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Positioning writing in the contemporary academic workplace

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Publication date2017
Host publicationNorwegian Forum for English for Academic Purposes
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Academics’ sense of scholarly identity is closely linked to the writing they do. However, the range of audiences academics are expected to write for and the types of texts they have to produce are changing. For example, management concern for transparency and accountability in higher education means that academics are often asked to write documents such as module descriptors and learning outcomes, which are aimed primarily at external quality assurance bodies. Likewise, as students are positioned as fee-paying customers, academics may be asked to write reports for management, outlining their response to student satisfaction surveys.

This presentation discusses findings from an ESRC-funded research project investigating the writing practices of academics in three disciplines at three English universities. The data presented come from interviews with 51 academics, working in three disciplinary areas: Mathematics, History, or Marketing. We asked these academics about the range of writing they did and how this fitted into their role and workload.

The results suggest that academics across all three disciplines produce a very wide range of writing, but that they derive their strongest sense of professional identity from disciplinary writing. This presentation will focus on the tensions between the types of writing prioritised by institutions, those that dominated academics’ working days, and those that they positioned as 'real' writing.