Doctoral Identity Enhanced Synthesis Paper 1

Doctoral Identity

Please read everything about this assignment.  Majority of it has been done now you are just adding on to it and also correcting what the instructor advise.

Synthesis is the act of creating something new from multiple existing  entities. Synthesis of research, then, is creating a new idea from  existing ideas. Synthesis of research is not a single innate skill.  Rather, it is a process learned through time and practice. At the  doctoral level, writing is a continual process of revision as learners  improve skills and build subject matter expertise.

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In Topic 5, you submitted a Synthesis Paper and received both  feedback from your instructor and a grade for your work. In this  assignment, you will expand upon your original paper with additional  research from outside sources, incorporate feedback from your  instructor, and provide a reflection section addressing your revision  process.

General Requirements:

  • Locate the Synthesis Paper you completed in Topic 5.
  • Locate and download “Enhanced Synthesis Paper Template” from the Course Materials for this topic.
  • Locate and download “Enhanced Synthesis Paper Resources” from the Course Materials for this topic.
  • Review the articles by Baker and Pifer (2011), Gardner (2009), and  Smith and Hatmaker (2014) located in the Course Materials for this  topic.
  • This assignment uses a rubric. Review the rubric prior to beginning  the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful  completion.


Select and read two articles from the Enhanced Synthesis Paper Resources list located in the Course Materials for this topic.

Locate the Synthesis Paper you completed in Topic 5. Using the  feedback provided by your instructor and information from the two  additional articles you selected, write an Enhanced Synthesis Paper with  Reflection (1,250-1,800 words). Include the following in your paper:

  1. A Reflection (250-300 words) that discusses your revision process  and how you incorporated your instructor’s feedback into the revised  version. Similar to the format of an abstract, this section will receive  its own page following the title page and preceding the Introduction.
  2. An introduction that includes a brief description of each article  and its purpose, identifies the three themes that emerged from your  reading, describes how they will be discussed in the paper, and presents  a clear thesis statement.
  3. Support for your identified themes with evidence from each article.  Provide analysis of these findings to strengthen your narrative.
  4. A discussion of the conclusions that can be drawn when the articles  are taken together as a single entity. What is the overall message of  the group of articles?

The role of relationships in the transition from doctoral student to independent scholar

Vicki L. Bakera* and Meghan J. Piferb$

aEconomics & Management, Albion College, Albion, USA; bHigher Education, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, USA

(Received 9 January 2010; final version received 8 July 2010)

Little research and practice has focused specifically on Stage 2 of the doctoral student experience � the critical transition from ‘dependence to independence’. In the United States, a student completes coursework, passes candidacy exams, and begins the dissertation proposal process during Stage 2. Given the distinct experiences associated with this stage, it is important for researchers, faculty and administrators to understand each stage fully. Our goal is to shed light on how students begin to enact the academic career during this critical transition by specifically exploring the role of relationships in the identity development process. We rely on a theoretical framework that brings together sociocultural perspectives of learning and developmental networks to reveal a connection between relationships and learning. This study highlights the effects of relationships and interactions on particular strategies and experiences associated with Stage 2 of doctoral education, and therefore students’ identity development and transition to independence.

Keywords: doctoral education; identity development; developmental networks; learning


Doctoral education is the first step towards a faculty career and the development of a

professional scholarly identity (Austin and McDaniels 2006; Austin and Wulff 2004).

Throughout this educational experience, students learn about the nature of the

academic career, as well as the language, research, and teaching skills associated within

a particular domain or discipline. In the United States, doctoral education is

conceptualized as a series of three stages. Stage 1 occurs from admission through the

first year of coursework. In Stage 2, the student typically completes coursework, passes

candidacy exams, and begins the dissertation proposal process. In Stage 3, the student

focuses on completing the dissertation (Tinto 1993). It is important to understand the

distinct experiences of each stage fully to provide insights useful to students, faculty,

and practitioners interested in successful preparation for academic practice. As

McAlpine and colleagues (2009) noted, ‘We need to understand better the experiences

of and related challenges faced by doctoral students in the process of coming to

understand academic practice and establishing themselves as academics’ (97).

*Corresponding author. Email: $Now at: Education and Human Services, Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, USA

Studies in Continuing Education

Vol. 33, No. 1, March 2011, 5�17

ISSN 0158-037X print/ISSN 1470-126X online

# 2011 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/0158037X.2010.515569


While prior research has examined Stage 1 (Golde 1998; Baker Sweitzer 2007,

2008, 2009) and Stage 3 (Sternberg 1981), little research and practice has focused

specifically on Stage 2, the critical transition from ‘dependence to independence’ as

described by Lovitts (2005). During Stage 2, students move away from the structure

provided by course schedules and enter into a self-directed, often isolating, period.

Students begin to develop their own academic identities, professional voices, and

independence as scholars, yet they often struggle with how to effectively manage this

stage without the guidance and structure that characterized Stage 1. As they apply

the knowledge and insight gained through coursework, students can become lost in

their efforts to become independent scholars.

Although researchers consistently suggest that identity development is a crucial

dimension of the doctoral student experience, few studies have empirically examined

this process. Furthermore, few studies have explored the influence of students’

relationships with others, beyond the academic advisor, on learning and identity

development during graduate study (exceptions include Baker and Lattuca forth-

coming; Baker Sweitzer 2009; McAlpine, Jazvac-Martek, and Hopwood 2009).

Relying on data from our qualitative study of Stage 2 (Baker, Pifer, and Flemion

2009), we examine the role of students’ relationships in the identity development

process during this distinct stage of the transition to independent scholar.

Developmental networks and sociocultural perspectives of learning

The notion of identity development in the professions is not novel. For years,

researchers have explored the changes that occur as a result of graduate training,

particularly in medicine and K�12 education (e.g., Becker and Carper 1956). Very few studies, however, have empirically investigated identity development in the

context of doctoral education. For example, Hall (1968) examined the professional

identity development of doctoral students during the qualifying or candidacy exam

(a necessary step towards achieving candidacy that typically requires students to

demonstrate a certain level of content mastery) and found that graduate students

were better able to envision themselves as future faculty members after completing

the qualifying exam, regardless of whether they passed the exam. Little research has

advanced the findings presented in Hall’s work, however, and more research is

needed to understand the stages and processes of identity development in doctoral


The transition to any new professional role, including that of doctoral student,

requires the acquisition of new skills and competencies, and the development of new

relationships while altering existing ones. Wortham (2006) points out that individuals

have identities before entering a new domain or community and that these identities

may interfere with learning as it is defined in the new domain. People adapt to new

professional roles, Ibarra (1999) suggests, by experimenting with new identities or

‘provisional selves’. The nature of a person’s network of relationships can affect the

creation, selection, and retention of these provisional identities. Ashforth (2001) and

Goffman’s (1961) assertions that social identities are ascribed to people, rather than

created by them, link sociocultural theories of learning with theories of develop-

mental networks. Podolny and Baron (1997) argue that social networks socialize

aspiring members, regulate inclusion, and convey expectations about roles. Similarly,

6 V.L. Baker and M.J. Pifer

Ibarra and Deshpande (2004) contend that social identities in work settings are co-

created by those in the local setting; identities emerge through network processes.

The breadth and interconnectedness of social influences on learning and identity

development acknowledged in sociocultural and network theories illuminate a limitation of prior research on doctoral education, which generally accounts for the

importance of interpersonal relationships in doctoral student success exclusively by

examining the student-advisor dyad (Nettles and Millet 2006; Paglis, Green, and

Bauer 2006). Recently, Austin and McDaniels (2006) argued for the development of

broader professional networks in socialization to the professoriate. Yet, we must

expand our understanding of the role of relationships and interactions even farther

beyond this definition, as professional networks are not the only ones at play in

doctoral socialization. Tinto (1993) and Weidman, Twale, and Stein (2001) provide evidence that students’ networks of relationships within and outside of the academic

community are important to persistence and professional success. Additional

research has confirmed their findings that a variety of relationships beyond the

student-advisor dyad are important for persistence and success in doctoral

education, such as relationships with family, friends, and former colleagues (Baker

Sweitzer 2007, 2009; Hopwood and Sutherland 2009).

To explore the connections among developmental relationships, learning, and

identity development, we relied on the interdisciplinary framework developed by Baker and Lattuca (forthcoming) that brings together developmental network theory

and sociocultural perspectives of learning. Our reliance on this interdisciplinary

framework allowed us to explore whether and how students’ relationships within and

outside of the academic community influence the development of their professional

identities. In using this framework, we acknowledge and call attention to the social

nature of identity development in doctoral education. The application of an

integrated approach to the sociocultural influences of identity development during

doctoral study allows us to link ontological changes in self-understanding to epistemological changes (alterations in domain knowledge, skills, and views of

knowledge). We argue that consideration of interactions and relationships, and the

learning that occurs through them, is critical to understanding the identity

development process that occurs as students prepare for academic practice.


Valley University (pseudonym), a top-rated research institution, has nationally ranked undergraduate and graduate colleges of business and education (US News

and World Report 2010). Valley’s College of Business offers the PhD in five

disciplines: accounting, finance, marketing, management and organization, and

supply chain and information systems and prepares students for faculty appoint-

ments. Valley’s higher education doctoral program offers both PhD and DEd

degrees, and prepares individuals for faculty and administrative appointments. We

interviewed a total of 31 doctoral students in business and higher education. This

included students who were currently engaged in Stage 2 at the time of the study, as well as those who had recently completed Stage 2.

Of the 31 students, 14 were female (45%). One participant was African American

(3%), three were Asian (10%), one was Asian American (3%), two were Indian (6%),

and six were international students (19%). The remaining 18 participants were White

Studies in Continuing Education 7

(58%). A semi-structured interview protocol was used to guide our interviews. The

interview protocol captured information on six areas related to Stage 2:

(1) key experiences, (2) challenges,

(3) goals for performance/advancement,

(4) key relationships,

(5) types of support present/absent, and

(6) identity (personal and professional).

Each author independently coded interview transcripts using these six themes as

a guide. The authors also compiled interview excerpts that illustrated and supported these ideas.

The role of relationships: purposes and outcomes

In this paper, we highlight three themes related to the role of relationships in the

identity development process and preparation for academic practice. The three

themes are:

(1) general support and advice,

(2) identity development as student (e.g., scholar in training), and

(3) identity development for academic practice (scholar).

In the following section, we discuss these themes as they relate to the key

characteristics of Stage 2 of doctoral education.

General support and advice

Given that Stage 2 is unlike any other professional or educational experience that

doctoral students have faced, many students relied on relationships to help them

navigate the basic challenges associated with this stage.

Lack of structure

Stage 1 is characterized by coursework, due dates, syllabi, and consistent interactions with faculty, peers, and administrators. Having recently completed this stage,

participants struggled with the lack of structure that characterizes Stage 2.

Relationships with academic advisors (or supervisors) and advanced students played

a crucial role in helping students overcome this lack of structure. For example, many

academic advisors/supervisors helped their students develop a writing schedule to

help keep them on task. Advanced students shared their own strategies, such as daily

or weekly writing goals, successful writing habits, and writing support groups. The

anecdotal evidence and advice that these individuals offered to students dealing with the uncertainty of this stage was immeasurable in providing some understanding of

how to avoid succumbing to what some participants called ‘the lost year’.

In the absence of such relationships, some students struggled to have even a basic

understanding of what to expect during this stage and how to deal with the dramatic

8 V.L. Baker and M.J. Pifer

change in structure during the transition to Stage 2. For example, several students

confided in us that their advisors/supervisors were essentially non-existent, which

resulted in no guidance, no sounding board with whom to share ideas or concerns,

and no mentoring or advice. The students who did not have this key source of support struggled with the basic tasks of how to structure their daily schedules, and

the larger goal of persisting through Stage 2.


Because students were no longer in the classroom in Stage 2, their interactions with

community members were greatly reduced or even non-existent. Students spoke of

the drastic change from being in the classroom and office one day and working

independent of those environments the next. Relationships both in and out of the

academic community became paramount for helping students deal with the isolation

associated with Stage 2. All of the students in our study spoke of the isolation they

felt during this transition period, and found that relationships ‘helped keep [them] sane,’ ‘helped keep [them] on task,’ and ‘were vital to feeling like a normal person’.

Relationships within the academic community, primarily one’s academic program

or department, serve as conduits to the academic community and help keep students

informed of events and professional development opportunities. Professional

relationships also have the potential to serve as sources of friendship and personal

support as students engage in the sometimes challenging parallel process of forming

their identities as students and scholars. Personal relationships � those outside of students’ professional lives � were emphasized by participants as equally important sources of support during Stage 2. Family and friends who have known students well

before their engagement in doctoral studies provided perspective and support that

help students remain focused on their work, as well as their motivations for success,

their prior accomplishments, their identities and roles outside of their profession,

and other sources of encouragement.

Unfortunately, not all students had positive relationships to rely on during this

time. In fact, a few students felt they had no sources of support, which made the

transition even more difficult. One student, for example, was far from her family and personal support network. She expressed sadness and disappointment over not

having close friendships, and wished she had such relationships to help her manage

the negative emotions and challenges associated with Stage 2. When asked how she

would like to improve her experience as a doctoral student, she replied simply,

‘I would like more friends. . . . I really hope I can establish friendships with other students.’

Key experiences

Because students in Stage 2 were no longer in the classroom, other experiences were

crucial for helping them feel part of the academic community and engaged in the

ongoing identity development process. This included experiences such as research assistantships, teaching assistantships, brown bag lunches, and student organization

meetings. The transition to independent scholar includes understanding and

engaging in the activities and experiences associated with the academic career.

Opportunities for these experiences presented students with a realistic job preview of

Studies in Continuing Education 9

life as an academic and the interactions needed for embracing and enacting that role.

Such opportunities also communicated a sense of being valued within the academic

community. One student said, ‘I have an assistantship that folks want. [Because of]

the people that I get to rub elbows with, people want that job. That tells me I’m valued in the community, at least by faculty.’ Faculty members, including academic

advisors and research supervisors, were critical for helping students become aware of

the importance of opportunities for continued learning and professional develop-

ment, and the need to identify or create such opportunities. Advanced students were

also important, as they shed light on the experiences (and related successes and

failures) that they found to be most helpful in preparing for the later stages of the


When students do not have connections with people who can serve as bridges, to use a networks term, in their ‘development networks’, they often miss out on

opportunities for key experiences and question their sense of belonging. Bridges

serve to connect students to valuable experiences directly, or to connect them to

others who can provide such experiences. Bridges can also link students to other

resources, such as personal support, knowledge, and effective behavioral strategies

for mastering the parallel process of identity development in Stage 2. Students who

do not have such relationships, or whose relationships do not provide this bridging

function, subsequently do not have the key experiences and access to resources that their better-connected peers may receive.

Identity development as student

The role of student, or scholar-in-training, is one of the most central roles enacted

during graduate education. Organizational newcomers must understand what others

expect of them and must have the ability to achieve those expectations in order to

perform a role adequately. This process is called role learning (Brim 1966).

Researchers suggest that role learning is paramount to effective role entry (Ashforth 2001). Role learning not only focuses on acquiring the technical skills associated with

a given role but also mastering the social, normative, organizational, and political

information associated with the role and organization (Morrison 1995). As Walker

and colleagues (2008) noted:

Subject mastery is necessary but is not in itself sufficient to the formation of scholars. Learning to present oneself as a member of a discipline, to communicate with colleagues, and to apply ethical standards of conduct is part and parcel of formation (62).

Critical to role learning is social support from and interaction with peers,

mentors, family members, and friends.

Awareness of transition

Participants in our study were aware that they were transitioning from students to

scholars, but struggled with self-doubt as they attempted to balance multiple roles

simultaneously. The abrupt shift from the familiarity of the classroom and regular

interactions with community members to isolation and self-doubt can be a challenge

10 V.L. Baker and M.J. Pifer

for doctoral students during Stage 2. Students felt confident in the abilities and

knowledge they had gained during Stage 1; however, they relied on advanced

members of the community to provide support and advice as they engaged in parallel

identity development as both student and scholar. Interacting with faculty and advanced students who modeled behavior allowed students to feel more comfortable

asking questions. One student told us, ‘I don’t know what I don’t know, so it’s not

always easy to ask the ‘‘right’’ questions. Having a few close people you can trust and

rely on is so important.’ Students’ peers, those also working through the transition to

independent scholars, also served as important sources of support. As one student

commented, ‘It’s nice to have folks that are in the trenches with you, to share stories

and frustrations.’ Relationships outside of the academic community also helped

students maintain balance and perspective on the experience as a whole. Many students described family members and close friends as ‘cheerleaders’ or their

‘biggest fans’. Such relationships helped students talk through the challenges they

were facing in a non-threatening, low-stakes environment, allowing them to rely on

comfortable, long-standing relationships for support.

