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Coping with contradictions : doctoral student experiences at a Canadian research university Ridding, Paul John 1996

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COPING WITH CONTRADICTIONS: DOCTORAL STUDENT EXPERIENCES AT A CANADIAN RESEARCH UNIVERSITY by PAUL JOHN RIDDING B. A., The University of Toronto, 1972 LL.B., Queen's University, 1975 B.ED., The University of Toronto, 1986 M.ED., The University of Toronto, 1988 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF. THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of Educational Studies We accept this thesis as coriforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA October 1996 © Paul John Ridding, 1996 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the : requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the fibrary shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is. understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of F fiiiCfiTlCRlfrL ^TU£>/B^ The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT This study examines the experiences of doctoral students at a Canadian research university in four selected departments: Physics, Chemical Engineering, Ffistory, and Education. In the context of shifting expectations concerning the role of higher education in Canada, doctoral students operate on the boundaries of the academic professions. Because the PhD degree acts as certification for membership in those professions, an important aspect of doctoral education is professional socialization. A basic assumption underlying this research is that discipline cultures have a significant effect on the experiences of doctoral students, and research into doctoral studies is enriched by studies that examine doctoral student experiences across a variety of disciplines. At the outset of the research, the concepts of professionalism, socialization, and culture were key sensitizing concepts. As the research progressed, the importance of the related concepts of expertise, autonomy, and isolation became apparent. Ethnographic techniques such as ethnographic interviews and participant observation are employed for exploring students' understandings and interpretations of their experiences. The study examines the ways students across the departments understand and experience departmental enforcement of standards to judge their professional expertise. It also relates students' belief in individual autonomy as researchers to the nature of the discipline in which they are located. Their common sense of isolation is explained in the context of a fragile student culture. The study shows how this isolation works to obscure fundamental contradictions that become apparent in the various departments' enforcement of professional standards and the differing degrees to which students find it important to assert individual autonomy. The promise of professional status and i i authority discourages PhD students from developing a sustained critique of important elements of their doctoral education such as the the notion of expertise upon which academic professions derive their status and authority. Although students' ability to cope with contradictions is important professional training, this study argues it diminishes their critical commitments in a wider public culture. Reform of the PhD degree is needed that minimizes the role of doctoral education as training for professional expertise, and fosters students' commitments as social critics. TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT ii TABLE OF CONTENTS iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vi CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION 1 Background and Purpose of the Study 1 Rationale and Design of the Study 6 Organization of the Thesis 11 CHAPTER II BACKGROUND 13 Universities and Doctoral Education 13 Roots of English-Canadian Universities 14 Universities in English-Canada 19 Doctoral Education 26 Key Concepts 36 "Professionalism" 37 "Socialization" 45 "Culture" in an Academic Setting 48 CHAPTER III METHODOLOGY 58 Research Traditions 58 Research in Higher Education 58 Ethnography 62 Grounded Theory 69 Case Study 70 Validity and Reliability in Ethnography 71 Critical Ethnography 73 Implications for this Research 78 Procedure 82 Initial Steps 82 Conduct of the Research 85 Analysis of Data 92 i v \ CHAPTER IV STANDARDS 96 Department Backgrounds 99 Departmental Standards 114 Physics 114 Chemical Engineering 124 History 130 Education 142 Standard Contradictions 154 CHAPTER V AUTONOMY 157 Student Background 159 Supervisors and Student Autonomy 166 Physics 166 Chemical Engineering 175 History 185 Education 197 Limited Autonomy 208 CHAPTER VI ISOLATION 211 Students 213 Student Interaction 219 Physics 219 Chemical Engineering 229 History 237 Education 248 A Fragile Student Culture 256 CHAPTER VII CONTRADICTIONS 259 Avoiding Contradictions 260 Immersed in Contradictions 281 Reproduction 296 CHAPTER VIII CONCLUSION 302 Summary of Findings 302 Further Study 308 Possible Reform 310 REFERENCES 318 APPENDIX Profile of Informants 335 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the PhD students who participated in this study and generously gave me their time and opened their lives to make this research possible. Many thanks to my supervisor, Dr. Donald Fisher, who was always enthusiastic, generous, and patient. Thank you also to Dr. Kogila Adam-Moodley and Dr. Kjell Rubenson for their helpful suggestions and support. Finally, thanks to my friends and colleague students in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia for their encouragement and support. v i 1 CHAPTER I PNTRODUCTION Background and Purpose of the Study Doctoral students inhabit a sensitive border zone in higher education. Like other social institutions, universities have developed organizational and cultural borders which separate the insiders from outsiders, as well as defining legitimate knowledge and discourse. Boundaries serve the critical functions of organizing and separating both people and knowledge in universities, but these boundaries are never static. Borders are constantly being challenged by people and ideas on the margins, and these challenges are met by varying degrees of acceptance or resistance from within. Fisher (1993) points out it is important to study social and knowledge boundaries, not because those boundaries have intrinsic value, but because of the importance people place on their creation and maintenance. Boundary definition, maintenance and challenge are all aspects of power relations in the academy between those people and ideas with academic authority and those seeking legitimacy. Despite their importance for understanding university culture, research in higher education has largely ignored the border zones (Tierney, 1991a). At a time when universities in Canada are in the process of accommodating demands for increased efficiency and accountability (Buchbinder, 1993), doctoral studies occupies a border zone affected by such changes. During a time of transition, tensions and contradictions often become more apparent, providing opportunity for analysis and criticism of the dominant values, norms and practices of a social institution. 2 The purpose of my research is to study the experiences of doctoral students at a Canadian university to further understanding of their experiences and the institutions in which they operate. In Canada, the PhD acts as a passport for both people and ideas to cross the border into the academy. Cude (1987, p. 1) explains the importance of the PhD in North America: The doctor of philosophy degree is a North American academic credential of almost unprecedented power. Originally intended as the certificate attesting specialized preparation for research in the major scholarly disciplines, it has proliferated in an unchecked fashion throughout our intellectual world, becoming the mandatory qualification for teaching in higher education, employment in research, and advisory work in business and government. As the major point of access for outsiders to the academic profession, doctoral studies represents a porous area in the boundaries surrounding academe, making it an important site for challenges to, and defence of, academic borders. Doctoral studies cannot be understood in isolation, but must be seen in the broader context of economic, political, and social relations. Kerr (1972, p. 114) recognizes the increasingly close connection between the modern university and society as knowledge becomes a dominant commodity in the contemporary world: It is wanted, even demanded, by more people and more institutions than ever before. The university as producer, wholesaler and retailer of knowledge cannot escape service. Knowledge today is for everybody's sake. Carnoy (1984) analyses the relationship between the state and economy in capitalist societies, showing how this relationship is constantly changing. In this century the state has played an increasingly important role in national economies. The state is a central focus in social change theory. For liberal theorists gradual change can be accomplished through the normal function of state intervention, and for some Marxist theorists, the state has been seen as an appropriate site for radical change. In this context, universities and higher education command increasing levels 3 of state support, and are regarded as appropriate sites for initiating and promoting desired social change. The economic crisis of the 1970s and 1980s (Carnoy, 1984, p. 246) raised questions about the legitimate role of the state in national economies as the state itself was seen as contributing to the crisis. The state has increasingly withdrawn from its mediating role between economic interests and individuals in many contemporary capitalist societies, altering the role of state institutions. Dale (1989) identifies periods of major crises of accumulation as ideal times for educational research because contradictions within educational systems are exposed. The conception and role of knowledge in society is also undergoing important change. Wexler (1987, pp. 186-187) argues public educational institutions have been reorganized, and emphasizes the dominant role of knowledge production at universities: With an increased awareness of a relation between knowledge and social production, the boundary between sites of knowledge production, notably the university, and ' society1 is penetrated, begins to recede, and instigates further changes in the internal knowledge apparatus of the university - even to the point of putting in question the organization of knowledge as 'disciplines', and then, finally, of doubting the natural and inevitable separation of these disciplines from social practice. Becher (1987) argues higher education in Britain underwent considerable change from 1960 to the mid 1980s, a change that is not well understood within and outside the institutions. The normative content of central decision making has become progressively more overt, with institutional planning becoming far more explicit in the 1980s. The current trend is away from central state control toward increased dependence on the marketplace. (Becher and Kogan, 1992). Rhoades and Slaughter (1991) identify a struggle in universities surrounding the control and definition of academic work in a time of closer ties between the university and industry. Doctoral students cannot help but be affected by the conflicts and contradictions that become 4 apparent within Canadian universities during this process. Tierney (1991b) claims previous research in higher education has never grappled with the larger social contexts in which higher education is situated, but defines problems from the perspective of the dominant in the institution. This ignores the reality that educational organizations are a complex mix of dominant and subordinate groups. Different constituencies arrive at the institution with oppositional practices and beliefs. Structural change is not linear, but arises out of opposing forces. Research in higher education often ignores or underestimates the importance of studying doctoral students' experiences to gain insight into their perception of the professional academic communities in which they are studying, and for which they are being prepared as new members. My interest in doctoral student culture arises from personal experience as a doctoral student in Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia in the context of the changing role of the state in Canadian society and higher education. I entered the program in 1991 and, although I had extensive previous experience as a university student in four different degree programs, the PhD program entailed a radical educational shift, both in the expectations of the institution and faculty and the relationships between students. During my first year of studies I discovered my experience was not unique, and many of my student colleagues were also struggling with their understanding of practices and structures within doctoral studies. Attempts by doctoral students to influence departmental policies and practices were met with surprising resistance, leading students to question the goals and function of doctoral studies. PhD students sensed significant changes in the nature of their educational experiences, but were not always able to articulate those changes. From a student's perspective, relations between doctoral students and faculty were often quite murky and not clearly understood by students, and the extent to which students accepted this relationship seemed to be a significant element of their satisfaction with doctoral studies. For three semesters, in three different academic years, I was Graduate Student Advisor in the department, a position created to give students an opportunity to discuss problems in their studies with a sympathetic colleague in the department. I was surprised to find that, in addition to concerns about funding, grades, and meeting other formal program requirements, an almost universal problem was a perceived lack of respect shown by faculty for the knowledge and experience they brought with them to doctoral studies. They often felt part of a struggle for definition and ownership of their ideas. Walford (1983) argues that although there have been studies of student satisfaction with supervision in Britain, little recognition has been given to the importance of the actual research done by students. This reflects an attitude that postgraduate research is largely training for future research, rather than having value in itself. Walford suggests this attitude may not be shared by students, particularly in view of the trend toward commodification of knowledge produced at universities and the centrality of knowledge and information in contemporary society. In my work as Graduate Student Advisor it became clear doctoral student identity was closely connected to how students defined their research interests. They were part of a process that encouraged them to separate an emerging academic identity from previously-held beliefs and loyalties. Devaluing of a student's conception of what counted as legitimate research was often felt by students as an unwarranted attack on their personal identity. A struggle between students and faculty over what counted as knowledge, both in definition and expression, seemed more important, but less understood, than other tangible issues such as 6 funding and grades. This struggle was at the heart of doctoral student experience, but was rarely articulated by students except in private. Student interaction within my department provided an opportunity to analyze and confront some of the issues concerning us, but we recognized we had little connection with doctoral students outside our department or awareness of their experiences. Our understandings of the purposes and common practices in doctoral studies beyond our own experiences were defined primarily through discussions with faculty, not with other students. Even within my own department, PhD students felt considerable pressure to carefully guard their personal beliefs and criticisms of their education, forcing them to separate their private thoughts from their public discourse. The reluctance of successful and articulate people to publicly confront important issues in their lives as doctoral students led to my interest in discovering more about the experiences of doctoral students across the university. Rationale and Design of the Study Doctoral student culture has been an almost unexamined area of study in higher education literature. Historically, higher education in Canada has been a relatively under-examined area of the education field (Sheffield, 1981) and remains a less-developed area of the sociology of education (Walford, 1992). Walford suggests this might be due to academics being more reluctant to study themselves and their own institutions than primary or secondary schools, the lack of a ready audience for higher education research, and the methodological difficulties of hiding identities in higher education institutions. Certainly, research in higher education is more plentiful the further it is from the centre of the academic profession. Ethnographic research into 7 student experience in higher education has been most prevalent at the college, professional and undergraduate level. Becker et al. (1961) examined the socialization process of medical students in the United States, followed by the study of undergraduate life at the University of Kansas (Becker et al., 1968). London (1978) and Weis (1985) conducted ethnographic studies of student culture at urban American community colleges. Holland and Eisenhart (1990) studied the lives of undergraduate women students at two American universities in order to understand what college life meant to women. But in-depth studies of graduate students, and doctoral students in particular, are rare. Student attrition is the focus of much recent research into graduate student experience. Corman et al. (1992) criticise university attrition research for not addressing serious questions about the role of higher education in society. They claim Canadian research relies heavily on American attrition models which regard institutional retention as their ultimate goal, rather than creating a positive institutional experience for students as an end in itself. Arguing against a narrow, institutional definition of attrition, Corman et al. (p. 25) believe "particular attention should be given to the lived experience of various groups of students over the duration of their college or university experience." McKeown et al. (1993, p. 76) argue research into attrition rates at universities requires a far better understanding of student experience than currently exists: For social scientists the search is for common patterns of shared meanings out of which general statements can be made about specific empirical situations. The best place to begin is not with educated guesses about what student life is like, and just what kinds of meanings are thought to be generally shared, but rather with seeing those meanings in context. Current concern with funding and "wastage" have shaped the attrition debate to reflect the concerns of the institutions rather than those of the students. 8 Student experience has received more attention from researchers such as Eggleston and Delamont (1983) who examined the purpose and conduct of thesis supervision in light of the high failure rate for completion of theses in Education at British universities. They conclude that more attention should be paid to students' research interests at the time of application and a clearer understanding of the student/supervisor relationship is required. Acker et al. (1993) argue there has been little study of graduate thesis supervision despite concern about the number of graduate students who do not complete their dissertations. They create a model for conceptualizing supervision in order to improve attempts to deal with the problem. These studies suggest the existence of considerable disagreement around legitimate purposes and functions of the PhD degree, requiring that issue to be clarified before appropriate models of supervision can be established. Specific experiences of women in higher education have received some attention, but Stewart (1994) points out such research is on a smaller scale than that devoted to primary and secondary education. Stewart's own research, like that of Holland and Eisenhart, is confined to the experiences of undergraduate women. Clark and Corcoran (1986, p. 40) examine the professional socialization of women faculty in an American context and conclude "the cross-sex nature of most of the advisor, peer, and eventually collegial relationships problematically affects the quality of the relationships in many instances." Holdaway (1994, p. 6) claims "little is known about the characteristics and opinions of Canadian graduate students", but special problems of women and international students in graduate studies have been identified. Insight is gained into the experience of women across disciplines in the academy in Langland and Gove's (1981) collection in the United States and Dagg and Thompson (1988) in Canada. Brookes (1992) 9 relates her own experiences in a doctoral programme to power relations between men and women in Canadian society. Caplan (1994) discusses the ways implicit rules and expectations in the academy work against women, beginning at the PhD stage. Kerlin (1995, p. 9) suggests the experiences of female students described by Caplan are reflected in his own findings about male doctoral students, and "we need to examine whether broader notions of power and powerlessness are ultimately the root cause of the feelings described by the women in Caplan's research." Literature dealing with minority student experiences in doctoral studies is confined primarily to the United States. Nettles (1990) discusses racial discrimination on four university campuses in the United States where Hispanic and Black students are offered fewer research and teaching assistantships than White students in their doctoral programs. Turner and Thompson (1993) found minority women were less likely to receive teaching and research jobs, as well as the mentoring and assistance necessary from faculty to promote their future careers. Discussion of international student experience is almost silent about race and ethnicity, focusing instead on issues such as language (for example, Xu, 1991) and stress (for example, Mallinckrodt and Leong, 1992). My personal reasons for wishing to learn more about doctoral student experiences, combined with the inadequacies of research into Canadian doctoral student experience convinced me of the need for a study of PhD students at a Canadian university. I was particularly interested in student interpretations of their own experiences, and shared the sentiments of Axelrod (1990b, p. 26) who suggests there is more to be learnt from listening to students themselves than from "aging observers who romanticize, denounce, dismiss, or in other ways distort the student experience." Faculty have unique access to both the world of doctoral students and the academic 1 0 community, but my personal experience as a doctoral student suggested they often misunderstood or misrepresented the student experience. At the very least, faculty reflections on their own doctoral experiences need to be complemented by the understandings of students themselves. Becker et al. (1968, p. 2) argue "we should study students' views of their own experience because we think it is the best way to find out what influences those features of student behaviour we are interested in." The scarcity of academic literature on the experiences of doctoral students, particularly across academic disciplines, suggested to me that an exploratory study of doctoral student experience in a variety of departments would be appropriate for my purposes. I decided to carry out an embedded case study (Yin 1989) informed by the theory and practices of ethnography. Limitations on time and resources available for a doctoral dissertation project required that I choose a limited number of departments for my research. All research involves trade-offs between the breadth and depth of knowledge that can be gained from any particular research design, and my desire to examine student experiences across departments affected how far I could explore each department. Departments are the basic organizational unit within universities (Becher and Kogan, 1992), and I assumed, with Cude (1987), that doctoral student experience was likely to vary across departments. As Becher's (1989) classification scheme for studying academic disciplines was used to select departments. I chose one representative department from each of Becher's four categories: hard/pure, hard/applied, soft/pure, and soft/applied. 