Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Conceptual Framework for Mentoring Doctoral Students

Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Conceptual Framework for Mentoring Doctoral Students

Article excerpt


In the research and professional literature, there are at least four lines of inquiry around mentoring: perceptions of successful mentoring in general, mentoring of doctoral dissertations in particular, mentoring specific to the online environment, and relative importance of mentoring behaviors. In each case, particular qualities that make for successful mentoring are identified and described but not coalesced into a conceptual model of mentoring. In examining this literature, the authors identified 94 mentor behaviors and characteristics of effective mentors, which were reduced for redundancies to 55. These were clustered into a conceptual model of mentoring with two domains, academic and psychosocial with four attributes in the academic domain (competence, availability, induction, and challenge) and three in the psychosocial domain (personal qualities, communication, and emotional support). The two domains and seven attributes of this model are described and discussed, outlining some of the implications of this model for further research.

KEYWORDS: Mentoring Doctoral Students, Mentoring Conceptual Model, Higher Education


Doctoral education has a history of individual mentoring of students as a means of guiding them through their research, inducting them into the academic community, and often introducing them to professional networks and launching their academic career through a supportive and personal relationship (Anderson & Shore, 2008; Davis, 2007; Forehand, 2008; Hu, Thomas, & Lance, 2008, Paglis, Green, & Bauer, 2006). Both the research and professional literature provide an abundance of guidance and best practices around mentoring, but there does not exist a conceptual framework for mentoring doctoral students that can guide research on the topic. Further, with the advent of online doctoral programs, it is not known if traditional approaches to mentoring transfer adequately to the online environment.

The purpose of this literature review is to synthesize qualities of mentoring students from both the professional and research literature, and to develop from that synthesis a conceptual framework for mentoring doctoral students. In this case, the conceptual framework suggests an organizational structure to guide future research and practice. Each item in the framework is presented as a category of mentoring behaviors, and each category is described and differentiated from other categories. This framework serves as a map of options for further investigation, either as independent items (since some of the qualities emerge from anecdotal accounts, "best practices" hearsay, or research conducted in limited contexts such as mentoring in a specific discipline area), or as inter-related groups of items to be examined as clusters of factors with the potential of cumulative or combined effects. In this way, the conceptual framework may offer a first step toward the development of a research-based theory of mentoring.


Because the practice of professors and instructors is informed and developed by guidance from a number of sources, the literature considered in this project included current research as well as literature that might be considered in the genre of "best practices," editorials, and "thought" pieces. All the articles considered were post-2005 to capture the most current ideas, although much of this literature was built on earlier theoretical and research studies. With this broad sweep of literature to consider, the key terms "mentoring and higher education" were used to search Academic Search Complete Premier and the ProQuest Central databases. Again, this encompassed a wide spectrum of mentoring in higher education and included the mentoring that takes place during on-site residencies (e.g., for nurses, medical students, counselors, and teachers) and the mentoring of new university faculty members, both of which were excluded from this review. …

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