The Doctoral Experience: Success and Failure in Graduate School


This book presents a vivid picture of the experiences of PhD students and their academic mentors in a variety of different disciplines. It shows how younger academics are socialized into the distinctive sub-culture of their chosen academic discipline, displaying how different disciplines and departments reproduce their specialized ways of conducting research.

Based on two projects funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the research involved in-depth interviews with over 200 postgraduates students and academics across the United Kingdom. The issues explored include: how the students deal with the uncertainties of their own research; how they cope with frustration, failure and the intellectual isolation they experience; how research groups can act as socialising environments; and how academic supervisors handle the tensions between the intellectual autonomy of the research student and their responsibilities as intellectual mentors.


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