Novice Academic Roles: The Value of Collegiate, Attendee-Driven Writing Networks

Sue Wilson, Jennifer Cutri
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 16  •  2021  •  pp. 149-170

This particular study aims to contribute to the recent scholarly inquiry of doctoral student identity work within collegiate, attendee-driven writing networks. The study closely explores the implementation and impact of supportive measures in academia for novice researchers in the form of writing events. This paper draws on two case studies of doctoral students reflecting on the impact of their participation in social, academic literacy networks. The project also explores how these individuals were able to think about and mediate their own identities as they developed their reputations as experts in their field.

Completing a doctoral degree is a rich, rewarding endeavour; however, it is also a challenging process. Novice academics are vulnerable to psychosocial and emotional stresses associated with being an academic within the highly competitive environment, such as isolation and burnout. More recently, scholarly interest has emerged regarding the academy’s pressures upon novice researchers, such as those entering full-time academic roles after completing their doctoral studies.

A qualitative research design was implemented where data collection for this project involved in-depth semi-structured interviewing. The nature of the semi-structured interviews enabled professional dialogue with each participant. The semi-structured nature of the interviews enabled flexibility where follow-up questions and probes allowed for richer data gathering. Data analysis occurred within a sociocultural framework.

Explicitly focusing on doctoral students, we build upon existing knowledge and understanding of how novice academic writers negotiate, interpret, and understand the impact of their research dissemination and roles. While exploring how these individuals think about and mediate their identities during the initial period of asserting their reputations as experts in the field, this study looks at how collegiate, attendee-driven writing networks can support novice academics to meet the demands for quality research dissemination and strive to meet the metrics expected of them.

This research has found that novice researchers who thrive on social interaction may often find collegiality lacking in their professional lives. Furthermore, those who can find a support network that fosters positive self-belief and provides a means for sharing successes benefit from countless opportunities for empowerment as novice researchers work through their doctorates.

This research confirms and provides details around how a collegiate atmosphere for novice academics helps mitigate feelings of isolation, vulnerability, and a lack of self-confidence in their scholastic ability. Overcoming such feelings occurs through learning from peers, overcoming isolation and learning self-managing techniques. Therefore, establishing spaces for collegiate, attendee-driven writing events within doctoral settings is encouraged.

Further research into the benefits of collegiate, attendee-driven writing events and supporting the process of academic writing and dissemination can focus on transdisciplinary writing groups, as this particular study was centred within a specific faculty.

Within the neoliberal context of higher education, novice academics can benefit from attendee-driven writing events intended to empower them and provide growth opportunities. Through participation in collegiate, attendee driven writing networks, which are social and peer-based, we show that novice academics can learn how to combat unsettling feelings of perfectionism, isolation, fear of inadequacy, and failure. The social element is central to understanding how writers can increase their productivity and dissemination by writing alongside peers.

Novice researchers also represent early career researchers; thus, exploring collegiate, attendee-driven writing events for practicing academics is also encouraged. As noted above, exploring the potential of transdisciplinary writing networks would also be of value.

academic writing, collegiate writing groups, social network, research training, professional identity
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