Mapping the Doctorate: A Longitudinal Study of PhD Students and their Supervisors

Mapping the Doctorate: A Longitudinal Study of PhD Students and their Supervisors

Camille B. Kandiko Howson (King's College London, UK) and Ian Kinchin (University of Surrey, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5816-5.ch017


This chapter reports on the results of a four-year longitudinal study of PhD students and their supervisors, from which the evidence gained suggests that the students tend to focus on the PhD in terms of a product to be completed (in terms of writing a thesis and peer-reviewed journals), whilst the supervisors tend to concentrate more on the process of learning and scientific development, placing the student's contribution into the wider disciplinary discourse. The structural observations from the concept maps generated within this research are that the students perceive the PhD as a linear structure, whereas the supervisors are more likely to generate a cyclic structure to illustrate the dynamic, iterative processes of research more generally. Further structural elements emerge from the analysis of the maps, indicating the need for holistic understanding of the content, structure, and meanings in concept maps and their relationship with safe spaces for the development of critical thinking.
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Doctoral Pedagogy

Research into doctoral education is often government policy-oriented (e.g., HEFCE, 2005, 2001; HEFCW, 2000a, 2000b) on issues such as completion rates, doctorates granted in strategic fields and international recruitment. Another major body of research is designed as advice-focused handbooks for students and supervisors (Phillips & Pugh 2005; Trafford & Lesham, 2008; Whisker, 2004). In terms of education, much research and practice in the UK, and other countries, focuses more on the fitness of purpose of the doctoral qualification across disciplines and fields (Bourner, Bowden, & Laing, 2001; Costley & Lester, 2011; Denicolo & Park, 2010; Park, 2005; Roberts Report, 2002) to guide program development and structures.

However, recent scholarship has begun to emerge around the notion of doctoral pedagogy, but sometimes with a focus on what it could do rather than offering empirical studies. This includes linking it to the modern knowledge economy through an interdisciplinary lens (Manathunga et al., 2006), using it as the basis of designing a PhD (Danby & Lee, 2012) or rethinking the structure of the supervisory system (Olson & Clark, 2009). In this chapter, we have focused on exploring what happens within the supervisory relationship, and attempting to develop a method to visualise the change and development of understanding over time.

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