Doctoral Writing 10th Anniversary!


By Cally Guerin, Claire Aitchison and Susan Carter

We are delighted (and somewhat amazed) that we’ve arrived at the 10th anniversary of the Doctoral Writing blog. The world seemed such a different place when we put up our first post in September 7th 2012! 

Photo by Anna-Louise

The three of us were still relatively new as colleagues back then; however, we shared a vision for a platform to foreground our collective interest in doctoral writing. Back then we were relatively innocent academics, having never blogged at all. We were nervous. We’d been teachers in front of classes, and presenters in front of conference attenders, but when it came to pressing “publish” and putting our ideas out in front of the world, well, that felt quite frightening and even, perhaps, unwise.

Mostly, though, we were prompted to take what felt like a risk because doctoral writing and its support matters a great deal to the three of us.

It’s an intriguing research topic because it is so consequential, so buffeted by emotions including despair and doubt as well as elation, and so multifaceted. The generic criteria of a thesis must be met, the discipline epistemological expectations adhered to more or less and the reader considered, with the first reader an unknown examiner who you want to keep happy.

We knew we weren’t alone in our interest; the endeavour of doctoral writing is something that many of our readers, colleagues and friends put their minds to supporting. We wanted a blog that would help our endeavours.

We grew: Over the past decade, nearly 19,000,000 people have subscribed to the blog and received our posts. This post is Number 384. We’ve covered just about every aspect of doctoral writing, from elements of the thesis and writing style, through writing practices and publication, to issues related to identity and emotion in this writing space. We’ve also reported on conferences and reviewed resources.

We’ve written lots of the material for the blog, and have also had the benefit of contributors from all over the world.

Thank you to all who have shared their expertise with our community, through your own blogs and also through your comments. Guest blog posters inevitably add something rich and useful from a perspective that is fresh. The blog would be a considerably leaner thing without their energy. If, as you read this, you feel a post coming on, please do contact us at–our best chance of surviving into the future is the fresh blood we get from contributors.

Comment posters also add a huge amount of experience and wisdom as well as a level of depth to what feels at best like a community of interest.

In 2020 we reviewed our posts “Best 8 of 8 years of thoughts about doctoral writing”. You can search the website to find posts on whatever you need to know more about; or you can browse through our own curated posts in the book we published in 2020, Doctoral Writing: Practices, Processes and Pleasures.

We changed: In 2018 colleagues Susan Mowbray and Juliet Lum approached us with a bold idea for building the community of practitioners that had alluded us. Every two months, they host a Zoom meeting for our community. They invite an expert in doctoral writing to be interviewed about their research, posing interesting questions and inviting further discussion from the participants. Summaries of the meetings can be found on the Doctoral Writing Discussions page.

We remain:  The 3 founding editors continue to be involved in the blog, though our jobs and home institutions have changed over time. Claire is now an academic developer at the University of South Australia; Susan is an honorary academic at the University of Auckland with doctoral writing support now done on contract rather than in the form of a position; and Cally is in researcher development at the Australian National University.

The sector has changed:  increased internationalism means an explosion of research and scholarly outputs in relation to doctoral writing. In some places, there’s been a shrinking of people dedicated to doctoral writing support; in others, an expansion, and a parallel expansion of alternative forms of doctoral writing support using technology, outsourced from home institutions– eg online writing tools–plus more communities of writers. But the challenges and need for doctoral writing support has not diminished.

We plan to continue blogging on doctoral writing for the time being. While the general principles of research writing continue to align with what we’ve written about since 2012, new doctoral writers keep entering the system in need of support in how to succeed in this work; new supervisors/advisors need ways to help their PhD candidates communicate their research; and new researcher developers move into this satisfying, stimulating ‘third space’ of higher education. Furthermore, in our own practices we sometimes stumble on new approaches and new ideas. Our aim is to make sure that doctoral writing work is supported with readily accessible resources like the DoctoralWriting blog.


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