Alternatively, a lack of close relationships to rely on during this time can cause

fear and undue stress for students who are engaged in an already stressful process.

When students do not have individuals to rely on, they can become unclear of the

expectations associated with this stage, which can make the process of identity development as a student and scholar-in-training difficult to manage. As one student

asked, ‘If [the faculty] aren’t going to invest in me, who will?’ Furthermore, when

students see others getting support and guidance that they do not think they have

received, resentment can often occur. Students’ feelings that they were not getting the

same level or kinds of support as their peers were often a major source of tension for


Impression management

Once students complete course work and pass comprehensive or qualifying exams,

they often experience a sense of accomplishment. As one student noted, ‘I feel one

step closer to achieving my goal, and I do feel I have learned a lot these past two

years.’ While students noticed the increased knowledge and ability to ‘have real

conversations with faculty’, issues of impression management also arose. Participants

talked about not wanting to embarrass themselves in front of faculty, avoiding

meetings with their advisors until they had clear ideas about their research, for example. Advanced students in the program helped participants manage faculty

members’ impressions of their progress and abilities, providing advice about who to

go to for particular issues, how to approach faculty, and who to avoid in some

instances. The students who had relationships with advanced students relied on them

for this type of advice, and were subsequently more comfortable interacting with

faculty and presenting themselves as members of the academic community.

We observed two negative outcomes related to a lack of relationships or

ineffective relationships in terms of dealing with impression management issues. First, when students lacked colleagues to approach regarding how to interact with

faculty, they rarely interacted with faculty to share ideas or create opportunities for

intellectual discourse. Rather, students worked alone, often heightening their feelings

of isolation, loneliness, and self doubt. Second, when relationships provided bad

Studies in Continuing Education 11

advice in terms of managing impressions, students’ reputations were damaged and

their self-confidence and willingness to engage were negatively affected. One student

in particular received misguided advice about priorities between the classroom and

research. The advisor she spoke with encouraged the student to focus on research, while faculty members who taught seminars urged her to spend more time on her

coursework. She followed the advice of her advisor, and she failed to gain the support

of other departmental faculty as a result. She was later counseled out of the program.

Networking and collaboration

During Stage 2, students began to understand the importance of networking and

building collaborations, mostly within their academic programs or departments, but

also within the broader disciplinary community as well. Many of the students in our

study were preparing to present their work at professional conferences and relied on

their peers for advice about this important yet often intimidating experience.

Participants said that these relationships, and the advice gleaned from them, further highlighted just how critical these relationships were and would continue to be. The

students who were able to forge those connections with faculty, advanced students,

and peers reaped the benefits. Students began working on new projects that resulted

in co-authorship opportunities, important for developing one’s curriculum vitae.

These opportunities, such as seeing a project through from inception to publication,

also provided first-hand knowledge about the faculty career. The ability to network

and be an effective collaborator is a skill that is necessary for academics in any field

and institution type. When students are afforded the opportunity to begin honing these skills as part of the identity development process while enrolled in graduate

study, they are likely to have increased confidence and success during their early

career stages.

The students in our study who did not realize the importance of networking and

collaboration, or lacked the confidence to engage in these activities, suffered as a

result, and had a more difficult time making that transition from student to scholar.

They seemed to be waiting for someone else to assign them to a project or otherwise

direct their efforts and progress. Efficacy and initiative are critical to making the transition from student to scholar, and engaging in collaborations with individuals in

the community are key for making this transition effectively.

Identity development as scholar

The topic of identity development and preparation for academic practice during

doctoral study is an important one that is gaining attention from researchers and

practitioners. For example, sessions at the most recent annual meeting of the

Association for the Study of Higher Education highlighted the issue as one that is

paramount to understanding preparation for the professoriate. While students

engaged in Stage 2 were aware of the transition and their own efforts to manage it

successfully, it was the students who had recently completed Stage 2 who were able to reflect on their experiences and provide important insight into their preparation as

scholars. Their ability to clearly articulate their own identity development in these

ways revealed valuable insights into the process of becoming a scholar that occurs in

Stage 2.

12 V.L. Baker and M.J. Pifer

Long-term vs. short-term planning

As students described their experiences in Stage 1, they often focused on short-term

goals. They scheduled their life based on assignment due dates and exam dates, the

beginning and end of semesters, and the timing and completion of program

milestones. Once students entered Stage 2, however, the remaining program

milestones were the dissertation proposal and dissertation, which have no due dates

(candidacy exams were completed during Stage 1 for the programs we explored). In the process of working on these milestones, students began shifting from a short-

term focus to thinking long-term (e.g., graduation and academic employment).

Students began to develop the requisite skills as they transitioned from student to

scholar during Stage 2 and prepared for the realities of the academic career. They

noticed this shift in thinking within themselves, as well as the role of relationships in

facilitating this shift. Faculty, for example, helped students develop and hone

dissertation ideas that would establish clear research agendas. Collaborations with

faculty, advanced students, and peers led to publications and working papers that were crucial to participants’ marketability and future success in their pursuit of

tenure. Relationships outside of the community, particularly those including family

responsibilities, were also key to influencing this shift in thinking. Many participants

in our study expressed feeling pressure to think beyond their doctoral studies and

seriously plan for life after graduation.

Strategic relationship choices

While all students discussed the importance of networking and engaging in

collaborations, the students who had recently completed Stage 2 spoke of a particular need to be strategic in terms of relationship choices. This strategic focus

connected to the shift from short-term to long-term thinking as students dealt with

job placement and publication concerns. In order to develop solid research agendas,

students discussed the need to network with leaders in their respective fields and

forge collaborations with scholars who conducted research in their areas of interest.

Similarly, a few students also told us that collaborating with assistant professors was

a good strategy in that they were ‘[more] motivated to get published than senior

faculty’ given the pressures for promotion and tenure. Many students also discussed strategic approaches to selecting dissertation committee members. One student

selected a committee member not because of her reputation for being supportive or

developmental with students (in fact, she had the opposite reputation), but because

symbolically her lack of involvement (e.g., membership on the committee) could be a

negative signal as the student entered the job market.

Realistic previews of faculty career

‘Besides the pay, I am doing exactly what I will be expected to do once I become a faculty member.’ This quote expresses a statement we heard from several students

who had recently completed Stage 2. Reflecting upon that stage, participants

emphasized their identities as scholars. Faculty relationships were particularly

important at this stage in terms of providing honest assessments of the academic

career. As one student noted, ‘My advisor told me the good, the bad, and the ugly

Studies in Continuing Education 13

about this profession. . .and despite that, I still think I am interested in becoming a faculty member.’ Students were able to observe junior faculty on the tenure clock and

could see the similarities to life as a graduate student and the associated expectations.

Senior faculty members offered perspective and shared ‘war stories’ of the trials and

tribulations they faced while working through promotion and tenure. Personal

relationships were also important in terms of ensuring balance; in some cases, such

relationships forced balance and a recommitment to life beyond the academy. For

example, one participant described how her relationships with both her advisor and

her husband influenced her goals in Stage 2. She said:

Professionally, as well as personally, [my advisor] knew that my husband and I would like to leave sooner rather than later if possible, you know, for him as well. And so she was really responsive to paying attention to me wanting to leave earlier.


We embarked on this line of research to better understand the key relationships and

their influence on the identity development process during Stage 2. Learning, which

we define as knowledge acquisition and identity development (Baker and Lattuca

forthcoming), is critical to this transitional stage in doctoral education.

We investigated the interplay of developmental networks, learning, and identity

change that are necessary to successfully transition from student to independent

scholar. We argue that students are undergoing a parallel identity development

process that requires them to master the student role and corresponding identity,

while simultaneously beginning to accept and enact the identity of scholar and

academic. This research highlights the importance of relationships during this stage,

including the potential positive and negative effects they can have in doctoral

students’ transitions into independent scholars.

We explored the role of relationships as critical to the doctoral student experience

and professional preparation, while illuminating the key challenges and issues

students face during Stage 2. Given that Stage 2 is unlike any other prior academic or

professional experience, students’ relationships are critical sources of support and

behavioral modeling during this time. These relationships inform learning and role

enactment, contribute to self-efficacy and motivation, and affect the subsequent

identity changes and development that occur. Students engage in various relational

strategies and rely on many different relationships for guidance, opportunities, and

support during Stage 2 of their doctoral programs. We argue that understanding relationships as part and parcel of doctoral

education can help all involved with doctoral education acknowledge the necessity of

attending to this critical component of the doctoral student experience. While

components such as program structure and climate are important, our research

shows that relationships are an equally legitimate component of doctoral education,

socialization, and preparation for the professoriate and academic career.

We emphasize relationships and interactions as key resources that help make the

transition to independent scholar as smooth as possible. Significant relationships

include not just long-term regular interactions, such as participation on research

projects, but also incidental and infrequent interactions, such as informal conversa-

tions with peers. Key relationships within academic programs are not limited to

14 V.L. Baker and M.J. Pifer

persons with formal authority such as supervisors and advisors, but also peers, senior

students, and other scholars. Key relationships at this stage also extend beyond the

academic community to include family members, friends, and role models.

Our data support the notion that learning and identity development are

interconnected social processes, occurring simultaneously and informing each other.

Building on our prior research of Stage 2, we found an important theme: the importance of relationships in the parallel process of mastering both the student role

and the scholar role. One participant revealed these parallel processes when she

spoke of her experiences in Stage 2. She recalled, ‘I was adopting so fully the role of

graduate student in a prestigious program that required all this work.’ Yet, she later

described this time by saying, ‘I was trying to really be a colleague in the profession,

not just a student. So in some ways my identity shifted from just being a student to

trying to be a real legitimate, professional person who’s a part of that community.’

The interdisciplinary framework developed by Baker and Lattuca (forthcoming)

helps us understand that learning and identity development are mediated through

students’ relationships. Merging the sociocultural perspective of learning with the

notion of developmental networks helps us isolate the role of relationships and their

influence on learning and the educational experience. The relationships and

interactions that create the sociocultural context and developmental networks in

which doctoral student learning is situated provide meaning, efficacy, and identity

development. The interactions, and subsequent sense-making, that students engage in, help students determine if and how they can successfully make the transition

through Stage 2 and into their roles as independent scholars.

As we close, we recommend additional research that further explores the

connection among developmental networks (e.g., relationships), identity develop-

ment, and learning in successfully navigating the critical transition points in doctoral

education. One area in particular is the intergenerational (cross-cohort) effects of

relationships on the behavioral modeling and sociocultural learning on doctoral

student development and preparation for an academic career. Many students in our

study benefitted from the support, advice, and guidance provided by advanced

students throughout their experiences. In turn, they offered support to students in

the earlier years of their programs as well. We refer to this as the ‘family tree effect’,

whereby knowledge extends beyond the most immediate dyadic relationship or

exchange. Although not explored in this research, we encourage future research that

considers the interaction of individual student characteristics and structural, or

program, characteristics and the effects of those interactions on doctoral student

development. Similarly, research is needed that explores the diversity of student experiences, including similarities and differences among students’ relationships,

learning, and identity development based on characteristics such as (but not limited

to) race, gender, age, career goals, and family status.

More research is also needed to explore the role of negative relationships on

identity development during the transition to independence. For example, does bad

mentoring have a more negative effect on student identity development and success

than no mentoring? Furthermore, if students fail to get the support needed to make

this transition, how does that affect their future academic careers? In other words,

are academic programs failing to help students develop the skills needed to be

successful beyond life in graduate school? Such research might include an

exploration of the behavioral strategies students employ in response to negative or

Studies in Continuing Education 15

nonexistent relationships. Finally, examining disciplinary differences might provide

some interesting insights given we chose not to do so for the purposes of this

exploratory study.

As we continue to engage in efforts to improve our collective understanding of

doctoral education and preparation for the professoriate, we emphasize the

importance of theory and research that provide all stakeholders invested in

preparation for academic practice with the knowledge of how to better understand

and support the next generation of scholars, both in the classroom and outside of the

classroom. We advocate for strategies that acknowledge students’ varying needs and

concerns as they transition through the stages of doctoral education and identity

development and emerge as independent scholars.


This research was supported by a grant from the Hewlett-Mellon Fund for Faculty Development at Albion College in Albion, Michigan.


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Studies in Continuing Education 17

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Gardner / Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education 383

The Review of Higher Education Spring 2009, Volume 32, No. 3, pp. 383–406 Copyright © 2009 Association for the Study of Higher Education All Rights Reserved (ISSN 0162-5748)

Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education: Perspectives of Faculty in Seven Disciplines Susan K. Gardner

The term “success” in higher education has been used widely to describe multiple outcomes including models to better understand how students can succeed (e.g., Girves & Wemmerus, 1988; Padilla, Trevino, Gonzalez, & Trevino, 1997), the practices best suited for success (e.g., Frost, 1991; Wil- liams, 2002), the influence of particular variables upon success over time (e.g., Burton & Wang, 2005; Decker, 1973; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986), and even the relationship between specific variables and success (e.g., Hirschberg & Itkin, 1978; Nettles, 1990; Wilson & Hardgrave, 1995). Indeed, a search of the 2006 conference program of the Association for the Study of Higher Education identified more than 20 different papers and sessions that utilized the term “success.”

In doctoral education, the study of success is also prevalent. To be sure, understanding doctoral student success is particularly important as only 50% of those students who enter doctoral education actually complete the degree (e.g., Council of Graduate Schools, 2004; Nettles & Millett, 2006).

SUSAN K. GARDNER is Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Maine. She gratefully acknowledges the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for funding this study. Address queries to her at 5749 Merrill Hall, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5749; telephone (207) 581-3122; fax: (207) 581-3120; email: susan.k.gardner@

384 The Review of higheR educaTion SprinG 2009

To this end, scholars have sought to understand how factors such as advis- ing (e.g., Baird, 1972; Schroeder & Mynatt, 1993), student characteristics (e.g., Cook & Swanson, 1978; Nettles, 1990), and particular measures such as grades and test scores (e.g., Burton & Wang, 2005; Girves & Wemmerus, 1988; Lannholm & Schrader, 1951) influence the concept of success in doc- toral education. In each of these cases, “success” can mean anything from year-to-year persistence and high grade point averages to degree completion. Therefore, although multiple scholars have studied the concept of success from nearly every imaginable angle, its definition remains elusive. What is success? How does one differentiate a successful student from one who is unsuccessful? Does the definition of success vary by disciplinary culture?

Without a coherent view of what it means to be successful in doctoral education, the measurements and outcomes expected of students remain ambiguous. This study sought to understand the concept of success as de- fined by 38 faculty members in seven disciplines at one research-extensive institution through in-depth interviews about their experiences in doc- toral education. The paper begins with a brief overview of relevant extant literature and the conceptual framework guiding the study. I then provide a description of the methods used, summarize the findings, and provide implications for future policy, practice, and research.

SucceSS in Doctoral eDucation

To better understand conceptualizations of success in doctoral education, a comprehensive understanding of the dimensions of the term is needed. In the study of doctoral education, the concept of success has been used widely to explain several outcomes including retention, academic achievement, completion or graduation, and professional socialization. I briefly discuss each of these topics below in relation to success in doctoral education.

Throughout the doctoral education experience, students are measured according to several outcomes as indicators of their success. Beginning with coursework, students are assessed in their academic achievement, resulting in the standard measure of grade point average (GPA). GPA is a common variable used to analyze student success in undergraduate education (Pas- carella & Terenzini, 1991/2005); however, for doctoral education, GPA is generally not widely used in studies of success. Doctoral student achievement in coursework is typically expected to remain high, therefore making it dif- ficult to measure differences (Girves & Wemmerus, 1988; Nettles & Millett, 2006), although some differences have been measured among underrepre- sented populations (Nettles, 1990; Nettles & Millett, 2006). Furthermore, coursework may last only for several semesters for many students, thereby providing an inaccurate long-term measure of student success. Exceptions are studies based upon predictor variables, such as the Graduate Record Ex-

Gardner / Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education 385

amination (GRE), and their relationship to grades in particular coursework (Feeley, Williams, & Wise, 2005; House, 1999).

Retention is another widely used indicator of success in doctoral edu- cation. Also described as persistence (Lovitts, 2001), retention “refers to a student’s continued enrollment” (Isaac, 1993, p. 15), a definition similar to that used to measure undergraduate student success (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991/2005). In this way, retention is related to doctoral student success, accounting for the students who persist from year to year in the graduate program. Previous studies have cited varying retention rates. Golde (1998) and Bowen and Rudenstine (1992) have documented that, of all the students who will leave their doctoral programs, about one third leave after the first year, another third before candidacy, and a final third during the disserta- tion phase, a finding also confirmed by Nerad and Miller (1996). Reasons for retention (or its lack) among doctoral students are generally related to issues of integration into the program or department (Girves & Wemmerus, 1988; Lovitts, 2001; Tinto, 1993), feelings of psychological and cognitive inadequacy (Golde, 1998; Katz & Hartnett, 1976), lack of financial support (Abedi & Benkin, 1987; Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Girves & Wemmerus, 1988), and dissatisfaction with the program or department (Girves & Wem- merus, 1988; Lovitts, 2001; Perrucci & Hu, 1995).

