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Article
Publication date: 13 November 2017

Lynn McAlpine

In the past 20 years, doctoral programmes have become the focus of policy initiatives. This has led to considerable changes in their structures and consequently student…

Abstract

Purpose

In the past 20 years, doctoral programmes have become the focus of policy initiatives. This has led to considerable changes in their structures and consequently student experience. In this essay, the author explores some of the changes by situating an examination of doctoral education-past, present, future-within the broader context of academic life, and the nature and role of research in developed economies. This analysis provides the context in which to draw out some implications for the future study of doctoral education.

Design/methodology/approach

The essay draws on a synthesis of the research on doctoral education, early career researcher trajectories, research structures and academic work environment.

Findings

The analysis suggests the following: doctoral education reform is being driven largely by policy concerns, rather than by evidence or disciplinary intention; and academic work environment is becoming less and less attractive due to increasing demands for productivity and accountability.

Originality/value

The author concludes with a call to action: unless we, as academics, take action on several fronts, we may find that the PhD becomes purely a policy instrument, and that in the long-term, life of an academic will no longer be attractive to PhD graduates.

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Article
Publication date: 12 January 2021

Lynn McAlpine, Isabelle Skakni, Anna Sala-Bubaré, Crista Weise and Kelsey Inouye

Teamwork has long featured in social science research. Further, with research increasingly “cross-national,” communication becomes more complex, for instance, involving…

Abstract

Purpose

Teamwork has long featured in social science research. Further, with research increasingly “cross-national,” communication becomes more complex, for instance, involving different cultures, languages and modes of communication. Yet, studies examining team communicative processes that can facilitate or constrain collaboration are rare. As a cross-national European team representing varied disciplines, experiences, languages and ethnicities, we undertook to examine our communication processes with the aim to promote better qualitative research practices.

Design/methodology/approach

Viewing reflection as a tool for enhancing workplace practices, we undertook a structured reflection. We developed an empirically derived framework about team communication, then used it to analyse our interaction practices and their relative effectiveness.

Findings

The results highlighted two under-examined influences, the use of different modes of communication for different purposes and the need for face-to-face communication to address a particularly challenging aspect of research, negotiating a shared coding scheme to analyse diverse cultural and linguistic qualitative data.

Practical implications

The study offers a procedure and concepts that others could use to examine their team communication.

Originality/value

The communicative processes that can constrain and facilitate effective cross-national research team collaboration are rarely examined. The results emphasise the need for careful negotiations around language, epistemologies, cultures and goals from the moment collaboration begins in formulating a project, through applying for grant funds, to when the last paper is published – timely in a context in which such work is increasingly expected.

Details

Qualitative Research Journal, vol. 21 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1443-9883

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Article
Publication date: 13 November 2017

Isabelle Skakni and Lynn McAlpine

This study aims to examine how post-PhD researchers construct their identities through significant work experiences as they endeavour to develop their research…

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Originality/value

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.

Details

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, vol. 8 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2398-4686

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Article
Publication date: 4 June 2021

Anna Sverdlik, Lynn Mcalpine and Nathan Hall

The purpose of this study is to better understand the declines in doctoral students’ mental and physical health while pursuing their doctoral degrees, by revealing the…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to better understand the declines in doctoral students’ mental and physical health while pursuing their doctoral degrees, by revealing the major themes of students’ voluntary comments following a survey that primed students to reflect on these topics.

Design/methodology/approach

The present study used qualitative thematic analysis to uncover themes in doctoral students’ voluntary comments on a large-scale, web-based survey of graduate students’ motivation and well-being.

Findings

A thematic analysis revealed six major emerging themes: timing in the degree process, work-life balance, health/well-being changes, impostor syndrome, the supervisor and hopelessness.

Research limitations/implications

The themes uncovered in the present study contribute to the literature by highlighting important underexplored topics (e.g. timing in the degree process, hopelessness) in doctoral education research and they are discussed and situated in the context of existing literature.

Practical implications

Implications for doctoral supervisors and departments are discussed.

Social implications

The present study highlights some pressing concerns among doctoral students, as articulated by the students themselves and can contribute to the betterment of doctoral education, thereby reducing attrition, improving the experiences of doctoral students and possibly affording more candidates to achieve a doctoral degree.

Originality/value

The present study makes the above-mentioned contributions by taking a novel approach and analyzing doctoral students’ voluntary comments (n = 607) on a large-scale, web-based survey. Thus, while some of the themes were primed by the survey itself, the data represent issues/concerns that students perceived as important enough to comment about after already having completed a lengthy questionnaire.

Details

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, vol. 12 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2398-4686

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Article
Publication date: 14 November 2016

Lynn McAlpine, Gill Turner, Sharon Saunders and Natacha Wilson

This paper aims to examine the experience of gaining research independence by becoming a principal investigator (PI) – an aspiration for many post-PhD researchers about…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine the experience of gaining research independence by becoming a principal investigator (PI) – an aspiration for many post-PhD researchers about whom little is known. It provides insight into this experience by using a qualitative narrative approach to document how 60 PIs from a range of disciplines in one European and two UK universities experienced working towards and achieving this significant goal.

Design/methodology/approach

Within the context of a semi-structured interview, individuals drew and elaborated a map representing the emotional high and low experiences of the journey from PhD graduation to first PI grant, and completed a biographic questionnaire.

