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An investigation into postgraduate students’ experiences of academic writing: a case study of a university in Nigeria.

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The process of producing academic text, especially at the postgraduate level is challenging for non-native speakers of the English Language. Although there is a robust body of literature globally which has sought to understand this phenomenon; the same cannot be said about Nigeria, as academic writing in general and postgraduate academic writing seems to be an underexplored area. The available research has tended to focus on school literacy, grammar and diction with little attention being paid to the situatedness of academic writing as a form of literacy. Thus, there remains an apparent gap in the status of knowledge in this field in Nigeria, which this study sought to fill by examining postgraduate students‟ experiences of writing as a form of academic literacy. Specifically, the study explored how academic literacy and academic writing is conceptualised in two departments within a Nigerian University. The study was framed within a socio-cultural view, which sees academic literacy, including research writing as a socially situated practice. Theoretically, Gee‟s typology of d/Discourses, Bourdieu‟s cultural capital and Lave and Wenger‟s Communities of practices were used to understand students‟ experiences. Using a multi-paradigmatic approach, and Critical Discourse Analytical frame, this study revealed that there was no systematic focus on research writing in this university. The focus was rather on thesis as a product. When the process of writing was addressed, it was mainly in a deficit mode where students‟ deficiencies were addressed. In addition, the study also found the dominance of the traditional supervision model. Even though, some students indicated that they found this to be useful, the argument made in this study is that the approach does little to move students from the disciplinary periphery to an expert status in a community of practice. Therefore, it is recommended that, in line with advancements elsewhere, newer supervision models be adopted, which move away from the focus on the thesis, to a pedagogy of training students to be competent writers.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.