Degree completion is another obvious indicator of doctoral student success. Completion rates in doctoral education, as previously stated, have been cited as averaging 50% (Bair & Haworth, 2005; Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Council of Graduate Schools, 2004; Nettles & Millett, 2006). Different disciplines, however, have varying rates. Those in the fields of science, tech- nology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) generally complete at higher rates than those in the social sciences or humanities (Bair & Haworth, 2005; Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Council of Graduate Schools, 2004; Nettles & Millett, 2006). Moreover, degree completion and its relation to such socio- demographic variables as gender and race vary (Bair & Haworth, 2005; Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Council of Graduate Schools, 2004; Nettles & Millett, 2006). Similar to influences upon retention, it is apparent that many different variables influence degree completion (Lovitts, 2001) and time-to-degree rates certainly vary by both discipline (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992) and by socio-demographic status (Bair & Haworth, 2005; Ferrer de Valero, 2001).

Finally, competencies related to the professional realm are also mentioned in the literature in regard to doctoral student success. The individual enrolled in doctoral education is, of course, also a burgeoning professional (Golde, 1998), learning the skills, knowledge, habits of mind, values, and attitudes of his or her chosen field (Soto Antony, 2002; Weidman, Twale, & Stein, 2001). Therefore, while quantifiable measures such as GPA, test scores, retention, and graduation rates may indicate success, professional and attitudinal

386 The Review of higheR educaTion SprinG 2009

competencies, such as a student’s disposition toward the subject matter or professional development, are also desirable but are typically more qualita- tive measures of success (Hagedorn & Nora, 1996).

Undergirding all of these conceptualizations of success is the involvement of faculty members in the doctoral program and with the doctoral student (Austin, 2002; Clark & Corcoran, 1986; Lovitts, 2001; Weidman & Stein, 2003; Wulff & Austin, 2004). They serve as teachers, advisors, committee members, mentors, role models, and future colleagues. Despite their important role, however, no known studies have sought to determine how faculty members in doctoral education would define success. In other words, if faculty play such an integral role in the multitude of success outcomes for doctoral stu- dents, how they conceptualize success is key to understanding how to best structure programs, services, and experiences for this success.

conceptual Framework

An important caveat must be made, however: The doctoral education experience is not monolithic. Doctoral education is experienced differently within and among different disciplines. Disciplines have their own particular qualities, cultures, codes of conduct, values, and distinctive intellectual tasks (Austin, 2002; Becher, 1981) that ultimately influence the experiences of the faculty, staff, and, most especially, the students within their walls. Therefore, while studies of the undergraduate experience as related to success often occur at the institutional level (e.g., Tinto, 1993), the discipline and the de- partment become the central focus of the doctoral experience, rather than the larger institution (Berelson, 1960; Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Golde, 2005; Nerad & Miller, 1996).

Much of the common understanding about disciplinary differences and categorizations is based on Biglan’s (1973a) work, which identified the cultural and social structures of academic disciplines, resulting in their classifications as hard/soft, pure/applied, and life/nonlife systems. While not the first research conducted on disciplinary differences (see Braxton & Hargens, 1996 for a comprehensive discussion), Biglan’s work is a testa- ment to the concept that studies of academic cultures and contexts cannot be generalized across disciplines.

Work done by Becher (1981) expounded on the understanding of dis- ciplinary differences. The disciplinary groupings developed by Becher and Trowler (2001) included the (a) pure sciences, akin to Biglan’s hard-pure grouping; (b) the humanities, similar to Biglan’s hard-applied disciplines; (c) technologies, much like the hard-applied disciplines in Biglan’s model; and (d) applied social sciences, like Biglan’s soft-applied areas. Becher also contributed to the common understanding of “rural” and “urban” fields, further explaining the social structures within disciplinary cultures. Whereas

Gardner / Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education 387

in rural fields, many researchers will focus upon relatively few research prob- lems, urban researchers are generally fewer in number with more problems to be investigated.

These disciplinary groupings and organizational systems allow for a bet- ter understanding of the contrasting identities and characteristics of par- ticular fields of study. Becher (1981) commented, “Disciplines are cultural phenomena: they are embodied in collections of like-minded people, each with their own codes of conduct, sets of values, and distinctive intellectual tasks” (p. 109). These cultures within disciplines, therefore, greatly influence the faculty and, consequently, the doctoral students within the departments (Golde, 2005).

For example, Biglan (1973b) described differences among disciplines resulting in discernible paradigmatic assumptions, concern with practi- cal application, and concern with life systems. In addition, he studied the variation of social connectedness within disciplines, or the measure of “the informal relations among colleagues” (p. 204). He found, in particular, that social connectedness was important among the sciences since much of the research is conducted in team-based lab settings. Another measure of dis- ciplinary culture for Biglan was that of commitment to teaching, research, administration, and service. Biglan remarked, “What evidence exists indi- cates that the emphasis on, and significance of, teaching differs in physical and social science fields. Scholars in social sciences emphasize educating the whole student and evidence a more personal commitment to students than do those in physical sciences” (p. 205).

Finally, Biglan measured scholarly output as a characteristic of disciplin- ary differences, including the quantity and quality of publications produced. Biglan demonstrated that faculty in hard areas, such as those in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics, are generally rated higher in social connectedness for both their research and teaching activities, while those in the soft areas (e.g., humanities and social sciences) generally work more in isolation but indicate a higher commitment to teaching. Biglan’s explanation for these differences was based on the paradigmatic assumptions particular to the disciplines, in which the single paradigm of the hard sciences allows for more collaboration while the multiple paradigms of the soft social sciences may impede common understandings and frameworks.

Further differentiation from Biglan (1973b) and Becher and Trowler (2001) included the distinction of pure versus applied disciplinary cultures. Pure fields are those in which results are focused on discovery, explanation, understanding, and interpretation—for example, physics in the hard sciences and history in the soft sciences. Applied fields, on the other hand, are those in which research results in products, techniques, protocols, or procedures, such as engineering in the hard sciences and education in the soft sciences. This pure/applied distinction allows for a better understanding of the type

388 The Review of higheR educaTion SprinG 2009

of training graduate students receive in these disciplines, particularly in re- gard to social connectedness, as well as the methods and modes of research conducted within the discipline (Biglan, 1973b). Moreover, a higher com- mitment to application is indicative of more social connectedness in service activities and more applicable publications such as research reports.

Finally, Biglan (1973b) distinguished between life and nonlife disciplines. Disciplinary areas focused on life systems, such as the study of botany and agriculture in the hard sciences and psychology and education in the soft sciences, are those which are also more socially connected. These faculty members are generally more interested in collaborative teaching activities and graduate training in these areas is characterized by a more team-oriented approach to advising. Nonlife disciplines, including computer science and engineering in the hard sciences and communications and economics in the soft sciences, generally have faculty members who spend more time on teaching activities but who more independently work and advise graduate students (Biglan, 1973b).

While both Biglan’s (1973a, 1973b) and Becher’s (1981) models are widely used, neither has been widely tested beyond their initial conceptualization; and many would argue that not all of the components of the Biglan model can be validated (Braxton & Hargens, 1996). My study therefore uses a conceptualization encapsulating the four general areas of disciplinary clas- sification that are shared by both Biglan’s and Becher’s models, including the classifications of (a) pure sciences or hard-pure disciplines, (b) humanities or soft-pure disciplines, (c) technologies or hard-applied disciplines, and (d) applied social sciences or soft-applied disciplines. This conceptualization therefore uses disciplinary culture and context as a guiding framework to understand how success is defined in doctoral education in the seven dif- ferent disciplines studied.

reSearch methoDS

This study was guided by the question: How does disciplinary context and culture influence understandings of success in doctoral education? I interviewed 38 faculty members actively involved in doctoral education in seven departments at one institution. I chose the seven disciplines for two reasons. First, it was important to examine doctoral education from mul- tiple disciplinary perspectives representing disciplinary diversity (Becher & Trowler, 2001; Biglan, 1973a). Second, a previous study had determined that these seven disciplines represented both the highest and lowest completion rates over a 20-year period at their institution.

The seven disciplines were English, communication, psychology, math- ematics, oceanography, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science. Departments in the soft-applied fields (e.g., educational fields) had

Gardner / Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education 389

mid-range completion rates or a large number of part-time students and were excluded from this study. Therefore, not only were disciplinary context and culture important in understanding conceptualizations of success by the faculty members working in them, but the specific context of completion and attrition in these departments was also significant. Participants in the study by department and completion rate are further described in Table 1.

The institution at which this study was conducted is classified as a research-extensive (McCormick, 2001) institution or a research university with very high research productivity (Carnegie Foundation, 2005). Located in the southern United States, this institution annually enrolls more than 30,000 students, including over 4,000 graduate and professional students. In relation to its peers, this institution is ranked as a third-tier institution among national universities, although many of its individual programs and colleges are rated in the very top (U.S. News and World Report, 2007).

I interviewed the 38 faculty members for the study in the winter and spring of 2007. I first contacted each department’s chairperson, received permission to conduct the study, then used the institution’s graduate school records to identify the individuals who most often served as chair/committee member on doctoral student committees. Thus, the interviewees had been in the department the longest and worked with the most students. I considered them representative of faculty who worked most intensively with doctoral students, and whose students had actually completed their programs. This sampling method is similar to that of Lovitts (2001) in her examination of doctoral student attrition and allowed for a deeper examination of the exist- ing cultures. Many of these departments generally did not allow untenured faculty members to chair doctoral committees. The interviewees chaired a mean 8.9 dissertations and had served 18.5 mean years at the institution. Table 1 provides further details of faculty members in each department.

I next contacted the prospective interviewees by email. Given the fact that I was granted access through the Graduate School and had the cooperation of the department chairs, all individuals eventually agreed to be interviewed. I conducted in-person interviews using a loosely structured protocol that allowed participants to diverge from the main topics and to further explore concepts and ideas. (See Appendix.) Questions focused on the faculty mem- ber’s experiences as advisors to doctoral students and specifically asked them to identify the characteristics of students whom they considered successful and unsuccessful. The audio-taped interviews lasted for approximately 45 to 60 minutes and were transcribed verbatim.

I analyzed the data through the constant comparative method, “a research design for multi-data sources, which is like analytic induction in that the formal analysis begins early in the study and is nearly completed by the end of data collection” (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003, p. 66). According to Glaser (1978), the steps of this method are: (a) Begin collecting data; (b) Find key

390 The Review of higheR educaTion SprinG 2009

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Gardner / Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education 391

issues, events, or activities in the data that become main categories for focus; (c) Collect data that provide many incidents of the categories of focus; (d) Write about the categories explored, keeping in mind past incidents while searching for new; (d) Work with the data and emerging model to discover relationships; and (e) Sample, code, and write with the core categories in mind.

The steps of the constant comparative method occur simultaneously during data collection until categories are saturated and writing begins. I used Glaser’s steps in data analysis, which allowed themes to emerge from the data and provided a means for compressing large amounts of data into meaningful units for analysis. As stated earlier, I also used concepts of dis- ciplinary culture and organization (Becher, 1981; Becher & Trowler, 2001; Biglan, 1973a) in analysis to better understand the dimensions along which disciplinary responses varied. The departments, defined by their Biglan classification, are listed in Table 2.

I assured trustworthiness of the data collected and its subsequent analy- sis through peer debriefing (Maxwell, 1996), having a colleague analyze the transcripts and verify the themes. I also triangulated the data sources (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003; Maxwell, 1996) since my study was a part of a larger study in which numerous departmental administrators and doctoral students were interviewed. After the larger study was completed in the fall of 2007, the reports for each department were distributed and verified by each department; faculty members who had been interviewed provided member checking (Maxwell, 1996) of the existing themes.


From the analysis of the interviews conducted, it was evident that disci- plinary culture and context greatly influenced the faculty members’ concep- tualizations of success in doctoral education. There was a clear distinction among disciplinary constructions of success and among departments with the highest and lowest completion rates. I discuss these findings below by highest-to-lowest completion rate for the departments included in the study, also differentiating by the Biglan (1973b) disciplinary classification.

High Completion Departments

In this study three departments had very high doctoral completion rates: communication at 76.5%, oceanography at 72.7%, and psychology at 70.7%. These rates are considered high by both national and disciplinary standards (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Council of Graduate Schools, 2004; Nettles & Millett, 2006). Although quite different in culture, research mode, and disci- plinary culture, these departments nevertheless shared certain attributes. The English Department, with a 56.4% doctoral student completion rate, may

392 The Review of higheR educaTion SprinG 2009

not be as high as the other three departments but represents high comple- tion in comparison to other humanities departments, which generally have the lowest completion rates nationally (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Council of Graduate Schools, 2004).

Communication. The discipline of communication is classified as soft pure nonlife in the Biglan (1973b) classification. This Communication Depart- ment’s doctoral student completion rate of 76.5% is high by any measure but certainly very high for a discipline in the social sciences (Council of Graduate Schools, 2005). The department has at any one time approximately 50 doctoral students enrolled in the program; its 24 faculty members serve both as graduate faculty and also teach in a large undergraduate program. The vast majority of doctoral students in the program are fully funded through teaching assistantships in the department.

Interviews with the faculty members largely responsible for doctoral education and doctoral advising quickly identified a culture of cohesion, mutual respect, and caring. Indeed, these very words were often uttered, both in the interviews with the faculty members and by the 10 doctoral students interviewed as part of the larger study. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that, when asked about their doctoral students, one faculty member responded, “We’re lucky. They’re a very bright group,” adding, “You’re going to hear a lot of affection [from faculty] about the students.” These faculty members used two main themes to define success for their doctoral students: self- direction and research dissemination. Thus, the attributes of success were characteristics inherent in the student’s personality along with his or her accomplishments after entering the program.

Pure sciences Hard-pure Mathematics Oceanography

Humanities Soft-pure English

Technologies Hard-applied Engineering Computer science

Applied social sciences Soft-applied Psychology Communication

table 2

Departmental breakDown by becher anD trowler (2001) anD biglan (1973) claSSiFicationS

Becher & Trowler (2001) Biglan (1973) Departments Studied

Gardner / Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education 393

These faculty members frequently spoke to successful graduate’s student need for self-direction and self-motivation. One faculty member pointed out that a successful student is “one who is able to work independently,” while another commented that successful students are “pretty strong and self-directed. They have a sense of vision in what they want when they come in.” A third defined a successful student as “a person “who initiates [his or her] own research agenda and is able to work individually and collabora- tively. They take their own initiative.” In a sense, these faculty members are echoing the need for independent thinking and original scholarship, which is very much a focus of doctoral education in general (Council of Graduate Schools, 2005; Gardner, 2008; Lovitts, 2005).

The second theme for the communication faculty members was the dissemination of research findings, particularly through publications and participation as conference presenters. The faculty and the administrators of this department mentioned the growing emphasis on this attribute of success for their students and described how they pushed students to turn papers into presentations and publications. They recognized the connection between this activity and their students’ ability to negotiate the academic job market. One faculty member noted, “They put out many papers and try to be on many panels because they understand that quantity is going to mark them as involved.” Faculty, however, understood that this was not an explicit requirement of their program; therefore, students who achieved success in this area were exerting effort above and beyond their program’s minimal criteria. Indeed, one faculty member was dismissive about required coursework: “I could care less about the student’s grades. It’s productivity that comes through conference papers, which leads to publications and grant proposals.”

Oceanography. The Oceanography Department, a hard-applied life discipline in the Biglan (1973) classification, represents faculty efforts to bring coherence to what had once been an unstructured, interdisciplinary program. The department’s high completion rate of 72.7% is characteris- tic of a faculty whose members are very supportive of their students and a department that is markedly cohesive. In these characteristics, it closely resembles the Communication Department. The Oceanography Department offers only graduate programs and typically enrolls about 13 new students annually. Much like other science fields, all students in the Oceanography Department are funded on individual faculty research grants.

