n South African Journal of Higher Education - Doctoral identity change towards researcher autonomy during research journeys across disciplines : Part 2 : HELTASA 2012 Special Section

Volume 28, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



A degree of understanding of doctoral identity brings about a focus on the ways in which candidates both shape and are shaped by research milieus and contexts. Doctoral identity is thus both a continuous conscious and unconscious process influenced by interacting elements, such as doctoral candidates' biological characteristics; own unique psychological needs, interests and defences; as well as and the cultural milieu or context in which they operate. This brings forth the idea of doctoral identity formation as a doctoral 'journey' towards researcher autonomy. Employing a researcher development framework, this article elaborates on research conducted on how doctoral education seems to have mattered for seven doctoral graduates across five disciplinary areas in terms of identity change as demonstrated in their becoming more autonomous as researchers. The findings indicate identity changes in six dimensions, namely: curiosity, determination, criticality, organisation, creativity and persuasion. Further, the research findings indicate that doctoral graduates seem to differ in moving towards researcher autonomy within their distinctive doctoral journeys and therefore may also differ in the nature and tempo of identity formation as independent or autonomous researchers. A conceptual framework is suggested which may assist doctoral supervisors in gaining a better understanding of the processes and dynamics involved in doctoral identity formation towards researcher autonomy at research-led universities.

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