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Understanding racial/ethnic meaning making: Narrative analysis of STE[A]M doctoral student experiences

Zarrina Talan Azizova (University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA)
Pamela P. Felder (University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, Maryland, USA)

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education

ISSN: 2398-4686

Article publication date: 13 November 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the racial and ethnic aspects of the doctoral socialization to provide a meaningful insight into the belief systems and decision-making processes related to academic success and degree completion. This paper addresses a gap in literature focusing on the racial and ethnic aspects of the doctoral student experience as they relate to student agency.


This narrative research of four doctoral students uses a postmodern active interview method to foreground the role of a doctoral agency as manifested in the ways students make meaning of their experiences as members of the science, technology, engineering, agriculture and math academic community. A dialectical approach to the traditional socialization models provides the framework for understanding the meaning-making processes within a critical context of academia.


Findings present the intrinsic foundations for a doctoral agency and forces that shape key decision-making processes for doctoral students.

Research limitations/implications

Implications for research and practice provide guidance for faculty, graduate school administrators and organizations interested in supporting degree completion for historically marginalized doctoral students.


This study examines doctoral socialization as a meaning-making process of racial/ethnic students in engineering and agricultural programs. Narrative research design provides depth into the individual experiences and the role of racial/ethnic histories in students’ socialization (meaning-making) processes in a predominantly White academic environment.



Azizova, Z.T. and Felder, P.P. (2017), "Understanding racial/ethnic meaning making: Narrative analysis of STE[A]M doctoral student experiences", Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 144-168.



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