Oceanography faculty and students represent a generally affable and in- novative group. Like their communication colleagues, oceanography faculty expect their students to demonstrate high levels of independence and self- direction. One faculty member remarked that successful doctoral students, in his opinion, are “self-motivated. They complete their task from start to

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finish with minimal supervision.” Unlike communication faculty, however, when speaking of their students, the four faculty members in oceanogra- phy used phrases like “nice people,” “happy,” and “helpful” to describe their students. Indeed, the faculty interviewed expressed these characteristics as integral qualities of successful students. One faculty member commented, when asked about the definition of a successful student, “Well, one that’s happy. One that’s comfortable with what they’re doing. We don’t want people to go out and have a job that they’re not happy with.”

All faculty members interviewed, however, commented about the need to ask for and to offer assistance as a characteristic of success. For example, one faculty member stated, “They would know when to ask for help; that seems to be what trips up some students,” while another defined a successful student as “someone who helps other students when an opportunity comes.” In this manner, this department represents the collaborative nature of work in the sciences, one that depends highly on teamwork in laboratory settings and research teams (Golde, 1998).

Psychology. The Psychology Department represents the third highest completion rate at this institution, with 70.2% of its admitted students graduating with their Ph.D. From a disciplinary culture perspective, psy- chology falls in the soft-pure life classification of Biglan (1973). Much like other psychology programs, this department serves a large undergraduate population of majors; it also offers master’s and doctoral degrees in several concentrations. The Psychology Department typically admits 23 new doc- toral students each year. These students often receive what amounts to full funding: a combination of teaching assistants for undergraduate classes and some research assistantships through individual faculty projects.

In meeting with the faculty members in this department, I got a distinct sense of a culture with highly demanding expectations for its students and its faculty. Faculty are very aware that the time and effort required for students to be successful often make it difficult for all students to meet these demands. Therefore, for these faculty members, successful students had characteristics external to the program—inherent characteristics that students brought with them. Foremost among them were natural talent and self-direction.

One faculty member, when asked about the department’s students, described: “They’re highly intelligent and they come in with really good GRE scores.” Another faculty member echoed that successful students “are exceedingly bright. We have the highest GRE scores on campus.” A third remarked that successful doctoral students in psychology are “bright, so they’re good at coursework but they’re also good at their research because they’re so bright.” The implied relationship between intelligence and GRE scores is noteworthy, particularly as this relationship has not generally been documented by the existing research on this topic (e.g., Kuncel, Hezlett, & Ones, 2001; Nettles & Millett, 2006; Rubio, Rubin, & Brennan, 2003).

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Like the communication faculty, the psychology faculty identified self- direction as the students’ second attribute of success. One commented, “A successful student is organized, knows what they’re supposed to do, com- municates well with their mentor, reads the guidelines and follows them.” Another faculty member adamantly asserted, “A successful student has two things: natural talent and self-discipline.” Similarly, a third faculty member observed, “The folks who are extremely hard-working and extremely self- disciplined—they do better. The kind of people who work on Saturday and work on Christmas break. They go back to work before anyone tells them they need to be back at work.”

The faculty members in psychology resoundingly agreed that the main reason their completion rate was so high was because they could be highly selective in admissions. Only psychology and English faculty mentioned high selectivity as the underlying reason for their above-average completion rates, and their highly selective admissions were, in turn, the result of increased funding from the university, something only a handful of departments on campus have received. One psychology faculty member maintained, “I think our students are successful because we get good students from the get-go. Psychology is so highly competitive to get in. So, I think one of the reasons we have a high graduation rate is because we pick the cream of the crop from the beginning.” Another psychology member insisted, “The single most important factor, bar none, factor of 10—if you do an experiment around a regression it would account for at least 90% of the variance—is admis- sions. Poor admissions decisions are unfixable.” This shared recognition by psychology faculty may be an acknowledgement that their students’ ultimate success has little to do with the program itself.

English. The English Department in this study has a completion rate be- low that of communication, oceanography, and psychology, but its 56.4% completion rate is considered high when compared to other humanities disciplines, in which completion rates nationally range from 13% to 37% (e.g., Nerad & Cerny, 1993; Zwick, 1991). English, as a discipline, is classi- fied as another soft pure nonlife discipline by Biglan (1973). Because the English Department receives additional university funding for student re- cruiting, it can fully fund most of its students for four years. This funding comes in the form of one teaching assistantship per semester, a nationally competitive arrangement particularly attractive to prospective students. On average, the English Department admits 17 new doctoral students each year and also serves a large undergraduate population. Ultimately, while considered middle-of-the-road in terms of completion rates for this study, English faculty nevertheless exude pride in their students’ success and their program. During interviews, they frequently alluded to their department’s national ranking and reputation.

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Indeed, the characteristics these faculty members defined as the keys to success for their doctoral students included ranking and reputation. They conceptualized success as their students’ ability to secure employment, a goal reached through presenting and publishing. One faculty member commented, “A successful doctoral student is one who, from the very first seminar paper, is attempting not to write seminar papers but publishable articles. They also do other kinds of professional things. They’re on panels and give papers.” In fact, the majority of the faculty members mentioned publishing in one form or another in their definitions of successful English students. The highest mark of success, in one faculty member’s view, was that the student “not only makes it through the program but gets placed— you know, gets the job, a good job.” In other words, these faculty members viewed success as something external to the program, much like other high- completing departments. One individual made this view explicit: “The real test of success is on the outside—employment or publication.”

A major part of finding “a good job” is learning how to balance the many duties of a faculty member including, in particular, teaching. One individual observed that successful students “have a handle on their teaching. They’ve developed strategies to manage the demands of undergraduate courses and learned how to deal with grading and so forth so that they’ll have time for their own work.” Taken together, these faculty members are highlighting the many aspects of professional socialization, certainly a necessary part of finding and securing academic positions (Austin, 2002; Clark & Corcoran, 1986). Illustrating this idea, one faculty member asserted, “A successful graduate student is one who functions as and sees herself or himself as not simply a student but a candidate member, an apprentice member of this profession.”

Low-Completion Departments

In contrast, are the three lowest completing departments in this study: mathematics, engineering, and computer science. Significantly, these disci- plines in other national studies are generally among those with the highest completion rates. This institution’s Mathematics Department had a 37.6% completion rate, computer science had 38.4%, and engineering had 17.6%. In contrast, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) departments’ completion rates in national studies range from 50% to 82% (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Nerad & Cerny, 1993; Zwick, 1991). Biglan’s (1973) model of academic disciplines classifies all three disciplines as hard nonlife disciplines, with computer science and engineering as applied fields and mathematics as a pure field.

Computer science and engineering. Computer science and engineering at this institution share many traits. A high percentage of its students and faculty are from Asia and India; thus, doctoral students in these depart-

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ments must often deal with language barriers and the need to secure fund- ing to remain in the country. Many faculty members in both departments attribute their low completion rates to two things: (a) a comparative lack of university funding, which translates into few teaching assistantships for graduate students and few grants for faculty; and (b) a highly competitive global job market, which means that international students who are strug- gling financially can frequently be lured into industrial jobs.

Over the past 20 years, the Engineering Department has typically admit- ted approximately 15 new doctoral students each year, and the Computer Science Department has admitted, on average, 18 new doctoral students annually. When discussing the concept of student success, however, faculty members in these departments frequently diverged from the topic to speak about the difficulty experienced by faculty members. Faculty members were, in general, more inclined to talk about their own issues and concerns than those of students.

To the extent that the discussion could focus on students, however, suc- cess for doctoral students in these two departments equated to having high intelligence and ambition. One engineering faculty member, identified “intelligence” as the most essential characteristic. “They have the prepara- tion and background to do the research.” He similarly continued, “They’re sharp. They’re motivated. If they’re not sharp, it’s very hard for them to get into the level of research needed. If they’re not motivated, even if they get a Ph.D., they will not be really willing to go even further.” Another faculty member in engineering remarked, “These are students that are self-driven. They work very hard; but I think more, they are very smart.”

Computer science faculty saw similar traits in their successful doctoral students. One faculty member commented, “‘Successful’ probably meets several qualities: intelligence, preparation, required background of train- ing, knowledge, the desire and motivation to get it done, and the academic skill.” A second faculty member echoed: “I would say a successful student by our department’s standards is someone with a strong background in a traditional core computer science.” Like other departments in this study, then, success in engineering and computer science was equated to traits inherent in students before they entered the program, rather than traits they acquired in the program.

Mathematics. The Mathematics Department, in contrast, painted a dif- ferent but important picture from the engineering and computer science departments. While certainly a lower-completing department when com- pared to others at this institution and nationally, Mathematics Department faculty did not depict a culture of low completion. Rather, it more closely resembled the culture of the English Department in being very focused on rankings and status and on placing its students at “good” institutions. The Mathematics Department at this institution awards its students full funding

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for several years, always in the form of teaching assistantships, and admits approximately 18 new doctoral students each year.

For the mathematics faculty, success for their doctoral students meant securing a good position in academia after graduation. Key traits were pub- lishing and having the drive to “work very hard.” It is interesting to note, however, that the only faculty member in the entire study who equated success to actual degree completion was in the Mathematics Department. He remarked, “I would say the most successful student is the one who gets the doctorate, I think.”

In regard to publishing and the job market, one mathematics faculty member commented that a successful student is “someone who is actu- ally able to get a publication,” which would then lead to a “good post-doc and a good position at a university.” The department chair summarized: “There are different kinds of success and the definition for success for the department changes to some extent based on what the pressure is from the departmental competition. The kind of success this department is looking for most today is a successful research career after graduation. We would like to see all placed into nationally competitive groups or at least post-docs.” As for the ability and drive to “work hard,” these faculty members agreed, though phrased variously, that “it takes, number one, the desire to suc- ceed and the corresponding ability to work hard in the program.” Another commented that the most successful students “have to be willing to work very, very hard.” In this way, this department’s faculty attributed success to an innate ability to work hard—which is a trait inherent in the admitted student’s personality—paired with the external element, after the program’s completion, of the job placement.


I interviewed 38 faculty members in seven departments at one research- extensive institution to better understand their conceptualizations of success in doctoral education. I chose the academic department, which is “where the imperatives of the discipline and the institution converge” (Clark, 1987, p. 64), as the focus of the exploration. Analysis of the faculty members’ comments made it evident that both disciplinary and institutional contexts significantly influence how they understand and articulate success for their doctoral students.

Clark (1987) also remarked, “The disciplines have their own histories and trajectories, their own habits and practices” (p. 25). In this study, dis- ciplinary culture was apparent in faculty perceptions of doctoral student success. For instance, differences between the disciplines of communication and oceanography in how they organized themselves and their research (i.e., individual versus collaborative) were evident in their responses about

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doctoral student success. While the analysis of the study was guided by the concept of disciplinary culture (Becher, 1981; Biglan, 1973a), the concep- tualizations of success in this study discussed by the faculty members often shared not only their disciplinary grouping but their completion rate as well. For example, both communication and psychology faculty discussed the need for self-direction in successful doctoral students while both computer science and mathematics faculty mentioned the ability to work hard as a key to success. It is perhaps the difference between tangible and intangible qualities that defines these departments’ conceptualizations and, therefore, their completion rates. In other words, it may be more difficult to define what constitutes “intelligence” or “working hard” than to define being inde- pendent or self-directed. Independently structuring and managing a study is much more clearly definable than “working hard” on the research. It may be that the students in these low-completing departments are struggling to meet undefined and intangible conceptualizations of success.

Conversely, some of the commonalities found in this study between de- partments owed a great deal to institutional influence. For example, while both English and mathematics faculty interviewees discussed the importance of securing a good job after graduation as “success,” this commonality may have more to do with the institution’s focus on rankings and status than any disciplinary influence. Further, the almost-mirror responses in computer science and engineering departments reflected not only completion rates but also the faculty’s view that the institution was failing to meet crucial needs for funding and support. This finding is particularly important when contrasted with the English Department which receives additional funding from the university for its graduate students. Certainly funding does not tell the whole story of completion and non-completion at this institution (or at any other), but the faculty’s perception of the importance of funding raises the question of whether every department could have “successful” students if only it received more institutional resources.

Another consideration is the cultural differences among the responses given by the faculty members. The affection for students manifest by faculty interviewees in the Communication Department, the university’s highest completing department, contrasts with the almost dismissive comments by computer science and engineering, the lowest completing departments. Of course, these differences may arguably characterize the paradigmatic as- sumptions of these disciplinary cultures (Biglan, 1973b); but, interestingly, only oceanography faculty articulated the need to help others and seek help from them, even though other departments such as engineering and computer science often also involve high levels of what Biglan referred to as “social connectedness” or the need for collaborative cultures for laboratory and group-focused research.

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Finally, the disciplinary differences in regard to Biglan’s (1973b) and Becher’s (1981) classifications were also noteworthy. As Table 2 shows, the majority of the high completing departments at this institution were in soft pure while the low completing departments were all hard nonlife disciplines. The only exception was oceanography, a department with one of the highest completion rates but which is categorized as a hard-applied life discipline. While difficult to attribute differences in completion rates merely to disci- plinary cultures, it is nevertheless remarkable to see the hard/soft differen- tiation in completion rates at this institution. Unlike Biglan, however, the analysis of these departments did not result in a clear demarcation by pure and applied in regard to completion or concepts of success, nor between nonlife and life disciplines. Perhaps it is merely the orientation of the faculty members toward their students that ultimately resulted in the differences in completion and in departmental definitions of success; certainly, those in the highest completing departments were the most vocal about their students’ well being and personal success. For example, in the Communica- tion Department, faculty spoke very highly and warmly of their students, often referring to a sense of “family” and “camaraderie” in the department. In the Oceanography Department, the faculty talked about fostering a sense of “wholeness” in their students and helping them find their life’s “passion” rather than simply completing a degree.


Taken together, the responses from the faculty members in these seven departments represent not only disciplinary but institutional views of success. It is therefore important to consider that much of the research conducted on doctoral education has been based on what occurs in the most prestigious and elite U.S. institutions (e.g., Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Nerad & Cerny, 1993; Nettles & Millett, 2006). This is not to say that such studies are unimportant or invalid but rather that they do not paint a complete picture of doctoral education in the United States. Known as Tier 3 and Tier 4 institutions, institutions like the one examined in this study are generally not ranked among institutions in the top 100 of U.S. News and World Report (2007) or among the Ivy League institutions. These rankings, however, should not diminish these institutions’ role in graduate educa- tion in the United States. Indeed, these third and fourth-tier institutions accounted for 8,502 of the doctorates conferred in 2005, nearly 20% of the total conferred that year (Hoffer et al., 2006). Therefore, by not considering the voices of those within these lesser-ranked institutions, the literature has failed to address the holistic nature and institutional diversity of doctoral education in this country.

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The findings from this study are important in several ways. First, from a policy and practice standpoint, it is important to understand how attri- tion and completion may be influenced by the department’s cultural per- spectives of what it takes to succeed. This finding was particularly evident in discussions of admissions procedures and expectations of students in each area. Departments and institutions must engage entering students in explicit discussions about these expectations. In addition, faculty and administrators should ensure that coursework and research opportunities align with these expectations. For example, if students are expected to be self-directed as a measure of success, structuring research opportunities to allow them to experience this self-directedness is important. Similarly, if students are expected to publish their work, aligning course assignments and research opportunities so that students engage in the publication process is also necessary. Another strategy may be matching incoming students in a mentoring-type relationship with more advanced students who exhibit these traits and habits.

Second, it is important to better understand the structure and procedures that may facilitate or impede students’ success in a particular discipline. Certainly, if departments expect their students to obtain “good jobs” upon graduation, orienting professional development opportunities and mentor- ing toward the job search process and job market is imperative. Moreover, if faculty members expect particular behaviors from students, then faculty members, as mentors and role models for these students, should exhibit these behaviors themselves. One example might be the concept of balance in the English faculty members’ conceptualizations of success. If students can observe successful examples of balancing teaching with research, they may be better able to demonstrate it themselves.

Third, the concept of funding must be explored in both institutional and departmental contexts. Psychology and English faculty members were adamant about the relationship of funding and high completion, much as computer science and engineering faculty members were in regard to low completion. Certainly, funding makes a difference in a student’s stabil- ity throughout the graduate program, and opportunities to conduct and therefore disseminate research may be linked to his or her funding (Abedi & Benkin, 1987; Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992); but the link between funding and student success must be considered on more comprehensive levels. For example, one psychology faculty member made it clear that her depart- ment’s high completion rates stemmed from the fact that they had more money to offer and therefore could choose the “best” students. Does success in doctoral education rely more on the department or on the individual student? Put another way, would this institution’s psychology doctoral students be “successful” anywhere? For institutions like this one, which are

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not among the most elite or most selective, funding can be a slippery slope. If the institution’s mission is to serve its state (in the case of a land grant university) or to serve particular populations (in the case of a historically Black university), does institutional selectivity really equal successful stu- dents? Aligning funding and resource allocation to institutional mission in this regard would be particularly important, although none of the faculty interviewees mentioned it.