1 1 Organization of the Thesis Chapter II locates my research in a historical and social context, outlining the historical roots of universities and doctoral education in Canada and some current trends in Canadian higher education. Three key concepts (professionalism, socialization, and culture) that informed my initial entry into the research are discussed, as well as related concepts whose significance became apparent during the course of the research (expertise, autonomy, and isolation). Chapter HI sets out the methodological orientation of the study, and explains the methods employed in the conduct of the research. The next four chapters of the thesis are organized around four related themes which underpin the experiences of PhD students, and elucidate critical aspects of the academic professions for which PhD students are being trained. Chapter IV focusses on the issue of standards by which university departments ensure PhD student achieve an acceptable level of expertise to join the professional ranks of their respective academic disciplines. A brief description of departmental backgrounds and structural divisions introduces the discussion of how PhD students in the four departments understand and experience the departmental mechanisms and practices for enforcing these standards. Chapter V examines the nature of student autonomy in the four departments, and relates the extent to which students and faculty value autonomy in each department to students' backgrounds and prior experiences. Chapter VI considers the sense of isolation students describe as a central element in all four departments, an isolation imposed by the demands of the PhD program regardless of discipline. Chapter VII explains how students are discouraged from developing or sustaining a commitment to analyzing the contradictions associated with departments' attempts to enforce standards of good research and students' sense of autonomy, and how learning to cope with contradictions is important training for PhD students' 12 professional success. In Chapter VIII, I conclude with recommendations for possible reform of the PhD degree, and suggestions for further research on doctoral students. 13 CHAPTER II BACKGROUND Universities and Doctoral Education Higher education has undergone remarkable expansion in the industrialized world in the past century, an expansion which has been characterized by increasing complexity and diversification. This has been accompanied by an explosion in the growth and variety of new forms of knowledge, much of which has been produced from within the domain of higher education and the academic community. The experiences of doctoral students are best understood in the historical context of the development of doctoral studies in English-Canada, which in turn is an integral part of the growth of English-Canadian universities in the past century and a half. Canada has developed its own unique system of university education and research, and the Canadian university is an institution different in many significant ways from university institutions in other countries such as the United States and United Kingdom (Harris, 1976). Universities in Canada responded to the demands of Canadian society, and by the 1960s "Canadian higher education was a well-organized system, with all the facilities needed to fulfil its national, regional, provincial, and community roles" (Harris 1976, p. 603). By the 1970s, however, it became clear to many Canadians that the university was far from the perfect instrument of economic development it had previously been made out to be (Axelrod, 1982). Although Canadian universities have their own unique characteristics, the development of English-Canadian universities has been strongly influenced by developments in university education outside of Canada, and particularly by British and American institutional structures and 1 4 traditions. English-Canadian universities combine two traditions in higher education, the British tradition of cultural transmission through strong undergraduate education, and the German tradition (via the United States) of independent research and scientific inquiry. Roots of English-Canadian Universities The period from 1500-1850 in England was vital and creative, but Ross (1976) argues much of the country's vitality and creativity was outside the doors of England's two great universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Rather than working on the frontiers of knowledge university professors "were encapsulated by narrow religious dogma and antiquated methods of teaching." (Ross, p. 15) Despite the narrow vision of English universities, they developed a concept of undergraduate education that has persisted as a model for universities to the present day. John Henry Cardinal Newman posits an ideal type of university education. He writes in the context of mid-nineteenth century Britain where the university was coming under pressure to allow for increasing research and professionalization. Newman (1947) conceives of the ideal university as a place of learning rather than one of research along the German model. He anticipates emerging trends in higher education, such as the growth of professions which he warns against, but supports the growth of universities as a means of providing refinement for students. Newman regards the university as essentially a place of teaching where knowledge is pursued for its own sake to discipline and refine the mind. The goal of university education is to transmit culture from one generation to the next as opposed to the creation of new knowledge, explaining why scientific developments in Britain often take place outside the great universities. 15 Scottish universities, which had a direct influence on some Canadian universities, such as Dalhousie (Harvey, 1938), had "a broader and more pragmatic curriculum and outlook than in England," according to Ross (1976, p. 19). Nevertheless, early universities in English-speaking Canada were modelled primarily after the English conception of the university and Ross argues the very slow growth of universities in Canada until after the First World War was due at least in part to the classical nature of the education they provided which had little relevance for the frontier conditions of Canadian life at that time. Canadian universities fulfilled the dual role, according to Harris, of training clergy and future leaders of society, and preserving British (in the case of English-Canadian universities) cultural traditions. For this reason university education remained relatively unimportant in Canadian life. The Canadian Constitution made education a provincial responsibility and most provinces left the funding of denominational universities almost entirely up to private donors. As a result, only a few strong provincially-funded universities developed until well into the 20th century (Ross, 1976). But, unlike the American experience where private universities attained positions of prominence, only McGill University and Dalhousie universities achieved positions of high status on the basis of private donations. Graduate education was largely ignored in Canada, resulting in a "brain drain" to foreign countries, particularly the United States, until the need for trained personnel after the Second World War forced Canadian governments to put resources into the advanced education of Canadians. The German model of the research university began to have increasing influence on Canadian universities through the Americanization of Canadian universities that occurred in the twentieth century. American private liberal arts colleges had their roots, as did Canadian universities, in England. Harvard College, established in 1636, was the first American College, 16 and after the American Revolution the number of colleges and universities multiplied rapidly (Ross, 1976). Few of these institutions were engaged in research on any significant scale until after the American Civil War, and Cude (1987, p. 12) explains that American colleges "initially adhered to their medieval traditions", offering curriculum based on Greek and Roman classics to supply the colonies with preachers, lawyers, and physicians. Advocates of curricular reform like Franklin and Jefferson called for college education that would be more relevant to occupations in engineering, business, and industry. Even the traditional professions saw the need for more modern approaches to their education: Lawyers saw the advantage of modern languages and contemporary history, doctors demanded an exposure to botany, anatomy and chemistry, and even clergymen came to acknowledge the merits of modern philosophy and oratorical techniques. (Cude, p. 13) The American Civil War revolutionized a country that had already been divorcing itself politically and intellectually from its British roots. The power of science and technology became evident with the modern weapons and techniques of warfare employed during the war, and post-Civil War American education could not meet the demand for advanced education. Ross (1976) argues the United States needed a new model of university education to respond to the demands of industrialization for technology and trained workers, as well as to reflect the change from an authoritarian to empirical mode of thinking in the country. Dissatisfaction with the religious-oriented colleges increased as they seemed unable to respond to the changes of an industrializing society. Cude (1987, p. 14) explains why Germany was the choice of American students seeking graduate studies in the latter half of the nineteenth century: The local academic institutions were confined to undergraduate studies, the famous British universities required religious tests in the awarding of degrees, and the French graduate schools lagged far behind those of Germany. So off to 17 Germany the American graduate students went, some ten thousand of them before the outbreak of World War I. In the nineteenth century many American scholars studied at German universities, and on their return to the United States brought back ideas about university education from that country. In Germany the focus of universities was on research and scholarship, and German influences had a major impact on the development of American universities. Johns Hopkins University (1876) is often described as the first American research university (for example, Clark 1987a; Westermeyer, 1985). Other colleges evolved into universities with the development of graduate departments and a focus on scientific research, and it is their growth that markedly alters the nature of American higher education. According to Westmeyer (1985), the extent of research activity is an appropriate criterion for differentiating between a college and university in the American context. Offering a doctoral degree, together with the research activity that goes along with it, "was the mark that made an institution a university." (Westermeyer, p.90) Nevertheless, traditional college education on the English model did not die in the United States; the sheer size and dynamism of the growing society allowed for an accommodation of seemingly conflicting traditions. American universities took on a variety of functions in American society during the twentieth century, making it difficult to generalize about "the American model" of the university (Hesseling, 1986, p. 34). American universities increasingly fulfilled the role of providing the location and personnel for scientific training and research to support a rapidly expanding industrial and technology-based society. The emergence of the American "multiversity" and its various uses in American society is described by Kerr (1972) as the resulting accommodation of various traditions. He traces the roots of the American university in its British and German origins, regarding it as a new type of multi-focused institution, differing from the 18 single community of the past. Modern American universities are comprised of a whole series of communities, according to Kerr, serving a variety of functions, not all educational. Von Blum concurs with Kerr's claim that values other than educational values have come to dominate the American multiversity. He criticizes the entrepreneurial spirit that pervades American universities, manifesting itself in "competition to obtain research money and to generate spheres of scholarly influence and domination." (Von Blum, 1986, p. 14) While Von Blum (p. 14) recognizes a business mentality may be useful in many modern enterprises, he argues it is "inimical to the process of education." Von Blum (p. 15) is critical of the "misguided multiversity": When certain lines of intellectual work are encouraged by marketplace forces and others are disparaged or unrewarded, a stultifying environment prevails. It is a negation of the state of free inquiry that should properly characterize the academic enterprise. The American ability to draw from a variety of traditions is reflected in Canadian universities, and this accommodation has come to dominate our thinking of universities. In a 1970 commission on the relations between universities and governments in Canada, the commissioners Hurtubise and Rowat (1970, p.44) state, "The co-existence of conservative and progressive elements within the university explains its internal tension. Both are inherent to it by nature and must be present." This illustrates the extent to which the fusion of the conservative English undergraduate tradition with the progressive German research tradition has become incorporated in our conception of the contemporary Canadian university. But in Canada, the adoption of German research traditions and the ultimate emergence of the multiversity described by Kerr and Von Blum was somewhat slower than in the United States. 19 Universities in English-Canada Although British influences in university education were strong, Canadian universities inevitably followed the lead of other aspects of Canadian culture by increasingly taking on American characteristics. Egerton Ryerson, who was to become Supervisor for Education of Canada West, recommended to the colonial government that elements of the German model of education stressing compulsory education, utilitarian instruction, and non-sectarian schools be introduced at the elementary and secondary level of education in the Canadian colony, but that university education should retain its British sectarian tradition (Cude, 1987). He argued against the creation of a secular, publicly-funded provincial university in Toronto. But Goldwin Smith, who was impressed by the advances in American university education after the Civil War, promoted the creation of a secularized provincial university in Toronto based on American educational ideals. Canadian students, like their American counterparts, went abroad for advanced degrees and brought home foreign influences. For Canadians, the United States was the country of choice by the end of the nineteenth century, and returning students put pressure on Canadian universities, such as the University of Toronto, to adopt American reforms (Noble, 1994). Nevertheless, Canadian universities were slow to adapt to continental pressures until after the First World War. The effects of Americanization of Canadian universities became more pronounced in the years between the World Wars when these institutions began to demonstrate a "peculiar blend of educational philosophies." (Ross 1976, p. 41) Professional education became increasingly a matter of university concern as more than 10 percent of total university enrolment was in engineering and applied sciences by 1921, and degrees were being given in a wide variety of professional disciplines. Axelrod (1990a) argues Canadian universities were responding to the 20 demands of an evolving capitalist economy in this period. Developments in the natural sciences, the advent of professional schooling, and a more secular continental culture threatened established educational ideals. The unified and coherent 19th century curriculum was being eroded by the utilitarian forces of the marketplace. The Depression years of the 1930s were difficult ones for Canadian universities, with very little expansion and much retrenchment. But, as David Cameron (1991, p .39) explains, "if few universities were able to expand, it is at least as significant that none was closed." Harris (1976) argues the most significant change to occur at Canadian universities between 1920 and 1940 was the increase in enrolments, and particularly the enrolment of women. The student population almost doubled in the arts and sciences, but Harris (p. 351) identifies another striking trend: The most striking progress occurred in the programs of special interest to women: education, household science, nursing, social work, library science, physical and occupational therapy, the last mentioned being a field that had not been offered in any Canadian institution at the beginning of the period. In addition, graduate work outside of arts and science increased ten-fold. But most of these increases occurred in the 1920s, and were halted in the Depression years. Nevertheless, in the interwar years universities were instrumental in developing and expanding a Canadian middle class whose values would continue into the era of expansion after 1945. The Second World War marked the beginning of serious federal government involvement in university education in Canada. It began first with discovery of the importance of science education and the need for influence over university research in support of the war effort, and continued after the war when the universities looked to the federal government for support in attempts to accommodate the returning war veterans. Veterans were not the only source of increased demand for higher education, and Cameron (1991, p.45) illustrates this dramatic trend: 2 1 But what the veterans' bulge masked was a major increase in civilian enrolment, which showed every sign of increasing. Discounting the veterans, university enrolment in Canada increased from 36,400 in 1941-42 to 61,600 in 1951-52, an increase of almost 70 per cent in 10 years. For decades Canada had been relying on foreign universities to provide graduate education for Canadian graduates wishing to further their studies or pursue a research career. In 1945 Brebner brought this issue to public attention when he called for much greater support for universities in Canada, and graduate education in particular. He argued Canada needed to keep its brightest young men and women in Canada if it was to hold its own in a competitive world. Bonneau and Corry (1973, p. 8) explain that between the Second World War and 1960 "consciousness of the importance of the scientific estate, and of the application of scientific method to a wider range of inquiries than ever before envisaged, grew rapidly." Increased demand by students for higher education combined with the need for scientific knowledge and expertise put a tremendous strain on Canada's universities. By the mid-1950s this strain had developed into a crisis (Bissell, 1957). According to Cameron (1991), by 1955 Canadians were awakening to a crisis in their universities, evidence of which was the explosion in enrolments without the facilities to handle such growth. Pilkington (1983) describes the discussions and negotiations between the federal government and the National Conference of Canadian Universities (NCCU) that resulted in significant federal involvement in the funding of universities by the 1950s. Following recommendations made by the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences, the federal government began to provide annual grants for universities based on the population of each province, and established the Canada Council to fund scholarships (Fisher, 1991). The federal government's response to the crisis in higher education marked a significant inroad into an area of 22 traditional provincial responsibility, premised on the belief prevalent in Canadian society by the mid-1950s that universities and a university education held the key to economic growth and individual prosperity. This optimism was shared by the Royal Commission on Canada's Economic Prospects (Preliminary Report. 1956, p. 112) which placed the improvement and expansion of Canadian universities at the heart of its economic development strategy: What is being suggested in essence is that a deliberate and sustained effort be made to raise the standards and quality of Canadian universities to among the highest prevailing anywhere in the world. It is perhaps not going too far to suggest that no other single course of action would be so likely to have such an important and fundamental effect upon the long-term economic prospects for Canada. Provincial governments also responded to the perceived need for expansion of higher education. Funding was provided for expansion of university campuses, autonomy for junior and affiliated campuses, transformation of denominational universities into public universities, and the creation of new universities. Funding for this expansion came primarily from the State: both provincial and federal governments. This marked an important shift in Canadian government involvement in university affairs. At the same time Canadian governments were looking to universities to respond to economic concerns, English Canadians were experiencing a crisis of identity. Universities became intimately connected with an emerging Canadian nationalism and vision for a more just and uniquely Canadian society. Symons (1975), author of the Report of the Commission on Canadian Studies To Know Ourselves, called for a re-examination of the role of Canadian universities and their relationship to their surrounding communities. He argued: The truth is, the universities are becoming almost the chief institutions of society in terms of both cost and impact. While universities in Canada are provincially-chartered institutions for which the provinces have carried a major responsibility, they are also institutions of national importance. They are, indeed, one of the 23 country's greatest national assets and, as such, they have an important role to play in serving society at all levels. (Symons, 1975, p. 15) Universities were to play a critical role in the development of a Canadian identity. But Canadian universities had to rely heavily on American scholars to staff new positions during this period of expansion, and the intersection of increasing Americanization of Canadian universities with a crisis of identity for English Canadians placed the universities squarely at the centre of developing Canadians' vision for the future of the country. The state's role in financing university education in Canada evolved from a minor role prior to the Second World War to a central role by the 1970s. In response to economic and social demands, universities came to be seen as central to national development and the definition of Canadian culture. Universities in Canada also changed their character in the post-war period, not only becoming bigger but also beginning to stress graduate study and research. But when the oil crisis and subsequent recession battered government finances in the 1970s, serious questions were asked about the new role universities had assumed in Canadian society (Ross, 1976). Kerr (1972) described the modern American university as an unstable institution which could be held together only as long as moderates remain in control. He argued that loss of consensus and tolerance would lead to the kind of conflict later confirmed in the developments of the 1960s and early 1970s. Kerr identified three challenges for the university of the 1960s: growth, shifting academic emphasis, and involvement in the life of society. It was not clear in the 1970s if Canadian universities had met the challenges facing them. For James Cameron (1978) the state had intervened too much in Canadian universities, raising the danger of universities becoming too much the servants of the state. He proposed a balance of power and work within the university: "The university for the advancement of knowledge and thus for the world; the college for the 24 pursuit of liberal studies by young men and women, the handing on of tradition, and the education of the heart and its affections" (J. Cameron, p.88). Anisef and Okihiro (1982) show how university expansion failed to deliver on some of its promises concerning equality of opportunity. Universities had also failed to rescue the Canadian economy, resulting in a re-evaluation of their recently won status as essential instruments of economic development (Axelrod, 1982). Enrolments in universities were expected to decline in the 1980s in Canada, but this did not occur as Canadians recognized that