Handling the loss of innocence: first-time exchange of writing and feedback in doctoral supervision

John Wei, Susan Carter, Deborah Laurs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The first time of many significant encounters is the most intense, raising awkwardness, anxiety and hope. This article presents data from doctoral students (n = 80) who described the first time that they submitted writing to their supervisor and received feedback. The first writing/feedback exchange is an initiation into the cultures of academia. Student accounts captured the intensity of the initiation for students, excitement or dread on submitting writing, with increased emotional reaction when going through the feedback process, that liminal first time. Close focus on the first-time writing feedback exchange makes a contribution to the literature on the social interactions of doctoral writing. Data backs our argument that students and supervisors need to carefully manage the first-time exchange of writing. Our findings are analysed thematically and through an autoethnographic lens of the lead author, who was both a research assistant for the research survey and an international doctoral student experiencing the same processes in his cross-disciplinary joint doctorate. We draw on conceptual threshold-crossing theories established in regard to doctoral learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-169
Number of pages13
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • autoethnography
  • Doctoral writing
  • supervision
  • threshold concepts
  • writing feedback


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