Finally, from the perspective of research, this study advanced the explora- tion of cultural constructions of success in doctoral education; however, it had four limitations. My status as a faculty member may have played several conflicting roles in the study’s limitations. My disciplinary and departmen- tal affiliations were different from those included in the study, which may have impeded a true disciplinary understanding of the cultures at work and limited my access to a true account of these cultures. Second, this study was limited to a few departments at one institution. While the socio-cultural make-up of the department’s students was part of the larger study, the faculty interviewees were those with whom the majority of students in the department worked. Future research, therefore, should explore how faculty and student perceptions of success align. Third, comparisons among other institutions and other disciplines should also be explored, as should differ- ences among race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Fourth, this institu- tion’s completion rates were quite different from those cited in national studies (Council of Graduate Schools, 2008), meriting further exploration of the intersection between discipline and institutional setting. With these understandings of success in doctoral education, higher education may be better able to structure for success among all of its students in the future.

appenDix 1. Tell me a little bit about yourself—your background, how you came to academe,

how you became a faculty member. 2. When and where did you complete your doctorate? How long did it take you

at the time? 3. What do you feel your role is in relation to graduate studies in the depart-

ment? 4. What type of training or orientation did you receive to advise doctoral stu-

dents? 5. How are faculty informed about department and graduate school require-

ments, deadlines, guidelines, etc.? Do you feel these guidelines are followed? 6. What are your departmental standards for milestones such as the program of

study, comprehensive exams, and the dissertation phase? 7. Tell me about a “typical” doctoral student in your department. How does he

or she begin, what is the general course followed, etc.?

Gardner / Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education 403

8. How would you describe a “successful” doctoral student in this department? Would that description change in other departments, and if so, how?

9. What about the opposite? What exactly do you see as the issue or problem for students who did not complete the program? What made them “unsuccessful”? Do you feel that the result would have been the same if the student were in another department?

10. In what ways does your department assist graduate students in being suc- cessful?

11. In your opinion, what else could be done to assist graduate students that isn’t already being done?

12. Do you have anything else to add about your impressions of graduate stu- dents in your department?


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Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

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Expressing concern over the quality of public administration research, researchers have long studied how public affairs doctoral programs prepare students to conduct research (e.g., Brewer, Facer, O’Toole, & Douglas, 1998; Rethemeyer & Helbig, 2005; White, Adams, & Forrester, 1996).1 Previous studies have offered programmatic suggestions such as structured research experiences (Brewer, Douglas, Facer, & O’Toole, 1999), examined the “importance” of the dissertation topic (Cleary, 2000), promoted theory development in dissertation research (White et al., 1996),

and recommended coursework in mathematics (Rethemeyer & Helbig, 2005). Scholars also acknowledge the importance of mentoring, socialization, and professional identity dev­ elopment for doctoral students in public affairs (Rethemeyer & Helbig, 2005; Schroeder, O’Leary, Jones, & Poocharoen, 2004), and a growing body of literature from other fields examines doctoral students’ socialization ex­ periences (e.g., Gardner, 2007, 2008, 2010; Green 1991). Increased knowledge of public affairs doctoral students’ professional identity development is important because it can assist

Knowing, Doing, and Becoming: Professional Identity Construction

Among Public Affairs Doctoral Students

Amy E. Smith University of Massachusetts Boston

Deneen M. Hatmaker University of Connecticut

ABSTRACT Public administration scholars have long examined how doctoral students in public affairs are trained to become researchers. Our study adds to this body of knowledge by examining socialization and professional identity construction processes among doctoral students conducting public affairs research. We develop a multilevel model of the organizational, relational, and individual level tactics through which they learn to become researchers. In particular, our study offers insight into the interactions between students and faculty that contribute to their development, as well as into students’ own proactivity. Our study uses interview data from doctoral students in multiple disciplines who are conducting research in public affairs. We conclude with a discussion of our model and recommendations for doctoral programs.

kEywORDS doctoral students, professional identity, socialization, mentoring

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faculty and programs in effectively preparing students to be productive scholars. As such, this study contributes toward understanding how doctoral students interested in public affairs develop their research professional identity. It also offers insights and recom­ mendations for public affairs doctoral pro­ grams and faculty as they socialize students into the research profession.

Our study adds to the existing knowledge about the training of public affairs doctoral students in several ways. This paper develops a multilevel model of research professional id­ en tity development; we consider socialization efforts at the organizational, relational, and individual levels that contribute to different facets of a scholar’s identity. Consistent with prior research, this study confirms the cen­ trality of faculty relationships for PhD student professional identity development and social­ ization. This study also emphasizes that devel­ oping a research professional identity requires mentoring relationships with multiple faculty rather than a one­to­one mentor­protégé relationship. As called for by Green (1991, p. 404), we offer insight into understanding the actual behaviors that comprise the mentoring relationships between faculty and students. While existing research emphasizes the importance of relationships and mentor ing in the doctoral student socialization process, it does not actually reveal the nature of the interactions between public affairs doctoral students and faculty. This paper goes beyond existing research by identifying student­faculty interactions that help students increase their visibility, obtain hands­on research experience, and bolster their research identity.

We also contribute to the call from Saks, Gruman, and Cooper­Thomas (2011, p. 45) for consideration of how newcomers execute proactive behaviors. This paper identifies spec­ ific tactics such as positioning and emulation of role models that doctoral students employ to obtain faculty support and construct their iden tity. It extends existing socialization re­ search by describing these proactive behaviors, especially those in which students engage to

connect to faculty. In some cases, it appears that students may be expending a great deal of energy in strategizing about how to develop connections, and then in actually doing so.

Our study is based on data from interviews with doctoral students from a variety of disciplines who participated in a professional development forum and who are interested in or are conducting research in public affairs. In the next sections, we discuss the theoretical background that frames our study—sociali­ zation and professional identity. We then present our methods and data, followed by our findings. We conclude with a discussion of our model and recommendations for teaching and mentoring public affairs doctoral students.

PROFESSIONAL SOCIALIZATION Socialization involves developing the skills and acquiring the knowledge associated with being a member of an organization or profession, as well as adopting the values, norms, and culture of that profession or organization (Becker, Geer, Hughes, & Strauss, 1961; Van Maanen, 1977; Van Maanen & Schein, 1979; Weid ­ man, Twale, & Stein, 2001). When newcomers undergo this adaptation within the context of a particular organization, it is considered organizational socialization, while professional socialization transcends different organiza­ tional contexts (Lankau & Scandura, 2007). Professional socialization is “learning about the broader set of expectations, skills, behaviors, and performance demands associated with a particular profession” (Lankau & Scandura, 2007, p. 97). It involves not only learning about and developing one’s identity within the profession, but doing so in the context of the work that one needs to accomplish (Becker et al., 1961; Pratt, Rockmann, & Kaufmann, 2006). Tactics such as mentoring, orientation sessions, training, and apprenticeships facili ­ tate socialization; these methods are typically formal efforts by the organization to socialize newcomers (Jones, 1986; Louis, 1980; Miller & Jablin, 1991; Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). These tactics can be considered institution­ alized tactics—socialization methods in which the organization controls the mechanisms

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(Ashforth, Sluss, & Harrison, 2007; Jones, 1986; Saks & Ashforth, 1997).

However, such tactics only represent part of the socialization process. Newcomers also engage their own agency to obtain information and knowledge related to becoming a member of an organization or profession. This proactivity enables them to fill in gaps left by insti tu­ tionalized tactics (Miller & Jablin, 1991; Mor­ rison, 1993; Ostroff & Kozlowski, 1992). For example, newcomers may establish connec tions to experienced members of an organization or profession to obtain emotional support, tacit information, and performance feedback they may not otherwise have if they relied solely on the organization’s tactics (Chao, 2007; Miller & Jablin, 1991; Morrison, 1993; Ostroff & Kozlowski, 1992; Saks & Ashforth, 1997). These efforts can also help them to fit in and understand behavioral and cultural norms and expectations (Chao, 2007; Kim, Cable, & Kim, 2005; Morrison, 1993).

PROFESSIONAL IDENTITy Professional identity can be defined as “the relatively stable and enduring constellation of attributes, beliefs, values, motives, and exper­ iences in terms of which people define them­ selves in a professional role” (Ibarra, 1999, pp. 764–765; Schein, 1978). An individual’s professional identity signals to others that he or she possesses unique, skilled, or scarce abilities (Van Maanen & Barley, 1984). As Pratt et al. note, “Organizational membership is an indicator of where you work (i.e. an organization). Professionals, by contrast, are often defined by what they do” (2006, p. 236, emphasis in original).

Socialization can contribute to professional identity construction in several ways. Activi ­ ties such as formal and on­the­job training can offer the skills, knowledge, abilities, and cre dentials that define someone as being a mem ber of a profession. Such tactics provide newcomers with the tools they require to do the work that defines a professional. Socialization can also offer role models,

mentors, and opportunities for interaction with experienced members of the profession. These individuals can guide newcomers as they make sense of what it means to be a profes sional in a particular field.

Mentoring offers two primary types of func­ tions, career and psychosocial support, and one of its core purposes is to develop profes ­ sional identity (Dobrow & Higgins, 2005; Hall & Burns, 2009; Kram, 1985). Although trad itional mentoring is seen as a one­to­one mentor­protégé relationship, more recent con­ ceptuali zations focus on multiple develop­ mental re lationships (Dobrow & Higgins, 2005; Ragins & Kram, 2007). Formal development al relationships are those in which the organization facilitates the connection between the individual and mentor. Informal develop mental relationships are those in which the participants initiate the connection, and they often develop between newcomers and the experienced members who can help them to adjust (Chao, 2007; Lankau & Scandura, 2007). Diverse networks of developmental relationships can offer a variety of support, information, and resources for professional identity construction (Dobrow & Higgins, 2005). Mentors can also act as role models who offer possible selves that professionals can “try out” to see how well a particular identity fits (Ibarra, 1999).

DOCTORAL STUDENT SOCIALIZATION AND IDENTITy CONSTRUCTION For doctoral students, socialization into the profession includes the process of learning to become an independent researcher (Gardner, 2007, 2008). The process of constructing this identity involves the transition from being a consumer of knowledge to a producer of knowledge through original research, a process that can be frustrating for students (Gardner, 2008). The socialization of doctoral students has received attention within the higher education, sociology, and organizations lit­ erature (e.g., Gardner, 2007, 2008, 2010; Green, 1991; Rosen & Bates, 1967; Weidman & Stein, 2003; Weidman et al., 2001).

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Some of this work examines socialization stages that doctoral students progress through as they become researchers (e.g., Gardner, 2008; Green, 1991; Weidman & Stein, 2003; Weidman et al., 2001). For example, Gardner (2008) found that the history and chemistry doctoral students in her study were socialized through program­ matic processes such as course work; candidacy examinations and the disserta tion; relationships with peers, faculty, and other academic pro fes­ sionals; and personal learning. She noted that they transition through phases of development marked by the first year of coursework, the time spent in coursework up to candidacy, and then the disserta tion process.

Relationships with advisers and mentors can be important for professional socialization and identity development (Green, 1991; Hall & Burns, 2009; Gardner, 2007, 2008; Schroeder et al., 2004; Sweitzer, 2009). For example, Green (1991) found that when advisors were highly supportive of doctoral students, students were more likely to be more committed to and productive in their research. Gardner (2008) found that in the early stages of their social­ ization, the history and chemistry doctoral students in her study developed relationships with faculty and peers on whom they relied for guidance; but in the later stage of their programs, the dissertation stage, the students became less attached to peers and closer to faculty. She also found that the students began their transition to a more professional identity from a student identity during the mid and late socialization phases focused on approach­ ing candidacy and the dissertation (Gardner, 2008). In her study of business doctoral students, Sweitzer (2009) found that the influence of faculty­student developmental relationships on professional identity varied based on whether the faculty reinforced institutional goals or focused more on individual development.

DATA AND METHODS This paper is based on interviews with 27 students who participated in a professional development workshop for public affairs doctoral students. The authors co­chaired this

workshop in two consecutive years, and participants were recruited from both cohorts, which comprised a total of 59 students. The workshop was geared toward students interested in pursuing an academic career and included sessions on the academic job market, ethics in publishing, and an interactive session between faculty and students to provide input and feedback on the students’ research. Study participants were enrolled in doctoral programs at 25 different universities in 6 countries located in North America, South America, and Europe; most participants were from North America. Seventeen students were attending programs in public administration, public man agement, policy, philanthropy and non­ profit management, or political science. Ten students were enrolled in management and/or organizations (e.g., organizational behavior) doctoral programs but were conducting re­ search in public affairs. Eighteen of the study participants were women.

At the time of the interviews, seven students had recently graduated. Most of the remaining students had entered candidacy and/or were working on their proposal or dissertation. Nearly all participants were collaborating with faculty on research projects in addition to working on their own dissertation research. Twenty­two participants had coauthored a conference paper or journal article with a faculty member. All students had attended at least one academic conference, and nearly all had presented at a conference.

The authors and one graduate assistant collected data through semi­structured phone interviews; the geographic dispersion of study participants and resource constraints prohibit­ ed in­person data collection. Interviews lasted about one hour and were audio­recorded. The interviews were professionally transcribed. The quality of the recording for one interview prohibited transcription, and we relied on notes taken during the interview.

Our interview questions focused on how par­ ticipants were learning to become academic pro fessionals. Although our interviews covered

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each of the three dimensions that comprise a faculty or academic career—research, teaching, and service—this paper focuses specifically on their process of becoming a researcher. Similar to Pratt et al. (2006) in their study of professional identity construction among medical residents, we asked participants what being a researcher means to them. We also asked them about how they are learning to do research, covering topics such as working with faculty, their coursework, and conference presentations. We conducted interviews until we had reached theoretical saturation, in which no new or relevant data was emerging for our categories (Strauss & Corbin, 2008), resulting in a total of 27 interviews.

We employed a grounded theory approach for our analysis in which we iteratively used the literature and the data to inductively and systematically generate our constructs (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). First, we read through each transcript in its entirety. Then, employing an open coding process (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), we individually coded a subset of the inter views by assigning labels to sentences and paragraphs; this initial coding focused on how participants defined being a researcher and tactics and behaviors related to learning to become a researcher. For inter­coder reliability, we discussed our individual coding and agreed on first­order codes. We used these codes as a guideline for subsequent coding, and added new codes as they emerged through our analysis and discussion. We used the litera ture to inform our analysis. For example, Weidman and Stein (2003), Sweitzer (2009), and the work by Gardner (2007, 2008) offered insight into the importance of relationships for doctoral stu dents. The organizational socializa tion literature (e.g., Morrison, 1993; Ostroff and Kozlowski, 1992; Van Maanen & Schein, 1979) guided our coding of institution­ alized socialization tactics and the students’ proactive efforts.

We then grouped codes into higher­level categories and used axial coding to establish connections between the categories (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Relating the categories to

each other revealed how students linked, for example, formal research training, faculty­ student interactions (such as the support offered through mentoring), and the conse­ quences of the training and interactions (the students’ perceptions of their development). Subsequent closer coding of the categories revealed additional nuances that led us to our multilevel model of socialization tactics at the organizational, relational, and individual level. Our coding also focused on students’ definitions of what it means to be a researcher. (See Appendix I for the structure of our codes and categories, with data examples.) We used NVivo software to manage the data and elec tronically link transcript text to codes and categories.

THE PROTOTyPICAL RESEARCHER In responding to our question about what it means to be a researcher, nearly all participants offered descriptions of what researchers do (Pratt et al., 2006). Participants’ explanations of what it means to be a researcher described tasks and role expectations that typically are associated with being a researcher—a proto­ typical research identity (cf. Sluss, Ployhart, Cobb, & Ashforth, 2012; Sweitzer, 2009). As one participant stated, a researcher is one “who looks into whatever is going on in the real world and tries to make sense of it.”

Students discussed several dimensions of the prototypical research identity, as shown in Box 1. They indicated activities in which research­ ers engage and how they behave, covering ethics, theory building, research dissemination and publishing, and methodo logical rigor. A few participants who discussed ethics did so in terms of the nature of the research itself—as one participant stated, “It’s advancing the field ethically, honestly with academic rigor”—as well as with respect to the treatment of research participants. Many parti cipants described being a researcher as predi cated upon using rigorous research methods.

Most students viewed theory building as a central part of a researcher’s role. They dis­ cussed two types of theory building: the type that adds incrementally to existing scholarship

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and the type that ventures into previously unexplor ed areas. For example, one partici ­ pant articulated the nuances between these two types of contributions.

I see research as maybe one of two maybe various components. I think one com­ ponent and I, and I actually heard this at a conference—that there are some researchers who are really great with coming up with new questions, new ways of looking at a phenomenon, new ways of analyzing something and then there are other researchers who con­ centrate on taking existing infor mation and, and maybe challenging it or testing assumptions and things like that.

