Authorial First Person


Explorations of Style

There’s one issue that invariably comes up in a graduate writing class: the permissibility of using the first person. No matter what aspect of academic writing I am covering, someone will pose this question. My basic answer is simple: ‘Yes, you can definitely use the first person in academic writing’. To clarify this point, I like to reframe the first person as the ‘authorial first person’: the use of the first person to position yourself as the author of this piece of research writing. Research is done by researchers; scholarly writing is produced by writers. Excluding that agency is no longer required in most spheres of academic writing. This advance has interconnected philosophical and stylistic roots. Academic writing is not a disembodied practice representing a view from nowhere; instead, it is better seen as an evidence-based situated practice. The evidence-based element is crucial, but so is the recognition of positionality…

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Thesis by publication resources


I just came across this site:

Shannon Mason and Margaret Merga write:
“We are both education researchers who completed a thesis by publication (TBP) in Australia, being among the first in our respective departments to do so. Since that time, we have moved into full-time careers in academia, with one of our common research interests being the TBP, with a goal to support current and future doctoral researchers to navigate the unique complexities of the model. Over the past few years we have accrued a range of resources in various genre (academic papers, invited blog posts, videos, and presentations), and so this site is used as a space to collate our work, as well as to share the great work done by others in the field of higher education, doctoral education, and scholarly publishing.”

You can see their research on ResearchGate
Shannon Mason
Margaret Merga

There are lots of resources on the site, so have a look.


Research conceptualization in doctoral writing Part Two


DoctoralWriting SIG

We hope you enjoy Part 2 of this post from Cecile Badenhorst, Professor in the Adult Education/Post-Secondary program in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University, Canada. Cecile explains her approach to teaching postgraduates about research conceptualisation and how this can be woven into the writing.

How can we teach research conceptualization as a process as well as a written product?

In Part 1, we looked at the link between research conceptualization and writing. In this post, we will focus on a technique to help students conceptualize their research which will then help them write. The research conceptualization technique that I have used in classroom practice with research students is well-known qualitative researcher Sharan Merriam’s (2009) Problem Purpose Statement and Questions (PPS&Q). Feedback from students indicates that this technique is helpful in guiding them through the beginning stages of their research, as well as the later stages of keeping focused…

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Research conceptualization in doctoral writing 


DoctoralWriting SIG

We finish the year with a two-part post from Cecile Badenhorst who is a Professor in the Adult Education/Post-Secondary program in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University, Canada. Her research interests are post-secondary, higher education and adult learning experiences, particularly graduate research writing, academic literacies and qualitative research methodologies. She explains her approach to teaching postgraduates about research conceptualization and how this can be woven into the writing.

Research conceptualization is the process of transforming ideas into an operationalizable research project. This involves delimiting the research, identifying and developing core concepts and establishing a research design and agenda. Research conceptualization is often not viewed as a central part of the writing process and yet without a coherent framing of their research project, countless students find themselves stuck in their writing.  It’s important to realise that research conceptualization is usually part of the messy pre-writing thinking, conducted before writing happens…

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Re-imagining Doctoral Writing


I am thrilled, along with my co-editors Brittany Amell and James Burford, to share Re-Imagining Doctoral Writing with you. The best news is that it is open access and available in PDF and ePub formats.

It is published by WAC Clearinghouse, under the care of publisher, Mike Palmquist, and appears in the International Exchanges on the Study of Writing book series, which is edited by Joan Mullin, Magnus Gustafsson, Terry Myers Zawacki, and Federico Navarro.


Re-imagining Doctoral Writing

Edited by Cecile Badenhorst, Brittany Amell, and James Burford

What imaginings of the doctoral writer circulate in the talk of doctoral researchers and their supervisors? How do institutional policies and the conventions of particular disciplines shape the ways in which doctoral writing is imagined? Why, and in what ways, has doctoral writing been re-imagined in the twenty-first century? What future imaginings of doctoral writing may be hovering on the horizon? This edited collection has gathered a diverse group of authors—from Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Bangladesh, Japan, South Africa, the UK, Denmark, Canada, and the US—to consider these challenging questions during a time in which doctoral education is undergoing enormous transformation. Together, the contributors to this collection explore how the practice of doctoral writing is entangled with broader concerns within doctoral education, including attrition, timeliness, the quality of supervision, the transferability of knowledge and skills to industry settings, research impact, research integrity, and the decolonization of the doctorate.

