This study aims to examine how post-PhD researchers construct their identities through significant work experiences as they endeavour to develop their research…
This study aims to examine how post-PhD researchers construct their identities through significant work experiences as they endeavour to develop their research independence and a distinct scholarly profile. The authors were especially interested in how they made meaning of their important work experiences, the ones that were emotionally salient.
Using a narrative approach, the analysis was conducted on a data subset from a large cross-national mixed-methods research project about early-career researchers’ identity development. The sample included 71 post-PhD researchers from the UK who completed an online survey. Ten of whom were also interviewed through a semi-structured protocol.
Post-PhD researchers considered work experiences to be significant when those experiences helped them to gauge whether their self-representation as researchers was coherent and a further research career was practicable. The same type of significant event (e.g. publishing in a prestigious journal) could hold different meanings depending on who experienced it. Positive experiences helped to maintain their motivation and made them feel that they were consolidating their identities. Negative experiences tended to challenge their sense of identity and their sense of belonging to academia. Whereas positive feelings towards a significant experience appeared to persist over time, negative feelings seemed to fade or evolve through self-reflection, but ultimately had greater saliency.
Few previous studies have been conducted on how emotionally powerful work experiences influence post-PhD researchers’ identity development. Besides highlighting how emotions and feelings, often-neglected aspects of identity development, influence the process, this study offers a constructive – and, in some ways, alternative – view of the impact that negative experiences have on their identity development.
This study aims to examine how PhD students with diverse profiles, intentions and expectations manage to navigate their doctoral paths within the same academic context…
This study aims to examine how PhD students with diverse profiles, intentions and expectations manage to navigate their doctoral paths within the same academic context under similar institutional conditions. Drawing on Giddens’ theory of structuration, this study explores how their primary reasons, motives and motivations for engaging in doctoral studies influence what they perceive as facilitating or constraining to progress, their strategies to face the challenges they encounter and their expectations regarding supervision.
Using a qualitative design, the analysis was conducted on a data subset from an instrumental case study (Stake, 2013) about PhD students’ persistence and progression. The focus is placed on semi-structured interviews carried out with 36 PhD students from six faculties in humanities and social sciences fields at a large Canadian university.
The analysis reveals three distinct scenarios regarding how these PhD students navigate their doctoral paths: the quest for the self; the intellectual quest; and the professional quest. Depending on their quest type, the nature and intensity of PhD students’ concerns and challenges, as well as their strategies and the support they expected, differed.
This study contributes to the discussion about PhD students’ challenges and persistence by offering a unique portrait of how diverse students’ profiles, intentions and expectations can concretely shape a doctoral experience.