individual prosperity in a competitive job market depended on advanced education. Canadian universities found themselves in a squeeze between continued pressure from students for places and demands for increased efficiency and accountability. Shrimpton (1987) warns of this problem in the mid 1980s when he identifies the potential crisis that might occur in Canadian universities as governments pursue policies of higher fees and restricted enrolments at the same time as the public becomes increasingly aware of the importance of accessible higher education. David Cameron (1991) predicts increasing reliance on the private sector as federal transfers decline, and with the projected federal government withdrawal from core funding of Canadian universities. In this environment, Cameron argues business relations become increasingly important, and because governments are generally in favour of this trend, it is up to universities to manage their relationship with the private sector carefully. Newson and Buchbinder (1988) identify changes in government funding that have forced Canadian universities to look in new directions for resources, and changes in academic work processes that have made universities increasingly receptive to new kinds of work organization. Universities are under pressure to serve a corporate agenda stressing excellence and efficiency over accessibility. Newson and Buchbinder are concerned the new vision places 25 Canadian universities in the service of the narrow interests of the private business sector rather than in more broadly-defined interests of Canadian society. Canadian universities are not alone in this current predicament of increasing demand for places in a time of government restraint. Boyer (1985) points to a more market-driven curriculum in the United States as accountability in higher education becomes increasingly external. Neave and Van Vught (1991) identify the pressures for higher education to become more efficient in many industrialized countries, and Walford (1991) describes the changing relationship between government and higher education in Britain, arguing the cutbacks of the 1980s amounted to privatization of British higher education. He is concerned about who benefits from these cutbacks, as even business may suffer in the long run if funding for long-term research is sacrificed for short-term practical research. Becher and Kogan (1992) claim values external to institutions of higher education replaced internal values to some extent in the 1980s. After growing under state management in Britain, higher education institutions now rely far more on private support than had been the case in previous decades. Shrimpton (1987) believes the four basic principles under which universities operate - collegiality, institutional autonomy, tenure, and academic freedom; are being threatened by recent developments. Cameron (1991) warns against simply ignoring changes in university relations with the private sector. Doctoral education is an important site for examining the tensions that occur as the state plays a decreasing role in mediating between economic interests and university education. Doctoral students are at the borders of a profession itself under increasing pressure. Becher and Kogan (1992) describe doctoral students as being in the most unenviable position, as they represent the most unequivocal 26 example of internalist norms and operations at a time when external forces are impinging on the values and practices of the university. Doctoral Education The influence of the English university model in English-speaking Canada, combined with Canada's relatively slow rate of industrialization before the Second World War, resulted in little importance being given to graduate studies, and doctoral studies in particular, until the post-World War II period. King's College, affiliated with the University of Toronto awarded the first Master of Arts degree in Canada in 1845, soon followed by McGill University (Healy, 1978). Many Canadian universities began to grant MA degrees, but the requirements for these degrees involved no course work. Harris (1976, p. 185) describes the basis for awarding these degrees: "...work done at the bachelor's level, combined with physical survival, avoidance of jail, the payment of a fee, and some evidence of a continuing interest in literary or scientific study." By 1890 the MA was no longer an automatic degree but had to be earned, and the PhD had been introduced at a number of universities, although not in its present form. Cude (1987, p. 7) claims the modern form of the PhD is "essentially an American phenomenon, deriving much of its strength and appeal from elements characteristic of educational movements in the United States over the past two centuries." The American Civil War had demonstrated to Americans the awesome power of technology and the potential of developing and harnessing new forms of knowledge. But American students who wanted to pursue post-graduate studies were forced to go overseas for most of the nineteenth century. Cude argues American universities were confined largely to undergraduate studies, British universities required 27 religious tests, and French graduate education was still under-developed. This left Germany as the destination of choice for more than ten thousand American scholars prior to the First World War (Cude, p. 14). Upon their return to the United States, these graduates of German institutions took up positions at colleges and universities and introduced German ideas. German universities had been influenced greatly by the educational philosopher and founder of the University of Berlin, Wilhelm von Humboldt. He believed universities should be free from state interference, but should receive public support. Simpson (1983, p. 13) articulates the Humboldt principle as follows: Freedom of teaching, of learning and of research were sacred, and knowledge was most fruitfully extended where it was imparted - teachers made good researchers and good researchers in turn made better teachers. Simpson describes a higher degree of professionalism among university teachers in Germany than in Britain. The concepts of Lernreiheit (freedom to choose area of study) and Lehrfreiheit (academic freedom) gave protection to university students and teachers to pursue their interests, while state support afforded the university teacher with at least a comfortable standard of living. A profession of learning developed in Germany, and at the top of that profession was the university professor. Promotion for a university teacher to full professor status depended on developing a reputation through published research. Recognized both within and outside the university as an accomplished teacher and researcher, the German professor was sought out by scholars from all over Europe and North America as it became increasingly prestigious to attain the German PhD. Gellert (1993, p. 10) cautions, however, that this success came at a price, as the liberal humanism that had been at the centre of the University of Berlin experiment became instead "a single-minded, almost fanatical commitment to the advancement of knowledge, one that 28 excluded philosophy, practical applications, and any idea of education for life." Gellert (p. 11) argues the Wilhelmine regime in Germany was able to co-opt university professors all too easily, as "most professors had not only become defenders of Bismarckian politics and German imperialism but also proclaimed within their disciplines authoritarian and expansionist tendencies." The first American PhD was awarded by Yale University in 1861, and a PhD program was first offered by Johns Hopkins in 1876 (Hesseling, 1986). Gumport (1993, p. 227) explains: Hopkins especially became known as the "prototype and propagator" of research as a major university function. Coupled with its commitments to scientific research, Hopkins offered merit-based graduate fellowships for full-time study that included state-of-the-art research training. Geiger (1986, p. 1) suggests "the American research university assumed something like its present form in the half-century prior to 1920." At first, graduate instruction was very informal at American universities, but over time it became increasingly structured with prescribed curricula and requirements for certification. This change had many critics and Hesseling (p. 6) states "some criticized the graduate school also as rigidifying intellectual pursuits and forcing candidates into conformity with narrow criteria of scholarship, and stifling creativity." Nevertheless, the development of graduate education in the United States was to revolutionize university education in that country, not only with the emergence of independent graduate schools like Johns Hopkins and the University of Chicago, but with the addition of graduate programs to important undergraduate colleges such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton (Cude, 1987, p. 14). By the turn of the century there were two new dimensions in American higher education, according to Walters (1965, p. 15): College teaching became a career for which the instructor was specifically trained at a university; and the college curriculum became segmented into subjects or disciplines resembling those in which the teachers had done their graduate study. 29 Related to these developments was the increasing interest in science and the scientific method, the founding of professional societies, and the creation of learned journals. The PhD functioned very differently prior to its proliferation in the United States in the last half of the nineteenth century. Before PhDs certified professional academic status, they were used not as an award for advanced intellectual effort but "as honorary awards, or granted to any possessor of a bachelor's degree in good standing who satisfied a time requirement and paid a small fee." (Cude, 1987, p. 18) American universities began awarding both the masters degree and the doctoral degree for successful graduate work, but regarded them initially as being of equal merit. The masters degree was awarded for approximately two years work leading to certification as a college teacher, and the doctorate was based on a program of equivalent length, qualifying the holder to begin advanced research. Cude (p. 19) claims the masters degree became subordinate to the doctoral degree only because of the vanity of academics and universities: All prospective college teachers of whatever innovative ability wanted to posture before the public as being among the elite capable of original research, and all universities and colleges of whatever stature wanted to posture before the public as possessing a teaching staff composed largely or exclusively of such elite thinkers. Within a decade or two, the mastership had become subordinate to the doctorate, something acquired on the way through graduate studies and retained as a consolation prize by those not finishing the now-senior degree. This resulted in the alteration of the research degree to accommodate the far greater number of students who were primarily interested in teaching but needed a doctoral degree to become a college teacher. The degree became the subject of criticism despite its increasing popularity in the United States. The notion that original thinking could be certified by a degree was derided by President AXawrence Lowell of Harvard University, who believed actual results were a better standard forjudging thought than prior training (Walters, 1965, p. 17). The most sustained 30 criticism of the degree has been its perceived inadequacy in preparing graduate students for their teaching careers by focusing too much on specialized research. The number of PhDs exploded in the United States over the course of the twentieth century. In 1900 American universities produced just 239 PhDs, but this number increased to 2,000 in the year 1930 and 3,600 in 1941 (Hesseling, 1986, p. 35). After the Second World War growth of doctoral studies accelerated with 10,000 degrees awarded in 1960. The expansion of doctoral studies was enormous: the number of PhDs tripled to 32,000 in the United States by 1971. Small personal academic departments gave way to large, heterogeneous collections of individuals with diverse values and interests, making it "difficult to discern any central purpose or vision" at American research universities (Hesselling, p. 35). New areas of study competed with older established fields for legitimacy, developing graduate programs that demanded equal status. This has been the source of further criticism of the PhD degree, as the proliferation of PhD programs in fields with questionable methodologies has called into question the standards by which the degree is granted (Cude, 1987; Hesseling, 1986; Walters, 1965). Canadian universities were somewhat slower than those in the United States to emphasize the importance of doctoral studies. Harris explains that the 1890-91 calendars of just three Canadian universities had PhD programmes listed: Mount Allison, New Brunswick, and Queen's. Still, there had been no earned PhDs awarded by this date. American universities, on the other hand, offered PhDs at 50 different institutions by 1900 (Healy, 1978, p. 35). In 1884 the President of the University of Toronto, James Louden, succeeded in establishing the first doctoral degree at the university, the DPaed (Doctor of Paedagogiae) (Noble, 1994, p. 18). Three years later the university approved the PhD, but the number of doctoral students that could be enroled 31 was constrained by the limited number of graduates who could be employed at Canadian universities. The first PhD degrees awarded in Canada were conferred on three male students at the University of Toronto in 1900 and two female students in 1903 (Noble, p. 18). At the first Conference of Canadian Universities, held in 1911, the problem of Canada's under-developed graduate programmes was one of the matters discussed and, at the second Conference in 1915, a working committee was struck to look into the condition of graduate work at Canadian universities (Harris, 1976, p. 307). Its report the following year showed the situation for PhD studies in Canada was inadequate, with only McGill and Toronto offering earned doctorates. The requirements for the PhD at these universities reflected the pattern adopted by American universities after the establishment of Johns Hopkins University (Harris, 1976, p. 312). Other universities complained their graduates could not find places at those two institutions, and that better libraries and scholarships in the United States enticed gifted students out of the country, but efforts initiated at the Conference were hampered by the war effort. According to David Cameron (1991), the period following the First World War in Canada was one of growth and prosperity for universities. In the 1920s enrolments increased by 50 percent and graduate education became a significant activity at some Canadian universities for the first time (D. Cameron, 1991, p. 33). In 1922 the first school of graduate studies was created at the University of Toronto (Healy, 1978, p. 35), and a total of 24 PhDs were awarded at Canadian universities Harris, 1976, p. 428). Although the number of PhDs doubled by 1930, and increased again to 75 by 1940, Canadian universities remained primarily undergraduate institutions until after the Second World War. This was true even at McGill and Toronto where graduate studies were the most developed. 32 The post-Second World War period was one of tremendous expansion for universities in both the United States and Canada. The increased enrolments due to returning veterans did not abate even when the veterans had gone through the university system. Part-time instructors and increased teaching loads had been employed to meet the needs of the veterans, but when it became clear the expansion was permanent measures had to be taken to deal with the crisis. Approximately 6,000 full-time faculty were teaching in Canadian universities in 1954-55, and projections for the next ten years called for a doubling of that figure (D. Cameron, 1991, p. 60). Yet the total number of doctorates awarded by Canadian universities in 1955 was 266, less than half the number needed simply to fill the openings for new instructors. Canada's neglect of graduate studies was strongly criticized as early as 1944 by a committee of the National Conference of Canadian Universities (NCCU) on post-war problems of Canadian universities. In its Report on Post-War Problems the NCCU attempted to direct attention to the "serious state of advanced graduate work" (NCCU Proceedings. 1944, p. 27). It had the following goal for graduate education in Canada: To maintain existing post-graduate work in certain fields and extend it to other fields so that training may be offered comparable to that given in the leading universities of Great Britain, France, and the United States, would tend to check the drain of some of the ablest of our graduates to universities outside Canada and to make more secure our cultural contribution to western civilization. (NCCU Proceedings. 1944, pp. 27-28). In an appendix to the report of the committee, Innis (1944, pp. 58-59) expressed particular concern for the depleted teaching staff in the liberal arts following the concentration on the natural sciences and professional courses during the war. Brebner (1945) argued for an expansion of graduate studies to meet this need. In 1946, the NCCU Committee on Graduate Studies (NCCU Proceedings. 1946, p. 36) described the situation in Canadian graduate studies as an emergency, 33 with intolerable demands being placed on faculty to deal with increased enrolments at the undergraduate level. Despite the concern of the NCCU (and its successor organization, the National Conference of Canadian Universities and Colleges [NCCUC]), the problem remained acute for a number of years, and Healy describes graduate studies in Canadian universities at that time as little more than a "peripheral activity" (1978, p. 43). "The unsatisfactory state of graduate studies in Canada was emphasized at the 1961 NCCUC Special Conference", according to Harris (1976, p. 552). The conference recognized that financial support from the National Research Council had a direct influence in the expansion of graduate work in the natural sciences, but that similar growth had not occurred in the social sciences and humanities. "Of the 305 earned doctorates awarded in 1960-61, two-thirds were in the sciences, 59 were awarded in the humanities, and 45 in the social sciences" (Harris, p. 553). The establishment of the Canada Council in 1957 improved the funding of research in the humanities and social sciences, but the contrast with support for research in the natural sciences remained "striking" (Harris, p. 560). Dramatic expansion of graduate studies at Canadian universities occurred in the 15 year period between 1960 and 1975. During this expansionary period 16 new universities were established, and the number of universities offering graduate programmes increased from 28 to 47 (Healy, 1978, p. 44). Healy argues numbers alone do not describe the changes occurring at Canadian universities at this time with regard to graduate studies. The increased importance of graduate studies was changing the nature of university education in Canada. Changes in undergraduate programs, for example, allowing increased specialization at an earlier stage were a response to demands for better preparation for graduate study (Healy, p. 46). Students were 34 offered more choice of courses, but these courses were more specialized than in the past and were more likely to reflect the professor's particular research interests. Healy (p. 47) emphasizes the social context in which these changes were occurring: The transformation of the Canadian university must also be seen in a broader context. Until the 1950s Canadian universities seemed to be playing a relatively minor social role. They provided undergraduate and professional training and governments were prepared to help finance this training; it must be remembered that even then governments were the major source of university funds. During the 1950s, however, the attitudes of governments changed. They were committed to expansionist policies and they saw universities as making a significant contribution to economic growth, both by the training of students which, it was believed, would increase productivity, and by research, which was important for defence but which was also expected to improve Canada's competitive position in the world economy. The federal government increased its support of graduate studies through research grants and operating grants to facilitate expansion, and the provincial governments increased financial assistance to universities, often with financing formulae which encouraged the expansion of graduate education. The economic crises from the 1970s to the present have led to a questioning of the legitimate role of the state in our society, and this has been reflected in a rethinking of the role of research and graduate studies in Canadian universities. Increased reliance on private funding, whether from students themselves through higher fees or from reliance on corporate-university linkages, has been encouraged by governments looking to solve their budgetary problems. Currently, Buchbinder (1993) sees a consolidation of these processes that developed in the 1980s toward more and more university policy being budget-driven. Efforts to link universities with private sector enterprises have their roots in "a climate of globalization where efficiency and competitiveness are the slogans underlying the practice" (Buchbinder, p. 334). This has resulted 35 in an ethos of the marketplace, where "the goals of research and the development of knowledge are more and more linked to the production of marketable products rather than social knowledge" (Buchbinder, p. 334-335). Despite significant increases in enrolments at Canadian universities in the past 15 years, they have suffered from consistent underfunding. This, in turn, has been the impetus for much of the recent concern about "wastage" in universities, and the high attrition rates in doctoral studies in particular. Smith (1991) points out that this problem is of particular concern in social sciences and humanities where half the doctoral students in Ontario fail to complete their programmes, and the time for completion of a humanities PhD averages more than 9 years. Despite the dismal record of PhD programs, students continue to enrol because the degree is increasingly required in North America for both students and universities: Without the PhD degree, one cannot now hope to be permanently employed as an instructor at most of the tens of thousands of institutions of higher learning on this continent, even in the teaching of junior undergraduates. Without the PhD degree, one cannot now hope to become involved with formal research in most fields at any level higher than that of technician or research assistant. And without the graduate school that grants the PhD degree, a university itself must accept a lower ranking in the hierarchy of institutions, with a diminished academic reputation and a reduced income from government and private funding. (Cude, 1987, p. 1) The perspective of much of the research on attrition and graduate studies is from an institutional perspective, focusing on inefficient use of resources, rather than on the effects on students of the doctoral studies process (Corman et al., 1992). Doctoral students find themselves at the border of an academic profession that is feeling significant pressure to change. The transformation involves an entrepreneurial, individualistic, and private ethos (Buchbinder, 1993) which may be inconsistent with student expectations. It may also be inconsistent with a vision of higher education as a location for critical analysis and reflection on dominant social, economic, 3 6 and political forces. Doctoral students are under increasing pressure to conform to institutional demands for increased efficiencies, yet very little is known of how students perceive these changes, and the ways students come to accept or reject their place in an evolving academic profession. The tremendous growth of doctoral studies in the United States and Canada in this century has complemented the perceived need for trained producers of specialized scientific knowledge. As society appears to have lost confidence in experts to solve persistent social problems, and the state is increasingly unwilling to fund their training, the strains of an advanced education system undergoing change are manifested in the experiences of doctoral students. Key Concepts The growth and importance of doctoral studies in Canada in this century is intimately related to a belief in professionalism and reliance on professional expertise in our society, and doctoral students themselves undergo a process of professionalization during the course of their studies. A key concept for understanding how this professionalization is accomplished, and its effects on the doctoral student, is the concept of socialization. Socialization involves acceptance by the individual student of both explicit and implicit values, beliefs and practices of the academic community. Culture, as it has been used in an academic setting, is central to current research on student experience, and provides a conceptual framework for examining the interaction of PhD students with each other and with other academic workers. Professionalism, socialization, and student culture are key concepts which shaped and focused my study of doctoral student experiences. 