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Journal of Biomedical Education
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 542781, 11 pages
Research Article

An Exploration of the Scientific Writing Experience of Nonnative English-Speaking Doctoral Supervisors and Students Using a Phenomenographic Approach

1Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3
2School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University, Sweden
3Centre for Clinical Research in Sörmland, Sörmland County Council, 63188 Eskilstuna, Sweden
4Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Uppsala University, 75122 Uppsala, Sweden
5Department of Physiotherapy, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University, 721 23 Västerås, Sweden

Received 26 September 2015; Accepted 1 December 2015

Academic Editor: Julie Redfern

Copyright © 2015 Elizabeth Dean et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Nonnative English-speaking scholars and trainees are increasingly submitting their work to English journals. The study’s aim was to describe their experiences regarding scientific writing in English using a qualitative phenomenographic approach. Two focus groups (5 doctoral supervisors and 13 students) were conducted. Participants were nonnative English-speakers in a Swedish health sciences faculty. Group discussion focused on scientific writing in English, specifically, rewards, challenges, facilitators, and barriers. Participants were asked about their needs for related educational supports. Inductive phenomenographic analysis included extraction of referential (phenomenon as a whole) and structural (phenomenon parts) aspects of the transcription data. Doctoral supervisors and students viewed English scientific writing as challenging but worthwhile. Both groups viewed mastering English scientific writing as necessary but each struggles with the process differently. Supervisors viewed it as a long-term professional responsibility (generating knowledge, networking, and promotion eligibility). Alternatively, doctoral students viewed its importance in the short term (learning publication skills). Both groups acknowledged they would benefit from personalized feedback on writing style/format, but in distinct ways. Nonnative English-speaking doctoral supervisors and students in Sweden may benefit from on-going writing educational supports. Editors/reviewers need to increase awareness of the challenges of international contributors and maximize the formative constructiveness of their reviews.