Writing a master dissertation – students’ difficulties and coping strategies

Conference Paper

Students are supposed to write complex text genres in Higher Education contexts. Their complexity stems not only from the nature of the knowledge they convey but also from the norms and conventions adopted by the academic communities that use such texts.
Among those genres, the master dissertation seems particularly complex, considering both the set of problems related to its genomic configuration (structure, language, norms of reference), and the factors that constrain its production (methodological procedures, student/supervisor relationship, time management, institutional constraints, individual nature of the writing process). (Castelló & Iñiesta, 2012; Castelló, Iñiesta, & Corcelles, 2012; Barbeiro, Pereira & Carvalho, 2015)
The present study seeks (i) to identify and analyse students’ perspectives and representations of the dissertation writing process, (ii) the problems that arise in the writing process, (iii) finally, the strategies used to overcome them. Taking into account that academic communities have different procedures and conventions, the study also seeks (iv) to verify if such perspectives and representations vary according to the field study of the participants.
The study is based on semi-structured interviews to students who recently completed their master thesis in the areas of Humanities, Education and Engineering. The analysis follows a theoretical-methodological framework guided by the definition of a writing process that, beyond the cognitive, linguistic and social dimensions, involves an emotional dimension that can condition it decisively.
Its results may therefore contribute to the knowledge in the emerging field of Academic Literacies and can also be a reference for the teaching of academic writing in Higher Education.

Barbeiro, Luís; Pereira, M.ª Luísa & Carvalho, José A. Brandão (2015). Writing at Portuguese Universities: Students’ Perceptions and Practices. Journal of Academic Writing, 5 (1), 74-85.
Montserrat Castelló, M. & Iñesta, A. (2012). Texts as Artifacts-in-Activity: Developing Authorial Identity and Academic Voice in Writing Academic Research Papers. In Montserrat Castelló & Christiane Donahue (eds.), University Writing: Selves and Texts in Academic Societies (pp. 179 - 200). Emerald Group Publishing Limited,
Castelló, M., Iñesta, A & Corcelles, M (2013). Learning to Write a Research Article: Ph.D. Students’ Transitions toward Disciplinary Writing Regulation. Research in the Teaching of English, 47 (4), 442- 477.

Luísa Álvares Pereira
Rómina Laranjeira


Year of publication: 2017


Alternative Titles