The Paradox of Writing in Doctoral Education: Student Experiences

  • Doreen Starke-Meyerring


Drawing on interviews with doctoral students from different disciplines in different years of their doctoral studies, this chapter examines student experiences with writing during their studies. As the chapter shows, what surfaces in these experiences is a paradox of writing: On the one hand, the discursive knowledge-making practices research cultures develop over generations to accomplish their knowledge work become normalized, invisible, and appear universal to long-term members of research cultures. On the other hand, for newcomers, these very practices constitute new territory and a vital site of inquiry into how knowledge and researcher identities are produced and negotiated in these research cultures. Left unaddressed, the paradox proves highly consequential for doctoral student learning as students encounter supervisor perceptions of writing as “common sense”, a universal skill, and therefore as a non-question. Accordingly, for doctoral students, writing as a vital site of learning to participate in disciplinary knowledge-making practices is lost, with students disoriented, afraid to ask questions about the very knowledge-making practices in which they are to participate, and left without opportunities to actively negotiate complex identity struggles involved in that participation. The chapter concludes by proposing a systemic approach to writing development in doctoral education that places rigorous research-based inquiry into the ways in which writing enables and constrains the production of knowledge, researcher identity, and disciplinarity at the heart of doctoral education.


Knowledge Production Doctoral Student Transformative Nature Roulette Wheel Research Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Integrated Studies in EducationMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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