Dedication to research has paid off for Durban University of Technology academic Dr Dee Pratt, who has written and published three books based on her doctoral degree work. Having explored the nature of written communication in her doctorate, Dr Pratt was eager to put into practice what she had learned in her research. Each of her books is underpinned by the theoretical insights her doctoral research offered into communication, teaching, learning and research processes. However, each book has a very different focus, content and application of theory. She is the research Co-ordinator of the Faculty of Arts and Design at DUT.
Dr Pratt’s first book, entitled: Modelling written communication: a new systems approach to modelling in the social sciences, was written at the request of the Editor of the Methodos Series, Professor Robert Franck. “I felt honoured to be invited to contribute to a series devoted to ‘examining and solving methodological problems social sciences are facing. I also love writing, and here was my chance to be published,” says Dr Pratt. The second book was prompted by the success of the first, and is entitled: Scenarios for learning: an integrated approach. It is currently in the final stages of production at Umzantsi Publishers (Cape Town, Editor Toni Ventorini). Her third book is entitled: Protocols and processes: a case book of video protocol analyses in written composition. This was written as a result of being invited to publish a book on her thesis by Lambert Academic Publishers, Saarbrücken, Germany. As she had already used content from the body of her thesis in the first book, she rewrote the thesis Appendices as a series of case studies.
The first book describes the modelling process used by Dr Pratt to arrive at theoretical and applied models of written communication in her doctoral research. It targets teachers and researchers in the field of written composition; all academics interested in improving their own and their students’ composing practices; researchers in the field of social science modelling; and academics/students interested in Bhaskar’s critical realist philosophy. While the book was drafted in six days, editing and fine tuning took a further six months.
The second book is about an original learning approach which Dr Pratt developed for English teaching, and later used for eLearning, research capacity building and staff induction. Her inspiration for embarking on a second publication came from the scholarly and expert editing of her first book: this encouraged her to produce a book on her own. By then she had also gained some perspective on her teaching/learning practices, which she found were underpinned implicitly by the interactive principle discovered in her doctoral research. The book makes these theoretical insights explicit in a process of reflection-on-practice. Work on this book began in 2009, which was finished in 2010. The target audience includes teachers, lecturers, eLearning practitioners, staff induction trainers and curriculum developers. Having gained experience from her first publication, she was able to do most of the editing and typesetting herself.
Dr Pratt began working on the third book in April 2010 while the others were still in press. This book targets language teachers, academics and social science researchers, and deals with an original video protocol analysis method she pioneered for gathering data on written composition. The book contains an account of how the methodology contributed to theoretical developments in her research and vice versa, with reference to 37 case studies of academic composing. It also explains how use of video technology made it possible to record and display details not previously accessible to composition researchers. The final draft was completed by June 2010, and finished production in September. This time she was able to handle the entire process of editing, layout and typesetting by herself.
Dr Pratt advises would-be writers continue to develop and apply expertise in their specialist research fields, adding that they should then have no problem writing any number of scholarly books. She further advises academics to get good advice from experienced editors (or publishers) in their research field before branching out on their own. Novice writers, she says, should not worry about details of convention or style when starting to draft a book. She believes original content and logical “unpacking” of scholarly argument are far more important, and specialist editors and proofreaders can help later with polishing the text. Finally, she urges academics interested in publishing to read “Modelling written communication”, which explains the writing process, or to use NEWT, her prototype Writing Tutor Programme.
For comment, please contact:
Dr Dee Pratt
Faculty of Arts & Design
Durban University of Technology
Tel: 031 373 6603 cell: 082 4229570