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Misbeliefs about academic writing: A case study from language perspective

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 4:00pm – 4:30pm parallel session



Room 9 – 3030-G23 MLT1



Thi Thu Trang Nguyen
University of Auckland, New Zealand



University education is a writing-intensive business (Hyland, 2012) and doctoral education is not an exception. Doctoral students are expected to demonstrate a good level of academic writing skill. However, writing at the doctoral level is challenging (Kamler & Thomson, 2014). Research has identified multiple sources of difficulties that doctoral students encounter such as difficulties in understanding thesis genres (Dong, 1998; Bitchener & Basturkmen, 2006) and difficulties in critiquing prior research (Cadman, 1997; Golde, 2010). For international doctoral students, cultural difference acerbates the experience (Manathunga, 2010).

As an international doctoral student from Vietnam, I noticed that research has not yet addressed doctoral students’ past educational background as a factor that may impact doctoral writing. In this discussion, I will juxtapose my doctoral learning of academic with how I was taught English academic writing at the undergraduate program in Vietnam. The program is based on the IETLS academic writing module to prepare students with academic writing skills for university study. I contend that previous training in English language classes may teach writing habits that are not helpful for thesis writers.

 There are three stages in my session. In the first 5 minutes, I will present my case study. I will take language perspectives as the starting point to discuss examples of misunderstanding about academic writing that previous training may reinforce.

In the next 20 minutes I will facilitate a debate on two questions:

  • What were doctoral students taught or what did they learn about academic writing before they began the doctorate?
  • How do their past English-as-an-additional-language learning experiences impact their research writing?

The audience will work in groups to share their experiences and opinions. The final 5 minutes will be wrap-up time when I summarize ideas from the audience.

 My target audience includes both English-native doctoral students, international doctoral students, supervisors and writing advisors. By the end of the roundtable discussion, we will compile a list of past learning experiences about academic writing that may impact doctoral students’ research writing. Doctoral students have chances to raise their voices. Writing advisors and supervisors are provided with the language to talk about writing with their students.



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.
Cadman, K. (1997). Thesis writing for international students: A question of identity? English for Specific Purposes, 16(1), 3-14.
Dong, Y. R. (1998). Non-native graduate students’ thesis/dissertation writing in science: Self-reports by students and their advisors from two U.S. institutions. English for Specific Purposes, 17(4), 369-390.
Golde, C.M. (2010). Adapting signature pedagogies in doctoral education: The case of teaching how to work with literature. In P. Thomson, & M. Walker (Eds.), The Routledge doctoral supervisor’s companion: Supporting effective research in education and the social sciences (pp.106-120). Florence: Routledge.
Hyland, K. (2012). Writing in the university: Education, knowledge and reputation. Language Teaching, 46(2), 1-18.
Kamler, B. & Thomson, P. (2014). Helping doctoral students write: pedagogies for supervision. London: Routledge.
Manathunga, C. (2010). Critical transcultural exchanges: Educational development for supervisors. In P. Thomson, & M. Walker (Eds.), The Routledge doctoral supervisor’s companion: Supporting effective research in education and the social sciences (pp.106-120). Florence: Routledge.


Presentation topic

Students – Learning

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