Doctoral dilemmas : towards a discursive psychology of postgraduate education
This thesis presents a critical analysis of the dilemmas of doing a PhD in the social sciences from the perspective of discursive psychology. It aims to contribute to qualitative studies of higher education, especially work in the sociology of education on social science doctoral research and training, and discourse analytic work on the dilemmas of education. It argues that there is a crucial bias in the literature on doctoral study. Much of the theory and research on doing a doctorate has been written and carried out by doctoral supervisors and established academic researchers, rather than doctoral students themselves. As a result, researchers have tended to study supervisor rather than student dilemmas and have left certain gaps in their studies, including the experiential dimensions of doctoral research, the discursive construction of postgraduate identities, and the patterns of ideology and power at play in doctoral student life. The present doctorate on doing a doctorate attempts to fill in these gaps, and at the same time introduces a distinctive critical, discursive, and reflexive take on postgraduate education. Detailed discourse analyses are carried out of in-depth semistructured interviews with PhD students in various psychology and social science departments in the United Kingdom. The analysis pays attention to the conversational, rhetorical, and ideological patterning of doctoral postgraduate discourse. In particular, it concerns the academic identity work done by the postgraduates, the ways in which they manage particular interactional, selfpresentational, and ideological dilemmas in their talk, and the different forms of power that are at play as they carry out their doctorates. In addition, a form of practical, analytic reflexivity is developed in the thesis, whereby the authors' own methodological and interviewing practices are analysed, along with text of the thesis itself. The general argument is that the topic of postgraduate academic identity proves a good case study for the investigation of some of the hidden dynamics of power, as well as the use of wider ideological values, in the construction of identities in contemporary institutional settings.