Findings

Regardless of the length of the journey from PhD graduation to first PI grant, more than a third noted the role that luck played in getting the grant. Luck was also perceived to have an influence in other aspects of academic work. This influence made it even more important for these individuals to sustain a belief in themselves and be agentive and persistent in managing the challenges of the journey.

Originality/value

The study, unusual in its cross-national perspective, and its mixed mode data collection, offers a nuanced perspective on the interaction between agency and an environment where the “randomness factor” plays a role in success. The function of luck as a support for sustained agency and resilience is explored.

Details

International Journal for Researcher Development, vol. 7 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2048-8696

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Article
Publication date: 9 May 2016

Lynn McAlpine

Although more than half of the PhD graduates do not take up traditional academic positions, the little we know of how they navigate into the non-academic workforce is…

Abstract

Purpose

Although more than half of the PhD graduates do not take up traditional academic positions, the little we know of how they navigate into the non-academic workforce is somewhat conflicting. This study aims to contribute to our knowledge by examining over time the experiences of post-PhD social scientists who went into non-academic careers. It examines how post-PhD social scientists in non-academic careers characterize their experience of the PhD; how they imagine their post-PhD careers during the degree and how this influenced their doctoral activity; and to what extent their intentions changed over time and how agentive they were in managing challenges or disappointments.

Design/methodology/approach

The study uses a longitudinal qualitative narrative approach to examine the experience of eight post-PhD social scientists beginning during their degrees through their initial years after graduation outside academia.

Findings

The analysis highlights variation in clarity of career vision, strategic career thinking and action, knowledge of career opportunity structures and changes in career intentions over time. Still, for all individuals, the PhD was considered a powerful learning experience which continued to influence their lives.

Practical implications

Overall, the results make clear that post-PhD trajectories are best built from the beginning of the PhD, a conclusion that has curriculum implications.

Originality/value

This study incorporates the career question into the development of junior researchers highlighting the need to attend not only to objective measures of career success but also subjective intentions, investments, choices and assessments. Further, the constructs developed within an academic work context to understand career trajectories proved robust in analyzing non-academic work experience.

Details

International Journal for Researcher Development, vol. 7 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2048-8696

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Article
Publication date: 1 April 2009

Lynn McAlpine, Marian Jazvac‐Martek and Nick Hopwood

This paper explores variation in the events or activities Education doctoral students describe as contributing to their feeling of being an academic or belonging to an…

Abstract

This paper explores variation in the events or activities Education doctoral students describe as contributing to their feeling of being an academic or belonging to an academic community as well as difficulties they experience. The results (drawing principally on students in a Canadian research‐intensive university though with some in a UK university) demonstrate a rich variation in multiple formative activities that are experienced as contributing to a developing identity as an academic, with many lying outside formal and semi‐formal aspects of the doctorate. Yet, at the same time students report tensions in the very sorts of activities they often find significant and positive in the development of their identity. We see this analysis as offering much‐needed insights into the formative role of cumulative day‐to‐day activities in the development of academic identity.

Details

International Journal for Researcher Development, vol. 1 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2048-8696

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Article
Publication date: 20 May 2011

Gill Turner and Lynn McAlpine

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…

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Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Originality/value

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.

Details

International Journal for Researcher Development, vol. 2 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2048-8696

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Book part
Publication date: 26 September 2013

Lynn McAlpine, Cheryl Amundsen and Gill Turner

Early career researchers are of increasing interest, regardless of national boundaries, given both policies to enhance international competitiveness, and concerns about…

Abstract

Early career researchers are of increasing interest, regardless of national boundaries, given both policies to enhance international competitiveness, and concerns about individuals turning away from academic careers. As a result, there is a growing literature documenting how early career researchers navigate their journeys and decide to stay or leave. Our research is situated within this literature, yet is distinct in using a longitudinal qualitative team-based approach that has led to the conception of identity incorporating both the continuity of stable personhood over time and a sense of ongoing change. The scholarly contribution of this work is to articulate a contrasting perspective to the structural or systemic one common in examining early career researcher experience. Our goal in this chapter is to make transparent the decisions and actions underlying our approach and, in so doing, demonstrate the potential of researching the construction of identity in this way.

Details

Theory and Method in Higher Education Research
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-682-8

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Article
Publication date: 17 May 2013

Lynn McAlpine, Cheryl Amundsen and Gill Turner

Until relatively recently, the doctorate was generally perceived as preparation for a full‐time permanent academic position. However, this is no longer the case, with many…

Abstract

Purpose

Until relatively recently, the doctorate was generally perceived as preparation for a full‐time permanent academic position. However, this is no longer the case, with many PhD graduates working outside academia or in temporary full‐ and part‐time positions in higher education institutions. Yet, we know little of the ways in which they perceive and then navigate the transition from PhD to initial careers. Thus authors undertook an analysis of longitudinal data from six social sciences PhDs (part of a larger dataset) to document how they transitioned from the PhD and navigated a future.

Design/methodology/approach

Different forms of data, collected multiple times over two years, were analysed using emergent coding to capture the experiences of navigating a future.

Findings

The results enrich present understanding of this end‐of‐PhD period, in particular, highlighting individuals' growing understanding of academic, hybrid and non‐academic career opportunity structures, and the importance of personal intentions and relationships in defining possible horizons for action.

Originality/value

The conceptual and pedagogical contributions of this study to understanding doctoral and post‐doctoral career decision‐making are described.

Details

International Journal for Researcher Development, vol. 4 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2048-8696

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