Discovering doctoral literacies: the emergence of new literacy events and relational doctoral practice

Dr Karen Gravett, University of Surrey, and colleagues

Critical perspectives on doctoral education and doctoral literacy practices are needed now more than ever. The last three decades have seen a rapid diversification in doctoral education and it is increasingly apparent that the prevalence of new routes for study, combined with an increasingly competitive academic landscape, have transformed what it means to undertake a doctorate (Gravett 2021), as well as reshaping the literacy practices that comprise a doctoral experience in new ways.

This research seeks to unpack the key literacy events, beyond the thesis, that comprise students’ experiences of contemporary doctoral study. This might include literacy practices such as the increasing need to write for publication, alongside or as part of a thesis. It might include writing conference papers, presentations, and papers for research groups, or literacy practices that comprise the confirmation process. This study will put to work the theoretical frame of literacy-as-event (Burnett and Merchant 2020), in order to examine these practices as literacy events, and to look at the relationality of literacy practices within a contemporary doctoral journey. 

The findings of this research will be useful in a number of ways. The research will enable educators to better understand doctoral experiences, disrupting conventional understandings of literacies that evolve around a monograph. Our study will foster meaningful ways to support researchers in their development of a breadth of literacy practices, including better signposting within researcher development services and literature as to the expectations for doctoral pedagogies. Although our study takes place within doctoral education, through developing our understanding of literacies as situated, relational, events, our research will enhance literacy education in its broadest sense, contributing to a broad conception of effective literacy education that will be of interest to educators in a multiple of settings.

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