About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 2753-2760
Publication year: 2016
ISBN: 978-84-617-5895-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2016.1594

Conference name: 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2016
Location: Seville, Spain

QUESTIONING SELVES, QUESTIONING MINDS: U.S. WOMEN'S PERSISTENCE IN DOCTORAL PROGRAMS

H. Anthony, M. Howard

Tennessee Tech University (UNITED STATES)
While retention and attrition among undergraduate students has long been an issue in higher education, the issue of attrition among graduate students has received relatively little attention. Women’s attrition in doctoral programs has been well documented, but few studies have examined women’s persistence in these programs. In other words, we know why some leave, but we do not know why others stay. This qualitative interview study was focused on 13 women (representative of 8 Ph.D. programs, 7 universities, and 5 States) who identified themselves as having questioned their continuation in a doctoral program (due to self doubts), but who successfully completed the program and now use their degree in their career. The purpose of this project was to understand the doctoral experiences of U.S. women and how they persisted.

Research questions included:
(1) What kinds of experiences lead women doctoral students to question themselves and their abilities?
(2) What motivates women to persist in doctoral programs? How do they persist?

An interpretivist theoretical framework was used in this qualitative interview study to explore the “meanings” that exist in the experiences of women within a Ph.D. journey of persistence. Participants were interviewed either in person or via telephone for 90-120 minutes. The audiotaped interviews were later transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a combination of inductive analysis coding techniques and narrative analysis. Inductive analysis revealed 11 key themes that were important in women’s persistence in doctoral programs despite self doubts that stemmed from a variety of sources.

Analysis further revealed that Ph.D. programs that seek to improve the retention of women should consider:
(1) being proactive in cohort development,
(2) designing social activities to keep students “connected,”
(3) think carefully about advisor/advisee “matching,” and
(4) acknowledge that the doctoral journey for women differs from that of their male peers.

Via dissemination of this research, other researchers and doctoral students may gain insights into how to lessen the attrition of women doctoral students and better retain them in programs, particularly in highly competitive disciplines (e.g. math, engineering, etc.) in which women are underrepresented. Fellow doctoral students may also find motivation to persist in their programs if faced with doubts.
@InProceedings{ANTHONY2016QUE,
author = {Anthony, H. and Howard, M.},
title = {QUESTIONING SELVES, QUESTIONING MINDS: U.S. WOMEN'S PERSISTENCE IN DOCTORAL PROGRAMS},
series = {9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2016 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-617-5895-1},
issn = {2340-1095},
doi = {10.21125/iceri.2016.1594},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2016.1594},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Seville, Spain},
month = {14-16 November, 2016},
year = {2016},
pages = {2753-2760}}
TY - CONF
AU - H. Anthony AU - M. Howard
TI - QUESTIONING SELVES, QUESTIONING MINDS: U.S. WOMEN'S PERSISTENCE IN DOCTORAL PROGRAMS
SN - 978-84-617-5895-1/2340-1095
DO - 10.21125/iceri.2016.1594
PY - 2016
Y1 - 14-16 November, 2016
CI - Seville, Spain
JO - 9th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2016 Proceedings
SP - 2753
EP - 2760
ER -
H. Anthony, M. Howard (2016) QUESTIONING SELVES, QUESTIONING MINDS: U.S. WOMEN'S PERSISTENCE IN DOCTORAL PROGRAMS, ICERI2016 Proceedings, pp. 2753-2760.
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