37 "Professionalism" Doctoral education is often understood as training to gain admission to the academic profession, but the world doctoral students are being prepared for is often misunderstood by both members of that community and those on the outside. Clark (1987b, p. 258) describes the academic profession as being "at once the easiest to approach and the most difficult to understand." To gain insight into doctoral student experience, some understanding of the professional nature of academic work and how the academic profession has evolved in our society is essential. Perkin (1989, p. 2) argues we live in an increasingly professional society, and between 1945 and the early 1970s professional society "reached a plateau of attainment." Whereas preindustrial society was based on land, which is essentially passive property, and industrial society was based on actively managed capital, contemporary society, or professional society is based on human capital. This human capital is created by education, and those who possess capital seek to exclude those who do not. "Modern society in Britain, as elsewhere in the developed world, is made up of career hierarchies of specialized occupations, selected by merit and based on trained expertise," according to Perkin (p. 2), but this does not mean modern societies are true meritocracies. Perkin admits society has never actually reached the state where merit, social efficiency and social justice are dominant criteria in practice. He argues instead that modern societies came to accept the principle of meritocracy: In principle...ability and expertise were the only respectable justification for recruitment to positions of authority and responsibility and in which every citizen had the right to a minimum income in times of distress, to medical treatment during sickness, decent housing in a healthy environment, and an education appropriate to his or her abilities. (Perkin, p. 405) 38 The notion of expertise lies at the heart of the ideology of professionalism, and the expertise of the professional is based on mastery of skills arising out of an accepted body of theory. Greenwood (1966, p. 11) emphasizes this essential element of professionalism: "The skills that characterize a profession flow from and are supported by a fund of knowledge that has been organized into an internally consistent system, called a body of theory." The internal consistency of the theoretical system underpinning professional skill provides the authority of expertise. Clark (1966, p. 285) reinforces the importance of expertise as an essential element of professionalism, particularly with respect to the professional academic: In his specialism, modern academic man is a case of professional man. We define "profession" to mean a specialized competence with a high degree of intellectual content, a specialty heavily based on or involved with knowledge. Specialized competence based on involvement in knowledge is the hallmark of the modern professor. He is pre-eminently an expert. Conceiving the professional as an "expert" is central to understanding the role of the PhD in credentialing students to enter the academic professions. The concept of autonomy is also intimately connected to expertise and professionalism. Being in control of the special knowledge and skill of an expert, the professional commands and expects a high degree of autonomy in the application of that expertise. Clark (1966, p. 286) claims professional academics demand a particularly high degree of autonomy: Academic man is a special kind of professional man, a type characterized by a particularly high need for autonomy. To be innovative, to be critical of established ways, these are the commitments of the academy and the impulses of scientific and scholarly roles that press for unusual autonomy. Professionals achieved authority and status in a society that respected the theoretical systems at the heart of professional expertise and autonomy. Perkin claims professional society flourished after the Second World War as long as it could meet the demands placed on it for rising standards 39 of living and social security. This was possible for a quarter of a century in much of the Western world due to booming economies and high employment. Bledstein (1976, p. 90) describes the importance of professionalism in the United States: For middle-class Americans, the culture of professionalism provided an orderly explanation of basic natural processes that democratic societies, with their historical need to reject traditional authority, required. Science as a source for professional authority transcended the favouritism of politics, the corruption of personality, and the exclusiveness of partisanship. Professionalism is often credited with permitting the autonomy needed for critical examination of conventional theoretical systems, but it also has conservative consequences as individuals with years of training and lifetime membership affiliations protect their privileges. "The autonomy of a professional person derived from a claim upon powers existing beyond the reach or understanding of ordinary humans," according to Bledstein (p. 93), and the use of special ceremonies and rituals cultivates an elitist attitude among professionals. Clark (1987b) describes professions as groups that develop their own strange patterns that both command and isolate a particular domain of work. This is accomplished through a process of mystification where insiders gain access to specialized training that allows them to communicate with other members of the group in a shared language, but the process also acts to keep outsiders mystified and excluded. Brint (1994, p. 209) argues professions have been "transformed by the culture of expertise", causing them to "decline as a source of collective moral force in public life." Perkin (1969, p. 1) identifies university teaching as the "key profession" of the twentieth century: In a world increasingly dominated by the professional expert, on whose competence, reliability and integrity not merely the functioning of our complex industrial society but the very survival of civilization, if not of the human race 40 itself, has come to depend, university teachers have become the educators and selectors of the other professions. Freidson (1994, p. 177) describes the academic profession as resembling "the ideal model of professionalism." Perkin (p. 10) finds it interesting that although university professors are the embodiment of all that professionalism stands for, "of trained intelligence and the competitive education on which it rests," and even the "custodians of the selection process", they are the least studied of the professions. Clark (1987b, p. 258) attributes this partly to the nature of the profession itself, particularly the "two-way differentiation" of the profession. Unlike other organizations where one might typically find one or two professional groups within a particular organization, universities can have as many as 50 "clusters" of experts (Clark, 1966, p. 288). Academics identify most strongly with their academic disciplines, and only secondarily with the over-all academic profession, creating a variety of expert communities that are a complex subject for inquiry. Clark maps three stages in the development of the academic profession in the United States. Until the latter half of the nineteenth century, Clark (1987b, p. 258) claims that in the first stage faculty were "clearly pre-disciplinary and preprofessional, not yet given to specialization." After the 1870s, the academic specialist triumphed over the generalist and university departments were the site of occupational development centred around the academic disciplines in a second stage of professional development. This coincided with the growth of other professions in the United States. Larson (1977, p. 104) identifies the American Civil War as marking the beginning of the period where professions came of age, a time when "economic, administrative, and political power were consolidated and centralized." In the universities, discipline-centred professions became dominant, but the relatively small scale of the academic world allowed "a lingering sense 41 of oneness" (Larson, p. 104) that enabled members of the various disciplines to regard themselves as belonging to an over-arching academic profession. Professionalization of the academic world has had important consequences for universities in contemporary societies. Friedson (1994, p. 176) thinks professionalism has nurtured "intellectual innovation - the development of new knowledge, skills, and ideas." He argues the insulation of professionals from the need to be immediately responsive to the demands of those outside the profession allows the professional to "go beyond the status quo and so depart from received opinion as to be revolutionary." But Friedson admits critical thinking and the creation of new ideas and knowledge, the functions of intellectuals, scholars and scientists, do not fit comfortably within a professional model. For Friedson, the separation of the professional academic from direct political and social control have provided an environment conducive to original and critical inquiry not equalled in any realistic alternative models for organizing intellectual work. Only professional institutions tied to universities can provide the material support required to support the disinterested pursuit of knowledge. Bledstein (1976) does not share Freidson's optimism, and argues universities in the United States have functioned to contain controversial issues which at one time might have torn apart entire communities. This is accomplished by reducing problems to scientific or technical terms, thus removing them from the realm of politics: Universities quietly took divisive issues such as race, capitalism, labor, and deviant behavior out of the public domain and isolated these problems within the sphere of professionals - men who had learned to know better than to air publicly their differences. (Bledstein, 1976, p. 327) Ideas have not only been segregated from the public by the university through increased professionalization in American society, but have also been increasingly compartmentalized within 42 the university with the development of new departments and specialisms. By emphasizing the unique qualities of its own subject, including particular use of language and methods of research and investigation, ideas have been segregated within universities themselves. Professionalism within university departments has made it more difficult for academics to speak to one another as they become increasingly specialized. Clark (1966, p. 289) argues academic professionals increasingly measure their authority in terms of money under their control, and the phenomenon of "professor-entrepreneur" increases the segmentation and individualization of the academic profession. Slaughter (1990, p. 244) rejects the current trend toward an "entrepreneurial ideology of expertise" that serves to "reproduce the culture and class relations of the dominant class." Altbach (1989) describes the academic profession as somewhat reformist in social issues, but conservative in academic issues. Bourdieu (1988, p. 36) provides some insight into this somewhat contradictory orientation of the academic profession in his discussion of the social space occupied by its members: As authorities, whose position in social space depends principally on the possession of cultural capital, a subordinate form of capital, university professors are situated rather on the side of the subordinate pole of the field of power and are clearly opposed in this respect to the managers of industry and business. But, as holders of an institutionalized form of cultural capital, which guarantees them a bureaucratic career and regular income, they are opposed to writers and artists... Not surprisingly, professionalism is intimately connected to the growth of doctoral studies. Silva and Slaughter (1984) argue academics as experts provide a connection between the economy and the state, and the rise of graduate schools in this century is linked to the need for an increased number of professionals to serve the interests of the state and economy. Attainment of the PhD plays an important role in maintaining professional culture. 43 In order to further their control over a discipline, professionals particularized and proliferated the possibilities for investigation in a field. The more technical and restricted the individual areas of investigation, the more justifiable it became to deny the public's right to know or understand the professional's mission. (Bledstein, 1976, p. 328) Special rituals, including many of the activities formalized in doctoral studies, reinforce the mysteriousness of the professional's knowledge and methods. Cude (1987, pp. 49-50) argues the main elements of the PhD are relatively uniform across disciplines and universities: a two year residency period including coursework, a language requirement, a comprehensive examination, and a dissertation "defined as a book-length treatment of an original contribution to the field." The time required to complete these tasks normally extends well beyond the two or three years originally considered sufficient for a PhD, rewarding "endurance, obedience and caution" (Cude, 1987, p. 52). The PhD dissertation is an exercise not only in scholarly method, but in human endurance and delayed gratification, discourages potential academics and helps maintain a clear boundary around the academic profession (Bledstein, 1976). Since the 1960s, Clark (1987b, p. 260) argues American universities have experienced a reversal in the professionalization process. Differentiation of academic fields has taken a "quantum leap" at the same time the influence of university administrations has increased dramatically. This has resulted in the third stage of the profession: a movement toward deprofessionalization of the professoriate. In this latter period, though disciplinarians remain much in charge at the top of the hierarchy of institutions, consuming students and responding managers take charge in the non- and slightly selective institutions. The triumph of the clientele has been institutionalized in the administrative (and faculty) responses that have put one-third of the professoriate on part-time assignment. A large share of the profession has crawled back under the control of trustees and administrators, with the unionization response adopted as the new road to an adversarial unity of academic workers. (Clark, 1987b, p. 261) 44 The current weakening of the academic profession is part of a broader lack of confidence in professional society. Since the 1970s, the West has been less able to meet the expectations of increasing wealth and social security, leading to questioning of professional culture from all sides. Perkin (1989, p. 472) claims: "The reaction was not confined to economic policy, although that formed the cutting edge. Underlying it was a much more general backlash against professional society in all its aspects." This backlash has encouraged a withdrawal of the state from funding of universities, and increased direct influence of private and corporate interests. Buchbinder (1993) shows that Canadian universities are not immune from these developments, and have been caught up in the trend. Doctoral students in the 1990s are bound to be caught in the middle of potentially conflicting expectations of the faculty whose role it is to train students to enter a discipline-based and over-arching academic profession, and the university administration who are under pressure to streamline doctoral studies and have less commitment to maintaining professional authority than faculty. Students themselves may see their future in the ranks of Clark's (1987b, p. 261) "gypsy scholars," and have little interest in a seemingly irrelevant professionalization process. On the other hand, students may feel a strong need to maintain the "internalist" (Becher and Kogan, 1992) values of the profession at a time when these values are increasingly under attack. Doctoral student experiences at the border of an academic profession in transition is an important focus of this study. 45 "Socialization" Doctoral students come to accept the customs and values of their academic profession through a process of socialization. The reaction of students to the process, and the power relations involved in accomplishing the socialization of students to their professional roles, is also an important aspect of this research. Reynolds (1992, pp. 637-638) explains that socialization "refers to the process by which an individual acquires the norms, values, and behaviors of the group." Kuh and Whitt (1988) describe socialization as the period when newcomers begin to integrate their own needs and goals with those of the institution. For academics, anticipatory socialization occurs during doctoral studies, a time when prior experiences and self-images must be modified. Clifton (1976) views doctoral studies as just one aspect of a continuous socialization process that begins in Kindergarten and ends with a completed PhD programme. Socialization in education occurs through both the explicit curriculum and the "hidden curriculum". Clearly defined educational expectations and demands do not compromise the rational autonomy of adult PhD students, but a socialization process that remains hidden or obscured to students is more problematic. Much discussion of the hidden curriculum has focused on the experiences of elementary and secondary school students, with functionalists arguing the process of socialization that is at the heart of the hidden curriculum is a positive process that imparts a common set of values, norms and beliefs, preparing the student to participate effectively in a functional social group (Baksh, 1990). Parsons (1959, p. 297) explains: From the functional point of view the school class can be treated as an agent of socialization. That is to say, it is an agency through which individual personalities are trained to be motivationally and technically adequate to the performance of adult roles. 46 Radical theorists such as Apple (1988) and Giroux (1988) argue schools socialize students into the norms and values of a social system that works against the interests of many students. These norms and values are implicit in the assumptions and practices of the educational systems, so students are often not conscious of them, or even able to conceive of a an alternative. But students are not entirely passive in this process, and Willis (1977) describes how male adolescents create oppositional sub-cultures in response to the values and norms of an educational system that does not promote their interests. Awareness of socialization processes is essential for teachers and educational theorists whose goal is to guide educational and social change, but also for adult PhD students if they are to fulfil their roles as intellectuals and critics, while maintaining the autonomy valued by professional academics. Becker et al. (1961, p.4) describe the socialization process of medical students and describe it as the "the longest rites of passage in our part of the world." The authors treat the socialization of these students as largely unproblematic, consciously adopting a male model because the profession at that time was predominantly male. The authors concentrate less on the variations in student experience than on what was common to all but the "deviants", and they operate under the assumption that all medical students come to medical school in order to be changed. PhD students are in a similar situation; they stand to gain individual status and authority by accepting the values, norms, and practices of their academic professions. Gerholm (1985, pp. 1-2) argues PhD students are required to become competent in the tacit knowledge of both the academic discipline and the student sub-culture if they are to succeed: Any person entering a new group with the ambition of becoming a fuUfledged, competent member has to learn to comply with its fundamental cultural rules. This applies to academic departments. To function smoothly within the group of -teachers, fellow students, and secretaries, the student needs a considerable amount 47 of know-how. Most of it will be acquired through the interaction with others and without anyone making a deliberate effort to teach the newcomer the rules of the game. Nonetheless, the failure to comply with these implicit rules will undoubtedly affect the student's standing within the group. Clark and Corcoran (1986, p. 30) focus on the experiences of women academics, and discuss the accumulative disadvantage of women faculty during their professional socialization: The basic forms and functions of graduate education are similar across disciplines, but the actual processes vary among disciplines and departments, and even within departments among pairs of students and advisors. This situation is certainly true for men as well as women, as our interview data attest. The result is that different environments and contexts for learning are experienced and that little is known of this variety even by academics themselves. Egan (1989) disputes the generally held perception that professional socialization in graduate school is best described as developmental, and argues instead that it is a process of resocialization. She believes graduate education is distinct from other levels of education in this respect because of its goal of professionalization. Individual student responses to the pressures of the resocialization process will depend on the extent the student anticipates and desires such changes. Those who voluntarily submit themselves to an alteration of their values, roles and self concepts will not be unduly concerned about the process. On the other hand, Egan (p. 204) argues: Students who enter graduate school expecting a continuation of the developmental socialization present in their earlier education may react negatively to the awareness that a major focus of their training is a resocialization process designed to ensure that they adopt a new, predefined professional self. Hartnett (1979, p. 68) describes a somewhat different problem, where doctoral students complain of a feeling of prolonged adolescence. Hartnett discusses the strategies employed by PhD students to deal with the strains of a process of adult socialization. Clark and Corcoran (1986) identify the students' relationships with faculty as key to understanding their experiences in the socialization process, and Reynolds (1992) argues that to 48 understand the socialization and acculturation processes, we must analyze the newcomer's experiences with others in the culture. I am particularly interested in how PhD students interact with one another to create their own understandings of the socialization process in which they are immersed, and develop alternative meanings to critically examine those of the dominant academic culture. As developing intellectuals, PhD students should be well equipped to analyze and offer alternatives for their own educational experiences. "Culture" in an Academic Setting The concept of culture pervades the social sciences, and anthropologists have played a central role in its development (Billington et al., 1991). Tylor (1976, p. 18) provides the classic nineteenth century definition of culture: "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society." In this century anthropologists have conceptualized culture as not just the sum total of the activities of individuals, but rather a unique social entity. Kroeber (1976) regards culture as more than a biological inheritance, being learned and transmitted through social interaction. How culture comes into existence becomes central to understanding culture. Cassirer (1976, p. 21) argues, "That symbolic thought and symbolic behavior are among the most characteristic features of human life, and that the whole progress of