Doctoral Students’ Experiences of Feeling (or not) Like an Academic

Esma Emmioglu Sarikaya, Lynn McAlpine, Cheryl Amundsen
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 12  •  2017  •  pp. 073-090
Aim/Purpose: This paper examined the balance and meaning of two types of experiences in the day-to-day activity of doctoral students that draw them into academia and that move them away from academia: ‘feeling like an academic and belonging to an academic community;’ and ‘not feeling like an academic and feeling excluded from an academic community.’

Background: As students navigate doctoral work, they are learning what is entailed in being an academic by engaging with their peers and more experienced academics within their community. They are also personally and directly experiencing the rewards as well as the challenges related to doing academic work.

Methodology : This study used a qualitative methodology; and daily activity logs as a data collection method. The data was collected from 57 PhD students in the social sciences and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields at two universities in the UK and two in Canada.

Contribution: The current study moves beyond the earlier studies by elaborating on how academic activities contribute/hinder doctoral students’ sense of being an academic.

Findings: The participants of the study generally focused on disciplinary/scholarly rather than institutional/service aspects of academic work, aside from teaching, and regarded a wide range of activities as having more positive than negative meanings. The findings related to both extrinsic and intrinsic factors that play important roles in students’ experiences of feeling (or not) like academics are elaborated in the study.

Recommendations for Practitioners: Supervisors should encourage their students to develop their own support networks and to participate in a wide range of academic activities as much as possible. Supervisors should encourage students to self-assess and to state the activities they feel they need to develop proficiency in.

Future Research: More research is needed to examine the role of teaching in doctoral students’ lives and to examine the cross cultural and cross disciplinary differences in doctoral students’ experiences.
doctoral education, academic culture, workplace learning, doctoral students’ academic activities
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