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Doctoral studies as an initiatory trial: expected and taken-for-granted practices that impede PhD students’ progress

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>17/11/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Teaching in Higher Education
Issue number8
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)927-944
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date12/03/18
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Intellectual abilities alone are not sufficient to successfully progress through doctoral studies. Research indicates that modes of training and the context and conditions in which doctoral studies take place also have a significant impact on the process. However, few studies examine how taken-for-granted and self-evident practices in academia likely impede students’ progress. To address this gap, a qualitative inquiry was conducted according to an instrumental case study design. Six human and social sciences faculties at a Canadian university were selected to define the case. In addition to analysing institutional documents pertaining to doctoral studies in this specific context, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 36 PhD students, 14 thesis supervisors and five academic administrators. Based on Giddens’ theory of structuration, the analysis revealed an enduring perception of doctoral studies as an ‘initiatory trial’ that affects both the formal and tacit organisation of the process, and consequently its underlying challenges.