Is academic writing risky?

22 May 2014
22 May 2014



Lucia Thesen and Linda Cooper,
authors of the book 'Risk in Academic Writing'

At a book launch held at the Research Office, a new book on academic writing was launched recently. Edited by Lucia Thesen and Linda Cooper of CHED, the book 'Risk in academic writing: Postgraduate teachers, their students and the making of knowledge' was the result of almost five years of endeavour.

The argument of the book is that the writing of research raises many dilemmas for both students and supervisors. Framed as risk-taking, these dilemmas should be seen as a productive force in teaching, learning and writing that can challenge the silences and erasures in academic traditions and conventions of writing. Widening participation and the internationalisation of higher education make questions of language, register, agency and identity in postgraduate writing all the more pressing. This book offers a powerful argument against the further reinforcement of Anglophone understanding of knowledge and its production and dissemination.

Sue Clegg, emeritus professor of Higher Education Research at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK describes the book as a "powerful, challenging, engaging and moving collection of papers". It "brilliantly captures the concept of risk and reworks it as a productive metaphor in relation to writing. It brings off that most difficult of tasks combining theoretical sophistication with the experiential and practical. If I were to read only one book on academic writing this year this would have to be it".

Suellen Shay, Dean of CHED, pointed out that this was the fourth book with a strong focus on academic language and questions of access to have come from CHED.

This writing project was funded by a grant from the Programme for the Enhancement of Research Capacity (PERC). At the book launch, Professor Brenda Cooper, PERC's founder, paid tribute to the book for realizing the goal of knowledge transformation. It had carefully examined processes of meaning-making in the South and offered a new perspective that could take account of location and authorial voice.

The book features chapters by Moeain Arend (University of Cape Town), Kate Cadman (University of Adelaide), Suresh Canagarajah (Pennsylvania State University), Mapfumo Clement Chihota (University of Cape Town), Brenda Cooper (University of Manchester and University of Cape Town), Linda Cooper (University of Cape Town), Somikazi Deyi (University of Cape Town), Aditi Hunma (University of Cape Town), Ena Lee (Simon Fraser University), Theresa Lillis (Open University), Moragh Paxton (University of Cape Town), Mary Scott (Institute of Education, University of London), Emmanuel Sibomana (University of the Witwatersrand), and Lucia Thesen (University of Cape Town).



Contributors based in South Africa get together at the launch:
(from left to right) Brenda Cooper, Moragh Paxton, Somi Deyi, Linda Cooper, Lucia Thesen, Moeain Arend, Aditi Hunma and Emmanuel Sibomana



The book launch crowd gathers

For the book's editors and authors, the process of producing the book was a gratifying experience in interdisciplinary collaboration, made particularly meaningful by the authors' commitment to postgraduate teaching, and to deepening understanding of the nature of research writing. Linda Cooper said at the launch: "I found this book project one of the most gratifying experiences I have had as an academic ... This is not 'just' about (who the authors) are, and the working and personal relationships we built in the course of writing the book. It goes to the heart of not only finding new ways of writing academically, but also new ways of collaborating as academics."