human culture is based on these conditions, is undeniable." Kluckhohn (1976) emphasizes the importance of structure in the understanding of culture. Explicit cultural forms are readily recognized and understood by participants in a culture, but implicit organized patterns independent of individuals in society give structure to cultural systems. He stresses the shared and normative nature of culture that functions to integrate 49 individuals in society. Goodenough (1964, p. 11) argues conceptions of culture can be located in two different "orders of reality," the phenomenal order and the ideational order. Within the phenomenal order, certain patterns persist over time, and are independent of individuals in the community: An observer can perceive this kind of statistical patterning in a community without any idea whatever of the ideas, beliefs, values, and principles of action of the community's members, the ideational order. The phenomenal order is a property of the community as a material system of people, their surroundings, and their behavior. (Goodenough, p. 11) Goodenough (p. 11) describes the ideational order as "a property not of the community but of its members." He explains how members of a community make sense of their experience within the ideational order: It is their organization of their experience within the phenomenal order, a product of cognitive and instrumental (habit formation) learning.... As an organization of past experience, the ideational order is a means for organizing and interpreting new experience. (Goodenough, pp. 11-12) Geertz (1973) pays little attention to structure, stressing the creative nature of culture and the importance of human agency in interpreting the world and searching for meaning. "For Geertz, culture became a semiotic code for reading virtually everything else (anything can be a cultural system), but he never confronted the issue of power." (Dirks et al., 1994, p. 22) Williams (1967) explicitly integrates power issues into the cultural realm by demonstrating how the notion of culture in modern nations such as Britain has developed in a context of increasing division of labour in industrial society. He examines the politics of cultural production, respecting human agency while recognizing the structures of power in society. Inevitably, cultural study involves a tension between recognition of the role people play in the creation and re-creation of their culture, and the influence of class relations in structuring culture. Williams (1982, p. 13) regards culture 50 as "the signifying system through which necessarily (though among other means) a social order is communicated, reproduced, experienced, or explored." The complexity of academic disciplines, combined with the diversity of interests of academic professionals, requires appropriate conceptual frameworks to facilitate effective analysis of the academic world. Attempts to develop a framework for the discussion of academic disciplines often start with the opposition between the sciences and the humanities described by Snow (1959). New techniques for mapping the disciplines have been inspired by ethnographic methods in sociology and anthropology, and in particular by the works of Geertz. His concept of "thick description" (Geertz, 1973) has been employed in research on university cultures. Geertz (1983) argues academic disciplines are cultural frames in which attitudes are formed and lives conducted, more than simply sets of vocational tasks and vocational obligations. Furthermore, "most effective academic communities are not that much larger than most peasant villages and just as ingrown" (Geertz 1983, p. 157), a description that has supported his insight that cultural metaphors can illuminate many of the activities and conditions of academic life. Van Vught (1989, p. 102) states: Innovations in higher education can be studied as specific processes in disciplines and fields, when these are seen as social communities with their own identity, their own history, their own language, and their own values and norms. Clark has utilized the concept of academic culture extensively in his work, and identifies four levels of academic culture: the discipline; the profession; the enterprise; and the system (Clark, 1980). He argues that despite the increasing fragmentation and deprofessionalization in academe, culture continues to be a relevant concept as "integrated academic culture becomes the many cultures of the conglomeration" (Clark, p. 25). 51 At the core of any understanding of culture is the concept "meaning". Martin (1990, pp. 315-316) identifies three basic assumptions behind any cultural study, arising from the tradition of symbolic interactionism: First, there is the assumption that people act toward things (including persons, places, material objects, values, systems, norms, and behaviors) on the basis of the meanings which those things have for them....Second, there is the assumption...that there is nothing inherent in an object that determines its meaning.... A third assumption is that meanings which people have for social objects are developed, modified and remodified through the process of interaction. In the context of school cultures, Martin argues the meanings students attach to all aspects of their school experiences come from their interactions with one another. Williams (1967, p. 334) explains that culture is never complete, and is constantly evolving and undergoing modification by its members: A culture, while it is being lived, is always in part unknown, in part unrealised. The making of a community is always an exploration, for consciousness cannot precede creation, and there is no formula for unknown experience. The concept of culture is broad and malleable, but for the purposes of this study I conceive of culture as both the process and product of human interaction that provides meaning for lived experience. The concept of culture has been employed in a wide range of research in higher education, and is prevalent in the area of university organizational management. Fetterman (1990) describes ethnographic auditing as the application of ethnographic or anthropological concepts and methods to the appraisal of administrative controls over organizational resources. Austin (1990) argues universities should recognize and build on the several and sometimes conflicting cultures that affect members' values and behaviours. For Kuh (1990), existing cultural elements of students must first be understood if we are to encourage student culture to adopt expectations, attitudes, 52 and values that are consistent with the educational purposes of the institution. The use of culture in the context of organizational management is largely from a functionalist perspective, assuming the norms, values and assumptions of the institution need not be called into question. Becher (1989) illustrates how mixing geographic and cultural metaphors such as tribes and territories, population density, and rural and urban can be used to study the relationship between people and ideas in the academy. He focuses on the internal dynamics of academic fields as opposed to their relationships in a broader social context. Becher depicts the knowledge domains using classifications developed by Biglan (1973) and Adams (1976): hard or soft, and pure or applied. Hard disciplines are characterized by convergent and relatively undisputed knowledge domains, around which there are clearly-defined borders. The natural sciences are typically considered to be hard disciplines. Soft disciplines, typically in the humanities and social sciences, are characterized by contestation of knowledge claims and permeable borders. Applied disciplines concern themselves with the practical application of theory, whereas pure disciplines focus primarily on theoretical development. Becher (1989) develops a corresponding framework for classification of the social nature of the individuals engaged in academic work within disciplines. He sets out a convergent (tightly-knit) and divergent (loose) duality to describe different modes of communication and patterns of relationship, and utilizes the conception "urban" and "rural" communities to explain the social interaction of researchers. Becher describes interaction of members of urban communities as typically frequent, intense, and competitive, whereas rural communities normally exhibit less frequent and competitive patterns of interaction. The hard/soft duality of the knowledge domains and the urban/rural duality of the social relationships of academics are intimately connected, according to Becher (1989). Becher argues the ties binding -53 fields of inquiry and academic cultures have been underplayed. At a time when there appears to be increasing fragmentation of academic fields with the growth of specialisms, he argues for a common language for understanding academic culture so academics will be better able to communicate and understand each other across fields and specialisms. He suggests the following framework for further study of academic disciplines and cultures: Knowledge Domains hard pure soft pure hard applied soft applied Academic Cultures convergent urban divergent urban convergent rural divergent rural Becher's subsequent work develops a model for studying connections between the work of academics and their social, economic, and political context (Becher and Kogan, 1992). Becher and Kogan develop a framework for discussing process and structure in higher education, which they set in the context of government withdrawal from the field in favour of market forces. Again, Becher and Kogan explicitly claim to be focusing on the internal structure of British higher education, but the framework they develop makes a direct connection with political developments occurring in Britain at the time. This model allows the researcher to study how values external to higher education institutions have been impinging on internal values. Horowitz (1987) provides a broad historical account of undergraduate student cultures in the United States from the end of the eighteenth century to the 1980s. She identifies three general categories of university students: college men and women; outsiders; and rebels. Horowitz claims these three ways of being an undergraduate student are always present and form contending cultures, but in any particular era one category seems to dominate and catches the public eye. 54 The concept of culture in discussions of student experience in higher education is also employed by Becker et al. (1961) in their study of the socialization process of medical school students. The authors draw on the perspective of symbolic interactionism which stresses the more conscious aspects of human behaviour and relates them to the individual's participation in group life. They employ the cultural metaphor of "the rite of passage" to describe the process by which young medical students become physicians, and because the authors view medical school as an organization with unusual single-mindedness of purpose, they feel confident using methods adapted from the study of industry to an educational setting. The authors' stated purpose is not criticism, but observation and analysis, and they emphasize their attempts not to bias their analysis and conclusions. Using the concepts of student culture and organization, Becker et al. look for those aspects of student culture that are held in common. Despite isolated instances of deviance the authors see no evidence of alternative collective perspectives as the students form a community of fate. Cultural concepts have been employed more critically to understand student life by London (1978), Weis (1985), and Holland and Eisenhart (1990). London carried out an ethnographic study of a community college in a predominantly white working class American community in the academic year 1973-74. By studying the student culture, London finds the "cooling out" process of community colleges identified by Clark (cited in London, 1978) is actually not as painless as previously suggested. He finds concerns of social class and personal responsibility weigh heavily on many students, illustrating how social conflict impinges on student life at the community college. Weis also employs cultural metaphors in her study of a community college in a predominantly black urban community in 1979-80. She argues the culture produced 55 by students in the community college contributes to the maintenance of an unequal social structure. Culture is not free-floating, but takes its shape and form from the existing distribution of power and wealth. Holland and Eisenhart (1990) conducted an ethnography at two American universities between 1979 and 1987. They find women at the universities acquiesce to the social structures of male privilege largely through the peer system of romance, but they take an active role in negotiating their way through the system. This study provides a critical awareness of how social relations of power play themselves out at the university, although these particular power dynamics occur largely outside the institutional structures. Tierney (1992) criticizes the integrationist stance of researchers such as Tinto (1988) who use the cultural metaphor of rite of passage, especially when discussing Native experience in higher education in the United States. He claims it is an inappropriate metaphor because students share few of the characteristics of initiates into a culture. From a critical theory perspective, Tierney argues it is vital for the researcher to frame research questions so they do not result in practical implications that are harmful for racial and ethnic minorities. For Tierney, the purpose of theoretical models is not just to describe the world but to change it. Therefore we must be careful in choosing our metaphors. Tierney prefers the use of multicultural metaphors, and concludes that critical and feminist theories are appropriate models for reconceptualizing student participation at universities. Kuh and Witt (1988) attempt to clarify concepts related to culture and higher education, and document the wide variety of ways culture has been used in the field. These authors suggest cultural studies can be seen as incompatible with the myth of organizational rationality, and prefer to view culture as "an interpretive framework for understanding and appreciating events and 56 actions in colleges and universities rather than as a mechanism to influence or control behaviour" (Kuh and Witt, p. 3). They explain: Descriptions of faculty and student cultures have often reflected naive, simplistic understandings of the diversity of attitudes, values, structures, rules and cultural artifacts (language, symbols, stories) common to various groups. (Kuh and Witt, p. 109) A good illustration of problematic cultural metaphor is found in Taft's (1984, p. 17) history of the University of Saskatchewan: No one is born in this village. In fact, although certain of its members seem somewhat immature while others are well into their second childhood, there are few children within the walls of academe. The university is a most exclusive village where becoming a villager is not a simple matter of birthright. Citizenry must be actively sought, and acceptance as a fellow villager is far from automatic. One need only stand outside the Memorial Gates to see the symbolism of this structure, for it lets all travellers know that entrance is - at least symbolically - at the pleasure of the insiders. Taft shows how the use of cultural metaphors to discuss universities tends to obscure the exclusive nature of the university. Kuh and Witt also caution against the sloppy use of cultural metaphors, and explain that some categories of students do not qualify for subculture status because they lack sufficient interaction. Bergquist (1992) stretches the concept of culture too far when he equates culture with a common outlook, a kind of reified lens used to make sense of the world, rather than as the product of a constantly evolving process of negotiation among people. His four cultures are shared by people who may actually have no contact with one another. The importance of student interaction became apparent as this study progressed, as the extent of interaction among doctoral students was an indication of their ability to create understandings of their experiences independent of, or alternative to, the more dominant culture of the university department. The purpose of this study is to learn more about PhD student 57 experiences using methods commonly employed for cultural research, but it is not primarily a study in search of a PhD student culture. In other words, when I was confronted with the choice of focusing my attention exclusively on those few students who had close interaction in their departments, or looking beyond them to the more typical experiences of students who had much less interaction, I chose the latter. The social and professional forces that discourage interaction and weaken PhD student culture are crucial for understanding doctoral student experiences, and students who are isolated from the core of departmental activities provided access to a deeper understanding of those forces. Culture is a useful concept for study of PhD student experiences as long as its use does not obscure the exclusive and divisive aspects of those experiences. As my study progressed, isolation emerged as a common theme discussed by students across all four departments, impacting on my understanding of the nature of doctoral student culture. The concepts of professionalism, socialization, and culture focused my thinking throughout this study. As my research progressed, the related concepts of expertise, autonomy, and isolation emerged to shape my understanding of doctoral student experiences. 58 CHAPTER III METHODOLOGY Research Traditions Research in Higher Education Social Research serves three broad functions: it increases the researcher's understanding of how subjects interpret and understand their own experiences and societies; it allows the researcher to make a truth claim about subjects' experiences or society that goes beyond the everyday understanding subjects have of their own lives; and it promotes desired social change. It is my position that all three of these objectives are at play in the course of any research project. Researchers draw from a variety of research traditions in a pragmatic and rational attempt to create meaning for understanding and action in their world, but the functions and goals of these various traditions are to some extent incommensurable. To achieve particular goals, the researcher creates a "working harmony" (Dewey, 1950, p. 196) of beliefs, values, and practices, but can never completely reconcile them. Research traditions or paradigms place particular stress on one of these research functions, reflecting the dominant goals of that research community. Foster (1991) outlines three research paradigms for social researchers in higher education: positivist1, constructivist, and critical. Researchers who have a positivist conception of lAt t h i s b a s ic l e v e l of categorizing research paradigms, various terms such as p o s i t i v i s t , r e a l i s t , and empir i c i s t are used by researchers to r e f e r to knowledge claims based on the assumption that a r e a l i t y e x i s t s separate from the researcher, the nature of which can be known or discovered by the researcher. I have not made f i n e r d i s t i n c t i o n s between these t r a d i t i o n s because t h i s l e v e l of analysis i s s u f f i c i e n t to i l l u s t r a t e the incommensurability of research paradigms which promote d i f f e r e n t research goals, and students interviewed i n t h i s study spoke i n terms of these three 59 knowledge assume it is possible to discover truths about social reality that can be objectively understood by anyone employing proper methods. The goal of the positivist researcher is to strip away those social conditions that obscure the aspect of social reality of which the researcher is most interested. Research from a positivist paradigm allows authoritative truth claims to be made to others who share these assumptions. Assumptions behind constructivist research conflict with those of the positivists. Constructivists reject the notion that social truths are discoverable, but assume that social constructions themselves are the object of inquiry. Rather than stripping away the everyday meanings people adopt to understand their social reality, it is the goal of the researcher to understand and display them. Research from a constructivist paradigm allows the researcher into the world of the subject, but makes no particular claim to a universal truth. Positivist and constructivist research have different goals, and therefore different standards for judging the value or success of particular research projects. Critical researchers do not privilege truth or understanding, but have a moral commitment underlying their research to promote social change, and Foster (1991) argues they make pragmatic use of research methods that promote the change they desire. They draw on the authority of positivist and constructivist traditions, as advocated by Alcoff (1989), to make a persuasive case that advances their moral or political commitments. My own position comes out of the pragmatist tradition of Dewey (1929) that recognizes the social construction of values as well as knowledge to meet particular human needs, which are also constructed (Putnam, 1989). Dewey (1950, p. 196) argues "rationality is the attainment of a working harmony among diverse desires." The construction of needs and standards for achieving broad research categories. 