Academic Identity Development of Doctoral Scholars in an Online Writing Group

Khim Raj Subedi, Shyaam Sharma, Krishna Bista
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 17  •  2022  •  pp. 279-300

This study explores how online writing groups facilitate the academic identity development of doctoral scholars.

Academic institutions around the world, and especially in developing societies, are demanding increasing amounts of research and publications from their doctoral scholars. The current study used an online writing group to facilitate writing skills development, which bolstered the academic identity development of participating scholars. Academic identity is defined as the becoming and being of an academic scholar, with writing skills as a means of acquiring and performing the status and skills of a scholar. It is reflected in the confidence, contribution, and relationship carried out in writing as a member of the academic community.

This study utilizes narrative inquiry as a research methodology to capture the experiences of six doctoral scholars from two universities in Nepal. We explore the academic identity of doctoral scholars from a sociocultural perspective, employing unstructured interviews, meeting notes, and entry and exit surveys of the online writing group.

This article shows how online writing groups offer unique and impactful opportunities for networking, collaboration, and problem-solving, which can significantly enhance their writing abilities and prospects of publication, thereby fostering their intellectual agency and academic identity.

This study reports three findings of the value of online writing groups: addressing gaps in formal education, community as a form of accountability, and virtual community as a platform for identity development. On the final finding of identity development, we identify and discuss four themes from data analysis: growth of self-image as scholars, strengthening of commitment to scholarship, identification of venues for expanding the scope of publication, and enhancement of digital skills. The informal and collaborative nature of online writing support facilitated socially constructivist learning, which was highly conducive to the development of academic identity among emerging scholars.

It is recommended that institutions implement and encourage online writing support programs as an effective means of addressing gaps in doctoral education. While this program can fill gaps in the low-resource contexts of developing countries, it can bolster formal mentoring in any context.

Further research should use large-scale or longitudinal studies to explore how informal, especially online writing support and collaboration, accelerate research and writing skills, scholarly productivity, and overall academic identity formation of doctoral scholars.

As societies around the world accelerate their demand for doctoral degrees and also require research and publications for degree completion, new and creative approaches utilizing emerging technologies could help to fill gaps in curriculum and support systems for their doctoral scholars.

Future research could expand the scope and take a longitudinal approach for more fine-grained data and developing broader perspectives.

academic identity, doctoral scholars, communities of practice, online writing group, narrative inquiry
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