Doctoral experience as researcher preparation: activities, passion, status

Gill Turner (Oxford Learning Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)
Lynn McAlpine (Oxford Learning Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)

International Journal for Researcher Development

ISSN: 2048-8696

Publication date: 20 May 2011



Social science doctoral graduates increasingly are moving into higher education research positions yet the nature of these roles is under researched. The purpose of this paper is to compare the experiences of research staff (RS) and doctoral students (DS), to bring an awareness of the extent to which doctoral experience can be preparation for research roles.


This research adopts a narrative perspective. Using multi‐method data collection the authors compared seven RS and seven DS from the social sciences, capturing their experiences during the first year of a longitudinal study. Analysis involved developing case summaries and thematic coding.


The findings detail similarities in the work undertaken by each group; show that passionate thought for academic work is rooted early in academic life; and illustrate that status is more complex and fluid than previously noted, regardless of role.

Research limitations/implications

Numbers are small; however, although attrition is a possibility, this longitudinal approach should allow us to explore further our notions of doctoral experience as researcher preparation, as participants move from doctoral study into research positions.


This is a rare account of a comparison between RS and DS. The paper argues that the experiences of RS are not discrete and specific only to their role but are part of the same journey as that undertaken by DS.



Turner, G. and McAlpine, L. (2011), "Doctoral experience as researcher preparation: activities, passion, status", International Journal for Researcher Development, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 46-60.

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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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