Several participants also recognized that the dissemination of findings is a researcher’s role. These students discussed publishing as the primary vehicle through which research results would be shared with the academic and practitioner community. Even early in their careers, these students were keenly aware of the central role that publishing plays in the career of a researcher. For example, one participant stated, “I’ve really been trained in the publish or perish mindset.”

Another student articulated publishing’s cen­ trality in building a reputation as a contributor to a particular body of knowledge and in gaining name recognition.

Being a researcher at a university, as far as I’m concerned, means that you are able to publish in top journals. So, being a researcher means that you are a person that devotes the whole time into trying to publish in these top journals … kind of building your own research line so it’s not just publishing 1 or 2 good pieces in good journals, but also trying to draw a line, a research line, that people can define that you are doing research in this area. And when they think in some area, they can think in your name, for example, or they can think of some of your work.

RESEARCH PROFESSIONAL IDENTITy CONSTRUCTION As they discussed how they are becoming a researcher, our study participants described multiple mechanisms. These components represent a multilevel approach to becoming a researcher; they represent activities at the organizational, relational (interpersonal), and

BOX 1. Participant Descriptions of a Researcher

“What Does it Mean to be a researcher?”

I think the researcher has to be someone who is actively investigating questions that are relevant and haven’t really been answered before, you know, trying to get their work published and having to, you know, the academic community to get, to start a dialog and to stand in front of others and to really kind of, you know, answer some tough questions.

I think being a researcher means being able to pose a provocative, relevant question, and then go about answering it. So to me, that’s what research is about.

One is sort of creation of knowledge in the areas that I’m interested in and then dissemination of that knowledge and so, you know, doing research that’s going to build on, on the foundations we have right now in my area and help to, you know, create better understanding of variety of phenomena.

I believe a researcher is somebody who saturates themselves in the knowledge of their field and then tries to expand upon that knowledge.

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individual level. We have categorized the tac ­ tics into three main groups: institutionalized socialization (organizational level), faculty men­ tor ing (relational level), and student proactivity (individual level).

Institutionalized socialization is comprised of the formal activities initiated by the student’s department or school and geared toward formal socialization into the profession. Faculty men­ toring consists of the activities that faculty initiate to develop the students. Activities falling into the category of student proactivity are those in which the student initiates relationships that facilitate his or her transition, sometimes by strategically positioning them­ selves in order to connect with the “right” person. In addition, a few students stated that a certain amount of luck contributed to their development, particularly with respect to the relationships constructed with faculty; we have labeled this phenomenon serendipity. In the next sections, we discuss each of these mechanisms in more detail, along with the associated outcomes noted by the students.

Institutionalized Socialization Tactics As discussed by the participants, a researcher’s identity is rooted in inquiry, rigor, and the application of research methods to study social phenomena. Part of this identity is developed through institutionalized mechanisms that are established by departments, colleges, or uni­ versities to socialize students as researchers. These institutionalized tactics were comprised of three activities in which nearly every student participated: research methods courses, formal advising, and formal graduate assistantship assignments. Nearly all students were required to take at least two methods courses, and most participants completed on average two addi tional methods courses. All participants completed at least one quantitative methods course, and nearly all had a course covering qualitative methods.

Departments also assigned students to faculty for formal advising and for graduate assistant­ ships. Twenty­four participants had assistant­

ships during graduate school; of that number, 16 held research assistantships. Nearly all part icipants with an assistantship described the relationship as one that grew in responsi­ bility over time. In the next section on faculty men toring and on­the­job training, we discuss in more detail the relationships between faculty and students in the context of these assignments.

Several participants described their methods courses and research assistantships as strongly complementary. Research assistantships pro­ vid ed a venue where the students could apply the techniques and skills learned in the meth­ ods courses, as one participant articulated.

So in those courses, we looked at every­ thing from textbooks on how to do research and the practice both on the quantitative and qualitative way of doing it with social science to cases and examples where research has been … but I really think it was strongly, strongly augmented by my experience with my advisor, as I’ve worked two research projects with her, so the two research design classes are great starting points but it all exists in this hypothetical situation and that’s not the way the world operates and you learn so much through the process of doing it.

Participants built foundational knowledge through classroom training, but the on­the­job experiences working with faculty members enabled the students to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom to actual research pro­ jects. In the next section, we discuss the on­the­ job training related to honing research skills as well as other dimensions of faculty mentoring.

Faculty Mentoring It’s something … I think that if a top professor can devote some time with a PhD student, I think that’s, in my opin­ ion, that’s probably the key of a successful PhD, is having someone with experience

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and with success and that this person devotes time to you. In this case, if I send him a paper, doesn’t matter the week, doesn’t matter the time, he will read it and comment on it and we will have a meeting and he will go point by point. And really for me, that makes a differ­ ence, more than the courses and more than everything.

The above quote from one of our students speaks to the centrality of faculty’s role in shaping the students’ professional identity as a researcher. In particular, this student recognized that faculty availability and willingness to provide detailed feedback is a cornerstone of a doctoral student’s success. All of the students in our study described how their relationships and interactions with faculty offered either instrumental or social support or both. Many of the students discussed the underlying trust in these relationships, and nearly all talked about supportive ties to faculty other than the formally assigned advisor. These informal re­ lationships offer advice and guidance beyond the “bureaucratic” processes of being a doctoral student, and can emerge “organically” or as a result of a “natural” affinity in a particular topic area, as two students described.

I mean mentoring and advising I see as very differently. Advising is much more physical, filling out the paperwork that needs to be done through the university bureaucracy, which is important to get that all done. Otherwise, you can’t pro­ gress. But I think of mentoring as much more informal and almost something that has to happen organically; at least it has been in my experience.

I mean, yeah, I have an advisor, one that’s obviously a little bit more formal but the other ones I think like any, pro­ bably in any setting, it’s … there’s people that you connect with more naturally than others and so I would definitely say that there’s three other pro fessors that it’s

more of the informal relationship. You know, I trust them and if I know I have questions, I’ll make sure that I’m shoot­ ing them an e­mail.

Such mentoring by faculty contributes toward developing the students’ sense of themselves as researchers, offering them confidence as well as the skills needed to be a researcher. Most students referred to the faculty with whom they work closely as mentors even if the faculty were not assigned as formal mentors or advisors. This mentoring consists of on­the­job training, emotional labor, and visibility enhancement.

on­the­job training. Nearly all of the students discussed learning how to conduct research through on­the­job training while working with faculty. For some participants, colla­ borating with faculty began with being given responsibility for a relatively small portion of a research project, with the parts growing incrementally over time along with increased responsibility. The following two participants describe their increasing responsib ilities as they learned more about how to conduct research through their work with faculty.

I have one project that I would say is probably like a classic PhD student project whereby my supervisor and his colleague developed the research study initially and then I became involved as a research assistant right at the stage where they were designing the questionnaire and so I had some input there, did a bunch of the data collection, and now have been on the, I am the third author on a manuscript that’s under review … yeah, it’s sort of classic, you know, learning the ropes and helping to do bits and pieces, so that’s one project.

Well, it changed over the course of, as I grew. Initially, it was mostly involved in writing the methods part of course, as I was the main one doing the data analysis. So writing the methods, but also

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brainstorming with the ideas. And then also just kind of in reviewing and adding to the manuscript that my advisor was taking the lead on. But over time too, I came to play more of a role in the theory development. And though I was never the one doing the lead writing, I was contributing as much as my advisor on the theory development and writing.

Some students likened their initial experiences to being “thrown into the fire” and conducting research with a faculty member immediately upon entering graduate school.

And so I actually dove sort of head first into this project, you know, the first day of starting grad school . . . And it ended up being a multimethod study. We did a series of focus groups and then I designed and implemented a survey. So it was a, you know, a pretty hands on, thrown in the fire introduction to, to research.

Bolstering identity. Several students discussed how faculty interactions served to bolster their professional identity. For example, several students in our study noted that interactions with faculty helped them to gain self­confidence and enhance their own sense of efficacy as a researcher. Several students indicated that one outcome of responsibility growing increment­ ally is increased confidence. One participant reflected that as faculty­student collaboration progressed, confidence increased, and she became more of a peer to the faculty researcher rather than just a student.

I don’t think … I think it’s just something that kind of happened naturally because as my foundation grew, I had a lot more to offer. And so I just … And whereas, in my first couple of years, I was very hesitant, lacked the confidence to kind of push my ideas out there, that changed the more I learned, the more that I gained confidence, and it became more of a peer relationship rather than kind of advisor/student.

Although on­the­job training assists the stud­ ents in developing their research skills, faculty do not just focus on the technical aspects of training in the mentoring relationships. The research profession can be challenging on sev­ eral fronts, and faculty mentors also offer the psychosocial support that is a part of men toring and that can assist students in overcoming emotional hurdles. A few students explained how this psychosocial support helped them weather the emotional peaks and valleys asso­ ciated with the successes and failures of learning to do (and actually doing) research, and helped them to overcome stumbling blocks they may have faced.

For example, in the next quotation, one student described the self­doubt that accompanies many students as they begin their professional development, and how the faculty support is both reassuring and a reaffirmation of their identity as a researcher. At the same time, the student noted that the faculty recommended that she learn to develop the tough skin often required to persevere in this profession.

… she was very supportive and reassuring and, you know, but also not afraid to say you need to be able to do this so you might not enjoy it but toughen up, you’ll get through it, I have total faith in you … we come into this with enough self­doubt, I think, that having that, that moral support, saying that you can do this is, helps keep us in it, helps keep, get us through it.

Another student used the analogy of learning to ride a bike to articulate how his advisor en­ abled him to gain independence while still being there “to pick him up” from research “spills.”

And I just feel it’s a huge advantage to have had that opportunity to, to see it in theory, to see it in practice, and I tend to use an analogy with several of the stages as we’ve moved through different parts of a research project to my research assist­ antship of kind of having training wheels

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on a bike and then moving to my advisor, sort of walking along or running along behind the bike, making sure that I’m not going to take a big spill to getting me ready to do it on my own, which I think is the ideal; and if you just throw them out there without that experience, it’s really easy to take a tumble and not be sure you want to get back up on the bike.

Increasing visibility. For researchers, profes­ sional identity is also rooted in their reputa tion and connections to other researchers. One component of the developmental relation ­ ships that emerged from our analysis was that faculty offered opportunities for students to become more visible to other academics within the profession . Many study partici­ pants explain ed how faculty connected them to researchers from other institutions and invited them to join panels at professional confer ­ ences. One participant described how being asked to parti cipate in a panel led to writing a book chapter.

One of the things that [my advisor] did, for example, that is a lovely thing for a mentor to do, is she would ask to be part of the panel for the next [management] conference and she asked me if I wanted to be part of that panel and then that put me in touch with the, the person who is leading the panel or co­leading the panel who, after I submitted my paper for that purpose, asked me if I wanted to write a chapter in a book she was editing.2

Balancing. A few students in our study ex­ plained how faculty offered guidance that went beyond the framework of the profession; they identified support from faculty that focused on the challenges of balancing life outside of work with work demands (work­life balance). Although life as an academic researcher can offer many benefits in terms of autonomy and lifestyle, particularly through the dissertation and tenure years, it can also be quite a demanding profession.

For example, students and newly minted PhDs can find it difficult to determine how much time to spend on different activities that are expected of academic professionals. Similarly, Gardner (2007, 2008) found that balancing duties and issues of time were challenges for the history and chemistry students in her study. In the next quote, one participant described both the nature of the advisor relationship in terms of emotional closeness and formality, as well as the advisor’s advice on balancing the competing priorities faced by academic researchers.

I have a very close relationship with my advisor. And because of our close rela­ tion ship that’s developed kind of beyond just work life and personal as well, there’s a relationship there, he’s helped me in kind of all aspects and how to balance it. And I feel that he’s looked after me and offered advice on how not to get too overwhelmed, how to kind of limit how much time I spend on different projects or teaching different things that I’m required to do. …So, and in some ways, it’s been very formal, and in some ways, it’s been more personal and informal.

Student Proactivity Learning to become a researcher also involves individual agency on the student’s part. All participants explained how they took initiative to connect with and learn from faculty. They emulated faculty advisors and mentors and positioned themselves in ways that enabled them to establish relationships with particular faculty that they deemed instrumental for their own advancement and research.

Participants used phrases like “personal initi­ ative” and “I was the driver” to convey their proactivity. One participant remarked, “It’s there for the taking, but you have to be able to take the initiative.” These participant com ments suggest that the connections with faculty through assistantships and advisor assignments are necessary, but not sufficient, for the learning

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process. Rather, formal assignments allocated by the department are first steps. It is then up to students to be proactive in recognizing their needs and strategically developing and initiating relationships to fulfill those academic and emotional support needs.

Emulating faculty. Many students viewed faculty as role models, and they discussed emu lating faculty. For students, advisors are their first examples of what it means to be a researcher and how research is actually done. Because faculty advisors are role models, they are heavily influential in the process of learning to be come a researcher. One participant said of her advisor, “I kind of want to be her when I grow up.” As described in the quotes from two participants, doctoral students imitate faculty that they perceive as successful researchers.

I’m very grateful for her and I think that’s, that’s probably one of the things, one of the most tactical ways that I’ve learned how to be a researcher and how to be an academic and I really see her as someone that I can follow, follow in those footsteps.

…that would be the metaphor, you know, the master has developed his craft to, you know, to a degree that he is respected among the community within that trade and, you know, you enter as a mentee, you know, to, to understand how to dev­ e lop the craft, how to be come an expert yourself but first by mimick ing, not necessarily mimicking but just by, yeah, mimicking, you know, the same routines and approaches that your mentor takes.

Positioning. Nearly all students engaged in activities to position themselves to be noticed by faculty and to initiate working relationships with them. We identified three specific posi­ tioning strategies in our coding: (a) reaching out, (b) initiating research projects and then engaging faculty in them, and (c) reputation building. In reaching out to faculty, students

strategically identified faculty and developed and executed a plan for initiating a connection to that person. For example, one participant described positioning himself to initiate con­ tacts with several faculty members, each of whom offered expertise in differing areas of interest or need.

I just knocked on her door. I explained a little what was my background and what I wanted to do and we started working quite soon together. …I wanted to work with someone that was actually an expert on quantitative methods because I think it’s important. So, I got in touch with this other professor from the quanti tative department…then the first year, I attended also the [withheld] conference. I wanted to inter act with a public [administration] faculty member and the first one on my list was [name withheld]. So, I just bumped into him at the conference and I explained what was my thesis about and where I was from, these kinds of things and we started work, little by little, together and as we were working more, the relationship was a bit closer.

In another example, a student sought out a faculty member by directly asking her to be the student’s advisor.

So I was attending a course with her, and this was a brilliant course. It really open­ ed up my mind to lots of research ques­ tions and ideas, and I realized I really wanted to be with her. … And then I re­ quested her if she’d be willing to be my supervisor because I was looking for a change in supervisor, and she said yes right away.

In another case, a student described how he would reach out to those faculty whose work he admired, with whom he might have a natural connection or whose work is compelling.

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Well, there are some other researchers and professors that I have more affinity and more dialogue possibilities, so those ones I would choose for advice, or peo ­ ple that I have a special admiration on their work. So I know they have a work that is particular interesting or they have deve loped a way that was really nice, so I would go for them. I would look for them.

Another way that participants positioned themselves to connect with faculty was by initiating their own research projects and asking faculty to participate. These projects included research outside of assignments from faculty supervisors, as one partici­ pant described.

So I identified a, a gap in the literature and what I thought was kind of inter­ esting for an experiment in this case, a controlled experiment, and so I designed that and then brought in another student and, well, the fellow who was running the course that I, where I identified this as a, as a project, so the faculty member and that faculty member has, is like is the third author on this work and so he operated it as a, well, much as you would expect a third author, author to operate. He gave input to drafts and gave input to questionnaires and study design but it was mostly run by me.

Several students also focused on reputation building as a means to position themselves such that they could be noticed by or initiate a connection to faculty. Students indicated that projection of their skills, abilities, and know­ ledge assisted them in building a reputation within their department or area of expertise and then initiating a relationship with faculty. Students built their reputation in various ways: by doing well in their coursework, presenting at conferences, collaboration, and voicing inter est in particular areas of research.

In one example, a student described a confer­ ence presentation and her reputation among other faculty as key factors in her ability to secure a postdoctoral fellowship and collabor­ ative research projects with a faculty member at another institution.

