Understanding Supervisory Practices: Commonalities and Differences in Ways of Working with Doctoral Writers
Thesis supervision is a crucial aspect of the doctoral writing experience. While scholarly attention to both doctoral writing and supervisory dynamics is increasing, supervisory support of doctoral students as novice academic writers is still an under-investigated topic. Not having a clear understanding of the way supervisors treat writing gives insufficient insight into a crucial aspect of the doctoral experience. To counter this lack of information about supervision as it pertains to writing, I conducted interviews with seven supervisors who were identified by their doctoral students as a good supervisor of writing. In this paper, I will discuss the practices that unified and those that distinguished these supervisors in their role as supporters of doctoral writing. The supervisors interviewed expressed similar ideas in three areas: reflexivity about academic writing; awareness of variability among doctoral writers; and acceptance of the profound challenges facing doctoral writers. In three other key areas, the supervisors expressed significant differences: attitudes towards the appropriate degree of supervisory support; commitment to writing support as professional development; and facilitation of peer mentoring. These patterns of commonality and difference suggest that good supervisory writing support may allow for significant variations while still drawing upon crucial shared precepts.
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