The axe or the knife? Teaching re-drafting


How do you help students with the craft of academic re-drafting? I like the distinction that my reliable Creme and Lea makes between re-drafting and editing. Re-drafting is the writer crafting what they really want to say. Editing is fine-tuning and checking. As Creme and Lea say, individualistic university writing for assessment does not prepare students for a career as an academic, and dealing with multiple rounds of  (sometimes contradictory) peer feedback that ask for significant re-working to clarify ideas, structure and so on. The feedback from members of a doctoral panel or supervisory team may begin to replicate this, but how do we teach students to work with both this feedback and their own reflections to re-draft?

Wood provides us with some useful metaphors here, of carving, whittling, splicing, splitting, chopping and stacking. Re-drafting is about letting go, about the heft and free-fall of the axe swing, and the ability to work with the grain, without destroying it. Do supervisors share their own struggles re-drafting their papers after peer review? I would like to show my own peer reviews to my students, along with different drafts of my articles and careful explanations of how I responded to criticism and moved towards publication. I believe that this sharing of practice is the true mentorship of doctoral supervision.

Creme, P., & Lea, M. R. (2003). Writing at university: A guide for students. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.



Author: Lucinda McKnight

Dr Lucinda McKnight is a lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy at Deakin University. She has a BA in Fine Arts, Women's Studies and English from the University of Melbourne, an MA (Distinction) in Media, Culture and Communication, from the Institute of Education now at UCL, and a PhD in Education from Deakin University. Her cartoons have appeared in a number of publications, including Farrago and Health Voice. She has exhibited her artwork at Museum Victoria and the Victorian College of the Arts.

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