Macquarie University
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Stories within stories: a narrative study of six international PhD researchers' experiences of doctoral learning in Australia

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posted on 2022-03-29, 02:47 authored by Sara Maureen Cotterall
This study explores the lived experiences of six international doctoral researchers over the course of two years of their candidature in an Australian university. In particular, it examines the participants’ perspectives on the nature and quality of their learning, their opportunities to participate in the practices of their academic communities and the quality of the support they received. National surveys of doctoral candidates have confirmed a dramatic increase in the number of international students enrolling in doctoral programmes in Australia in the last ten years and identified trends in enrolment patterns and candidate characteristics (Pearson, Cumming, Evans, Macauley & Ryland, 2011; Pearson, Evans & Macauley, 2008). This study seeks to complement the findings of such large-scale surveys by providing a detailed account of six international PhD researchers’ perspectives on their learning and socialisation experiences. The research employs a longitudinal narrative inquiry approach drawing on multiple interviews with each participant over a two year period. The study draws on social practice theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991), activity theory (Engeström, 1999), theories of academic literacies development (Lea & Street, 2006) and notions of scholarly identity construction (Baker & Lattuca, 2010) for its analytical framework. The project’s outcomes are presented in the form of a thesis by publication comprising three journal articles and two book chapters framed by traditional thesis chapters. The study highlights the complexity and particularity (Cumming, 2007) of the doctoral experience. Differences were revealed in participants’ readiness for doctoral study, the learning, research and teaching opportunities they were afforded, the quality of support provided and the extent to which events occurring outside the PhD impacted on their lives. Recommendations for improving doctoral supervision and socialisation practices are provided.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Literature review -- Methodology -- Identity and learner autonomy in doctoral study -- Doctoral students writing -- Student perspectives on doctoral pedagogy -- Six outsiders and a pseudo-insider -- More than just a brain -- Discussion -- Conclusion.


"October, 2011 Submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy" Bibliography: p. 255-275

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department. of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

David Hall


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Sara Cotterall 2011.




1 online resources (xiv, 341 pages) illustrations, graphs, charts

Former Identifiers

mq:31277 2174974