HomeEducational Assessment and evaluationThesis WritingCritical pragmatics of doctoral writing: fluency, plagiarism, structuring, procrastination

Critical pragmatics of doctoral writing: fluency, plagiarism, structuring, procrastination

By Susan Carter and Cecile Badenhorst

Years of participating in and hosting doctoral writing workshops has led me to believe that, when time and care are given to the pedantry of academic writing, the benefits are significant.  When grammar and syntax are impeccable, writers avoid annoying examiners. That factor is quite important. But I think that carefully edited writing improves more substantially than a surface level tidy-up.

So, some workshops focus on such mundanities as grammar, syntax and punctuation while facilitators hope that the talk in their workshops will take writers further, into the deeper level of how language conveys quite critical significance. Cecile Badenhorst has provided the answer to the dilemma of what to call such workshops: they are critical pragmatic writing workshops (Englander, K. & Corcoran, J. 2019).

“Critical pragmatics” encapsulates an approach that many of us like. The  word pragmatic shows awareness that students want to succeed within the status quo no matter how inequitable or taxing it may be. Then the word critical encourages students to assess their options rather than just being socialized into the discourse.

When you fix up punctuation and grammar you are making the social move of showing readers you know what academic writing should be like and that you are an insider in your discourse community.

Knowing about the etiquette of citation allows for social grace in how you do it. Avoidance of plagiarism, including being aware of how to avoid accidental plagiarism, shows respect for the ethics of ownership within the academic community. Responding to feedback effectively means that you are making best use of an invaluable resource, and also being forced to manage yourself and your emotions.

Self-management when writer’s block hits is also bigger than just getting writing again: any time you overcome a big psychological barrier to progress, you are strengthening your self-confidence to face other barriers that life may put in your way. So this post stretches from writing essentials to the point I often come back to, which is that the doctoral degree almost inevitably makes you a more capable person.

Often learning advisors and academic developers want to host workshops to wise up doctoral writers on this social signalling within their writing. This post is again sharing Cecile Badenhorst’s useful videos as prompts for discussion about social aspects of doctoral writing. Again, these links are likely to be useful for supervisors and doctoral candidates themselves.

It’s been a little hard to group such a prolific cluster of video talks, but because I feel sure that these will be of use, I have done my best here. You will be able to pick and choose according to your interests.

Some of Cecile’s posts relate to the tangled issues of literature citation that avoids plagiarism.

Research writing and plagiarism

Then another series considers thesis structure, and videos that Cecile regards as relating to writing fluency for both the monograph thesis and for publication, and productive habits, writing essentials, and seeking feedback.

Structuring thesis/research writing

Developing writing fluency

I’m including in this cluster a series of talks by Cecile that relate to the psychology of being a research writer: your own motivation, how to avoid obstacles (disinclination, distraction, fear, uncertainty) and then going

Thesis writing and motivation

Dealing with procrastination

The DoctoralWriting site already gives links to some other great blogs of use to doctoral writers. I cannot emphasise enough how good it is to direct doctoral candidates to the useful resources that are so accessible via social media. Badenhorst’s video clips particularly excite me because they relate to the issues at the heart of doctoral writing.

Again, if you have material to share, we would be interested in your comments or the offer of a post.


Englander, K., & Corcoran, J. (2019). English for research publication processes. London and New York: Routledge.





Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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