Research Supervisors’ Perceptions of PhD Scholars’ Writing Difficulties across Engineering Disciplines: A Qualitative Study

Dr. R. Kalpana

Professor(CAS), Dept of English, PSG college of college, Coimbatore.

Dr. R. Senthil Kumar

Assistant professor (Sr.Gr), Dept of English, PSG College of Technology Coimbatore.

Keywords: Writing skills, difficulties, engineering research reports, PhD Theses, Supervisors’ perceptions


This study reports the writing difficulties of 54 PhD scholars in the field of engineering, as reported by a pool of research supervisors from three engineering colleges in Tamilnadu. The data has been collected through semi-structured interviews and themes and patterns have been identified and analysed quantitatively. Specific difficulties in the areas of grammar, vocabulary, cohesion and coherence and other features of style have been highlighted with examples. It also proposes recommendations for improving the writing skills of PhD scholars.


Aliotta, M (2018) Mastering Academic Writing in the Sciences: A Step-by-Step Guide.CRC Press,

Casanave, C. & Hubbard, P (1992). The Writing Assignments and Writing Problems of Doctoral Students: Faculty perceptions, pedagogical issues, and needed research. English for Specific Purposes, vol 11, pp 33– 49.

Dunleavy, P (2003). Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation, Macmillan International Higher Education

Hyland, K. (2002). Genre: Language, context, and literacy. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, vol 22, pp 113–135.

Hyland and Tse( 2005). Metadiscourse in Applied Linguistics. Applied Linguistics.25/ 2.156-177

Kayfetz, J.L. & Almeroth, K.C. (2008). Creating Innovative Writing Instruction for Computer Science Graduate Students. ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, 22–25 October 2008, IEEE Saratoga Springs, NY, pp T4F1-T4F6.

Paltridge, B and Starfield, S. (2019). Thesis and Dissertation Writing in a Second Language: A Handbook for Students and Their Supervisors, Routledge