Making the transition to master’s dissertation writing: evaluating the impact of a dissertation writing course on PGT students’ confidence
Keywords:academic writing, dissertation writing, master's students, PGT students, writing in transition, academic skills support, writing and confidence.
The transition from undergraduate to postgraduate taught (PGT) studies has received increasing focus over the past decade as universities and educators have recognised that master’s students do not necessarily begin their studies equipped with the academic skills necessary to succeed (O’Donnell et al., 2009; Bunney, 2017; McPherson et al., 2017). Research on postgraduate research (PGR) students demonstrates that thesis writing courses improve students’ confidence in their abilities (Larcombe et al., 2007; Fergie et al., 2011), but to date, the transition from writing for module assessments to master’s dissertation writing remains largely unstudied. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of a short master’s dissertation writing course − delivered at a British university in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years − on improving students’ confidence in their writing abilities, as reported in pre-course and post-course writing self-evaluations. In both years that the course was offered, there was a significant increase in reported confidence between the first session and the final session, and thematic analysis of open-ended questions demonstrated that students enrolled on the course to improve their knowledge of and confidence in academic writing and left the course having met these goals. This paper confirms that dissertation writing support designed for PGT students can have a positive impact on students’ confidence in their writing abilities, and thus help support them in making the transition to dissertation writing.
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