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Fitting the Mold of Graduate School: A Qualitative Study of Socialization in Doctoral Education

Abstract

Doctoral student attrition in the United States has reached alarming proportions, with reported rates of approximately 50% across disciplines (Nettles and Millett 2006). Attrition rates of underrepresented populations have been reported at higher rates across disciplines (Council of Graduate Schools 2004), pointing to a disparate experience for these students. Socialization has been shown to be a determining factor in doctoral student success and retention (Turner and Thompson 1993) while not necessarily reflecting how the socialization experience differs by disciplinary and institutional contexts. Through this qualitative study I sought to understand the effects of the socialization process upon doctoral student success and retention in the disciplines of chemistry and history at two institutions. Results highlighted a disparate experience for women, students of color, students with families, part-time students, and older students. Suggestions for policy, practice, and further research are included.

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Correspondence to Susan K. Gardner.

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Susan K. Gardner

received her Ph.D. in Higher Education from Washington State University and is currently Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Maine in Orono. Her research interests include doctoral education, student development, and issues of social justice in higher education. She can be reached at susan.k.gardner@maine.edu.

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Gardner, S.K. Fitting the Mold of Graduate School: A Qualitative Study of Socialization in Doctoral Education. Innov High Educ 33, 125–138 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-008-9068-x

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Key words

  • socialization
  • doctoral education
  • underrepresented populations