistently and successfully included using expert writing such as academic articles as writing ‘models’ and the use of peer support networks that provided advice and feedback on the students’ writing and also offered opportunities for academic collaboration. The study adds to our growing knowledge of the resources and support available to doctoral writers, highlighting the use of social and academic networking and the role played by textual resources such as articles and theses as textual mentors.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Abasi, A. R. , & Graves, B
    (2008) Academic literacy and plagiarism: Conversations with international graduate students and disciplinary professors. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 7, 221–233. doi: 10.1016/j.jeap.2008.10.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2008.10.010 [Google Scholar]
  2. Ackerman, J
    (1995) Postscript: the assimilation and tactics of Nate. In C. Berkenkotter & T. Huckin (Eds.), Genre knowledge in disciplinary communities: Cognition/culture/power (pp.145–150). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Adamek, M. E
    (2015) Building scholarly writers: Student perspectives on peer peview in a doctoral writing seminar. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 35(1-2), 213–225. doi: 10.1080/08841233.2014.995333
    https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2014.995333 [Google Scholar]
  4. Aitchison, C
    (2009) Writing groups for doctoral education. Studies in Higher Education, 34(8), 905–916. doi: 10.1080/08841233.2014.995333
    https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2014.995333 [Google Scholar]
  5. Bartholomae, D
    (1986) Inventing the university. Journal of Basic Writing, 5, 4–23.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Bitchener, J. , & Basturkmen, H
    (2006) Perceptions of the difficulties of postgraduate L2 thesis students writing the discussion section. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 5(1), 4–18. doi: 10.1016/j.jeap.2005.10.002
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeap.2005.10.002 [Google Scholar]
  7. Canagarajah, A. S
    (2002) Critical academic writing and multilingual students. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. doi: 10.3998/mpub.8903
    https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.8903 [Google Scholar]
  8. Carter, S. , & Laurs, D
    (2014) Developing generic support for doctoral students: Practice and pedagogy. Hoboken: Taylor & Francis.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Casanave, C
    (2002) Writing games: Multicultural case studies of academic literacy practices in higher education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. (2008) Learning participatory practices in graduate school: Some perspective-taking by a mainstream educator. In C. Casanave & X. Li (Eds.), Learning the practices of graduate school: Insiders’ reflections on academic enculturation (pp.14–31). Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. doi: 10.3998/mpub.231189
    https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.231189 [Google Scholar]
  11. Casanave, C. P. , & Li, X
    (Eds.) (2008) Learning the literacy practices of graduate school: Insiders’ reflections on academic enculturation. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press. doi: 10.3998/mpub.231189
    https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.231189 [Google Scholar]
  12. Casanave, C. , & Vandrick, S
    (2003) (Eds.). Writing for scholarly publication: Behind the scenes in language education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Cotterall, S
    (2013a) The rich get richer: International doctoral candidates and scholarly identity. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 52(4), 360–370. doi: 10.1080/14703297.2013.839124
    https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2013.839124 [Google Scholar]
  14. (2013b) More than just a brain: Emotions and the doctoral experience. Higher Education Research & Development32(2): 174–87. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2012.680017
    https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2012.680017 [Google Scholar]
  15. Gruzd, A. , Staves, K. , & Wilk, A
    (2012) Connected scholars: Examining the role of social media in research practices of faculty using the UTAUT model. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, pp.2340–2350. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.07.004
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.07.004 [Google Scholar]
  16. Guerin, C. , Carter, S. , & Aitchison, C
    (2015) Blogging as community of practice: Lessons for academic development?International Journal for Academic Development, 20(3), 1–12. doi: 10.1080/1360144X.2015.1042480
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2015.1042480 [Google Scholar]
  17. Hirvela, A. , & Belcher, D
    (2001) Coming back to voice: The multiple voices and identities of mature multilingual writers. Journal of Second Language Writing, 10(1-2), 83–106. doi: 10.1016/S1060‑3743(00)00038‑2.
