Doctoral Writers’ Resiliency in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Alice Shu-Ju Lee, William J Donohue, Shelah Simpson, Kathleen Vacek
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 17  •  2022  •  pp. 161-180

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown required doctoral writers to demonstrate resiliency to continue their culminating projects. This study examines the socioecological factors that fostered that resiliency.

Resiliency is a key factor in determining whether doctoral writers continue with their culminating projects. Thus far, studies on doctoral student experiences during the pandemic have yet to investigate doctoral students’ adaptive strategies to continue with their projects.

The qualitative study uses in-depth interviews to document the narrative journeys of four research participants pre-pandemic and in-pandemic. Those narratives are analyzed using an infectious disease resilience framework as a metaphor to highlight the resilience within each participant’s writing ecology.

The study seeks to reframe the approach to doctoral writing beyond the individual student toward a broader ecological system to better serve those students and the knowledge produced, regardless of a disruptive crisis.

The disruptions that the four participants experienced are documented through their narratives. The participants described their coping strategies related to their workspace, technology, loss of connection, and their breaking point.

The resilience shown by the four participants demonstrates areas where institutions can provide assistance to alleviate the pressures placed on doctoral writers. Reframing the dissertation writing process as a socioecological system rather than a cognitive one allows for solutions to problems that are not limited to individual writers.

Extending the socioecological systems metaphor, further research should investigate other stakeholders in a writer’s ecology to obtain different perspectives on a particular system.

The pandemic has presented an opportunity for educational institutions to reassess how they can cultivate students’ resilience to positively impact their socioecological balance.

It would be worthwhile to document the post-pandemic experiences of doctoral writers to find out how they seek balance in their ecology as they continue to deal with the post-pandemic fallout.

doctoral writing, resilience, COVID-19 pandemic, writing ecology/ies
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