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Researching academic conventions in writing a master’s dissertation
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2014 (English)In: EELC 5: Linguistic Ethnography: Benefits and ChallengesExplorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication 5, 2014Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Many master’s programmes include a dissertation as a form of assessment that contributes substantially to the degree classification. Especially in the social sciences, the dissertation is often student-led with supervisory support. In negotiating their own interests in relation to the requirements of their academic department, students frequently draw on a range of past experiences of academic writing. This presentation focuses on how an ethnographically informed approach can provide additional insights into the processes of understanding academic writing conventions in writing a master’s dissertation. The paper is based on an ethnographically informed case study of dissertation writing practices with twelve students from four social science-oriented master’s programmes. The data include regular interviews with students based on their dissertation drafts. To gain further insight into the complexities of the projects, second-level data were collected including supervisor interviews, thesis workshop observations, analysis of relevant guidelines and seminal literature for each dissertation. The paper discusses benefits and challenges of combining data from a range of sources. It reflects on the importance of clarifying ontological assumptions for the research design and analysis. Finally, the paper outlines the benefits of this approach, which goes beyond a textual analysis and puts the students’ and supervisors’ perspective centre stage. It reveals that while there are departmental requirements for dissertation projects, what these requirements mean in detail for each individual dissertation only emerges in the process of its production. Hence any normative understandings will depend not only on the academic values of the department and discipline, but also on the perceptions of a ‘standard dissertation’ that students bring to their project. While explicit rules on dissertation writing can be useful orientations for the learner, the interpretation of these guidelines is an ongoing process. In this constellation, supervisors have a role as cultural brokers and students as active learners

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
master’s dissertation writing, new literacy studies, linguistic ethnography, writing conventions
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-126991OAI: diva2:904880
Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication 5, Manchester, UK, 11-12 September 2014
Available from: 2016-02-19 Created: 2016-02-19 Last updated: 2016-02-23Bibliographically approved

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Kaufhold, Kathrin
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Department of English
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