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RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Developing authority


These video and audio resources discuss how to develop your writer's authority or voice in a literature review.

Developing authority



Title image – Developing authority

When you write the review of literature it’s important to remember that YOU are the writer and you are framing the discussion. This is what we call the writer’s authority or voice

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Finding your voice: Why is writing a lit review like hosting a dinner party?

Image of people seated at a dinner party.

Kamler and Thomson use the metaphor of the dinner party. You’re the host. The dinner is in your home. Your guests are coming and you’re familiar with their thinking on a range of issues. You’re quite close to some of them but a few guests are new acquaintances and you want to know more about them.

You’ve planned the menu and cooked the food. You’re looking forward to initiating lively discussion around the dinner table. It’s your night.

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From humble student to expert

  • Read works of others.
  • Notice their language
  • Try to understand what they are saying
  • Write in their language
  • Let your thinking develop
  • Then believe in your ideas and experience
  • Write from your experience based on ideas of others

Associate Professor Pia Ednie-Brown tells how she developed her voice from that of humble student to expert researcher and writer.

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Building your voice



Limited understanding leads to limited voice leads to quoting


Understanding develops leads to express opinions leads to your own voice


Confidence leads to your own words leads to more convincing

Listen to Takseng Kho reflect on his developmental process to become a successful candidate. His former supervisor, Professor Doug Swinbourne, then suggests an essential ingredient for the ‘successful’ voice of authority.

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  • Regularly write abstracts of your work
  • Summarise chapters in paragraphs
  • Write them often, in different ways
  • You’ll find the ‘right tone’ for your work.

Now click on the movie below. Associate Professor Laurene Vaughan has advice about an effective way to build your doctoral voice [click 1]. We recommend this technique for writing groups


Pia Ednie-Brown from Architecture and Design talks about how she developed her voice of authority.

Voice.mp3 (1m04secs/1.14MB)

Develop your research voice

One activity I've found to be quite useful as a way to getting started in finding your voice and setting the tone of the text is to write the abstract and to write the abstract in numerous different ways, and because it's such a short amount of text but it also summarises the intention of the work, it's an effective way to do that in a quite consolidated way. And often we think the abstract comes last when we know what the whole study is and that's true, that is what the final abstract will be, but writing a preliminary abstract, even if it's just to a chapter, writing one paragraph which summarises the entire thing can be really effective way to both set the tone for that chapter but also set the tone for the entire piece of work for the kind of voice you want to have.


Professor Swinbourne and Takseng Kho from Metallurgical Engineering discuss the intermediate stage of developing your voice: the "he said, she said" stage.

Hesaid.mp3 (38secs/163KB)