60 success is constrained by a real world and the heed to co-ordinate action (Habermas, 1984 & 1989) with others in that world in a meaningful way. I reject positivist notions of universal claims to truth, but recognize that positivist assumptions are deeply embedded in the cultural standards by which I share practical judgements about truth with others. Although I reject the universalism of positivism, I depend on a consensual cultural standard of truth that relies on positivist assumptions and methods for pragmatic purposes. Universal truth claims are so deeply ingrained in academic practice that even the most relativistic theorist cannot escape them. Constructivist research most closely reflects my theoretical understanding of social constructs and provides insight into the cultural forms that provide meaning for members of a society. But insight has no value without purpose. Foster (1991) is right in advocating recognition of the moral foundations on which all research is conducted, and promoting a pragmatic approach to knowledge and research in pursuit of particular shared needs or goals. Social actors develop meaning and judge truth according to constructed standards to achieve those goals. It is my position that social researchers, like all people, adopt a variety of somewhat conflicting strategies to arrive at a pragmatic understanding of social reality for particular purposes. The notion of operating from a variety of distinct research paradigms can be unsettling, and there is pressure in the academic world to locate research within one particular paradigm, privileging a particular research function or set of goals. Professional academics attain their expertise from the consensual standards of a particular paradigm, and to deny the authority of a particular research tradition is to undermine the researcher's expertise. Researchers who are committed to a positivist conception of knowledge, for example, may explicitly choose to employ survey research whose results are quantifiable, with the goal of arriving at a truth that can be universally understood. But the need to arrive at a shared understanding of how experiences are interpreted by the research subjects is implicit in the research design in order that meaningful questions may be framed for the survey, as is an implicit social purpose for carrying out the research. On the other hand, researchers who reject the possibility of universal social truths and whose primary goal is the promotion of desired social change may explicitly reject research projects whose "truths" undermine their goals. Nevertheless, the ability of such research to carry weight and convince an audience depends on some implicit claim to truth. It is my position that the appropriate choice of method for any research project is a pragmatic decision that involves the researcher's values and goals, the social context in which the research is to be conducted, and the standards of inquiry which carry authority in the researcher's academic community. Kuhn (1970) argues there is no algorithm forjudging between various competing scientific paradigms, and my position is that, similarly, there is no universal standard for deciding on the appropriate balance of competing research paradigms to be employed in a particular research project. This is a practical, ethical, and moral decision for which standards of expertise are only consensual; without consensus, there is no standard. Research in higher education has been strongest in the "old" sociology of education, relying primarily on quantitative methods arising out of a positivist conception of knowledge borrowed from the natural sciences. Within this paradigm the researcher attempts to uncover social truths that are hidden from the individual social actors themselves, but capable of being unmasked by the researcher through the rigorous application of methods that strip away unnecessary information or gather information beyond the scope of ordinary people's experiences. Walford (1992, p. 196) criticizes higher education's reliance on quantitative methods. Surveys, 62 for example, are useful when the issues to be analyzed are relatively simple and straightforward, and the researcher can be confident all participants share a conceptual framework. They have been employed to assess campus climates and thus inform organizational decision makers (Baird, 1990), but McKeown et al. (1993, p.83) suggest "universities and college campuses are complex social locations, which have been thought about and studied often but which, in important ways, remain largely unexplored." They argue theories about student attrition, for example, "should be more firmly grounded in an examination of the worlds of the actors than is the current practice." Bogden and Biklen (1982) suggest that education as a general field of study has been slow to embrace qualitative methods in part due to education's historical link with measurement and experimental design, but higher education seems to be even more conventional. Nevertheless, higher education research in the past decade has begun to reflect the increasing importance of qualitative work. Walford (p. 197) identifies three strands of research that need to be done in the area of sociology of higher education, one of which would involve "a great number of case studies and more qualitative investigations of the lives of those involved." He specifically refers to the need for a better understanding of student experience. This is an interpretive study and draws from a variety of research traditions to increase our understanding of doctoral student experiences. I will discuss issues from the traditions of ethnography and case study that impact on my study, and then discuss their implications for this research. Ethnography Ethnography has its roots in anthropological research and is particularly suited for cultural studies, but has increasingly been adopted in sociological research in recent decades. Kirk and 63 Miller (1986, p. 9) describe qualitative research as "a particular tradition in social science that fundamentally depends on watching people in their own territory and interacting with them in their own language, on their own terms." Wolcott (1985, p. 190) defines ethnography in terms of the ethnographer's goals: "The purpose of ethnographic research is to describe and interpret cultural behaviour." Hammersley (1992) identifies two competing strands in ethnographic research. Older ethnographic research is based on a realist conception of the social world that allows for the possibility of uncovering social truths. More current ethnography is based on a constructivist conception of the social world that denies the possibility of going beyond the social constructs themselves. Both of these strands are evident in ethnographic literature. Spradley (1979, p. 3) describes ethnography as the "work of describing a culture," and "the essential core of this activity aims to understand another way of life from the native point of view". He points out that ethnography means "learning from people" rather than "studying people", and identifies two major purposes of ethnographic research: understanding the human experience and serving the needs of humankind. As language functions not only as a means of communication, but also to create and express a cultural reality, describing a culture in its own terms is considered the primary goal of ethnography. Lofland and Lofland (1984, p. 3) explicitly identify themselves as belonging to a "naturalistic" tradition, one that "has acquired the connotation of minimizing the presuppositions with which one approaches the empirical world." In this tradition relations of power are largely ignored, and the meanings and concepts held by the informants in the culture under study are accepted by the researcher as being largely unproblematic (Anderson, 1989). Hammersley and Atkinson (1983, p. 6) explain: "Naturalism proposes that, as far as possible, the social world should be studied in its natural state, undisturbed by the researcher." Wolcott (1985, pp. 199-200) agrees, and cautions against the misuse of ethnography in educational research when it is used as a tool to justify reform and not just interpret culture: They [ethographies] help us understand how particular social systems work by providing detailed descriptive information, coupled with interpretation, and by relating that work to implicit patterns and meanings which members of that society (or one of its subgroups) hold more or less in common. Such accounts do not, however, contain the basis forjudging systems to be good or bad, effective or ineffective, except as people within the group being studied express those judgments or reveal frustration in achieving their own purposes, or as the people conducting such studies impose judgments of their own. In and of themselves, ethnographic studies do not point the way to how things can or ought to be improved. Naturalistic ethnographers are reluctant to explicitly impose their own values or moral commitments on the subjects of their studies. No single model of ethnographic method exists, and appropriate methods for any research project are defined by the particular context of that research. Ayers (1989, p. 11) argues: There is no simple mechanism of ethnography, no ready recipe of ethnographic inquiry, no methodological machine that, once started, runs itself. Rather, ethnography is as dynamic and complex as the human beings it undertakes to study....ethnography is unquestionably intuitive, idiosyncratic, and improvisational. Nevertheless, Lofland and Lofland (1984, p. 7) identify four main steps in conducting any qualitative social research; gathering data, focusing data in a social scientific manner, analyzing data, and guiding the consequences of the research. They argue it is important for researchers to start where they are: to make meaningful linkages between their own "extrasocial science" concerns and the "codified concerns of social science." It is essential for research to be personally meaningful to the researcher so the researcher becomes emotionally engaged. 65 Gathering data is central to all research, and Lofland and Lofland (1984, p. 11) consider the overall objective of social research to be the collection of the richest possible data. They emphasize "direct observation and apprehension of the social world," which includes face-to-face interaction and participating in the minds of research subjects, and their preferred methods are participant observation and intensive interviewing. Participant observation entails the researcher establishing and maintaining "a many-sided and relatively long-term relationship with a human association in its natural setting for the purpose of developing a scientific understanding of that association" (Lofland and Lofland, p. 12). Bernard (1994, p. 136) describes successful participant observation: "It involves getting close to people and making them feel comfortable enough with your presence so that you can observe and record information about their lives." Lofland and Lofland (1984) discuss the importance of intensive interviewing, a process of guided conversation that allows the researcher to elicit rich, detailed materials from the interview subject that can be used in qualitative analysis. Bernard (1994, pp. 209-210) describes four interview situations, based on the amount of control the researcher wishes to assert over the responses of informants: informal interviews, unstructured interviews, semistructured interviews, and structured interviews. Informal interviews are characterized by almost complete lack of structure and control, and are typically used as the first in a series of interviews where the researcher wishes to learn "the lay of the land". Unstructured interviews are not informal, and Bernard describes them as "based on a clear plan that you keep constantly in your mind, but are also characterized by a minimum of control over the informant's responses." Unstructured interviews are utilized in situations where time is not a constraint, and subjects are available for multiple interviews. Semistructured interviewing is based on an "interview guide" that sets out 66 the topics and questions needed to be covered. This type of interview is usually used when the opportunity exists for only one interview with each subject. Structured interviews involve a series of almost identical questions for each subject conducted in similar environments. The choice of interview characteristics depends on the researcher's goals and the context in which the research is conducted. Lofland and Lofland (1984) emphasize that participant observation and intensive interviewing are mutually supportive activities, and that selecting appropriate sites for these two activities is essential. Research locations must be evaluated for both access and ethics, and Hammersley and Atkinson emphasize that access is more than just a physical presence. Ethnographers produce a cultural description by working together with informants (Spradley, 1979, p. 25): An ethnographer seeks out ordinary people with ordinary knowledge and builds on their common experience. Slowly, through a series of interviews, by repeated explanations, and through the use of special questions, ordinary people become excellent informants. Werner and Schoepfle (cited in Johnson, 1990, p. 31) argue most ethnographic sampling is opportunistic: At first, one interviews those people who are easily accessible. Then, ethnographers use the help of this first batch of people to introduce them to a widening circle of friends and relations. The "networking" label derives from the fact that ethnographers utilize the personal networks of their earliest contacts to expand the sample. Lofland and Lofland (1984, p. 46) describe "data logging" as "a receptive, almost passive, approach to amassing data." Spindler (1982, p. 7) agrees that good ethnography requires that "inquiry and observation must disturb as little as possible the process of interaction and communication in the setting being studied." Documentary evidence is also often an important 67 aspect of ethnography, especially if documentary materials help to explain everyday activities of members of the culture. (Hammersley and Atkinson, 1983). Documentary evidence provides authority for validity claims in ethnographic research, as the researcher can confirm the observations of informants through a process of triangulation. Wolcott (1985), though, cautions against focusing too closely on particular ethnographic methods, as the intent of the researcher to interpret culture is the key to ethnographic research. As ethnographers conduct their research, they must determine effective methods of focusing data collected. Various social settings suggest different ways of organizing the researchers' observations of events, and Lofland and Lofland (1984, p. 71) call these "units" of social settings, with units occurring on various scales of social organization. It is important for the researcher to select appropriate units of analysis and to ask questions relevant to those units. Spradley (1979) suggests that both questions and answers in an ethnographic interview should come from the informant. By listening for the ways people within the culture ask questions, the researcher can ask the most appropriate questions for discovering what is culturally meaningful to those people. Hammersley and Atkinson (1983) argue appropriate methods of recording and organizing data depend on the purposes and financial resources of the researcher, and the setting of the study. Fieldnotes are the traditional method of recording data, but use of tape recorders has become widespread in recent years. Bernard (1994) stresses the importance of the permanent record tape recordings provide of an interview, and argues most subjects can become comfortable with the use of a tape recorder if they have some control over its operation. Identification of categories is central to the process of data analysis, but a naturalistic commitment tends to keep the process implicit and underdeveloped (Hammersley and Atkinson, 68 1983). Lofland and Lofland (1984) argue for the integration of data collection and analysis of that data, and Spradley (1979) agrees that ethnographic research requires constant feedback between one stage of the process and another. Nevertheless, a final stage of data analysis comes at the end of the data collection process, when final order is given to previously developed ideas (Lofland and Lofland). Spradley (1979, p. 92) describes ethnographic analysis as "a tool for discovering cultural meaning," and consists of analyzing field notes to identify cultural symbols and then discover relationships between those symbols. This latter stage is crucial from the perspective of a relational theory of meaning because "the meaning of any symbol is its relationship to other symbols" (Spradley, p. 97). Wolcott (1985, p. 193) emphasizes the important role of the ethnographer in defining the culture under study: The ethnographer attempts to make explicit and to portray in terms of social interaction among many individuals - the micro-culture of the entire group, the collective propriospects2 - what it's various members know only tacitly and understand individually. The ethnographer plays the unique role of being a person able to enter the cuture under study, but also capable of stepping out of the culture to gain a perspective unavailable to most insiders. The purpose of carrying out research and the consequences of reporting results should inform all research activities. Lofland and Lofland (1984) argue consideration of the consequences of the research should not be left until the end of the research process, but the effects of the report should be considered from the very beginning. Spradley (1979) emphasizes the importance of an-awareness of the audience for whom research findings are intended, as this will influence every aspect of an ethnography. 2Wolcott adopts Goodenough's concept of " p r o p r i o s t i c s " d e s c r i b i n g i n d i v i d u a l s ' personal versions or theories of t h e i r own cul t u r e s . 69 Grounded Theory Grounded theory refers to the "systematic generating of theory from data, that itself is systematically obtained from social research" (Glaser, 1978, p. 2). According to Strauss and Corbin (1994, p. 273), Grounded Theory is a general methodology for developing theory that is grounded in data systematically gathered and analysed. Theory evolves during actual research, and it does this through continuous interplay between analysis and data collection. Assumptions upon which grounded theory is based are similar to those of naturalistic inquiry. Glaser (1978, pp. 2-3) argues: The first step in gaining theoretical sensitivity is to enter the research setting with as few predetermined ideas as possible - especially logically deducted, a priori hypotheses. In this posture the analyst is able to remain sensitive to the data by being able to record events and detect happenings without having them first filtered through and squared with pre-existing hypotheses and biases. His mandate is to remain open to what is actually happening. Glaser points out that all stages of the research project, from entry into the field, through collection and codification of data, to the construction of theory, are all guided and integrated by emerging theory. The researcher should be committed to constantly refitting categories of analysis and theory to data as they emerge. He describes the grounded theory approach to research as transcendent, taking "those relevant variables from competing theories that fit and work, while always trying to raise their conceptual level by reducing them to a higher level smaller set of concepts" (Glaser, pp. 14-15). 70 Case Study The case study is often associated with organizational and institutional research, and in higher education is frequently considered most appropriate for studying university culture, and student culture in particular. Hammersley (1992, p. 185) contrasts case study research with survey and experimental research: "It involves the investigation of a relatively small number of naturally occurring (rather than researcher-created) cases. Stake (1994, p. 236) argues "case study is not a methodological choice, but the choice of object to be studied." Nevertheless, case studies are often associated with qualitative research. According to Yin (1989), a case study can be used for three main purposes: exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory research. He stresses the importance for the researcher to be aware of the purposes of the case study at the outset of the project. Yin suggests the case study is best suited for research that focuses on contemporary events rather than past events, does not require control over behavioral events in the study, and is most interested in answers to research questions that are expressed in terms of "how"'or "why". The design of the case study can be either holistic or embedded. A holistic design is most appropriate when no logical subunits of the case can be identified, and the embedded study can be used when to ignore subunits would deprive the study of sufficient depth of understanding. Yin warns that in an embedded study the researcher should not become lost in the subunits, and must return to the original unit for a final stage of analysis. Yin (1989) identifies six sources of possible data for a case study: documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observations, participant-observation, and physical artifacts. He states that collection of data from a variety of sources is important for developing "converging line of inquiry" (Yin, p. 97), or the process of triangulation. In addition to using multiple sources 71 of evidence, Yin stresses the need to create a case study data base to organize and document the data collected, and to maintain a chain of evidence so the reader of the study can "follow the derivation of any evidence from initial research questions to ultimate case study conclusions" (Yin, p. 97). He stresses the importance of remaining aware of the purpose of the case study investigation, and understanding its theoretical and policy issues. This encourages the researcher to focus on relevant data and identify issues that might need to be clarified with further inquiry. According to Yin (1989), analysis of evidence collected in a case study is a little developed but very difficult aspect of case study research. He advocates a strategy for analyzing data based on either theoretical propositions or a basic descriptive framework, but in the absence of such a strategy at the beginning of analysis he encourages the researcher to experiment with the data in order to develop such a strategy. Final composition of the case study report should be oriented to its potential audience. Validity and Reliability in Ethnography The validity and reliability of an ethnography are contested issues. Kirk and Miller (1986) argue objectivity is a goal of qualitative research, and reliability and validity of observations are the concepts through which the objectivity of a piece of research is judged. Sanjek (1990b, p. 395-404) stresses the importance of validity as opposed to reliability in ethnographic research. He proposes three "canons" for assessing the validity of ethnographic work: theoretical candour, the ethnographer's path, and fieldnote evidence. Sanjek argues all ethnographic fieldwork involves a series of choices that arise out of theoretical commitments, and the significant theories informing a researcher's choices should be made explicit to establish validity. The ethnographer's path refers 72 to the linkages between contacts and informants created during the course of research, and Sanjak proposes making these linkages explicit. Fieldnote evidence provides a direct link between the voices of the research subjects and the account given by the researcher, and is preferred by Sanjek, even though it may interfere with a fluid style in reporting results. Yin (1989) identifies four criteria forjudging the quality of research design: construct validity, internal validity, external validity, and reliability. Construct validity refers to the ability of the research design to actually account for key components of the research question. Yin proposes three tactics to increase construct validity: multiple sources of evidence, establishing a chain of evidence, and having key informants review the draft case study report. Internal validity refers to the ability to conclude causal relationships in research, and if a particular event has not been directly observed by the researcher an inference must be made about that causal relationship. Yin suggests pattern-matching is a good way of addressing questions of internal validity. Questions of external validity, on the other hand, deal with the generalizability of research findings. Yin argues case studies should be generalizable to theory. In general, validity is increased through the practice of fieldwork (Kirk and Miller, 1986), and Hammersley and Atkinson (1983) emphasize the importance of collecting data from different sources and also the possibility of respondent validation. The goal of reliability is to eliminate error and bias as much as possible, according to Yin (1989), and complete documentation is the best way to increase reliability. Kirk and Miller (1986, p. 72) agree that "for reliability to be calculated, it is incumbent on the scientific investigator to document his or her procedure". They emphasize that decisions internal to the research project must be made apparent, and that the reader of the research results is entitled to know what 73 preparations were made for the research, how data was collected, and the method of analysis. Sanjek (1990b) minimizes the importance of reliability in ethnography, as there is almost no chance of ever being able to effectively test the reliability of an ethnographic study. He argues validity is the true test to be applied to ethnography: "Does it say what I claim it does?" (Sanjek 1990b, p. 395) Critical Ethnography Critical theorists question the atheoretical and ahistorical stance of naturalistic ethnography. Set in the context of a broader attack on positivist methods in social research, critical theorists reject the possibility of objective, value-free knowledge. Critical theorists also reject the relativism inherent in constructivist paradigms (Foster, 1991; Alcoff, 1989) arguing moral and political commitments underpin any research project. Clifford (1988, p. 10) describes ethnographic texts as "orchestrations of multivocal exchanges occurring in politically charged situations", and Dardner (1994, p. 24) recognizes that institutional relations of power are always at work in the manner in which traditional research is defined, implemented, and utilized within educational environments." Critical theorists criticize the minimization of human agency in the structural accounts of neo-Marxists such as Bowles and Gintis (1976), as they look for ways to better understand the relationship between social forces and human agency. Friere (1983) asserts the possibility of the oppressed to intervene critically in their situation, and to take part effectively in the struggle for their own liberation, arguing they do not have to be paralysed by the oppressive structures in which they live. 74 In the late 1970s and 1980s reductive neo-Marxist explanations of education and society came under attack by both feminist (e.g. Holland & Eisenhart, 1990) and race relations theorists (e.g. McCarthy, 1990). "Feminist scholars of gender and schooling arrived at the position that conflict and resistance had to be incorporated into their analyses, as had Willis and others writing on class hierarchies" (Holland and Eisenhart, p. 33). Holland and Eisenhart develop the notion of "practice theory" to overcome the dangers of social reproduction theories. While recognizing the meaning