Macquarie University
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Shaping writer identity of doctoral students in co-authoring with supervisors for publication

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posted on 2024-04-04, 02:42 authored by Jiayu Wang

This thesis investigates how supervisor–candidate co-authorship shapes the writer identity formation of doctoral students in humanities, arts, and social science (HASS) disciplines. It first sets out to identify the factors that contribute to doctoral students’ identification as academic writers. It then examines supervisors’ and candidates’ perceptions towards and experiences with supervisor–candidate co-authorship before exploring how such collaborations affect doctoral students’ writer identity formation.

To achieve these aims, 121 doctoral students and 126 supervisors representing 12 HASS disciplines across 18 Australian universities were surveyed. Interviews were then conducted with 14 supervisors and 12 candidates to further examine their perceptions of supervisor–candidate co-authorship and doctoral students’ writer identity formation. The co-authoring experiences of seven of these candidates were then investigated in-depth using a multiple-case study design. Candidates’ fortnightly written reflections, email correspondence with their supervisor co-authors, and tracked changes and comments on co-authored manuscripts provided a wealth of data that enabled thick descriptions of these candidates’ writer identity formation.

The survey and interview data confirm that academic publishing is the foremost condition that enables candidates to identify as academic writers. However, factors such as academic writing experience, range of writing genres mastered, previous co-authoring collaborations, career aspirations, and other assumed (writer) identities can also influence candidates’ writer identity formation. Focusing on the factor of co-authorship, the study further reveals how supervisors and candidates interpreted supervisor–candidate coauthorship in various ways. Some approached it as a division of labour, whereas others viewed it as a doctoral pedagogy; some avoided supervisor–candidate co-authorship due to ethical concerns, whereas others accepted co-authorship as a disciplinary norm. When delving into the actual practice of supervisor–candidate co-authorship, the multiple-case study showed how the candidates’ confidence, independence, authority, and legitimacy as academic writers were shaped by the writing, publishing, and collaborating processes with supervisors. Furthermore, benefits, challenges, and risks to a candidate’s writer identity formation were found to co-exist in the practice.

Based on these findings, I argue that although publishing in academic journals is an essential factor that motivates candidates to identify as academic writers, given the challenges of academic publishing, candidates can proactively seek various sources of recognition other than or in addition to publishing to support their identity formation. Notably, supervisor–candidate co-authorship can be implemented to alleviate some of the stress and challenges of publishing. However, it should be noted that the pedagogical benefits of co-authoring are best realised when the activity is truly collaborative. Thus, I propose that supervisor–candidate co-authorship be reconceptualised as “collaborative co-authorship.” To inform the implementation of collaborative co-authorship, I present a mapping of supervisor–candidate co-authorship, highlighting the potential benefits and challenges of the practice in developing a candidate’s academic writer identity.

In conclusion, this thesis provides a multi-perspective, thick description of the factors that shape doctoral students’ academic writer identity and further confirms the value and role of collaborative supervisor–candidate co-authorship in constructing that identity.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Literature review -- 3. Methodology -- 4. Struggle for recognition: Doctoral students’ self-perception of academic writer identity -- 5. Co-authorship between doctoral students and supervisors: Motivations, reservations, and challenges -- 6. Shaping writer identity of doctoral students in co-authoring with supervisors for publication -- 7. Discussion and conclusion -- References -- Appendices


Thesis by publication

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Doctor of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Cassandra Liardet

Additional Supervisor 1

Juliet Lum


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250 pages

Former Identifiers

AMIS ID: 280775

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