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The Ph.D. as a learning process

Phillips, E.M.; (1982) The Ph.D. as a learning process. Doctoral thesis, University of London. Green open access

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Abstract

The main question being addressed by this research was 'how do postgraduate research students experience the process of doing a Ph.D.?' The way this question was investigated was to discover how the students involved solved the problems which confronted them when doing a research degree. Seven case studies of Ph.D. students and their supervisors are reported. The student and supervisor pairs came from different disciplines and two universities. The case studies were conducted through interviews and the repertory grid was used as a tool throughout the three years of field work. Additional methods used included rating forms and free writing. The focus of the study was the postgraduates' changing perceptions of their Ph.D. The topics investigated in order to monitor these changes included: 1) The students' relationship with their supervisors 2) The difference between what they expected to accomplish in a given time and what they actually did accomplish 3) Writing up the results of their work. Results indicated that the process was similar in these respects for Arts and Science students. It was found that: a - it was necessary for students to develop an ability to evaluate their own work. The rate of this development appeared to be related to the degree to which the students were allowed to remain dependent on their supervisors. It is suggested that some kind of 'weaning' process should be introduced into the student and supervisor relationship as the postgraduates develop the self-confidence to monitor their own work. b - The students' ability to estimate accurately what work they could accomplish in a given period of time did not improve over the three years. The observed discrepancies between what the students expected to achieve and what they actually did achieve are used as the basis for describing a hypothetical mechanism by which plans are revised as goals and time limits are adjusted. c - Writing helped to clarify thinking but was seen by the postgraduates as a difficult activity and of minor importance. This was because it served specific functions. At the ideas generating stage of the work writing helped the students to think more creatively and at the presentation of results stage it helped to organize their work into a coherent whole. d - Their enthusiasm for their Ph.D. diminished due to the length of time they had to spend working on a single problem. The postgraduates' perceptions changed from seeing the Ph.D. as something special and unique to seeing it as a job of work that had to be completed. Throughout this thesis, the students' changing perceptions of their Ph.D.s are presented as vital to completion of the higher degree course. All these points taken together are presented as important in developing the skills needed to engage in professional research. They are suggested to be significant aspects of the Ph.D. as a learning process.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The Ph.D. as a learning process
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Thesis digitised by British Library EThOS
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Psychology and Language Sciences (Division of)

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