Postgraduate Students’ Experiences of Academic Writing Examined
Postgraduate students’ experiences of academic writing as a form of academic literacy at a Nigerian university, was the subject of research by Dr Emmanuel Seun Akinmolayan who graduated from UKZN with a PhD in Education.
Akinmolayan’s study sought to identify the nature of academic writing support available to students, their experiences of this support as well as their supervisors’ perceptions on the topic.
His study findings revealed five distinctive discursive features: (1) the invisibility of postgraduate academic writing; (2) discipline-specific research writing; (3) discourse as identity; (4) multiple ways of participating, and (5) the gap between prior learning experiences and postgraduate writing. Akinmolayan believes that these discursive features are not trivial; rather they reveal how students experience writing and have important implications for their full participation in a discourse community.
Based on his findings, Akinmolayan developed a framework for research writing pedagogy at postgraduate level, which can be used in the Nigerian context. This framework acknowledges the position of academic literacy, and assumes that research writing is a complex genre and effective teaching must encompass the teaching of skills, and the academic socialisation or genre aspects.
‘Within this model, supervision must be seen as a form of teaching,’ he said. ‘Student-supervisor interactions must move beyond the dominant traditional supervision approach to newer approaches. These include group supervision, and perhaps collaboration with language specialists, allowing students critical engagement and peer-intellectual reviews, and seeing thesis as a process and not as a product, and academic literacy pedagogy as not what can be achieved through a study skill approach or as disciplinary-entity alone, but what should be located within the framework of the academic literacies approach.’
Akinmolayan, who plans to pursue a postdoctoral degree in the future, thanked his family, friends and supervisor for their support. ‘I am so grateful for my father Joseph, who, despite coming from a poor background, and being deprived access to education, put me through school and university. He gave me what he never had.’
Akinmolayan offered this advice to students: ‘You have to be determined and work hard to complete your degree.’
Words: Melissa Mungroo