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Writing in the disciplines of science: Dissertation writing experiences of postgraduate students in a Thai university

By Pramarn Subphadoongchone


This study reports on Thai science students’ experiences in writing their master’s dissertations in English in a Thai university. Situated in an interpretive, qualitative case study design, the study implements a theoretical framework drawing on the notions of communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998) and imagined communities and investment (Norton, 2000, 2001). The research participants were five master’s students and their paired dissertation supervisors recruited from three master’s programmes in science disciplines where the medium of instruction was Thai. The students, however, wrote their dissertations in English. Data were derived from questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, collaborative conversations, writing samples, and documents produced by the university.\ud The findings revealed that the students’ preference for writing their dissertations in English encompassed their negotiation and shaping of their social identities and investment in their communities of practice. The students reported that they put a great deal of effort into preparing themselves to cope with the perceived linguistic demands of dissertation writing.\ud However, they perceived that their preparation, to a certain extent, was unsuccessful, attributing this to the university’s lack of appropriate language support and their unfamiliarity with autonomous language learning. The students’ negotiation with the demands of writing their dissertations during the writing-up stage reflected their multidimensional engagement in different literate activities of their communities of practice.\ud This included making use of authoritative written artefacts, accommodating their supervisors’ expectations, and developing a linguistic repertoire through interacting with other members of their communities, particularly those from their local, immediate, interactive communities of practice.\ud This study articulates the various needs in understanding dissertation writing practices and other interconnected academic literacy practices as socially and ideologically constructed in a local, immediate milieu. The study also provides EAP practitioners with pedagogical implications for planning, preparing and delivering dissertation writing support for science postgraduate students. It also suggests that dissertation supervisors should initiate an open dialogue with their students during the supervision process and engage in collegial discussions with their colleagues in order to co-construct effective supervision practices

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2011
OAI identifier:

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