Transitions, transformations and finding success. A phenomenological analysis of the experiences of a doctoral student in early candidature

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This article examines and analyses the authentic experiences of a doctoral student, Kate, in the period just prior to Confirmation, an academic milestone in the Australian doctoral education context. The article uses qualitative phenomenological inquiry as the methodology and employs ideas drawn from the writings of hermeneutical phenomenologist, Paul Ricoeur, especially his notions of narrative, self, time, and human agency. These ideas are utilised in order to ‘get inside’ the constructions of self, the strategies of learning and adaptation, and the experiences of being a doctoral candidate within the milieu of an Australian university education faculty. The writers argue that such a close and personal examination of experience and a hermeneutical approach to analysis is important for a deep understanding about how Kate negotiated her way through the hurdles of early candidature and adapted her life and identities towards success. Particular focus is given to Kate’s experiences of transition and change and the formation of her academic identity that emerged out of these experiences, which led to successful negotiation of this early period of candidature. The research findings reported in this article suggest that Kate’s deep reflexivity, enjoyment of her research and sense of her own well-being as a doctoral student are significant for her perseverance through difficult milestones and ultimately her successful completion of her PhD.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalHigher Education Research & Development
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2019


  • academic identity
  • Candidature
  • early doctoral education
  • experience
  • Paul Ricoeur
  • qualitative phenomenological research

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