systems that groups produce in response to structural constraints, they also pay attention to internal divisions and struggles within groups. McCarthy (1990, p. 63) emphasizes that in the political arena, social theorists find many groups mobilize around "distinctly non-class agendas." This forces a rethinking of previous reproduction models, a rethinking that gives education a more active mediating role between the economy, society. Individual actors such as students contribute to the production of culture and are potential agents of desired change. Willis (1977, p. 3), in his ground-breaking study of working-class adolescents in Britain, explains the importance of ethnographic methods: The ethnographic account, without always knowing how, can allow a degree of the activity, creativity and human agency within the object of study to come through into the analysis and the reader's experience. But Willis, unlike many ethnographers in the traditional anthropological tradition, does not ignore structural constraints, and contributes to a theory of resistance or cultural production where oppressed people are more than mere victims of false consciousness. They see through some aspects of their oppression and resist the dominant culture. Holland and Eisenhart (1990, p. 42) integrate theory and ethnographic method in their own study of undergraduate women: In our own research we began with questions from production theory and previous ethnographic studies of women and schooling, as well as with questions from our 75 previous work on peer groups. As our analysis proceeded, we found it necessary to incorporate practice theory and to pay attention to internal divisions among the women. Woods (1985) argues the time has come in ethnographic research to give more attention to the kind of "mental states" of researchers conducive to the production of theory rather than the collection of data. He believes ethnography will only reach its full potential with "the frames of mind, the circumstances, the resources that promote the creativity and originality that go into theory construction" (Woods, 1985, p. 74). Scott (1985, p. 116) emphasizes the need to know the "positions, attitudes and emotions" of the researcher, as well as the history of the research process. Critical theory involves a complex interaction of social structure and human agency, and critical ethnography combines naturalistic methods with critical theory. Critical ethnographers employ structural constraints such as class, gender, and race to inform their cultural accounts of human activity. The alliance of ethnographic methods with critical theory is not without its problems. Anderson (1989, p. 252) claims "this uneasy alliance raised serious questions about the compatibility of theory-driven social agendas on one hand and phenomenological research methods on the other." He identifies "the validity issue" as the most important methodological challenge critical ethnography has had to confront, with accusations that critical ethnography is too theory-driven and therefore biased (Anderson, p. 252). "Educational researchers, using qualitative methods have, over the years, had to work hard to legitimate their methods to the educational research community" (Anderson, p.252), and the legitimacy of the practice of ethnography in anthropology depended to large extent on its naturalistic assumptions, and the mixing of this tradition with critical theory threatened to undermine this legitimacy. At the same 76 time anthropologists were experimenting with new approaches to ethnography, some educational ethnographers were doing their best to avoid accusations of mere story-telling by "moving to systematize ethnographic research in an attempt to make it more scientific, often even invoking the language of positivism to do so" (Anderson, p. 252). Kirk and Miller (1986, p. 13), for example, have a clear commitment to objectivity. Anderson (1989) claims critical ethnographers do, in fact, share a concern for the validity of their research and engage in what are considered to be standard ethnographic practices for trustworthiness. It is in their questioning of informants' constructs that they sometimes differ from a naturalist approach. Naturalists tend to accept the constructs of informants as unproblematic, without due recognition that these constructs are themselves reconstructions of social reality. Critical ethnographers distrust traditional analytic categories in social theory, such as "family", "property", "stratification", etc. and more specifically in education, call into question categories such as "giftedness", "dropouts", and "effectiveness". They believe part of their role is to highlight the ideological aspect of these concepts. Conducting ethnographic research informed by social theory allows the researcher to deconstruct meanings informants hold which tend to sustain their powerlessness in conditions of unequal power relations. Anderson (p. 254) explains that critical ethnographers believe "the ideological nature of knowledge resides in the embeddedness of commonsense knowledge (and social science knowledge as well) in political and economic interests." It must be kept in mind, according to Van Maanen (p. 5), that "ethnography irrevocably influences the interests and lives of the people represented in them - individually and collectively, for better or for worse." This makes the political and theoretical stance of the researcher of critical importance. Roman (1993, p. 306) rejects the automatic equation of 77 ethnographic methods with feminism, arguing "what makes any methodology feminist is its actual challenge to the material and ideological practices of different forms of oppression." For Roman, it is the utility of the research rather than its adherence to a particular methodological approach that determines its value. Tierney (1991b) applies the use of critical theory to inform educational studies specifically in higher education, and criticizes the underlying assumptions of much of higher education research. Instead of trying to neutrally describe an institution of higher education in order to improve its "effectiveness", Tierney prefers to think of the organization of the institution as a social construction of society. "The role of the critical theorist is to explain the organizational world, criticize it, and empower its audience to overthrow it", according to Tierney (p. 42) , and "the critical theorist's explanation of the organizational world is rooted in both the interpretive understandings of the participants and the researcher." Tierney applies these principles to his own case studies of two public state institutions of higher education to examine the ways in which participants at the institutions understand institutional ideology. Foster (1991, p. 117) proposes a model for postgraduate agency, where one role of postgraduate education is "to engage in the active development of agents, individuals working within a moral context to achieve those goals valued by their particular programs." This conception of postgraduate education invites the kind of study preferred by critical ethnographers who share a commitment to the transformation of moral agents. Critical reflexivity is an important component of critical ethnography, according to Anderson (1989), as this reflexive process guards against the possible rigidity of the researcher's critical framework. He argues reflexivity is a two-fold process, involving self-reflection on the researcher's own biases, and also "on the dialectical relationship between structural/historical forces and human agency." (Anderson, p. 254) Hammersley and Atkinson (1983) consider attempts to eliminate the effects of the researcher in the naturalistic tradition to be futile, and researchers should instead set about trying to understand their effects. They argue: All social research is founded on the human capacity for participant observation. We act in the social world and yet are able to reflect upon ourselves and our actions as objects in that world. By including our own role within the research focus and systematically exploiting our participation in the world under study as researchers, we can develop and test theory without placing reliance on futile attempts to empiricism, of either positivist or naturalist varieties. (Hammersley and Atkinson, p.25) Reinharz (1979) recognizes the importance of not only asking questions about the substantive area of the study, but also the methods used in the study. She identifies a tripartite set of goals for any research: insight into the person, problem, and method. Anderson claims, unfortunately, little in-depth study has been made of particular practices ethnographers can employ to ensure reflexivity occurs in their studies. Nevertheless, he points to practices such as collaborative and action research methods, and negotiation of research outcomes between researcher and researched as useful beginnings to a better incorporation of reflexivity into ethnographic methodology. Implications for this Research Attempts to reconcile positivist, constructivist, and critical research paradigms are futile, as are attempts to confine research to just one paradigm. All research paradigms are underpinned by assumptions about knowledge claims, legitimate research goals, and moral commitments that are contested and irreconcilable. But researchers can draw on a variety of research traditions to 79 achieve practical goals. Blumer (1969, p. 27) emphasizes the "obdurate character" of the empirical world, and that "reality exists in the empirical world and not in the methods used to study that world." He advocates using "any ethically allowable procedure that offers a likely possibility of getting a clearer picture of what is going on in the area of social life." (Blumer, p. 41) In the conduct of my research I borrow from various qualitative research traditions in a pragmatic attempt to acheive three main goals: to further my understanding of how PhD students understand their own experiences; to look beyond the understandings of those individual students to make claims about experiences of doctoral students they did not perceive; and to contribute to the positive reform of PhD programs. In the reporting of my research I need to convince members of my research community of the validity or truth of my claims, according to standards both explicit and implicit in that community. These goals sometimes complement each other, but at other times are in conflict. The resolution of conflict is, in Dewey's words, a pragmatic and rational attempt to create a "working harmony" (Dewey, 1950, p. 196). Critical ethnography assumes as a central goal of good research the transformation of the social world being studied by the researcher. Because no understanding of the world can be neutral, and no social activity can be divorced from the implications of unequal power relations, research always has political or moral implications. But the conclusion of critical ethnographers that for these reasons all research should make as its primary focus the advancement of a political or moral goal does not follow. Political and moral implications are a reality in all research, but it is a specific research decision to make these implications the fundamental standard by which the research will be judged. Alcoff (1989, pp. 98-99) argues feminists must make their decisions 80 about appropriate methodology in the debate between positivist and constructivist paradigms on the basis of which tradition best promotes emancipatory politics: For after all, the emancipatory potential of feminist theory and social science remains an important motivation for research and criterion for methodologies. If we choose a model of theory choice which undercuts relativism at the same time that it deflates the persuasiveness of our conclusions this emancipatory potential will be lost. Alcoff wants to reject positivism in favour of constructivist social science which she finds most convincing, but realizes the rejection of positivism means abandoning the authority positivist truth claims carry in advancing feminist political goals. She advocates a flexible approach which combines a constructivist theory of knowledge with the authority of positivist truth claims. The contradictions are apparent to Alcoff, but inescapable. Her primary commitment to emancipatory politics guides her practical choice of research methods arising out of incommensurable research paradigms. Research can have legitimate goals other than emancipatory politics, particularly if the subjects of research are not clearly a marginalized group in society. This does not deny the political and moral implications of all research, but allows alternative goals to be the primary focus of a research project. Roman (1993, p. 307) discusses the possibility of "studying up", or examining the lives of powerful groups in society, and the implications this would have for research: The ethical, political, epistemological, and methodological practices and implications of such studies would vary accordingly and could not be prescribed in advance from those derived from radically different power relations and material conditions. While doctoral students may be temporarily in a position of relative powerlessness, they clearly do not comprise a subordinate social category. 81 This research project has a strong exploratory component, as little has been written about the experiences of PhD students from their own perspective in academic literature. Much can be learned by letting students explain their experiences in their own words in an attempt to gain access to doctoral student experience as it is understood by them. Nevertheless, I recognize that as a doctoral student myself, I bring my own experiences and understandings with me to the research, as well as the body of social science research from which this project emerges. The methods of naturalistic inquiry form the basis of this research, but I draw from other research traditions to accommodate my own experiences and theoretical perspectives. My research combined a commitment to respect the understandings and interpretations PhD students had of their own experiences, while at the same time looking beyond the constructs students had created to inform my own understanding of those experiences. I recognize the perceptive criticisms of assumptions behind naturalistic inquiry made by critical theorists, but disagree that all research should unite the researcher and the research subjects in a common political and moral enterprise. Throughout my research I was never convinced PhD students were a marginalized social group, nor that we shared fundamental interests in common. Nevertheless, the study of PhD students is important for improving our understanding of doctoral education and how it functions in a broader academic and social context. PhD student experiences provide insight into how doctoral education might be reformed to make it more humane for the individual students involved, and to promote critical and reflective commitments of PhD students. 82 Procedure Initial Steps In conducting this research I employed an embedded case study model informed by the' theory and methods of ethnography. The over-all unit was a research university located in Western Canada with a wide range of PhD programs, permitting the study of doctoral student experiences across a variety of discipline cultures. I assumed discipline culture had an important effect on the nature of doctoral student experiences. My own understanding of doctoral studies prior to this research project was limited very much to the realities of doctoral student life in my own department. Contact with PhD students in other departments, particularly across the arts/science divide, was extremely limited before I began my study. I decided to focus my research on the experiences of PhD students in four departments, thereby establishing four sub-units for the study. These departments were chosen according to criteria established by Becher (1989) for understanding academic discipline culture. Becher identifies four main categories of knowledge domains that underpin academic discipline culture: hard/pure, hard/applied, soft/pure, soft/applied. I assumed at the beginning of my study that by choosing a representative department from each of these four discipline cultures I would be able to study a wide range of doctoral student experiences, while containing the research project within manageable limits for a PhD dissertation project. I chose the following departments, which each had at least 20 students enroled in the PhD program at the time of my study and appeared to comprise the elements of one of each of Becher's discipline cultures: Hard/Pure Hard/Applied Soft/Pure Soft/Applied Physics Chemical History Education Engineering 83 Prior to conducting research I submitted a synopsis of the projects and methods to be employed to the university's Ethics Committee in accordance with the university regulations for research with human subjects. As all of the informants were to be adults, informed consent of each of the students involved was to be obtained from them personally, as well as from the Heads of the departments being studied. I undertook to explain the nature and purpose of the research to students of the departments as a group, and to each of the informants personally, and to provide the opportunity for any student to withdraw from the study at any time and for any reason. I also undertook to maintain the informants' anonymity, which was of particular importance due to the nature of the sensitive power relations between PhD students and their faculty supervisors. In order to gain access to the university, the departments, and the students, I began by obtaining the permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies to carry out the research, and to make contact with the Heads of Department of the four departments chosen for the study. Three of these Department Heads consented to the study personally, and the fourth Department Head delegated this responsibility to the Graduate Coordinator. Easiest access was granted by the Physics Department, with the Head requesting no further explanation than that outlined in my letter of introduction. In both the Chemical Engineering and History Departments, the Heads asked that I meet with them to discuss my project in more detail. The Education Department was clearly the most tentative in agreeing that I proceed to speak with students. After obtaining initial access I was introduced to key PhD student informants in each of the departments, all of whom were student representatives. I arranged with these student representatives to meet with PhD students at their next scheduled graduate student meeting to explain my research project, if such 84 meetings existed, or called a meeting of graduate students specifically to present my research in departments where regularly-scheduled meetings did not occur. Graduate students in each department were notified in advance that my research would be a topic of discussion, and students were invited to ask questions or express reservations about the research. In all of the departments students were willing to cooperate in the research provided I quoted them directly only from formal interviews where they had provided written consent to be interviewed. With these assurances, no students in attendance at the meetings objected to my research in any of the four departments. At the outset of the research project, I intended to formally interview five students from each department, for a total of twenty interviews. I decided to confine my study to doctoral students pursuing a PhD degree, and not to those studying in more applied doctoral programs such as the EdD program. I was interested in the experiences of students who were being educated for admission into the academic professions, and the PhD is the most widely accepted degree for entrance into the academy. My assumption was that PhD students occupy the very sensitive border zones surrounding the academic professions, and their experiences provide an opportunity for insight into the professionalization process of academics. I also confined my study to students who were then currently enroled in the PhD program at the university. I realized students who had dropped out of doctoral studies and students who had recently completed their PhD would be able to provide valuable information, and in some ways be more free to openly discuss their experiences as doctoral students. Nevertheless, I decided that as an initial study of this kind, it would be appropriate to begin with the experiences of PhD students themselves. 85 Conduct of the Research I employed judgment sampling techniques, where I first established a key student contact in each of the departments who was likely to have contact with a wide variety of students. This contact was a student representative who normally had more than two years experience as a PhD student and was familiar with the structures, requirements, and student activities in their particular departments. Selection of the informants from each department then "snowballed" through a network of contacts I developed through the key contact. These contacts were normally the first students interviewed in each department, and continued to be valuable sources of information throughout the study. Because of the very isolated nature of doctoral studies for some students, graduate secretaries in each of the departments were very helpful for locating students who were not part of the everyday life of their departments. Recent privacy guidelines at the university made access to such students difficult, but the increased use of electronic communications by doctoral students allowed initial contact with many isolated students without departments disclosing private information such as telephone numbers and addresses. I considered this access particularly important for reaching a broad range of student experiences, as there is considerable pressure from a variety of sources when conducting ethnographic research to confine the scope of the research to those informants at the centre of social activities. My interest from the outset of this research was to learn about the experiences of a broad selection of PhD students, as opposed to conducting a study of a culture that just happened to be composed of doctoral students. I did not want to disqualify a student from participation in my study because the student had very little interaction with other PhD students. An important assumption of this study was that doctoral 86 student culture, if it existed in a department, was probably relatively weak compared with student cultures at other levels of university education. My first consideration for selection of informants was students' interest and willingness to be candid about their experiences as doctoral students. The initial meetings with graduate students to discuss my research were extremely useful in locating initial informants, all of whom were in attendance at those first meetings. I began my research with the explicit goal of interviewing from each department at least one male, one female, one Canadian, and one international student. Over the course of the interview process, I decided to interview at least two male and two female students from each department, even if the numbers of one group was very small. I used the initial interviews with key informants to develop other criteria for selection of subsequent informants on the basis of the unique characteristics of each department. I was particularly interested in important structural divisions that might exist in the departments, whether formal or informal. If key informants suggested such divisions might significantly affect the experiences of students, I ensured that at least one student from each of the department sections was interviewed. I also chose informants from early, intermediate, and advanced stages of the PhD to develop a sense of how student experience changed over the course of the degree. By starting my interviews with key informants who were often at the centre of their departmental activities, I found it was difficult to gain access to students who were not well-connected in the departments, and therefore perhaps more at risk in their degree programs. As I increasingly became aware of how isolating the PhD experience was for some students, I made conscious efforts to include such students in my study. One student, for example, had been out of the province for more than two years, a situation which was not unusual in that particular department. 