22 SES 06 E, Reading and Writing: Critical perspectives
‘Having the reader in mind’ is an aspect taken for granted and even experienced researchers sometimes forget to keep readers in mind as they plan and draft their research (Booth, Colomb and Williams ,2008). Booth et al, explain that the reader and the writer are closely related and ‘…every time you go to a written source for information, you join a conversation between writers and readers … when you report your own research, you add your voice and can hope that other voices will respond , so that you can in turn respond to them’). This reinforces the notion of duality of the process of reading and writing whereby writers create readers and readers create writers; in the meeting of these two lies meaning and communication (Ede and Lunsor, 1984). Pfster and Petrik (1980) note that writers sometimes fictionalize their audience and make us think about the best methods the writer can use to achieve cooperation, personation and identification with the readers. Flowers (1981) suggests locating characteristics of the reader critical in light of the writer’s purpose in writing. In theses, one of the critical components is to orient the reader to the ‘story of research’ and to make the writer’s thinking visible in the text of the thesis so that readers can follow the ‘story’ and acknowledge scholarship . This presentation reports a study of 12 theses introduction chapters, to identify how, if at all, the writer orients the reader to the process of research. It also provides practical tools to illustrate how thinking can be made visible.
The introductory chapter as the lead-in chapter is the first encounter between the writer and the reader. It is considered a challenging part of a thesis for writers, since it forces them to grapple with decisions ranging from selecting an organizational framework to making adequate word choices (Swales, 1990). Writers are sometimes unclear what is expected of them and what the ‘entry’ to their thesis should contain. The difficulty may be due to the fact that authors know implicitly that beginnings are important in conditioning how readers view their work and influencing how their writing will progress once they are launched into text production (Dunleavy, 2003 p.91). The point of the lead-in text is simply to frame, highlight and lead up to the core aspects of the thesis. In particular, they should ensure that readers can appreciate the originality and the usefulness of what they have done in their research activities. Dunleavy further claims that ‘students spend so much time and effort on writing lead-in materials that they create a long, dull, low value sequence of chapters before readers come across anything original… ‘(p. 51).Likewise, Oliver (2004) maintains that the introductory chapter is a very significant chapter as it is usually the first chapter which is read by the examiners and creates first impressions of style and the broad nature of the thesis. Studies of theses have emphasised the crucial function of introductions to justify the study being reported (Swales, 1990; Bunton, 2002). It is a site where the interplay of the student’s agency in the research being reported and the role of previous research is manifested. It sets up readers expectations and orients the reader to what will follow (Bunton, 2002). Hart (2009) suggests that the introductory chapter provides the reason for the research and an overview of what the reader can expect to find in more detail in succeeding chapters. He advises that the chapter includes answers to what the thesis is about, the reasons for the research, the kind of research plus how and where it was done.
The study scrutinised twelve theses from three universities A, B, C– all in education, in order to avoid disciplinary variability. All theses were in the public domain and chosen from university library shelves; thus, neither the consent of authors nor ethical approval was required in order to use the theses. The selected theses were in the year range of 2015-2016 and dealt with aspects of higher education, primary and secondary education, teacher education, learning disabilities, inclusive education, educational leadership and policy, adult education and community learning. Factors such as the supervisor, the candidate and the topic can explain basic indications of variance. However, as the primary sources were only the theses and did not include supervisors’ or candidates’ views, we cannot attest the reasons for variability. Collection of data was in three phases. Firstly, the pagination shown in the contents pages was checked against the text to confirm the total pages of text (excluding Roman pages, Reference list, Appendices) and the number of pages in the introduction chapter. This provided the relative size of introduction chapters within each thesis. The second phase involved inductive documentary analysis identifying sections, headings, references, intertextual styles, rhetorical patterns. Each component was coloured differently and then compared to identify further differences and similarities. The third phase involved an in-depth scrutiny of the chapter. Two researchers (apart from the author) articulated understandings of how and if the text of the theses have ‘the readers in mind’ in conveying the assumed entry information to the thesis. Categories were compared between theses. Data were presented in tables to facilitate the comparison.
The limited investigation shows that there is versatility of styles and scope of chapters between theses. There could be respective implications of cultural differences, institutional regulations, disciplinary conventions, supervisor’s style, supervisor-supervisee agreement(s), candidate’s autonomous choice, or a gap between staff expectations and student interpretation of what is expected and required of them. We could assume that in theses where the structure was more or less following a particular pattern, the candidates and supervisors were following institutional regulations. Where introductions did not seem to follow a particular structure we assume that it might have been the candidate’s choice or supervisor-supervisee agreement. The question still remains: if introductions should meet the reader’s expectations, how should we guide our candidates? Should there be a ‘one size fits all’ approach, or should there be space for creativity? To what extent does an implied psychological contract exist between authors and their readers? (Schein, 1956). Detailed findings pertaining to the comparison between the theses will be presented and implications for candidates and supervisor will be provided.
Booth WC, Colomb GG & Williams JM. 2008. The craft of research. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London. Bui YN. 2014. How to write a master’s thesis. Los Angeles: Sage. 2nd Edition. 93-118. Bunton D. 2002. Generic moves in Ph.D. thesis introductions. In Flowerdew, J. (Ed.) Academic discourse. London: Longman. Bunton D. 2005. The structure of PhD conclusion chapters. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 4: 207–224. Carbonell M, Olivares LG & Soler-Monreal C. 2009. The thematic structure of Spanish PhD thesis introductions. Spanish in Context , 6(2): 151-175. Casanave CP. 2002. Writing Games: Multicultural Case Studies of Academic Literacy Practices in Higher Education. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Choe H & Hwang BH. 2014. A genre analysis of introductions in theses, dissertations and research articles based on Swales’ CARS Model. Korean Journal of Applied Linguistics 30(1): 3-31. Dunleavy P. 2003. How to plan, draft, write and finish a doctoral thesis r dissertation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Hart C. 2009. Doing a literature review. London: Sage. Lovitts BE. 2007. Making the implicit explicit: creating performance expectation for the dissertation. Stylus Publications, LLC. Mauch JE & Birch JW. 1998. Guide to successful theses and dissertations. Conception to publication. A handbook for students and faculty (4th ed). New York: Marcel Dekker Inc. Oliver P. 2004. Writing your thesis. London, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Paltridge B. 2002. Thesis and dissertation writing: an examination of published advice and actual practice. Journal of English for Specific Purposes (21): 125-143. Paltridge B, Starfield S. & Tardy CM. 2016. Ethnographic perspectives on academic writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Prior PA. 1998. Writing disciplinarity: a sociohistoric account of literature activity in the academy. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Samraj B. 2008. A discourse analysis of Master’s thesis with a focus on introductions. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 7: 55-67. Schein EG. 1965. Organizational psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Swales JM. 1990. Genre analysis: English is academic and research setting. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Swales JM. 2004. Research genres: Explorations and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Trafford VN, Leshem S. & Bitzer E. 2014. Conclusion chapters in doctoral theses: some international findings. Higher Education Review. 46(3): 52-81. Trafford VN,& Leshem S. 2008. Stepping stones to achieving your doctorate. Open University Press, UK.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
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Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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