I think the reason I earned [my fellowship] was they, that he saw me present, my new advisor at [my new school], saw me pre­ sent at [a conference] and was impressed with the quality of the research I was doing and then he also knew colleagues of mine at [my former job] and learned further about some of the data collection methodology and knew my persistence was, how should I say, he said it was im­ pressive so he and I have a lot of research projects already planned.

In sum, these comments by participants sug­ gest that student proactivity is an important element in the process of learning to become a researcher. In particular, formal tactics init­ iated by the organization, such as classroom training and the assignment of advisors and assistantships, begin the process of learning to become a researcher, but they alone are not sufficient. Developmental relationships with faculty are a primary element in the socializa­ tion and identity development process, and students played an active role in developing these relationships.

Serendipity In the course of coding the interviews, we noticed that a few students mentioned one other element that does not fit neatly into our multilevel categories: luck. In particular, they discussed the role that luck or good fortune played in making their connections to faculty. In this sense, the students seemed to indicate that although they recognized that they can steer their development, for example by establishing connections and doing well in coursework, to some extent the socialization process was eased or facilitated when the department or program happened to assign

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them to a faculty who turned out to be a good fit. By starting off with the “right person,” they believed they were able to focus more on activities that contributed directly toward their own development rather than expending energy on searching for the “right” advisor or mentor. For example, some students talked about how they were lucky to be assigned to their advisor, or to a particular project, as these two participants articulated.

But in terms of actually getting the ex­ per ience and translating that to like class­ room learning, I think, I think I have it because luckily I was assigned to a great project and a great advisor.

I, I, like I said, I know I just kind of won the lottery with this one with who I was placed in that she’s tenured, that she’s recently enough into this that she’s still very aware of how do you the job market, how do you balance it all.

DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS We found a great deal of consensus among our participants regarding what it means to be a researcher, the advantages they gain from fac­ ulty mentoring and relationships, and the effort they put into developing their identity. From our findings, we have constructed a model of the relationship between the multi level com­ ponents and the doctoral students’ notion of and construction of a research professional iden t ity. This model is shown in Figure 1.

The model includes the categories of activities at each level—organizational, relational, and individual—as well as the professional identity dimensions related to these activities and the definition of what it means to be an acad ­ emic researcher as noted by the students in our study. As shown by our findings, the stu­ dents’ departments and programs engaged in institutionalized socialization tactics through coursework and by assigning students to advi­ sors and research assistantships. These tactics helped students to develop research skills and

expertise in research methods as well as know­ ledge about a particular area of research. By exposing students to different faculty mem bers, these tactics also facilitated students’ connec­ tions to and relationships with faculty mentors, as shown by the dotted line in the model from the organizational level activities to the rela­ tional level activities.

Two other factors also influenced students’ abil­ ities to establish developmental relation ships with faculty: student proactivity and seren di­ pity. Students’ proactive behaviors help ed them to connect with key faculty for mentoring beyond their assistantships and formal advisors, as represented by the dotted line in our model from the individual level to relational level acti­ vities. In addition, several students had noted that they felt lucky to be assigned to the advisor they had. We included serendipity in our model with dotted lines to both the institutionalized socialization and the faculty mentoring because it seems to be a moderating factor for both, at least from the students’ perspective.

The relational level of socialization may be the most central to the students’ professional identity development. At this level, the activities and tactics were focused on the interactions between students and faculty, and were often distinguished by students’ descriptions of trust in the faculty and consideration of the faculty as a mentor. These activities comprised both the instrumental and psychosocial support thatboth formal and informal mentoring can pro vide, and students often referred to faculty as their mentors. Not all faculty viewed as mentors by the students were assigned as formal advisors. Some were informal mentors with whom the students established relationships on their own, or who may have taken an interest in a particular student and initiated an informal mentoring relationship.

Insights for Faculty and Doctoral Program Administrators In this section, we offer insights and suggestions to faculty and doctoral programs that are

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training public affairs researchers. Before dis­ cussing our recommendations, we present a few caveats and limitations.3 First, the students in this study self­selected to participate in a professional development workshop. As such, this group may have higher levels of proactivity and motivation for professional development than do public affairs doctoral students as a whole. Although we leave it to future research to explore identity development among stu­

dents while measuring proactivity levels, here we take into account this possibility by offer ­ ing insights for engaging students who may not be as proactive or have as much motivation to develop.

Second, our study focuses on the professional identity development and socialization that begins when the student enters a doctoral pro­ gram and does not consider prior profes sional

A . E . Smith & D . M . Hatmaker

FIGURE 1. Research Professional Identity Construction

Relational Level: Faculty Mentoring

On-the-job training Bolstering identity Increasing visibility Balancing


Components of a Research Professional Identity

Research skills Method expertise Area expertise/knowledge Visibility Reputation Independence Self-confidence Ethics

Organizational Level: Institutionalized Socialization

Classroom training Advisors Research assistantships

Individual Level: Student Proactivity

Emulating faculty Positioning

Journal of Public Affairs Education 559

experience or individual characteristics. We do not have the data to consider these additional factors. Although our study follows the social­ ization literature in viewing sociali zation as beginning once a newcomer crosses the thresh­ old of an organization or profession (e.g., Louis, 1980), these factors certainly can influence the process; we recognize this as a limitation that should be addressed in future research.

A final caveat, as noted in our data and methods section: Our study is based on data from students who indicated an interest in pursuing an academic career. Therefore, the following insights focus primarily on this training.

Programs should consider offering a re quir­ ed professional development seminar for doctoral students. Students discussed both the value of connecting with varied faculty for a range of support and the strategies they used to develop these connections. One way that doctoral programs may alleviate some of this effort is to offer and require a seminar on doctoral research and professional development; for some programs, this requirement may be an addition to the curriculum.

For example, the doctoral program in Public Administration and Policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York requires a one­credit professional development seminar through the first two years of the doctoral program.4 The seminar meets every other week and covers core topics such as the academic job market, publishing in academic journals, teach­ ing at the college level, developing collaborative working relationships with faculty members, selecting an area of specialization, organizing a dissertation committee, and participating in conferences. Multiple faculty members teach and present during the seminar, and students are required to make one conference­style pre­ sentation while registered for this course series. Such a seminar could also educate students about the culture of the academic research pro­ fession, beginning to socialize them to research norms. And although our study focused on aca­

demic research preparation, the seminar could also cover nonacademic professional paths.

A professional development seminar offers a venue for both skill development and consist­ ent messaging to the students. Students have the opportunity to showcase themselves and develop writing and presentation skills. They can present their own work to faculty and peers and receive feedback. A professional develop­ ment seminar offers a good venue for doctoral students to practice conference presentations and/or academic job talks. It also can assist students with their writing skills by providing feedback on drafts of manuscripts.

Because not all students may realize at the beginning stages of their career that success can depend on the diversity of connections they develop, this seminar could also emphasize the importance of developing relationships with multiple faculty from within and outside the students’ department or university. Not all stu­ dents may recognize the value of assistantship work, and the seminar could also reinforce why this work is important. Highlighting how work­ ing with faculty builds a reputation, results in publications, and improves research skills may motivate students to take assistant ships serious­ ly. Overall, a seminar should offer a consistent message to all doctoral students regard ing professional development and can provide them with materials they can refer to later.

Such a seminar serves multiple purposes from the perspective of relational socialization and identity development. It enables students to connect to faculty outside of the classroom or a course in more informal ways and exposes them to a broader range of faculty than they might otherwise encounter. They can also simply learn more about what different faculty members do. These factors can reduce the reliance on serendipity that some students discussed. These seminars also offer another reputation­building opportunity for students, and they may present different aspects of themselves and their interests to faculty. A

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required professional development seminar serves to ensure that those students who may not be getting a great deal of advice or support in some areas, or know how to seek advice or support, receive at least some general guidance and advice in proscribed areas.

Faculty mentors can emphasize and facil­ itate multiple developmental relation ships for doctoral students. The importance of de­ vel oping ties to multiple faculty should be com municated in the formal seminar, but the fac ulty mentor also needs to reinforce and augment the message. Although the seminar can aptly convey general activities for pro fes­ sional development, the reality for doc toral students is that learning to become a productive researcher is a very individualized process. These specialized needs—such as ex per tise in a substantive area or analytic method, or advice on balancing professional demands with raising a family—may not always be ful filled by a student’s primary advisor or mentor.

All of our participants discussed various ways that they initiated ties to faculty that provided them with access to different mentors and role models who served different purposes. But, as we acknowledge earlier, not all students may be as comfortable with this proactive approach, or even recognize the professional and personal need for or advantages in developing connec­ tions to multiple faculty. Faculty mentors should emphasize the value of multiple developmental relationships and assist students in both ident­ ifying and connecting to faculty who might be instrumental. They can encourage students to engage in activities that can increase visibility and enhance network and professional identity development. Such activities might include attending professional development seminars offered by professional associations, chairing conference paper sessions, or acting as a discussant for a conference panel session. This facilitation can reduce students’ need to expend energy strategizing on how to meet or “cold call” key people.

Programs can offer incentives and oppor ­ tun ities for professional development acti­ vities beyond program requirements and milestones. Programs can require students to com plete an annual progress report that goes beyond reporting completion of program requirements (e.g., credits, required courses, comprehensive exams, etc.). Such a report can also ask for information on participation in conference presentations, professional develop­ ment seminars connected to the student’s subfield, and joint research projects with faculty and other students. To further encourage stu­ dent participation in such activities programs can provide financial support for conference presentations, offer paper contests, and reward coauthorship.5 An annual progress report and additional incentives signal to students what activities are important in the research pro­ fession and allow a program or advisor to ident­ ify areas where students need more development or guidance.

Programs should formally recognize and value mentoring, especially informal devel­ opmental relationships. Whether or not departments or programs formally recognize and reward faculty who offer developmental support, especially outside of formal advisor­ advisee relationships, may influence the quality of such support and whether it is given at all. We recognize that many faculty, without prompting, offer both instrumental and psycho social support to doctoral students on both a formal and informal basis. But our data suggest that this support is not always consistent, so some students feel lucky when they are paired with or are able to connect to a faculty member who offers it. With many competing priorities across research, teaching, and service expectations, faculty, especially those in the tenure track, may be less willing to offer support through informal developmental rela­ tionships if they believe it is not appreciated by the department or formally recognized. Yet our data supports the need for such ties be tween faculty and students. Offering recog nition for in formal mentoring, particularly for new

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faculty, may help ensure that students receive consist ent, continued, and widespread support (cf. Saks et al., 2011; Hatmaker & Park, 2013).

Overall, our suggestions for programs and faculty mentors are complementary. The implementation of each of them in concert with each other likely provides a greater benefit for students’ professional identity development than just one dimension on its own. Enacting the suggestions described here may provide a more efficient relationship­building process for students and offer them a diversity of high­ quality developmental relationships. Future re­ search could also examine how peer relation­ ships contribute to professional identity de vel ­ op ment, gender differences in socialization, and identity development as well as take into consideration students’ prior professional ex­ per ience and other characteristics to lend addi­ tional insights for faculty and public affairs doctoral programs.


We are grateful to Linda Hodge for her en­ thusiasm for our project and her invaluable contribution to our data collection.


1 Following Rethemeyer and Helbig (2005), we use the term public affairs to encompass public affairs, public administration, public management, public policy, and nonprofit management.

2 To protect the confidentiality of our participants, we have replaced any names of individuals, organi­ zations, or institutions with a generic term in brackets in quotations.

3 We thank our anonymous reviewers for noting these limitations and drawing them to our attention.

4 We thank Dr. Karl Rethemeyer for the information about the seminar for public administration and policy doctoral students offered by the University at Albany, State University of New York.

5 We thank one of our anonymous reviewers for making these suggestions.


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Amy E. Smith is an assistant professor in the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the University of Massachu­ setts Boston. She received her PhD in Public Administration and Policy from the University at Albany, State University of New York. Her current research interests in public management include women in leadership in public organ­ izations, social relations in government, and teaching and mentoring in graduate education in public affairs. Dr. Smith is also a member of the editorial board at the journal, Public Per- formance & Management Review.

Deneen M. Hatmaker is an associate professor in the Depart ment of Public Policy at the Uni­ versity of Connecticut. She holds a PhD in Public Administration and Policy from the Uni­ ver sity at Albany, State University of New York. Her research interests include social net works, gender dynamics in work and organ izations, identity construction, and relational leadership. Dr. Hatmaker is also a member of the Board of Editors at the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.

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Coding for Identity Development with Additional Data Examples

Level Category Activity Data Examples

Organizational Organizational Socialization

Tactics (Institutional- ized Tactics)

Classroom training

I mean I just feel like I had 100 methods class- es, and I understand it. I think there’s multiple techniques for data analysis, qualitatively and quantitatively. I have no question that I’m comfortable doing it.

Formal as- signments

So, I think it is important to have someone right away when you’re a PhD student like a deer in the headlights, that you can have someone you know that formally is there to advise you.

Relational Faculty Mentoring

On-the-job training

I also really enjoy the collaborative element with faculty, just because in any situation that I’ve been, even collaborating on a conference paper to a journal article or book chapter with a faculty member, I end up learning so much and so those are probably the two things that I really love about Grad school.

Increasing visibility

One of the things that I appreciate the most is being looked out for in various situations like conferences and stuff because they’re really intimidating, at least to me.…So, you know, [my two advisors] have both made points of introducing me.

Bolstering identity

The first person I usually go to with that is actu- ally my advisor, who is very open to questions, doesn’t act like it’s a stupid question, doesn’t say, oh, well you should know that, very recep- tive to kind of pointing me into the right place to go. …

Balancing And I think the other key is having conversa- tions about, moving conversations to not just what are you working on but the larger pic- ture issues for both career-wise and just sort of work-life-balance-wise.

Individual Student Proactivity

Emulation I share with her my fears about data analysis and she’s even said “I didn’t really get good at it until I did my thesis,” which was enlightening to me because I see what she does now and I’m like, you know, it’s something to look up to and ad- mire. So that gives me hope.

Positioning So right now, I’m kind of going through this process of feeling people out for who might make good committee members for me. And so I’ve been setting up a lot of meetings with different faculty to try to get that sense.

A . E . Smith & D . M . Hatmaker


Course CodeClass Code
RES-811RES-811-O502Enhanced Synthesis Paper: Doctoral Identity210.0
CriteriaPercentageUnsatisfactory (0.00%)Less than Satisfactory (73.00%)Satisfactory (82.00%)Good (91.00%)Excellent (100.00%)CommentsPoints Earned
Reflection15.0%A reflection is either missing or not evident to the reader.A reflection is present, but illogical.A reflection is presented, but cursory and lacking depth of insight.A reflection is present and reasonable.A reflection is thoroughly presented and demonstrates thoughtful insight.
Introduction5.0%An introduction is either missing or not evident to the reader.An introduction is present, but incomplete or illogical.An introduction is presented, but does not contextualize the topic well.An introduction is present and adequately contextualizes the topic.An introduction is thoroughly presented and vividly contextualizes the topic.
Support of Common Themes20.0%Support of common themes is either missing or not evident to the reader.Support of common themes is present, but inaccurate or illogical.Support of common themes is presented, but is cursory and lacking in depth.Support of common themes is present and thorough.Support of common themes is thoroughly presented with rich detail.
Discussion of Conclusions20.0%A discussion of the conclusions is not presented.A discussion of the conclusions is presented, but inaccurate or illogical.A discussion of the conclusions is presented, but it does not include an overall summary of themes found in the articles or does not connect well to the thesis statement.A discussion of the conclusions is presented and includes an overall summary of themes found in the articles and reasonably connects to the thesis statement.A discussion of the conclusions is thoroughly presented including an overall summary of themes found in the articles and is strongly connected to the thesis statement.
Integration of Instructor Feedback10.0%Integration of instructor feedback is either missing or not evident to the reader.Integration of instructor feedback is vaguely attempted, but does not address the majority of instructor comments and suggestions.Integration of instructor feedback is evident though it appears as a disjointed, cursory addition. Most of the instructor comments and suggestions are addressed.Integration of instructor feedback is evident and relatively well incorporated into the natural flow of the paper. All instructor comments and suggestions are addressed.Integration of instructor feedback is evident and meaningful. It is seamlessly incorporated into the flow of the paper. All instructor comments and suggestions are addressed.
Synthesis and Argument10.0%No synthesis of source information is evident. Statement of purpose is not followed to a justifiable conclusion. The conclusion does not support the claim made. Argument is incoherent and uses non-credible sources.Synthesis of source information is attempted, but is not successful. Sufficient justification of claims is lacking. Argument lacks consistent unity. There are obvious flaws in the logic. Some sources have questionable credibility.Synthesis of source information is present, but pedantic. Argument is orderly, but may have a few inconsistencies. The argument presents minimal justification of claims. Argument logically, but not thoroughly, supports the purpose. Sources used are credible. Introduction and conclusion bracket the thesis.Synthesis of source information is present and meaningful. Argument shows logical progressions. Techniques of argumentation are evident. There is a smooth progression of claims from introduction to conclusion. Most sources are authoritative.Synthesis of source information is present and scholarly. Argument is clear and convincing, presenting a persuasive claim in a distinctive and compelling manner. All sources are authoritative.
Thesis Development and Purpose10.0%Paper lacks any discernible overall purpose or organizing claim.Thesis and/or main claim are insufficiently developed and/or vague; purpose is not clear.Thesis and/or main claim are apparent and appropriate to purpose.Thesis and/or main claim are clear and forecast the development of the paper. They are descriptive and reflective of the arguments and appropriate to the purpose.Thesis and/or main claim are clear and comprehensive; the essence of the paper is contained within the thesis.
Mechanics of Writing5.0%Mechanical errors are pervasive enough that they impede communication of meaning. Inappropriate word choice and/or sentence construction are used.Frequent and repetitive mechanical errors distract the reader. Inconsistencies in language choice (register), sentence structure, and/or word choice are present.Some mechanical errors or typos are present, but are not overly distracting to the reader. Correct sentence structure and audience-appropriate language are used.Prose is largely free of mechanical errors, although a few may be present. A variety of sentence structures and effective figures of speech are used.Writer is clearly in command of standard, written, academic English.
APA Format5.0%Required format is rarely followed correctly. No reference page is included. No in-text citations are used.Required format elements are missing or incorrect. A lack of control with formatting is apparent. Reference page is present. However, in-text citations are inconsistently used.Required format is generally correct. However, errors are present (e.g. font, cover page, margins, and in-text citations). Reference page is included and lists sources used in the paper. Sources are appropriately documented though some errors are present.Required format is used, but minor errors are present (e.g. headings and direct quotes). Reference page is present and includes all cited sources. Documentation is appropriate and citation style is usually correct.The document is correctly formatted. In-text citations and a reference page are complete and correct. The documentation of cited sources is free of error.
Total Weightage100%



