Specificity in doctoral writing

Transcognition and miscognition exist when art educators curate thought

The headline above intends to be specific about the focus of my doctoral study. Capturing the essence of a 5 year study in one headline is not an easy endeavour. Yet to be specific in your doctoral writing is essential to keep the reader focused, to show your own academic confidence and to add specificity to your writing. These were key messages that hit home after attending Karen Littleton’s and Pam Burnard’s session on writing tools and practices at Cambridge University on 2nd June 2016.

Why is academic confidence important in doctoral writing?

When writing a doctorate you are narrating a story, you have experienced this piece of research whole heartedly so it needs to be told in this manner. You choose elements of the story to share so it is necessary to be confident when retelling this, obviously stories can be told in multiple ways, so adding justification to your choice can help to articulate why you told this particular story. Retelling it through different lenses, for example the theoretical, cultural or personal, can also help to identify your confidence showing how you understand multiple perspectives on your own research.

Other ways you can show confidence include providing specific signposts in your work, writing with authority, explaining choices, being specific about which concepts to foreground and background and expressing confidence in your own knowledge exchange. With all of these components to think about it is no wonder writing can seem like a daunting process. However this particular writing session led me to realise that we all narrate in our own way, that ‘writing’ or ‘narrating’ research comes in many forms and what is most important is confident expression of voice, particularly important in autoethnography, my own form of research.

Which voice will narrate your story?

Along with lenses the expression of different voices can also help demonstrate confidence, it can show your ability as a researcher to address your research from different perspectives, make connections between your findings and increase accessibility. Again though, you need to be specific about why these particular voices were chosen to articulate your understanding. When you establish a writing position readers are more able to reflect on personal experiences in relation to yours (Sparkes, 1996).

I see the role of art educators as multifaceted, I could therefore have a voice as an artist, teacher and researcher and could articulate my research journey from each of these standpoints. Voicing autoethnographic research from these perspectives enables my experiences to be related to the cultural context of the art educator (Richardson, 2000), other ways I attempt to achieve this is by telling my story in relation to that of other art educators using participatory research and by using art as a medium to articulate. The gallery below demonstrates some examples of how I have been using visuals and journalling to express a research voice, to act as an artist and to identify myself as a learner.

Another way of considering voice is to think about at which point in time you are articulating your research, are you responding to scenario’s and experiences that occur? or are you are looking back? One could suggest you are being reflexive if adopting these practices creating cause and effect scenarios (Scott and Morrison, 2006). Reflexivity is powerful because it can also engender action (Suillivan, 2005) changing the direction of research.

The role of specificity: 

With research outputs judged on originality, significance and rigour, being specific is essential to make claims and valuable contributions. It is easy as a doctoral researcher to go off tangent, there are always interesting avenues to explore. But writing in relation to your own focus and defending this is key to tightening research stories and demonstrating confidence, Karen Littleton explained. In my own research I attempt to achieve this by mobilising theory around cognition in an art educators practice. For example if I reflect on this post I have mentioned the notion of reflexivity in my artwork helping the articulation of my own learning and thinking, I could be exemplifying here how I am utilising the symptoms and sinthomes of miscognition (Tavin, 2010) because the artwork and blog narration I have created has unconsciously enabled me to create new knowledge about my own research experiences in an unconscious way. I could also suggest this post is enabling me to think about my own writing practices as a doctoral researcher by exemplifying how I am using the transcognitive processes of thinking through a medium, language and context (Suillivan, 2005) because the multi-media blog is enabling me to share the mediums of my practice to model thinking. I am using written and visual languages to articulate and the blog itself is a cultural context for other art educators to interact with. I exemplify here the importance of specificity to make research relevant, focused and rigourous. This leads me back to my opening headline for this post, I have attempted to exemplify here some small ways that transcognition and miscognition exist when I, the art educator, curate thought.

References:

Richardson, L. (2000). Writing: A method of Inquiry. In N. Denzin and Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research. (2nd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Scott, D. and Morrison, M. (2006). Key ideas in educational research. London: Continuum.

Sparkes, A. (1996). The fatal flaw: A narrative of the fragile body-self. Qualitative Inquiry, 2.4, 463-494.

Sullivan, G. (2005). Art practice as research. (1st and 2nd eds.). London: SAGE

Tavin, K. (2010). Six acts of mis-cognition: Implications for art education. Studies in Art Education, 52.1, 55-68.