Academic journal article Educational Research for Social Change

Reflections of a Novice Academic Writer

Academic journal article Educational Research for Social Change

Reflections of a Novice Academic Writer

Article excerpt

Introduction

How does a novice academic writer learn to write a scholarly article? This is a question confronting many emerging scholars who want to establish themselves as academics. I am a teacher, a novice writer, and an emerging researcher who wants to immerse myself in research and publication and in so doing establish myself in academia. As a third-year undergraduate student teacher several years ago, I conducted research on teenage pregnancy as part of a research and service learning module in the Faculty of Education,7 University of KwaZulu-Natal. In this module, we were expected to research the service learning projects that we conducted in various communities. I was engaged in a service learning project with pregnant teenage schoolchildren at a rural high school. I thought the project warranted writing an article to disseminate the findings. It was during this process, as well, that I was exploring what is expected when writing a research article. Because the article writing process was new to me, I made notes reflecting on my experiences of writing the article. These reflections provided the impetus for writing an article about learning to write an article in collaboration with my supervisor-contributing to the body of knowledge of writing for publication. I am the participant in this research.8

As an aspiring academic, the notion of "publish or perish" is at the fore of my mind. They are powerful words because they describe the expectation that academics should conduct and disseminate research, alongside teaching and community engagement. Publishing research is essential to an academic career-for recognition in the academic field, in my case, education. In the absence of such publications, one's academic standing and consequently, prospects for promotion, applications for grants, and National Research Foundation rating is impacted. Being an academic at a university clearly requires research and the production of new knowledge that is useful to society. Neem (2014, para. 2) wrote that a university is the "critical conscience of a democratic society. It houses experts in various spheres of life who must use their knowledge to enhance the public's understanding of vital issues." It is evident that knowledge production is critical to all higher education institutions in South Africa. It is for this reason that in the National Development Plan: Vision for 2030 it is stated that, "Higher education is the major driver of the information/knowledge system, linking it with economic development. However, higher education is much more than a simple instrument of economic development. Education is important for good citizenship and enriching and diversifying life" (National Planning Commission, 2011, p. 262). According to Mouton (2010, pg. 8), in South Africa "knowledge output (as measured in terms of article production) may have reached a plateau at around 7 500 article equivalents per year (which constitutes about 0.4% of total world science production)." The current ranking of universities as research-focused institutions places an added expectation on academics to increase the number of publications, and for these to be published in high profile accredited journals.

Nationally and internationally, there has been an increase in published journal articles by postgraduate students coauthored with their supervisors (Nethsinghe & Southcott, 2015; Nyika, 2015). Postgraduate students are encouraged to publish in scholarly journals in order to disseminate their research-during, as well as after completion of the study-as an introduction into publishing and the academic community. The requirement in many South African universities is for postgraduate students to provide evidence of submission of an article to an accredited peerreviewed journal when submitting a doctoral thesis for examination. The student who is a novice writer of articles is to be supported by her or his supervisor who often serves as coauthor of the article. …

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