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S1060-3743(00)00038-2 [Google Scholar]
  18. Hu, J
    (2010) Faculty perceptions of Chinese graduate students’ communication challenges in the science and engineering disciplines. Canadian and International Education, 39(3), 59–80.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Hyland, K
    (2002) Options of identity in academic writing. ELT Journal, 5(4), 351–358. doi: 10.1093/elt/56.4.351
    https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/56.4.351 [Google Scholar]
  20. Ivanic, R
    (1998) Writing and identity: The discoursal construction of identity in academic writing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi: 10.1075/swll.5
    https://doi.org/10.1075/swll.5 [Google Scholar]
  21. Kozar, O. , & Lum, J
    (2015) Online doctoral writing groups: Do facilitators or communication modes make a difference?Quality in Higher Education, 21(1), 38–51. doi: 10.1080/13538322.2015.1032003
    https://doi.org/10.1080/13538322.2015.1032003 [Google Scholar]
  22. Kriner, B. , Coffman, K. , Adkisson, A. , & Putman, P
    (2015) From students to scholars: The transformative power of communities of practice. Adult Learning, 26(2), 73–80. doi: 10.1177/1045159515573021
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1045159515573021 [Google Scholar]
  23. Kuwahara, N
    (2008) It’s not in the orientation manual: How a first-year doctoral student learnt to survive in graduate school. In C. P. Casanave & X. Li (Eds.), Learning the literacy practices of graduate school: Insiders’ reflections on academic enculturation (pp.186–200). Ann Arbor, Michigan: Michigan University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Lave, J. , & Wenger, E
    (1991) Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511815355
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511815355 [Google Scholar]
  25. Lei, X
    (2008) Exploring a sociocultural approach to writing strategy research: Mediated actions in writing activities. Journal of Second Language Writing, 17(4), 217–236. doi: 10.1016/j.jslw.2008.04.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jslw.2008.04.001 [Google Scholar]
  26. Leki, I
    (1995) Coping strategies of ESL students in writing tasks across the curriculum. TESOL Quarterly, 29(2), 235–260. doi: 10.2307/3587624.
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3587624 [Google Scholar]
  27. Lillis, T. , & Curry, M
    (2010) Academic writing in a global context – the politics and practices of publishing in English. London: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Maher, A. , Feldon, D. , Timmerman, B. , & Chao, J
    (2014) Faculty perceptions of common challenges encountered by novice doctoral writers. Higher Education Research & Development, 33(4), 699–711. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2013.863850.
    https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2013.863850 [Google Scholar]
  29. Maringe, F. , & Jenkins, J
    (2015) Stigma, tensions, and apprehension. International Journal of Educational Management, 29(5), 609–626. doi: org/10.1108/IJEM‑04‑2014‑0049
    https://doi.org/org/10.1108/IJEM-04-2014-0049 [Google Scholar]
  30. Marshall, C. , & Rossman, G
    (2011) Designing qualitative research (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Morita, N
    (2004), Negotiating Participation and Identity in Second Language Academic Communities. TESOL Quarterly, 38, 573–603. doi: 10.2307/3588281.
    https://doi.org/10.2307/3588281 [Google Scholar]
  32. Odena, O. , & Burgess, H
    (2015) How doctoral students and graduates describe facilitating experiences and strategies for their thesis writing learning process: A qualitative approach. Studies in Higher Education, 1–19. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2015.1063598
    https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2015.1063598 [Google Scholar]
  33. Oxford, R
    (2011) Teaching and researching language learning strategies. Harlow: Pearson Education.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Pecorari, D. , & Shaw, P
    (2012) Types of student intertextuality and faculty attitudes. Journal of Second Language Writing, 21(2), 149–164. doi: 10.1016/j.jslw.2012.03.006
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jslw.2012.03.006 [Google Scholar]
  35. Petrić, B
    (2007) “This English writing thing”. Students’ perceptions of their writing experiences at an English-medium university. Porta Linguarum, 7, 45–55.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. (2012) Legitimate textual borrowing: Direct quotation in L2 student writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 21,102–117. doi: 10.1016/j.jslw.2012.03.005
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jslw.2012.03.005 [Google Scholar]
  37. Qian, J. , & Krugly-Smolska, E
    (2008) Chinese graduate students’ experiences with writing a literature review. TESL Canada Journal, 26(1), 68–86. doi: 10.18806/tesl.v26i1.391
    https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v26i1.391 [Google Scholar]
  38. Siemens, G. , & Matheos, K
    (2010) Systemic changes in higher education. ineducation,16(1), 3–18.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Steel, K. , Cohen, J. , Hurley, M. , & Joy, E
    (2012) Why we blog: An essay in four movements. Literature Compass, 9(12), 1016–1032. doi: 10.1111/lic3.12012
    https://doi.org/10.1111/lic3.12012 [Google Scholar]
  40. Vygotsky, L
    (1978) Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Wang, M
    (2011) Chinese postgraduate students learning to write in English: Toward an understanding of L2 academic writing. In P. L. Ha & B. Baurain (Eds.), Voices, identities, negotiations, and conflicts: Writing academic English across cultures (pp.41–58). London: Emerald Group Pub.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. Yin, R
    (2009) Case study research: Design and methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error