You can find the book at This book will be available in a print edition from University Press of Colorado in the coming months.

The link between research conceptualization and writing


For some time I was an academic contract worker and I existed on short-term contracts and free-lance work. One of my free-lance jobs was as a language editor of master’s and doctoral theses. I read many theses and dissertations and soon realised the link between research conceptualization and “good” writing. If the research hadn’t been well-conceptualized, then no amount of editing made the writing clearer.

That’s when I began to focus on research conceptualization as the starting point of thesis/dissertation writing. When I began to teach classes and workshops on publishing or thesis writing, the very first session was always devoted to research conceptualization and Sharan Merriam’s technique – the Problem Purpose Statement and Questions (PPS&Q). Even though I cover many aspects of academic and research writing, this technique and this focus on research conceptualization has always resulted in break-throughs for students and participants in my workshops. From feedback, it is the most useful technique they learned and the most helpful in terms of getting a thesis written.

Recently, I published a paper in Writing & Pedagogy explaining why the link between research conceptualization and successful thesis writing is so important. To give you the short story: Research conceptualization doesn’t just happen at the beginning of a project. It needs to be tweaked and refined all the way through a project and then written into the thesis. Research conceptualization is written into problem statements, research proposals and introduction sections of papers/theses. (It also appears in Abstracts – which I don’t discuss in the paper.) The point I’m trying to make is that the way we conceptualize a project influences how we end up writing about the project. So it is worth spending time at the beginning to develop a PPS&Q that reflects exactly what you want to do.

If you want to learn more about developing a PPS&Q, watch:

As always, if you need to access my research or want a full list of videos on YouTube, send me an email at

Writing the literature review


For many years now I’ve focused my research and reading around the literature reivew section/chapter/paper. It’s such a complex paper to write and I’ve been trying to find ways of explaining the complexity that are do-able and understandable and not overwhelming.

I published three papers where I analysed Master’s student’s literature review papers:

Badenhorst, C.M. (2018). Citation practices of postgraduate students writing literature reviews. London Review of Education, 16(1), 121-135. DOI:

Badenhorst, C.M. (2018). Graduate student writing: Complexity in literature reviews. Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, 9(1), 58-74.

Badenhorst, C.M. (2017) Literature reviews, citations and intertextuality in graduate student writing. Journal of Further and Higher Education.

I don’t think I succeeded in unpacking the complexity of literature reviews in these papers but they really helped me understand the stress student writers are under when they write Literature Reviews.

Eventually I decided to try and unravel the different layers and tasks involved in writing a Literature Review, through videos. I starting with reading and general citation use, then I develop a series on writing the Literature Review itself. I’ve now created a number of videos that I think will really help writers who struggle with this genre:

If you have any further ideas for videos on literature reviews (or anything else), let me know. And if you want to access my research or if you want a full list of videos on YouTube, send me an email:

Strategies for Writing a Thesis by Publication: Book Review


A new book on writing manuscript thesis – it will help supervisors and students.

DoctoralWriting SIG

By Cally Guerin

Book Review: Lynn P. Nygaard & Kristin Solli (2021) Strategies for writing a thesis by publication in the social sciences and humanities. Insider Guides to Success in Academia Series. Routledge.

I was delighted to come across Lynn Nygaard and Kristin Solli’s Strategies for writing a thesis by publication in the social sciences and humanities; sensible advice on this topic from such well-informed scholars is welcome and timely. This book is the first one I’ve read in the series edited by Helen Kara and Pat Thomson and it makes me keen to see other publications in the series.

The primary audience for Nygaard and Solli’s work is doctoral candidates, but it is very useful for supervisors, writing teachers and researcher developers. It takes a straight forward, practical approach to the thesis by publication, outlining the challenges and offering implementable strategies to produce a document suitable for examination…

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Dealing with criticism


Here’s a podcast on dealing with criticism from the University of Alberta:

You might also want to watch my videos on dealing with criticism: