n South African Journal of Psychology - A transactional approach to predicting stress experienced when writing dissertations - research

Volume 49 Number 3
  • ISSN : 0081-2463
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Although substantial attention has been given to doctoral students, the attention given to master’s students writing dissertations is limited. This article outlines a transactional model of stress that conceptualises dissertation writing as a stressor consisting of a series of phases that tend to increase the risk of negative outcomes. A mixed-method design was used to address the aim of the study. An adapted version of the Stress and Support Questionnaire for University Students was used to measure the stress that master’s students experienced. Open-ended questions were employed to measure students’ evaluations of the stress experienced when writing a dissertation. The model proposed that the phases of dissertation writing moderate the relationship between stressor factors and the stress experienced. In an empirical study making use of the model, the moderation analyses revealed that Phase 1 of dissertation writing significantly moderated the relationship between the stress experienced, stressor factors of relationships, financial and transport problems and health related problems. The qualitative data suggested that stress is evaluated either positively or negatively depending on time-management styles and support systems. The results obtained underscore the importance of support structures in alleviating the stress experienced when writing dissertations in order to improve students’ retention and graduation rates.

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