22 SES 09 C, Reform Programs and Faculty Staff
Doctoral education is an attempt requiring sacrificing of many things. There are certain obligations that students must fulfill in order to take a PhD degree. Despite small variations that may occur across institutions and disciplines, in general doctoral education consists of the following basic processes: (i) course work, (ii) advisor assignment, (iii) proficiency exam, (iv) dissertation proposal, (v) evaluation of the thesis by the thesis monitoring committee and (vi) thesis defense (Elgar, 2003; Katz, 1997). Dissertation writing process and the PhD thesis produced at the end of this process, during which students should acquire independently studying habits and should present an original product by taking a deep view to scientific events, is the most critical point for doctoral students to prove themselves. Therefore, one of the most important stages of doctoral education, which is defined as the center of academic work, is regarded as the dissertation process (Johnson & Conyers, 2001). This process is defined as a complex task where many responsibilities must be fulfilled (Baird, 1997); also it can be described as a dark cloud continuously circulating on us and not leaving us alone (Leatherman, 2000). In this aspect, dissertation stage, which is a stressful and long-term experience that requires effort, is becoming a focal point in the daily life of the person.
Although the dissertation process, where various stakeholders have to fulfill their responsibilities, is a challenging process, problems and challenges faced by students differ from each other (Apfel & Dahlgren, 2003; Wright, 2003). The feeling of alienation (Inman and Silverstein, 2003; Johnson & Conyers, 2001), economic problems (Hudson & O’Regan, 1994; Mayer & Salovey, 1999), problems arising from the advisor (Lenz, 1994) are some problems and challenges revealed by various researches. Burnout and stress (Inman and Silverstein, 2003) is another difficulty often experienced in the dissertation process. There are many different causes of this situation. For example, doctoral students live more stress with advisors who lack regular work habits, show little interest in research activities and have already high stress levels (Bridgmon, 2007). In addition, some students see doctoral dissertation process as the biggest obstacle standing in front of their academic journey; so this fact becomes the biggest source of stress, identity conflict and confusion (Smallwood, 2004). Also there are researches showing that starting a PhD affects marriage negatively and it is associated with the risk of divorce (Scheinkman, 1988).
Doctoral students, who are trying to cope with the problems and challenges mentioned above, simultaneously engage in many processes, such as selecting advisor, identifying the topic of the thesis, giving thesis proposal, writing the report and submitting it at regular intervals, thesis application and writing (Bakioğlu & Gürdal, 2001). The review of the literature showed that despite many researches featuring the problems and difficulties encountered during the dissertation process (Appel & Dahlgren, 2003; Lenz, 1994; Muszynski & Akamatsu, 1991; Wagner, 1987; Wright, 2003), there is no study revealing the meaning of the dissertation process, which is a long academic journey, for doctoral students in a holistic way, from an in-depth perspective. In this context, the purpose of this study is to examine the opinions of doctoral students, who are also research assistant, about dissertation process. It has been expected that the identification and examination of doctoral students’ experiences with their own views will create awareness about the doctorate education in terms of dissertation process.
Appel, M. L. & Dahlgren, L. G. (2003). Swedish doctoral students’ experiences on their journal towards a PhD: Obstacles and opportunities inside and outside the academic building. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 47(1), 89-110. Baird, L. L. (1997). Completing the dissertation: Theory, research, and practice. New Directions for Higher Education, 99, 99-105. Bakioğlu, A. & Gürdal, A. (2001). Lisansüstü tezlerde danışman ve öğrencilerin rol algıları: Yönetim için göstergeler [Role perception of supervisors and students in postgraduate thesis: Implications for administrations]. Hacettepe Üniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi Dergisi, 21(1) 9-18. Bridgmon, K. (2007). All but dissertation stress among counseling and clinical psychology students (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304755344/fulltextPDF/9FAC2046BB5F461FPQ/1?accountid=7181 Elgar, F. J. (2003). PhD degree completion in Canadian universities: Final Report. Retrieved from http://careerchem.com/CAREER-INFO-ACADEMIC/Frank-Elgar.pdf Gardner, S. K. (2008). “What’s too much and what’s too little?”: The process of becoming an independent researcher in doctoral education. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(3). 326-350. Hudson, S. A., & O'Regan, J. (1994). Stress and the graduate psychology student. Journal o f Clinical Psychology, 50(6),973-977. Inman, A. G., & Silverstein, M. E. (2003). Dissertation support group: To dissertate or not is the question. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 17(3), 59-69. Johnson, R. W., & Conyers, L. M. (2001). Surviving the doctoral dissertation: A solution-focused approach. Journal of College Counseling, 4(1), 77-80. Johnson, R. W., & Conyers, L. M. (2001). Surviving the doctoral dissertation: A solution-focused approach. Journal of College Counseling, 4(1), 77-80. Katz, E. L. (1997). Key players in the dissertation process. New Directions for Higher Education, 99, 5-16. Kiley, M. (2009). Identifying Threshold Concepts and Proposing Strategies to Support Doctoral Candidates. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 46(3), 293-304. Leatherman, C. (2000). A new push for ABDs to cross the finish line. Chronicle of Higher Education, 46(29), A18-A20. Lenz, K. S. (1994). A multiple case study examining factors affecting the completion of the doctoral dissertation by academically able women (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304116856/fulltextPDF/C7F8F6757D0847DFPQ/1?accountid=7181 Muszynski, S. Y., & Akamatsu, T. J. (1991). Delay in completion of doctoral dissertations in clinical psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 22(2), 119-123. Scheinkman, M. (1988). Graduate student marriages: An organizational/interactional view. Family Process, 27,351-368. Smallwood, S. (2004). Doctor dropout. Chronicle of Higher Education, 50(19), A10-A12. Yin, R. K. (1984). Case study research: Design and methods. Newbury Park, CA:Sage.
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