Crises in a Doctoral Research Project: A Comparative Study

Reuven Katz
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 13  •  2018  •  pp. 211-231
Aim/Purpose: To present quantitative results of an investigation that assessed crises reported by doctoral candidates while working toward their degree.

Background: Crises that candidates encounter during their doctoral journey may lead to attrition from the doctoral program. A crisis in a doctoral project has several characteristics that must be understood in order to identify the crisis and, if possible, take corrective actions. Our study investigates various types of potential crises and the way candidates experience them.

Methodology: We conducted a survey among enrolled doctoral candidates at five universities in Israel and three technological universities in Western Europe. We compared the answers of Israeli Social Sciences and Humanities candidates with those of Israeli Science and Engineering candidates; we also compared the answers of Israeli Science and Engineering students with their Western European peers. We applied statistical analysis to identify and compare significant patterns of reported crises among these three groups of candidates. In addition, we tried to find significant relationships between the reported crises and selected parameters that characterize the candidates’ background and learning habits.

Contribution: The research presents quantitative results of typical crises patterns in a comparative study. It shows that while many candidates experience crises, few seek professional assistance.

Findings:Our investigation showed that about 60% of enrolled doctoral candidates reported a crisis. Of the candidates who reported crises, about 70% did not seek professional assistance. Emotional crises were reported by a significantly higher percentage of Social Sciences and Humanities students than of Science and Engineering students. Conversely, expectation crises were reported by a significantly higher percentage of Science and Engineering students than of Social Sciences and Humanities students. Significantly, more Social Sciences and Humanities students reported economic crises than did Science and Engineering students. Students who experienced a crisis reported that it caused delays in the research and affected its quality. As a result of their crisis, over 25% of Science and Engineering students seriously considered terminating their studies.

Recommendations for Practitioners :The results and discussion may be useful as a guide for advisers to better understand the formation of crises among their doctoral students.

Recommendation for Researchers: The quantitative methodology presented in the paper may be applied to investigate additional phenomena in the field of doctoral studies.

Impact on Society : The paper demonstrates that doctoral students are aware of potential crises due to the stressful environment they face. By reducing the number of crises, it may be possible to reduce the current rates of attrition, which have a significant impact on national economy.

Future Research In future work we plan to expand the research to include the US in the comparative study.
crisis in doctoral research, adviser-candidate relationship, doctoral education
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