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Wednesday, July 3 • 11:30am - 12:30pm
Making meaningful waves: Using Semantics to teach research writing

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Making meaning in academic writing in higher education is often presented in literature and practice as an activity that is applicable across textual and disciplinary contexts. It tends to be reduced to the level of literacy practices that apply to higher education as a whole, rather than to different disciplines, in different ways. This understanding belies its connections with knowledge, and the processes used to create and communicate meanings (the purposes of the writing or research activities). What count as legitimate ‘meanings’ and how these are made and communicated through writing differ between types of text, and disciplinary contexts. Seeing these differences, and translating them into teaching praxis, is necessary to provide students with clearer understandings of the ‘rules’ of these different contexts, and how to create and communicate meanings in more relevant and informed ways. This paper seeks to unpack the nature of teaching meaning-making in three different writing, and knowledge-making, contexts: undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral writing work.

The departure point in the teaching was introducing students in these three contexts to the semantic wave, and the basic ways in which meanings can be mapped through tracking shifts in semantic gravity and semantic density. The wave itself was then broken up into parts of the research process, and used to show students where different meanings should sit on the wave (i.e. more or less abstracted, more or less dense, and why), and also used to discuss the ways in which meanings are connected through the additional metaphor of the ‘golden thread’. Through using, adapting, and teaching the semantic wave in these teaching and writing contexts, this study aims to demonstrate how meanings are made in different disciplinary, or meaning-making, environments. The paper discusses the uses and adaptations of the semantic waves within these contexts with reference to different stages of the research and writing process.

The first part of the paper will present different waves that have been drawn in these contexts, and connect these with an explanation of the parts of the research and/or writing process they represent. Differences, and well as similarities, between the waves used in these contexts will be drawn, in light of a discussion about the more generalizable, and more contextualised, aspects of meaning making through research. The second part of the paper briefly looks at data from student feedback in these contexts, reflecting of the usefulness of the wave metaphor in helping them to do, and write about, research.

In essence, the initial findings of this study show that there is no one version of the semantic wave that will hold for research writing within one discipline at any level, although there are similarities in the outcomes of the research process. Further to this, both the level a writer is working at, and the field they are working within, will literally work to shape the form of the wave that best represents, and unpacks, a legitimate meaning making process. The findings also point to the distinct differences between using semantic waves to analyse and study teaching and learning, and using it to actually transform teaching and learning in the classroom.

The value of this study lies in its contribution to LCT, in extending an existing body of work that uses semantic waves and profiles in the teaching of academic writing; and in its contribution to the teaching and learning of academic research and research writing.


Wednesday July 3, 2019 11:30am - 12:30pm
Room B45

Attendees (10)