Synthesis Paper – Doctoral Identity

Grand Canyon University: RES-811

December 19, 2018

The education of doctors in the United States involves a three-step process in professional scholarly identity development. In the process, students learn the nature of teaching skills, research, academic career and language in the field. The first stage is made up of the coursework for the first year to help you understand and also help with your writing to your researching on your topic, in the second stage, students pass candidacy exams to complete the coursework and begin developing the proposal for dissertation and dissertation itself. In the final stage, students complete their dissertations. The first and the third stages have been extensively focused on by research, as opposed to the second stage which is the critical stage involving a transition from dependence to independence by moving from course structures into a self-directed and isolating period (Gardner, 2009). In the stage, academic identities, professional voices, and scholarly independence are developed in a process characterized by personal and professional identity, challenges, experiences, advancing goals, performance, relationships and types of support.

Doctoral experience’ most crucial dimension is the development of identity although this process has eluded a lot of empirical studies. A lot less research attention has focused on the influence of the relationship students develop with others on identity development during graduate studies. A review of literature suggests productive doctoral identity is supported by student experiences focusing on academic success, developing relationships with faculty and peers, and Independence.

This paper examines the relationships of students with others and the process of development of identity during the second stage in the transition to self-regulating academics and the role of the relationships developed by students, in terms for the purposes and outcomes by focusing on three themes on identity development relationships, namely, advice and support, development of student identity during training and development of identity during practice. Comment by Seanan Kelly: Professional development/socialization

Themes Emerging from a Review of Literature

The common themes emerging from a review of literature and discussed in the following section include academic success, relationships and Professional Development/Socialization They are all addressed by the authors to show their centrality. Comment by Seanan Kelly: Alignment – keep the order the same as they appear in the body of the presentation:Academic SuccessRelationshipsIndependence

Academic Success Comment by Seanan Kelly: Headers are an important component of presentation style and format.Headers provide structure and clarity, but also provide us as writers a guide for content development through each section (this is where our work constructing outlines helps us). APA formatting provides a guide for primary, secondary; first-level, second-level, third-level headers that provide a means of categorizing information in descending order. We want to clearly mark sections not just for APA guidelines but to make the information accessible AND retrievable. Keep in mind future presentations will be based on more than just three to five articles and have more than our basic Intro-Body-Conclusion format. We want to give our audience the ability to go back in and find information quickly and easily.Finally, I go back to something a colleague of mine says with some frequency: “Organization is key. If I can’t see your message clearly, I can’t hear your message clearly.”

Through general support and advice is one of the ways themes around the role of relationships developed by students during the stage two. This is the stage in which many a student rely on in the development of relationships that help them navigate the challenges in the stage.

The second stage basically involves due dates, syllabus, coursework, and faculty, peers and administrator consistent interactions. Students in this stage are faced with lack of structure as one of the problems that relationships developed help them wade through. Students overcome lack of structure problem through the relationships they develop with educational counselors or overseers and progressive students. Academic advisors students, for instance, help students in developing task writing schedules as advanced students share with them their strategies including daily and weekly goals of writing, habits of support and successful writing (Smith & Hatmaker, 2014).

Another problem faced with isolation since students are not in the classroom in this stage, a factor that reduces their interaction with the members of the community. These relationships help students deal with isolation as it helped keep them on task. Gardner (2009) argues that these relationships bridge the gap between the students and the educational community and inform students on professional developments, events, and opportunities. These relationships also help students manage negative emotions and challenges in stage two.

These relationships also help students develop key experiences that are crucial in incorporating them into the community and in the process of developing distinctiveness (Gardner, 2009). These key experiences include brown bag lunches, research assistantship, student organization meetings and teaching assistantship that are associated with the career.

Students’ lack of relationship connections miss out on key experience opportunities and even question their sense of belonging. The relationships are, therefore, crucial in keeping students sane and connecting them to resources including knowledge, support and parallel process mastery behavioral strategies for identity development.

Relationships Comment by Seanan Kelly: Don’t limit the discussion of themes from within just the three or five article minimum.Keep in mind the research questions we started out with:What are factors of doctoral experiences that influence doctoral identity development?1. What is the role of a given factor in doctoral experiences?2. What is the influence of a given factor on identity development?These can be examined and informed from a much wider range of articles providing opportunity for greater depth of discussion.Are researchers reporting the same outcomes today (2018) about factors of doctoral experiences that influence doctoral identity, as they reported twenty years ago?If there has been a change – why?If no change or very little, we can say some factors remain constant or remain important over time and continue to warrant attention from academic practitioners and doctoral students.. but we only get that perspective by bringing in more literature.

This means that students as organizational newcomers are expected to know what is expected of them and must develop the abilities and strategies to meet those expectations to enable them to perform their roles effectively. Interaction with mentors, peers, family members and friends is crucial in this process referred to as role teaching (Gardner, 2009).

One of the ways relationships help students during role learning is through the creation of awareness of transition. Students in the second stage struggle with self-doubt as they transition from being used to classrooms and interactions with the academic community. Relationships and interactions with advanced students help them get the support and advice they need during their engagements with parallel identity development as scholars and students. These relationships help students become comfortable and overcome fear and undue stress.

Impression management is one of the fruits of relationships students develop with the academic community, advanced students and instructors as students are not confident as who they have become. They are in fear of embarrassments despite the increased knowledge and abilities (Baker & Pifer, 2011). Through this, they learn how to interact with faculty to share ideas and create intellectual discourse opportunities. Another way these relationships help is the development of network and collaborations that help them develop confidence and achieve success early in professions.


Students in the second stage are aware of the transitions, and develop experiences and gain insights into preparations by socializing with peers and members of academe. They are also able to articulating their own identity development (Rayner, Lord, Parr & Sharkey, 2015). The relationships helped students with their short term goal focus on exam dates and assignment due dates, beginning and end of semesters to long-term goals such as completion of dissertation and dissertation proposals which do not have due dates and graduation and academic employment. The relationships also helped students develop collaborations with scholars in their fields of interests, assistant professors and dissertation community members’ selection. It also helped them have a clear preview of faculty career when they become faculty members.


This review presented a discussion of three themes emerging from a review of empirical research articles examining doctoral identity. A discussion of themes across each of the studies was presented. Literature on the topic of doctoral identity development suggests academic success, relationships and independence influence doctoral identity. The presentation concludes with a summary of key findings, recommendations for future research and implications for practice. Comment by Seanan Kelly: ALIGNMENT – CONNECTING THE CONCLUSION TO THE THESIS, CONTENT and TAKEAWAYS Here we are attending to a structural element that retains alignment by reinforcing for the reader what it is they have just read.The short-hand for this is an approach that says: “Tell them what you are going to tell them (in the intro); Tell them (in the body of the work); Tell them what you just told them (in the conclusion).”We can follow this summary statement with a recap of the thesis statement and key points from the core discussion.From there we transition to the takeaways that come in our Recommendations for Future Research or Implications for Practice..

The understanding or relationship development during doctoral student training experience is crucial in managing challenges and issues that face students during stage 2 of their doctoral learning. It also helps draw the attention of stakeholders to this important phenomenon these relationships inform learning and role enactment. These relationships, just like the structure and climate of the program, are important components of the doctoral student education experience. It is important that a collective understanding is developed on doctoral education and professorial preparation based on theory and research to provide all involved in the practice preparation with facts on how to understanding and sustain upcoming scholars, in and out of classrooms.

Implications for Practice Comment by Seanan Kelly: • At this point in our presentation we are attempting to demonstrate where and/or how one or two points we’ve developed in the body of our work, apply or can be made actionable in other settings.In the narrow sense we are helping our reader see application of outcomes and recommendations from the research, across contexts and potentially, in their own experience.1. How does our talking point potentially change the way in which leadership attend to academic and doctoral identity outcomes and help doctoral students advance their sense of who they are as students, researchers and scholars? (for example)?2. How does our talking point perhaps texture how higher education institutions and doctoral programs in particular are constructed in an increasingly digital age? How is mentoring for doctoral learners impacted for instance?This will include a return to the literature review to support our observations/recommendations/implications for policy development, program development and gaps in the literature that arise from the research results.Black, R. (2017). E-Mentoring the Online Doctoral Student from the Dissertation Prospectus through Dissertation Completion. Journal of Learning in Higher Education, 13(1), 1-8.Kumar, S., & Johnson, M. (2017). Online mentoring of dissertations: the role of structure and support. Studies in Higher Education, 1-13.Welch, S. (2017). Virtual mentoring program within an online doctoral nursing education program: A Phenomenological Study. International journal of nursing education scholarship, 14(1).• Revisit the literature to inform understanding.• What does the lit say? Does the literature confirm our position?

Strategies should, therefore, be developed to acknowledge the doctoral students needed and concerns on their transition through the educational stages and identity development so they can become independent scholars.

References Comment by Seanan Kelly: Reviews of Literature – expanding our objective review of literature (not a mandate but a goal as we head in to our Enhanced Synthesis Paper)Continue to bring in more and more literature in to the practice of writing as this will only HELP our ability to discuss a subject with depth and critical thinking.In these small writing samples we will generally have on an eye on supporting three areas of our work, with three different reviews of literature: The background: we should be examining at least 5-7 articles (if not more) to establish for ourselves and for the reader, a historical and longitudinal understanding of what has been reported in the literature examining a specific focus – in this case doctoral experiences that influence productive doctoral identity development. Thesis/Body of our work: Here we should be focusing our review of literature on contemporary works (no more than five years old) that support our discussion in CURRENT terms – the background helps us understand a legacy of previous research and what has been reported to date. The body of work brings that historical perspective to bear in current terms. Limitations/Recommendations/Implications for Practice/Discussion – this third review of literature extends the research to which we’ve focused our attention to this point and basically says to the reader – ‘here’s what you can do with the information I’ve just given you…”So consider then our rule of thumb for the number of articles we should consider at a minimum for a small writing setting such as this: 5 to 7 articlesIf we carry that rule of thumb through each of the three reviews of literature we are illustrating here: Intro/Background = 5 to 7 articlesThesis/Body Content = 5 to 7 articlesRecommendations for research = 5 to 7 articlesWe should have 15 to 21 articles included in our work.

Baker, V. L., & Pifer, M. J. (2011). The role of relationships in the transition from doctoral student to independent scholar. Studies in Continuing Education33(1), 5-17.

Gardner, S. K. (2008). “What’s too much and what’s too little?” The process of becoming an independent researcher in doctoral education. The Journal of Higher Education79(3), Gardner, S. K. (2009). Conceptualizing success in doctoral education: Perspectives of faculty in seven disciplines. The Review of Higher Education32(3), 383-406.326-350.

Rayner, S., Lord, J., Parr, E., & Sharkey, R. (2015). ‘Why has my world become more confusing than it used to be? Professional doctoral students reflect on the development of their identity. Management in Education29(4), 158-163.

Smith, A. E., & Hatmaker, D. M. (2014). Knowing, doing, and becoming: professional identity construction among public affairs doctoral students. Journal of Public Affairs Education20(4), 545-564.




Enhanced Synthesis Paper

Student A. Sample

Grand Canyon University: RES-811

<Date> <Note: Even though APA does not require the date on a title page, it is a requirement for GCU papers.>


This assignment requires a Reflection Section (250-300 words) addressing your revision process and how you incorporated your instructor’s feedback into the revised version. This section will receive its own page (similar to the format of an abstract). It will be located after the title page and before the Introduction.


The title does not receive bold font, but the rest of the headings do. Provide an introduction that includes a brief description of each article and its purpose. Identify the three themes that emerged from your reading and how they will be discussed in the paper. Conclude the introduction with your thesis statement.

Theme One

Support your identified theme with evidence from each article and provide analysis of these findings to strengthen your narrative.

Theme Two

Support your identified theme with evidence from each article and provide analysis of these findings to strengthen your narrative.

Theme Three

Support your identified theme with evidence from each article and provide analysis of these findings to strengthen your narrative.


Provide a conclusions that can be drawn can be drawn when the articles are taken together as a single entity. What is the overall message of the group of articles?

The reference list should appear at the end of a paper (see the next page). It provides the information necessary for a reader to locate and retrieve any source you cite in the body of the paper. Each source you cite in the paper must appear in your reference list; likewise, each entry in the reference list must be cited in your text. A sample reference page is included below; this page includes examples of how to format different reference types (e.g., books, journal articles, information from a website). The examples on the following page include examples taken directly from the APA manual. The word Reference does not receive bold font.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Daresh, J. C. (2004). Beginning the assistant principalship: A practical guide for new school administrators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Herbst-Damm, K. L., & Kulik, J. A. (2005). Volunteer support, marital status, and the survival times of terminally ill patients. Health Psychology24, 225-229. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.24.2.225

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2003). Managing asthma: A guide for schools (NIH Publication No. 02-2650). Retrieved from health/prof/asthma/asth_sch.pdf

College of Doctoral Studies

RES-811 Topic 7 Synthesis Resources

Learners will be asked to select two articles from the list below to strengthen the synthesis for the Topic 7 Enhanced Synthesis Paper.

Baker, V., & Lattuca, L. R. (2010). Developmental networks and learning: toward an interdisciplinary perspective on identity development during doctoral study. Studies in Higher Education, 35(7), 807-827.

Beauchamp, C., Jazvac-Martek, M., & McAlpine, L. (2009). Studying doctoral education: Using Activity Theory to shape methodological tools. Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 46(3), 265-277.

Bieber, J. P. (2006). Conceptualizing the academic life: Graduate student’s perspectives. The Journal of Higher Education, 77(6), 1009-1035.

Colbeck, C. L. (2008). Professional identity development theory and doctoral education. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 2008 (113), 9-16.

Foot, R., Crowe, A., Tollafield, K., & Allan, C. (2014). Exploring doctoral student identity development using a self-study approach. Teaching & Learning Inquiry The ISSOTL Journal Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 2(1), 103-118.

Gardner, S., Jansujwicz, J., Hutchins, K., Cline, B., & Levesque, V. (2014). Socialization to interdisciplinary: faculty and student perspectives. Higher Education67(3), 255-271.

Malfroy, J., & Yates, L. (2003). Knowledge in action: Doctoral programmes forging new identities. Journal of Higher Education Policy & Management25(2), 119-129. doi:10.1080/1360080032000122606

Noonan, S. J. (2015). Doctoral pedagogy in stage one: Forming a scholarly identity. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation10(1), 2-28.

Switzer, V. (2009) Towards a theory of doctoral student professional identity development: A developmental networks approach. The Journal of Higher Education, 80(1), 1-33.

Weidman, J. C., & Stein, E. L. (2003). Socialization of doctoral students to academic norms. Research in Higher Education, 44(6), 641-656.

© 2013. Grand Canyon University. All Rights Reserved.

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