The quest for the PhD: a better metaphor for doctoral education

Alistair McCulloch (University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)

International Journal for Researcher Development

ISSN: 2048-8696

Publication date: 17 May 2013

Abstract

Purpose

The paper seeks to propose the adoption of an alternative metaphor to that of the “journey”, currently the most pervasive characterisation for the student's experience of doctoral education.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper adopts a conceptual and rhetorical approach.

Findings

The paper offers a critique of the journey metaphor as a characterisation of the student's doctoral experience and proposes instead the metaphor of the Quest, a cultural and literary form found in most societies. It argues that the six elements of the Quest identified by W.H. Auden resonate with the contemporary doctoral experience and emphasise the uncertainty involved in research rather than the linearity implied by the journey metaphor.

Social implications

The paper argues that the quest metaphor offers a cross‐cultural basis for both staff and student development activities through which sense can be made of the research experience, student concerns can be surfaced, and potentially difficult issues raised for discussion in an unthreatening way.

Originality/value

The paper is the first to apply the quest as a metaphor for the student's doctoral experience and offers a new way of interrogating that experience which will be of use to those involved in supporting research students.

Keywords

Citation

McCulloch, A. (2013), "The quest for the PhD: a better metaphor for doctoral education", International Journal for Researcher Development, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 55-66. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJRD-05-2013-0008

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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