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Section 2 Becoming a Researcher/Scholar / Chapter 3 The Doctoral Identity

Learners will recognize immediately that the language used in the research studies they are assigned to read may seem different or foreign.

As incoming doctoral learners, it is important to understand that being able to produce sound academic writing is critical.

6. Academic Preparation


In preparation for the life-changing journey that is doctoral study, schemata changes will occur and learners will need to start building new habits and behaviors that will assist in their success. Learners will recognize immediately that the language used in the research studies they are assigned to read may seem different or foreign. They should not see this as an impediment, but as an opportunity to increase their vocabulary, which will help in writing their own essays. Learners may consider creating a lexicon of new words they come across, because these words may be prevalent throughout the reference material. Learners will assimilate this new research and develop a new way of communicating in due time.



One of the best methods of acquiring knowledge on a dissertation topic is to read articles and dissertations. If learners are dedicating the recommended 20 hours a week to their doctoral studies, devoting much of that time to reading journal articles, they will see their vocabulary increase exponentially over time. If learners take the time to read extensively, they encounter new words, and, contextually, they will have a better understanding of what the researchers and authors are trying to communicate.


Reading is critical to a learner's ongoing dissertation preparation. There are typically five chapters in a dissertation, but every published dissertation has a literature review chapter. This is typically the longest, most extensive, and most difficult to write. Doctoral learners should catalog every book, journal article, and any scholarly material they read, and record that for potential inclusion in the literature review chapter. This proactive record keeping will save learners a tremendous amount of time in their future classes, because many of the books, empirical research journal articles, and authors they will be reading will be applicable in many of their courses and in writing their dissertation. The importance of reading cannot be overstated.



Once learners have completed the required reading, they will move on to writing about a particular topic. How do doctoral learners know when they have become scholarly writers and can meet the standards of an effective doctoral writer? This nebulous concept faces all faculty and learners pursuing their terminal degrees, and although rubrics have become a standard means of assessment, the elusiveness of writing in a doctoral tone and voice is more difficult to capture and measure. College faculty members recognize scholarly writing when they read it, and they will advise doctoral learners continually on how to capture effectively the proper tone of scholarly writing. Certainly, instructors will make, and have made, thousands of comments over the years regarding correct subject/verb agreement and poor syntax, as well as comments on sentences with little specificity and paragraphs that are one run-on sentence. These comments are made with the goal of helping learners identify and fix these issues. Learners who have stronger writing skills may be coached more easily regarding content and analysis of subject material, while learners who struggle with English composition at the basic level may be directed to seek assistance to supplement their doctoral course work.


As incoming doctoral learners, it is important to understand that being able to produce sound academic writing is critical. The College wants to ensure that all doctoral learners are provided the opportunity to learn the necessary skills to be successful during all phases of the dissertation process from the beginning to the end of the program of study. The College has identified writing skill as a competency that needs attention and focus from all faculty and learners within CDS.


The difficulty of mastering academic writing is not only identified with new doctoral learners, but it also seems to be a persistent issue identified by the Academic Quality Review (AQR) team as learners are writing their dissertations. Faculty members spend significant time identifying grammar issues, formatting problems, and very basic sentence structure problems. As a result, they have less time to provide feedback on content and analysis. It is the learner’s responsibility to understand the requirements for scholarly writing and apply those standards to all assignments and dissertation work.


In order to establish a culture of writing excellence, the College will support the identification and execution of strategies to improve learners' writing skills. During the initial three classes, learners will have at least two major writing assignments per course. If a learner does not meet the minimum expectations of doctoral-level writing for any of these major writing assignments, the instructor will engage with the enrollment counselor and academic advisor who will then make contact with the learner to discuss the available writing resources. It is the learner's responsibility to seek out those resources to improve their writing skills. It is important to be mindful that engaging these resources does not represent any type of punitive action, nor is it an indication of failure in the class or elimination from the doctoral program. Learners are provided with an opportunity to capitalize on additional resources and to achieve mastery in one of the major competencies in the doctoral program. If a learner chooses not to seek assistance, that is his or her prerogative; however, if the writing competency does not improve in future papers, the same process will occur if faculty identifies the writing as unsatisfactory.


It is also important to recognize that the faculty is responsible for providing timely and critical feedback in course work assignments and papers, in the prospectus, and ultimately in the writing of the dissertation. It is what the learner does with this feedback that can create either a frustrating experience or a realization that the feedback is intended for improvement. In most cases, if not all, there will be edits to many of the documents required for the dissertation, and these edits may delay the completion of the dissertation; the important point to this is that the learner has control over how quickly he or she wants to make the necessary changes.