Unfurling the PhD process: A reflexive account of key stages and strategies
A postgraduate student researcher coming from a context where there is an absence of an active research culture is likely to face several challenges when undertaking doctoral study at a university with a deep-rooted culture of research. They may experience academic writing, researching and thesis structuring struggles, and may specifically encounter difficulties during data collection, especially in communities which are not conversant with research practices. The literature and guides for students seldom give advice on dealing with such challenges as those faced in aresearch study. I wish to address this gap by providing recounts of my PhD experiences for structuring the literature review, selecting appropriate methodology and adapting data gathering methods; and do so in a reflexive way. My PhD study explores the ‘assessment for learning’ (AfL) practices of Design and Technology (D&T) teachers in the state secondary schools of Mauritius. The main research question was ‘How are the AfL practices of Mauritius D&T teachers framed?’ In light of this question, an interpretative naturalistic theoretical perspective (Crotty, 1998; Gray, 2014) was used as the participants were observed in their natural settings. Data were gathered in three stages using a multi-method approach incorporating a survey, interviews and observations along with secondary documents and field notes. In this article I progressively discuss four key stages of the PhD process and elaborate on strategies that were adopted to generate the literature review, refine the research questions as a bridge to methodology, make decisions of design and methods, and respond to the research context. In doing so, I hope to be able to inspire and guide doctoral students in these areas, particularly researchers willing to investigate teachers’ practices in their natural settings.
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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015