#Day35 Break On Through To The Other Side

Since I got draft 1 feedback I have been trying to dive into parts of the dissertation and make improvements. I want I enhance ‘my voice’ within the thesis, and while I can chat with others about what I think about informal learning, about social networking as part of learning, I’ve been finding it hard to transform thinking into meaningful words on the screen.

So to solve my problem I turned to ‘They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing’.

What I like most about the introduction of this book is that I feel the authors already know me! They recognise where I am coming from and agree with me on the issue of finding Voice, many students have this problem. This book feels like a someone holding out their hand to me, and reassuring me that I am cognitively able, I just need a bit of compassionate support in my critical writing.

I find writing hard work. And I am not alone. Kathy Charmaz, the renowned grounded theory researcher and author of multiple books is very open about how she finds the process of writing difficult. Rowena Murray and Lynn Nygaard also mention that writing is not innate to us, but it can be learned and practice helps this learning process. So here I am blogging, helping my writing practice. Rowena and Lynn both mention other reasons that writing can be a challenge. My biggest barrier to my writing practice is my own internal critic – the critic that says constantly that I am not good enough, the critic that says that I am not part of the community, and who am I to think I can join in?

For the moment I have chosen to not listen to this voice, and just write…. write on this blog some days, and write directly on my thesis on other days.

So this morning I had breakfast with ‘They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing’. I felt I had the 2 authors in the room, empathizing with me as a student, trying to read vastly, coming to know myself as a professional in my area of research, coming to know what I value and believe in and how these values and beliefs fit with current literature.

I feel I need to make a huge jump so that I can better represent my position as a researcher and Graff & Birkenstein provide a bridge to that gap. This bridge is in the form of templates. Sentences that can help critically argue the case for my research. Graff & Birkenstein describe research as part of an ongoing conversation and it is the researchers job to state what others say, and then state my own opinions on these statements. This model is helping  to scaffold my voice and research and is helping me get over the daunting feeling of putting my words out there.

It is claimed that templates curb creativity but in this book the authors maintain templates support creativity and my thinking on it is that these templates can help me with the threshold concepts of writing. The templates can help me to express my informed thinking, leapfrogging me across the threshold into the research community.

But I have another fear  – that I don’t know enough and that I keep forgetting what I have read and who said what…… Graff & Birkesntien come to the rescue on this as well stating that “Good arguments are based not on knowledge that only a special class of experts has access to, but on everyday habits of mind”.

Also I feel hugely vulnerable in saying that I disagree with other author’s findings, and the authors reassure that this is the natural course of the apprentice researcher/writer. On reflection I feel that if I was firmly established in myself, in my values, beliefs about learning; if I understood and accepted my own epistemology then it I could be more secure and in moments of disagreement with others. This is part of my own professional development and identity development.


About Muireann O'Keeffe

I am an educational developer currently working at DCU. I have a passion for researching and evaluating technology that can support and enhance learning. In the past I have taught on Masters programmes (Msc Applied elearning & Postgraduate Diploma in Third level Learning and Teaching) as well as Leadership development programmes.
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