Discussing the Thesis Writing: How do doctoral students and supervisors communicate?

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Effective communication between students and supervisors has been shown to be of importance for a high quality doctoral education by many pedagogical studies (Manathunga [1], Delamont, Aktinson and Parry [2], Halse and Malfroy [3], Bergnéher [4]). This contribution focuses on communication between supervisors and doctoral students with regard to the writing of the doctoral thesis. When it comes to supervising the thesis writing process, researchers emphasize the importance of taking four aspects into account: The thesis addressee (For whom does one write?); The kind of texts to be discussed during supervisory meetings (How preliminary should they be?); Writing planning (Is it necessary or not?); Feedback (What kind?). These aspects become even more crucial when the thesis is written in a foreign language, which is the case in the present study, based on empirical data collected within third-cycle education in foreign languages (specialization in French and Italian linguistics) at Lund University in Sweden.

With the aim of investigating whether and how the four topics above were actually discussed during the supervisory meetings, four supervisors and their respective doctoral students, having completed their education, were interviewed individually. This contribution accounts for and analyzes their testimonies.

The testimonies provide evidence of varying degrees of effectiveness in the communication. The results show that there are no given answers to the four questions above, which in itself proves that they need to be discussed. More importantly, the results clearly indicate that such a discussion is essential to achieve the goals of a doctorate, namely a thesis of an excellent scientific standard and the recognition of an autonomous researcher. From the analysis of the participants’ answers it emerges that the communication must be open (not based on assumptions), on a regular basis (since different decisions can be made at different phases of the writing process) and constructive (selfconfidence being a major quality of the independent researcher).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEDULEARN17 Proceedings
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul 12
Event9th annual International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies - Palau de Congressos de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 2017 Jul 32017 Jul 5


Conference9th annual International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Abbreviated titleEDULEARN17

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Educational Sciences

Free keywords

  • Thesis writing
  • interview
  • communication
  • supervision
  • feedback
  • third-cycle education


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