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Lived PhD Experiences: Critical Reflections from the Students’ Point of View

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posted on 2018-11-16, 04:28 authored by Angele JonesAngele Jones
There is a growing number of PhD students enrolled in Australian universities and yet there are high attrition rates and a decreasing number of permanent or tenured academic roles. Considerable discourse surrounds the purpose of the PhD (Group of Eight, 2013; McAlpine & Norton, 2006) and much less on the PhD experience from current student perspectives. Most research looks at ‘discrete’ aspects, such as supervision, gender or completion (Seagram, Gould & Pyke, 1998; Carter, Blumenstein, Cook, 2012; Green & Bowden, 2012; Jiranek, 2010). Of the research that focuses on the PhD experience, much is conducted upon completion of PhD study and is reflective—not adequately representing the PhD student, their circumstances or their personal experiences. Furthermore, research during the PhD experience mostly consists of one-off interviews and does not capture the longitudinal experience. This thesis reveals how a diverse cohort of PhD students reported their lived PhD experiences – critical reflections from the students’ point of view.
This research did not presume or predetermine a framework. Instead, over a period of three-to-12 months, using a variety of introspective methods, 23 participants reported on their lived experience of being a PhD student. Following an initial thematic analysis, the findings were further analysed using Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive and self-efficacy theories. The findings are presented through an adaptation of Bandura’s (1997) reciprocal determinism theory model: to first, demonstrate from the students’ perspectives the bidirectional effects of the environmental, relational and behavioural dimensions; and second, identify the critical incidents that supported and reduced individual self-efficacy.
This thesis presents the adventure park as a conceptual framework for the participants reported experiences of navigating the challenges encountered, which tested participants’ self-efficacy and sense of belonging, towards completion and ontological shift. The thesis concludes by introducing a telescopic lens to view the lived PhD experience as process aimed at developing new knowledge that shifts the individual’s way of being.
The originality and contribution to knowledge of the outcomes of this research relate to: • the methodology adopted in this research • the process of the PhD • the outcomes of the PhD.
The PhD experience is individual, based on the perceptions of PhD research and the expectations the individual brings with them. It is the process of being a PhD student and doing the research. It is not about the thesis or the knowledge they are creating; it is the process.


Principle supervisor

Professor Eddie Blass

Additional Supervisor 1

Dr Justin Pierce

Year of award



Doctor of Philosophy