I am indebted to my colleagues Sally Knowles and David Lake for their invaluable ideas and involvement in the development of these units.Postgraduate study involves many challenges in terms of intellectual, technical and organisational skills, as well as confidence. This paper outlines a new initiative at the author's university and represents work in progress in assisting postgraduate students with the research and writing process. The first of two credit bearing units co-ordinated by the Teaching and Learning Centre will be available to postgraduate research students in 1999. The first unit is designed for students in the beginning stages of candidature. It aims to develop greater understanding of the nature of the postgraduate study process, to prepare students better for their research proposals and seminar presentations, and to provide useful strategies for the development of their theses. Importantly, it provides skills building in key areas and competencies within the context of students' areas of specialisation. The second unit (available in 2000) is designed for students in the middle of their candidature and aims to develop thesis and research paper writing skills. The form, content and conventions of the various sections of the thesis and research paper will be explored in depth. Both units entail close liaison with supervisors and represent an attempt to assist postgraduate research and writing both across disciplines and in the context of students' disciplinary areas.
This paper outlines work in progress to assist research students at the author's university with the research and writing process through two one semester long credit - bearing units. These units are an extension of the successful four week intensive Introductory Academic Program (IAP) that had been developed at our university over several years to prepare AusAID sponsored and other international and local students from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) for their postgraduate studies. This latest initiative has been driven by economic and educational considerations: both to ensure funding for postgraduate support in the light of uncertainty over the numbers of AusAID sponsored students and a desire to provide better support for a wider number of students (both ESB and NESB), especially students in smaller research programmes with poorly developed induction and support procedures.
Particular features of both units include a collaborative approach between language and learning staff and subject specialists (Beasley and Knowles, 1994; Knowles and Lake, 1996), a systematic attention to improving reading and writing through a genre based approach (Bazerman, 1988; Clerehan and Moodie, 1997; Hopkins and Dudley-Evans, 1988; Swales, 1984, 1987, 1990; Weissberg and Buker, 1990), the development of relevant academic skills and strategies in the context of students' own research areas (Beasley, 1990; Benesch, 1988; Snow and Brinton, 1988), and the utilising of the experiences of other postgraduate students. This unit entails close liaison with supervisors and with divisional co-ordinators of postgraduate studies to advise on the expectations, standards, and conventions of their disciplinary areas as well as to recommend relevant theses and research papers for study and analysis. Students will be encouraged to make writing an ongoing process so as not to adopt a "writing up" approach (ie. writing up the research after the research has been done and at the final stages of candidature). Students at different stages of candidature will be invited to participate in class discussions and close liaison will be maintained with the postgraduate students association (MUPSA), in particular, to fulfil this aim.
The first unit, Postgraduate Research and Writing Process I, is designed to help with the induction of research students into their postgraduate studies and concentrates on preparing students through focussing on their thesis proposals (see also Paltridge, 1997) and seminar presentations. It will be offered in first semester 1999 on a pilot basis. The next section provides the description of the unit as it will appear in the university handbook, a rationale for the unit, and the expected outcomes. This is followed by an outline of the topics and assessment tasks for the unit at the time of writing. The second unit, Postgraduate Research and Writing Process II, is designed for the middle of a student's candidature and aims to develop thesis writing skills, but will not, however, be available till second semester 2000, due to staffing constraints. The handbook unit description, rationale and expected outcomes are also provided below for the second unit.
This unit introduces students to the demands of the postgraduate research and writing process at Murdoch and builds confidence in dealing with these demands. It aims firstly, to familiarise students with the academic, linguistic and cultural conventions of postgraduate study in their disciplinary areas, and to introduce students to the learning resources of Murdoch University. Secondly, it aims to prepare students for the writing of their research proposal and the seminar presentation, and to provide strategies for the development of their thesis. In addition, it provides skills building in key areas and competencies such as time management and planning; carrying out independent research and structuring a thesis; and working with a supervisor. Language skills will be developed within the context of students' areas of specialisation, and strategies will be provided for international students to facilitate cultural and academic adjustment.
Seminars / Workshops: 3 hrs per week
Prerequisites: None, however this unit is designed for students in the beginning stages of candidature, ideally prior to submission of a research proposal.
|Assessment tasks due|
|1||Introduction: Unit Aims and Overview|
|Start research log (40%)|
(Due Weeks 2 - 9)
|2||Student - Supervisor Relations & Expectations|
The Uni Research Culture
|Submit research log entries on personal aims|
|Submit research log entries on student - supervisor relations and uni research culture|
|4||Library Research Skills|
Using databases, Internet, email, Endnote
|Submit research log entries on time and anxiety management|
|5||Critical Research Reading|
Analysing research paper and thesis structure
|Submit research log entries on library research skills|
|6||Formulating Research Questions|
Planning a thesis
|Submit research log entries on research paper and thesis structure|
|7||Critical Research Writing|
Building academic skills
|Submit log entries on research questions and thesis plan|
|8||Critical Research Writing|
|Submit log entries on critical summary of a research paper|
|9||Writing a Research Proposal||Read Study|
|Submit log entries on numeracy and an annotated bibliography|
|Submit draft research proposal for feedback|
|Seminar presentations (20%) (including giving and receiving feedback)|
|Seminar presentations (continued)|
Refining Research Proposals and Strategies
|Submit final research proposal (30%)|
|Study week||Assign participation mark (10%)|
This unit is designed to help students meet the demands of postgraduate research writing including theses and research papers. It aims firstly, to familiarise students with the academic, linguistic and cultural conventions of the research and thesis writing process. Secondly, it examines in depth the form, content and conventions of the various sections of the thesis and research paper, both generically and within the context of students' areas of specialisation. Relevant theses and research papers recommended by students' supervisors will be used for analysis of components, and information and language conventions. Thirdly, this unit provides a systematic approach to improving writing with skills building in structuring and writing, revising and editing, and preparing research documents for submission. This unit combines group work with individual and peer writing support and entails close liaison with supervisors and divisional co-ordinators of postgraduate studies.
Seminars / Workshops: 3 hrs per week
Prerequisites: None, although completion of Postgraduate Research and Writing Process I is strongly recommended. Note however that this unit is designed for students in the middle of their candidature.
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|Please cite as: Beasley, C. J. (1999). Assisting the postgraduate research and writing process: Learning in context across disciplines. In K. Martin, N. Stanley and N. Davison (Eds), Teaching in the Disciplines/ Learning in Context, 35-41. Proceedings of the 8th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, The University of Western Australia, February 1999. Perth: UWA. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1999/beasley.html|