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Article
Publication date: 28 June 2022

Lynn Mcalpine, Otilia Fortunate Chiramba and Matt Keane

Many nations, including African ones, view PhD graduates as a means to be more internationally competitive, and national policies may encourage outward mobility of…

Abstract

Purpose

Many nations, including African ones, view PhD graduates as a means to be more internationally competitive, and national policies may encourage outward mobility of potential PhDs, expecting that graduates on return will enhance the country’s capacity. Many studies of such mobility, as with studies of early career researchers generally, focus on their work-related experiences. That is, they do not incorporate the broader life considerations that can intersect with their work-career decisions. So, this study of 36 Africans who completed their PhDs abroad uses a framework that embedded an individual’s work within personal considerations, such as life goals, while not ignoring the structural factors, such as job availability, in play when making work-career decisions.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper used a narrative methodology, with two stages of analysis: first of individual cases, then of patterns across individuals.

Findings

Multiple personal factors came to bear in negotiating the structural factors related to work and career. Moreover, there were multiple intersections between personal factors, and the influence of a factor ranged from sustaining through disrupting, highlighting the specific context-bounded nature of the thinking at the time of decision-making.

Research limitations/implications

This was a small-scale study with no intention to generalize to the broader population of African PhD holders. Rather but the goal was an in-depth examination of individual’s work within personal considerations to further conceptualize the understanding of career decision-making.

Practical implications

PhD programmes could encourage PhD students to consider the importance of life intentions and hopes in career decision-making and how careers evolve over time in light of structural and life factors.

Originality/value

Overall, participants demonstrated an intricate weighing of personal factors in making decisions as they also sought to negotiate different structural factors to advance their careers. Further, no other studies the authors are aware of report how the same interacting factors can have a sustaining through disrupting influence dependent on specific contexts, thus further revealing how nested contexts and personal factors co-influence the work-career decisions that each individual makes.

Details

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, vol. 13 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2398-4686

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 14 March 2022

Lynn McAlpine and Kelsey Inouye

PhD graduates are increasingly taking non-academic roles outside and inside universities. While effective communication is a frequently mentioned concern among employers…

Abstract

Purpose

PhD graduates are increasingly taking non-academic roles outside and inside universities. While effective communication is a frequently mentioned concern among employers, little is known about what actual communication PhD graduates do as part of their work. The purpose of this study is to examine the nature of work-related communication activities by PhDs in non-academic sectors.

Design/methodology/approach

The conceptual framework presented in this paper focused on the intersection between individual day-to-day experience and work structures through the analytic lens of genre knowledge. Using a narrative approach, attending to both individual experience and cross-case patterns, the authors conducted semi-structured interviews with 11 PhD holders in non-academic careers. Interviews and related documents were analyzed inductively for emerging themes and deductively for cross-case patterns.

Findings

In pursuing organizational goals, PhD graduates undertook diverse writing and other communication work and developed a rich tapestry of genre knowledge. This knowledge enabled them to negotiate different encounters with specific genres, undertake new genres and mediate among different genres.

Originality/value

This study highlighted the value of framing future research around a) the intersection between individual communication experience and organizational factors; and b) the analytic lens of genre knowledge to understand how organizational roles and goals lead to diverse communication practices. As for practical implications, the organizationally bounded roles and goals influencing participants’ communication practices also hold true for those doing PhDs where success requires mastering a limited academic set of genres. While the authors cannot prepare PhD graduates for all the genres they may need, the authors could explicitly teach how genres work in the PhD context.

Details

Studies in Graduate and Postdoctoral Education, vol. 13 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2398-4686

Keywords

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.

Open Access
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…

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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

Keywords

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

Keywords

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

Keywords

Open Access
Article
Publication date: 19 May 2022

Irina A. Lokhtina, Laura Colombo, Citra Amelia, Erika Löfström, Anu Tammeleht, Anna Sala-Bubare, Marian Jazvac-Martek, Montserrat Castelló and Lynn McAlpine

The study aims to explore and explain the affordances and constraints of two-mode virtual collaboration as experienced by a newly forming international research team.

Abstract

Purpose

The study aims to explore and explain the affordances and constraints of two-mode virtual collaboration as experienced by a newly forming international research team.

Design/methodology/approach

This is self-reflective and action-oriented research on the affordances and constraints of two-mode virtual collaboration. In the spirit of professional development, the authors (nine researchers at different career stages and from various counties) engaged in a joint endeavour to evaluate the affordances and constraints of virtual collaborations in light of the recent literature while also researching the authors' own virtual collaboration during this evaluative task (mid-January–April 2021). The authors used two modes: synchronous (Zoom) and asynchronous (emails) to communicate on the literature exploration and recorded reactions and emotional responses towards existing affordances and constraints through a collective journal.

Findings

The results suggest both affordances in terms of communication being negotiable and evolving and constraints, particularly in forming new relations given tools that may not be equally accessible to all. Journaling during collaborations could be a valuable tool, especially for virtual collective work, because it can be used to structure the team supported negotiation and discussion processes, especially often hidden processes. It is evident that the role of a leader can contribute to an alignment in the assumptions and experiences of trust and consequently foster greater mutual understanding of the circumstances for productive team collaborations.

Originality/value

The findings of this study can inform academics and practitioners on how to create and facilitate better opportunities for collaboration in virtual teams as a rapidly emerging form of technology-supported working.

Details

Journal of Work-Applied Management, vol. 14 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2205-2062

Keywords

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

Keywords

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

Keywords

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…

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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

Keywords

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