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Six stages of doctoral study:a new model forPhD studentsCarol Haigh, Professor of Nursing Manchester Metropolitan Universi...
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The stages of PhD


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A prize winning poster, first presented at the NETworking for Education in Healthcare Conference in Cambridge 2011

Published in: Education, Technology
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The stages of PhD

  1. 1. Six stages of doctoral study:a new model forPhD studentsCarol Haigh, Professor of Nursing Manchester Metropolitan University, Pip Hardy, Pilgrim Projects,Fiona Duncan, Research Fellow, Manchester Metropolitan UniversityKey words: Doctoral Study, EmotionBackground Stage 4 Obsession ndividuals in this stage are characteristically hunched over aDoctoral students find the first six months of their programme laptop, oblivious to external stimuli.of study a difficult and taxing time as they struggle to developrelationships with their supervisors and clarify the nature and Distinguishing featuresfocus of their research. Thus, it is not surprising that new students Stage 4 students are generally found in the cyber café atexperience a number of strange and difficult emotions for which conferences or desperately tapping at keyboards until 4.30 in thefew, if any, doctoral induction courses prepare them. morning.Aim Stage 5 FearThis theoretically and experientially poster aims to provide an This stage tends to be composed of a number of sub-stages, someoverview of the various emotional stages of doctoral study. of which are analogous to Stage 2 and others that make Stage 2 feel like a fuzzy, warm, safe place. It is not abnormal, even when you are a number of months or years into your PhD to wake upMethods absolutely certain that someone will spot you for the fraud that youThe theory is formulated by a number of encounters, as both are certain you are. This is natural and should not lead to panic.doctoral candidates and supervisors, which suggest a congruence By far the worst of part of this Stage occurs during the final days ofof experience. The original hypothesis was verified by triangulation thesis writing. The tome is complete and it is ready to submit butwith colleagues. the student becomes convinced that it is ‘not PhD standard’. Distinguishing featuresResults High levels of emotional instability in which any minor setback assumes the status of a major disaster.A total of 6 stages were defined:Stage 1 Elated Smugness Stage 6 TranqullityThis is the preliminary stage of doctoral study and typically occurs This feeling deepens as examination time draws closer. Thisimmediately after registration but before any actual work begins. tranquillity can last for the entire length of a doctoral defence andYou have become part of the doctoral student body, not only within may explain why so few people can actually remember their vivayour own university but also within your professional discipline. once it is over.This elated smugness will be enhanced by sudden interest shownin you from individuals who have ignored you in the past. Distinguishing features Finding lots of free time again, starting to take an interest inDistinguishing features television programmes, beginning to recognise your family andStudents in this stage can be identified by their copy the PhD remembering the names of pets.‘How to’ book, which they carry with them at all times, and thefact that their apologies for their absence from any events areaccompanied by the phrase ‘It’s my PhD day.’ Conclusion Strange and deviant behaviour is the norm when travelling theStage 2 Paranoid bemusement doctoral journey. Doing a doctorate is both complex and scary andIndividuals who reach this stage tend to haunt the university has implications for social and family networks. At the same timelibrary, wandering aimlessly with a worried look. This phase as being challenging, it is worth taking the journey and can eventypically occurs early on in the student‘s doctoral career. be enjoyable. No matter what happens it is important to remember you are never alone.Distinguishing featuresWaking at 3am with no clear idea about what they want to do, noresearch question, no strong methodology, possibly no income and Reference: Haigh, C Hardy, P Duncan, F (2011) Six stage of doctoral study: a new model for PhDthe certainty that, sooner or later, someone will spot them as an students. Nurse Researcher Vol. 18 No 4 pp46-4impostor and drive them from the programme.Stage 3 DominationThe candidate has begun to adjust to the isolation of the doctoralpath, and started to value the freedom to express their own ideas. Liked this poster?Distinguishing features Please share your feedback via Twitter usingA supervisor-student relationship has developed and receiving #stagesofphdan e-mail from a supervisor is no longer cause for fear, panic orloathing.