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Writing that dissertation: exploring the academic writing challenges of undergraduate IBMC students

Authors: Melissa Joan Bagley, ,
  • Institute: Institute of Business Management and Commerce
  • Symposium: Quality Pedagogy and Effective Learning
  • Day: 2 , Session: 2 , Location: Conference Hall 3
  • Session Type: Short 10 min (Early stage research) , Start: 12:35 , End: 12:50


In recent years, MCAST has introduced a number of degree courses to meet the evolving needs of the local industry. The dissertation, arguably the most demanding piece of writing to be experienced by undergraduates, tests the independent research skills students have acquired over the duration of their degree course. However, dissertation writing places demands on the undergraduate student, such as the need for proficiency in language composition as well as rhetorical styles particular to the discipline. MCAST students may be particularly challenged as students progressing to higher level courses from vocational courses are very likely to find academic literacies novel after following language courses with a strong vocational orientation. To understand the challenges of learning new academic literacies, a qualitative mode of inquiry is being adopted, using a case-study design utilizing ethnographic methods typically used in understanding literacy practices in their social and cultural contexts. This would involve investigating how students navigate the complex demands that dissertation writing places upon them, looking into issues such as everyday literacy practices, attitudes to reading and writing as well as language background and proficiency. Moreover, it seeks to understand tutors’ insights and perspective of the dissertation writing process, focusing on their experience as tutors and the challenges encountered while supervising. ‘Unpacking’ the dissertation writing process at different levels of production, primarily from the student-tutor point of view, is arguably important to critically reflect on the process of thinking, reading and writing. It is hoped that this exploratory study will provide constructive feedback for the benefit of stakeholders concerned, for students, tutors and management. This may lead to a deeper understanding of challenges that are not immediately visible to all stakeholders involved.