Wednesday, 20 October 2021

The student voice and the expert voice

One thing I often have to comment on in student writing is where the 'student voice' becomes confused with the 'expert voice'.  This often causes peculiar tense changes, a lack of clarity, and often, too much generalisation. 

A clear example of this:

The student reviewed relevant literature to their industry and practice that can aid them in extending their knowledge in this area (Fleming & Ferkins, 2010).

There are three things going on here. Firstly the student is speaking in the third person, and talking about what they have done, and what they plan to do in the future, which confuses where the 'voice' is originating. Secondly, a key step is missing: first summarising the expert voice, and moving the citation to follow that. Then the student can follow this with a second sentence to show how they will embody - or have embodied - the expert voice in their work. Thirdly, the student voice links to the expert voice are not specific enough. We need to move from the general (the expert voice and theory) to the specific (the student voice and application).

So an edited example of the first draft above becomes:

Taking an action learning approach requires an understanding of sound practice in the industry. This is gained by a detailed and targeted review of the literature (Fleming & Ferkins, 2010). A review of the facility management and governance literature has added to the understanding of the issues for [name of organisation], allowing the required actions for this project to be clarified and prioritised. 

Sorting out who is speaking makes to our academic writing so much clearer.


Sam

  • Reference: Fleming, J., & Ferkins, L. (2010). The use of action learning strategies for cooperative education or work-integrated learning projects. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Journal, 4(1), 1-4.

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