Dissertation writers are largely self-taught academic writers, and the learning process can be a bold and daring adventure.
Over the years many of my dissertation coaching clients talk about the challenges in writing academic discourse. Academic writing is its own special discourse, with its own particular conventions. My dissertation coaching clients largely learn this discourse by doing.
What they are asked to do and the way they feel their way along, trying to put into practice what they think they’re being asked to do, is not unlike underprepared students in their first year or years of college.
Professors and instructors in composition and rhetoric fields are familiar with David Bartholomae’s article “Inventing the University.” Bartholomae defines how beginning college writers must act as if they know what they’re doing, even if they don’t.
The article opens in this way: “Every time a student sits down to write for us, he has to invent the university for the occasion– . . . or a branch of it, like History or Anthropology or Economics or English. He has to learn to speak our language, to speak as we do, to try on the peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding, and arguing that define the discourse of our community.”
Bartholomae says that students can’t wait to write academic discourse until after they have learned more or can write comfortably: “they must dare to speak it, or to carry off the bluff, since speaking and writing will most certainly be required long before the skill is ‘learned.’”
Likewise, my dissertation coaching clients have to boldly write and rewrite. Dare to write.
Dare to carry off the bluff.