My approach to writing is much about an approach to thinking on my feet. It may seem a strange but, this is one way I am able to make sense of the PhD research process. Writing therefore became a filtering reflective process – a process to contextualise my thoughts, in trying to situate myself in the practice of academic writing. Before I make headway into the muddy terrain of the writing process, I think it is necessary to provide some basis for my conviction of writing-in-action. What I present here therefore is an abridged justification of how I present the knowledge as it emerges from the research process which consequently led to the way I am formatting my thesis.
My attempt to structure the thesis following the traditional format and configuration was met with much difficulty. In trying to represent an action research research process in writing it became evident that the traditional reporting format for the thesis was not a good fit and prompted the rethinking the legitimacy of the standard format. I felt that such an approach was not going to represent an honest account of the research development. This seemed impractical since the research design was a work in progress- unfinished business and as such, did not fully resonate with the philosophical assumptions of Action Research. I was still in the process of collecting, transcribing and analysing data and this traditional reporting format seemed out of place with the way things were unfolding and I could not see the logic in representing a cyclical iterative process in a strict liner format. I therefore put forward that in order to be true to the process and the development of my academic voice and representation of the interpretations, I need to rethink the configuration of the thesis particularly since writing for me was a process of thinking-in-action. The fact remains that the traditional thesis format is based on a hypothetical deductive reasoning, whereby a literature review is conducted to establish what is already known and then the experiment is designed and reported. However, what I am doing in this research project is more of on the complicated investigative frontier of the research paradigm that takes place in particular sequence that needs to be reported in a way that the historical account is captured in its most truthful account.
While this approach to thesis writing departs from the traditional approach it finds support in the work of Davis (2007) which provides significant support for deviating from the traditional format since it should not be accepted as a format that is universal (Davis 2007). Julia Davis, in citing Richardson (2000) states that the traditional mode of writing discourages academic researchers from writing until they know what they would like to say and such an approach ignores writing as a dynamic and creative process (Davis 2007).
In the end this alternative format affords me a chance to to demonstrate the inter-relationships between the development of the academic voice and the relationship that exists between the overarching research process of planning, acting, and reflecting and how these processes in themselves are meta-processes for integrating the literature and analytical frameworks. Again, while I write this blog my ideas are forming and hope that this gives me added motivation to accept this restructure as something that would allow me to be true to the research context.
Davis, J.M., 2007. Rethinking the architecture: An action researcher’s resolution to writing and presenting their thesis. Action Research, 5(2), 181.
Kamler, B. & Thomson, P., 2006. Helping Doctoral Students Write: Pedagogies for Doctoral Supervision 1st ed., Routledge.
Richardson, L. & St. Pierre, E.A., 2005. Writing: A method of inquiry. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln, eds. The Sage Handbook of Qualitative research. London: Sage, pp. 959-978.