Researcher Identity Development
Getting a PhD
Often, education before starting a PhD consists of teachers/lecturers deciding what is ‘produced’ and judging the results in terms of grades, ‘the currency of the academy.’ As a result, many new PhD researchers take time to adjust to their greater independence and the requirement to direct their own work with the support of others, as Kadyna describes:
When I started my PhD, I didn’t have any clue [laughing] what I was going to do, in the sense that I didn’t know how to organise a research project, such an important research project, because, before, I was just helping people doing research.
Toward the end of his PhD study, Charles described how he gradually learned the scope of what was expected:
[When I started], I was thinking about [the PhD] in a very technical [way] in that if I met the requirements that were on paper I would ‘succeed’. Succeed meaning getting straight A’s …but I realized that …is not important at all. It …really …doesn’t add to the quality of the PhD. It’s not the grades. It’s …sharing ideas. It’s about establishing positive relations …it was really shocking for me because I thought it was all about the readings …but it is just so much more than that …about communicating ideas, about developing leadership competencies, about networking with other organizations, other people …we are trained to be creative; we are trained to draw together, to spread ideas; we are trained to sort of create …new concepts that haven’t been there before.
Effective written communication is a key focus for PhD researchers. Learning to write effectively can be personally satisfying and is the means to demonstrate your contribution to the disciplinary field.
Many research participants understood that interpersonal networking was a powerful resource. However, fewer recognized that their investment in reading, i.e. building their inter-textual networking, was critical to successful writing. This section provides resources to help you develop your networks more strategically.
This was a challenge for many research participants, even those with scholarships. This section raises some of the issues to be aware of, and how you might manage them.
Understanding academic institutions
In our research several of the PhD candidates chose their location without considering the suitability of the institution for their research, study or personal needs. Even after their PhD was underway, many research participants remained unaware of the institutional resources available (e.g., funding for conference presentations, free research-related software, and career development workshops). Understanding the diversity of academic institutions can help you to make informed decisions regarding where to enroll and how to access resources to support your PhD studies.
Many PhD researchers did not think about careers until near the end of their degrees, and found they should have started earlier. This section provides some ideas to get you started.
This section provides resources to help you make best use of the opportunities that PhD study offers.
Explore the other themes
Researcher Identity Development (2020).
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Improving the careers and well-being of researchers