Doctoral Students’ Social Support Profiles and Their Relationship to Burnout, Drop-Out Intentions, and Time to Candidacy

Jouni A Peltonen, Jenna Vekkaila, Pauliina Rautio, Kaisa Haverinen, Kirsi Pyhältö
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 12  •  2017  •  pp. 157-173
Aim/Purpose: The primary aim of this study was to better understand the individual variations in supervisory and researcher community support among doctoral students by analyzing the social support profiles of Finnish doctoral students. The differences among the profiles, in terms of satisfaction with supervision, experienced burnout, time to candidacy and disciplinary background were also examined.

Background: This study explores social support profiles and their association with the experienced burnout, satisfaction with supervision, drop-out intentions, disciplinary background, and form of dissertation among doctoral students by employing a person-oriented approach.

Methodology: In total, 402 doctoral students from a Finnish university completed a Doctoral Experience survey. Latent Profile Analysis (LPA) was used to group doctoral students according to social support from supervisors and the researcher community.

Contribution: The present study is among the first quantitative studies to explore doctoral student social support profiles and their association with burnout, drop-out intentions, and time to candidacy. It brings into focus the importance of supervisory and researcher community support as one of the most crucial assets of doctoral education in researcher communities.

Findings: Two social support profiles, a) sufficient support from supervisor and researched community, and b) insufficient support from both of these, were identified. Further investigation suggested that the doctoral students who received sufficient support were less likely to suffer from burnout and were less likely to develop drop-out intentions than students who received insufficient support from their supervisor and the researcher community.

Recommendations for Practitioners: A recommendation deriving from this research is to identify students at risk as early as possible and assist them with sufficient support.
doctoral education, supervision, burnout, satisfaction, drop-out intentions
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