An evaluation of research students' writing support intervention



Publication Details

O'Mahony, B., Verezub, E., Dalrymple, J. & Bertone, S. 2013, 'An evaluation of research students' writing support intervention', Journal of International Education in Business, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 22-34.


Purpose - Achieving quality standards in postgraduate education, particularly among Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students, can be challenging. In addition to the diverse educational and cultural backgrounds of these students, thesis writing frequently involves the development of new skills associated with the comprehension of a large volume of information, critical analysis and the development of an academic writing style. Many students need support in one or all of these key areas. Universities currently provide a number of different writing support activities to address students' needs. The purpose of this study is to report on a writing support intervention that employed a specialist in academic writing to support HDR students in the business faculty. Design/methodology/approach - Following a two-year period, the intervention was evaluated to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of this support using qualitative methods. The results of this study are presented and discussed from different angles. First, a lecturer in academic writing support outlines her observations and reflection on the value of individual consultations and students' progress. Second, the attitudes and experience of students and their supervisors to this service are discussed. This is followed by the faculty senior management view with regard to the effectiveness and efficiency of this service. Findings - This research found that both students and their supervisors expressed satisfaction with the service offered. Also it was found that the writing quality of submitted theses is improving; the costs of thesis editing have reduced; HDR students appear to be more satisfied with and confident of their academic writing; the attractiveness of the PhD program has been enhanced, as judged by the increase in PhD enquiries and the quality of potential applicants. Research limitations/implications - The results reported here indicate that the intervention was successful. However, the sample size was relatively small and the HDR candidates and supervisors were drawn from only one faculty in one university. Practical implications - The study provides some recommendations that could be taken into account by senior management and academic staff in order to set up and deliver a faculty-based writing support service for HDR students, which would bring benefits to students, their supervisors, faculties and universities. Originality/value - The value of this research is that the writing program was proven to be beneficial for universities to support research students in the development of their writing skills, which in turn, could improve the quality of thesis and ensure on time completion.

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