87 I was able to locate and interview that student who had virtually no contact with other students in the department, and this student provided an understanding of doctoral student experience not available to other students at the centre of the department community. In two departments, Physics and Education, I increased the number of interview informants from five to six, because conditions emerged in each department that suggested an additional informant would provide valuable information without expanding the scope of the research beyond that appropriate for dissertation study. In Physics, students frequently spoke of an exceptional Sub-Unit within the department where the few students in that area had very different experiences from other Physics students, so I made contact with an additional student in that Sub-Unit who was willing to participate in my study. In Education, the deep structural divisions within the department required that I also increase the number of interviews there so my study would not unduly focus on the experiences of students from the more dominant Sub-Unit in that department. In order to accommodate the busy schedules of PhD students, to ensure that I select students from as broad a representation of experiences as possible, and to gain access to students without breaching their privacy, I proceeded with selection of informants slowly and deliberately after the initial interview with key informants. At times the process seemed agonizingly slow, as it might take weeks or months to make contact a student who met my developing criteria, and was willing to participate in an interview. The entire interview process took place over a twelve month period, from March 1995 to March 1996, with a four-month summer break during which I was employed away from the university. Interviews were typically held in an office made available to me at the university, outside the four departments of the study. Students were given the opportunity to choose a location 88 where they would be most cornfortable, and I conducted some interviews in students' homes and in their own offices. Most students preferred to discuss their experiences away from their own departments, and many expressed an interest in seeing how other PhD students went about their research, so my office was usually the preferred location. Due to students' busy schedules I decided to conduct one interview with each student, and met informally with some of the informants subsequent to the interviews when one of us had reason to discuss our interviews further. Interviews ranged from one to five hours, with the typical interview lasting about two to three hours. Tape recordings were made of each interview, but some students requested portions of the interview remain unrecorded, or segments be erased after reflection on the discussion. I employed ethnographic interview techniques (Spradley, 1979), with predetermined topics for each interview, but an interest in following the leads of informants. As each interview deepened my understanding of student experiences, I modified the focus of future interviews. For example, in my first interview with the key informant in the Physics Department, we discussed the absence of Philosophy of Science as an interest of students in their doctoral programs. This was not a topic I had considered before the interview, but arose by chance in our conversation. I subsequently pursued this topic with other science students, and was surprised to learn how little discussion of Philosophy or History of Science occurred at the PhD level. This was in sharp contrast to the arts departments, where students recognized the need to examine fundamental premises of their research traditions. As I analyzed the data from interviews during the course of my research this difference became increasingly important, but had only become an important topic for discussion in the interviews after I had spoken with one of the key informants. Despite important assumptions I brought with me about doctoral studies to my research, I had a deep commitment 89 to learning what students in other departments described as critical aspects of their studies. I considered my study to be primarily discovery-oriented, as little had been written about doctoral student experiences across departments, and I knew my own experiences were limited to my department community. Interviews began with a general discussion of my research and how it had evolved to that point. I noticed different interests of various informants, depending on their discipline background. Physics and Chemical Engineering students asked questions about what I had "discovered" about doctoral studies in general. History students shared this interest in discovery, but were specifically interested in what I had discovered about their own department. Education students, on the other hand, did not ask me what I had discovered, but were more interested in "locating" my research in the broad field of competing research paradigms in Education. Informants' initial questions provided insight into the ways academic disciplines shaped students' notions of the purpose of research. The taped part of the interview began with specific questions about the academic and personal backgrounds of students, information which was important for me, but was also unproblematic for the students, facilitating dialogue. Subsequent questions were generally organized around five themes: evolution of the students' research interests, departmental structures and requirements^  student relations with faculty, student interaction with other students, and financial and work-related issues. Although I directed the discussion to cover these broad areas during the course of the interviews, I was very interested in specific themes that emerged from students' own experiences, and incorporated these themes in future interviews. An example of such a theme was the sense of isolation science students spoke of, an isolation I expected from arts students but was surprised to hear discussed by the Physics and Chemical 90 Engineering students. This challenged an important assumption I brought with me to the research from Becher's (1989) description of interaction within discipline cultures, and became incorporated into the explicit focus of subsequent interviews with science students. Interviews ended with an opportunity for the informant to talk about any issue not discussed during the course of the interview which that student believed was an important aspect of doctoral studies. As the research progressed, I began asking informants if there was a topic or issue I might like to bring up with future informants, and this was a valuable strategy for getting at sensitive issues in the departments and selecting future informants. Observation of PhD student activities within each department of this study complemented the student interviews. Attendance at graduate student meetings to introduce my research project provided an opportunity to begin to observe student activities in which PhD students were involved. Unlike undergraduate education, graduate studies tends to be a very isolating process for students, and there are very few locations where the important activities of doctoral students can be observed. Student interaction tends to occur in small groups or very intermittently in larger groups. At the beginning of my research I believed student interviews would be the most valuable source of information about doctoral student experience, but was not sure if my own experience could be generalized across departments. Therefore, I was particularly interested in the initial interviews to elicit information about formal or informal student activities PhD students considered important during their studies. I was surprised to discover the students I interviewed were generally more convinced than I had been in my own department that student activities were not a significant aspect of the lives of most doctoral students. For this research I was most interested in activities in which PhD students played a central role, but students informed me that 91 unless faculty were involved in departmental activities, they occupied a peripheral space in the lives of doctoral students. I attended organized student activities in all departments and found very few PhD students were in attendance, particularly after their first months in the programs. The activities which students considered central to their experiences involved close interaction with supervisors, either in labs or faculty offices. Nevertheless, I attended a variety of functions, such as student colloquia, department orientation meetings, seminars and courses, student meetings, dissertation defenses, and informal social gatherings on the university campus. I also monitored graduate student and departmental E-Mail discussion lists, and observed the settings in which PhD students conducted their research. While student interviews remained the most important source of data for this research, observation of the physical location of student research, as well as student activities, helped to validate data gathered during the interviews or suggest new approaches to subsequent interviews. University documents, such as calendars and departmental graduate student handbooks provided essential background information for the university, departments, and PhD students. Unfortunately, basic university statistics for particular departments on attrition rates, ages of students, and length of time to complete degrees were either not compiled by the university or not made available to me. Recent university guidelines on student privacy and cutbacks in funding for administration were cited by various university offices as reasons for not allowing access to raw data where information had not been published. I had some success obtaining estimates of this type of information for current students from graduate secretaries in each of the departments studied, for which I was grateful considering their own concerns about issues of privacy and resources available to them. Some departments have just begun to compile their own statistics on 92 dropouts and length of time for completion of degrees, but it will be many years before enough data is collected to permit meaningful conclusions to be drawn from this information. Even the university's basic PhD student enrolment statistics were unreliable for the Education Department, as the recent restructuring of Education Departments at the university appeared to have university staff confused about the status of students in that department. I was forced to rely on the graduate secretary in that department as the most reliable source for current enrolments. Calls in academic literature (e.g., Cude, 1987; Walford, 1992) for more complete statistics on graduate studies and graduate students are supported by my efforts at this university to gather the most basic statistical data at a department level. During the course of my research I kept a field diary to provide a framework for organizing the research process and for recording the sequence of data-collection and data-analysis steps taken during the course of my research. Observations of the research settings and student activities were recorded in this diary as were my thoughts following student interviews. I used a separate diary to record my reflections on the research process, and was able to reflect back on this information during the course of the study to relate my own experiences as a PhD student to those of my informants. Analysis of Data Data analysis began as I established first contact with Heads of the departments under study, and was a continuous process to the final writing of this thesis. I brought some basic assumptions about the experiences of PhD students with me into the research from my own experience as a doctoral student, and from the academic literature. These assumptions shaped my 93 original decisions about methods for studying PhD student experience and the initial themes around which interview discussions were framed. Analysis of data from the outset of the research confirmed some of these assumptions, and suggested areas for modification of others. For example, my own experiences suggested PhD students typically began their doctoral studies with well-defined research topics they had developed outside the academy and the process of re-defining these topics to conform to the interests and standards of academic disciplines was a major problem for PhD students. This assumption was based on my own experience, the experiences of other students within my own department, and academic literature, such as Common's (1994) study of professionals returning to graduate study. As my research unfolded I realized the extent to which this assumption had been based on the peculiar circumstances of my own PhD program in a professional department (Education) which drew from foundational disciplines (History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Education) for academic authority. Students in my department were typically professionals who returned to graduate studies after establishing careers where they had developed commitments to problems they wished to pursue in the academy. Transformation of their research interests from the priorities and conceptual frameworks of their professional work outside the academy to the imperatives of academic disciplines was not always an easy process. At the outset of my research I expected this problem to be an important focus of my study. It soon became apparent that in three departments (Physics, Chemical Engineering, and History) students typically defined their original research interests from within their academic disciplines, and that my original assumption needed to be modified. The related issues of student ownership of research and student autonomy emerged during the course of my interviews, enabling me to locate the specific concerns of students in my 94 own department, and the Education Department of my study, with broader issues relevant to the experiences of all PhD students. Transcription of the taped portions of interviews provided an opportunity for categories of analysis to congeal. By re-immersing myself in the interviews, without the need to divide my attention between the discussion I was having with the informant and the need to guide the direction of the interview, I discovered fresh interpretations of the student's experiences that had passed unnoticed during the course of the original interview. The transcription process was extremely valuable for shaping the themes that eventually emerged in this thesis. Following transcription of the interviews, the themes of expertise, standards, ownership, autonomy, isolation, and contradictions took shape as I re-worked the interview data and field notes, and reflected on my own experiences as a PhD student and the experiences of my colleagues. In the following chapters I have used two-letter codes in place of informants' names to protect their anonymity. These codes bear no relation to the actual names or initials of the informants. All direct quotations are followed by a code, as are my own statements that are substantially the same as those made by informants. A series of codes indicates a similar statement was made by more than one informant. The agreement of more than one informant is one indication of increased confidence in the truth of the statement, but should not be regarded as the only test of validity. Many statements which are identified by only one code are supported by other data obtained from documents, observation, and related statements made by other informants. Reflexivity was an important aspect of this study, as my own doctoral degree experiences shaped my theoretical approaches, beliefs and assumptions about how to approach other students' 95 experiences, and the experiences of students in my study in turn both confirmed and challenged my own understandings and conceptualizations. In my department PhD students analyzed and re-analyzed the goals and practices of their own department almost to the point of obsession. I was surprised to discover during the course of my study that this intensity of analysis and reflection on their degree programs and departmental cultures was not widespread among all PhD students, and the search for reasons to explain this difference began to inform both my research project and my analysis of my own unfolding experiences as a doctoral student. As students in my study increasingly spoke of the dangers of confronting the contradictions of doctoral studies for fear of becoming "paralysed" I noticed my own colleagues were beginning to speak in similar language. Close reflection and analysis of their own experiences began to give way to an increasing need to complete their degrees regardless of the implications for commitments and values my colleagues had originally brought with them to doctoral studies. The research project was informed by my experiences as a PhD student, but more importantly for me, the research project has shaped the way I understand my own experiences as a doctoral student and educator: my primary motivation for carrying out the research project from the beginning. 96 CHAPTER IV STANDARDS Canadian society has increasingly trusted and relied on professional expertise in this century, following an earlier and more pronounced professionalization in the United States. The professionalization of society entails a separation of "expert" knowledge from the less trustworthy knowledge of ordinary people (Bledstein, 1976; Silva and Slaughter, 1984). Professionals claim expertise in an arcane body of specialized knowledge, an expertise that usually involves lengthy training culminating in the mastery of superior skills that can be applied in the solution of practical problems for the benefit of society. The tremendous expansion of knowledge at American universities from the latter half of the nineteenth century led to increased specialization of academic work and the need for advanced training in emerging fields of science, including the social sciences: "A specialized division of expert labour implies that each occupational niche creates its own knowledge boundaries, defining currently correct ideas and their practical application." (Silva and Slaughter, 1984, p. 3) Coinciding with the proliferation of knowledge organized into increasingly specialized fields was the growth of graduate education and the PhD degree: The rise of the graduate school was predicated on academic specialization, and modern professors are experts. Through its power to grant higher degrees, the university confirms our monopolies of specialized knowledge. Theoretically, all professors are certified as experts. The PhD, our highest degree, attests to its holder's original work on a specialized question that is part of the problematic of a larger field. (Silva and Slaughter, 1984, p. 9) The PhD has become almost universally recognized in the United States and Canada as the necessary qualification for an academic career. Nevertheless, the emergence of the PhD in the 97 United States at the end of the nineteenth century was not without it's critics. Professor James Taylor of Vasser College expressed fear in 1894 the PhD would encourage undo specialization, and President Lowell of Harvard university claimed a degree could not replace results as a test of original thought (Walters, 1965, p. 17). Lowell's criticism of the PhD lies at the heart of my discussion of standards and the experiences of PhD students at this university. Problematic for the academic profession, as opposed to more applied professions such as medicine and law, is the claim that producers of original knowledge can be given prior certification that legitimizes entry into the academic profession. Greenwood (1966, p. 13) observes: Every profession strives to persuade the community to sanction its authority within certain spheres by conferring upon the profession a series of powers and privileges....Among its powers is the profession's control over its training centres. The professional model inspires confidence when it incorporates an agreed-upon body of knowledge and expertise in a particular field, allowing the professional to apply this expertise to practical problems in society. It is not self-evident there can be an agreed-upon expert method of producing original knowledge. For the student, the PhD marks a significant shift from a consumer of research to a producer of research, with the student being expected to generate original knowledge (Hawley, 1993). What standard can exist forjudging original knowledge? The existence, and importance, of the PhD as a certificate of expertise in the production of knowledge implies PhD holders share determinable attributes, and universities judge PhD candidates according to legitimate standards: "Normally, we in higher education assume that our knowledge monopolies are legitimate; that we receive our resources from an approving community in tacit exchange for the work we do." (Silva and Slaughter, 1984, p. 3) Whereas the 98 PhD was originally granted to scholars at their intellectual peak, the PhD of this century "signifies the holder possesses academically acceptable abilities to commence independent scholarly investigations." (Noble, 1994, p. 10) The question of standards for certifying a student's ability to generate knowledge is central to the any PhD program, and is where I begin my discussion of the experiences of PhD students at this university. The Faculty of Graduate Studies at this university requires PhD students to fulfil certain standard requirements across university departments in order to graduate. These requirements are set out in the university Calendar, and include the following: a Residency Period, Comprehensive Examinations, acceptance of a Thesis Proposal, and a Thesis Defense. The Residency Period normally consists of two sessions of full-time attendance at the university, each at least eight months long. During this time students are usually required by their departments or supervisory committees to successfully complete a certain number of courses, although the Faculty of Graduate Studies does not itself make coursework a requirement for the PhD. The Comprehensive Examination is the first formal examination required by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and is normally held at the end of the student's coursework, but the form of this examination is determined by each department. Although the Calendar does not refer to acceptance of the Thesis Proposal as an examination, it specifies that students are not admitted to candidacy until "their research supervisor has certified that their thesis proposal has been approved." PhD students are normally expected to be Admitted to Candidacy after the two year residency period, and upon successful completion of Comprehensive Examinations and an acceptable Thesis Proposal. The Final Oral Examination of the Thesis has detailed rules concerning its procedures set out in both the Calendar and a specific university publication on 99 graduate theses. All doctoral theses have to be examined externally by an "appropriate specialist" from outside the university. The application of the requirements of the Faculty of Graduate Studies in the four departments I studied varied considerably, as did the understanding of those requirements by PhD students in the various departments. I will briefly outline the backgrounds of each of the four departments of this study to provide Context for their examination practices that enforce standards in the doctoral program. Department Backgrounds The Physics Department is one of the most established departments in the university, and has been at the forefront of the growth of graduate studies. The need to involve university research in the war effort during World War II led to an increased awareness on the part of the Canadian federal government of the importance of graduate studies at Canadian universities, which was brought to public attention by Brebner (1945). The Physics Department at this university was well-positioned to take advantage of the emerging importance of university research and graduate education in Canada after the Second World War. A new building, which opened in 1947, made the department one of the best equipped at the university (Logan, 1958). Logan (p. 195) explains why the post-war years were particularly significant for the Physics Department: Because Physics and Chemistry had to do more intimately with supplying modern needs of modern defense and with the work of government supply agencies, these two university departments received more generous financial support and expanded more dramatically than others. Many of their research projects were continuous from the war years, some were concerned with work which had to be abandoned during the war, but the great bulk of them were undertaken at the request of defence and scientific agencies of the Federal government and with the aid of subsidies. 100 A Faculty of Graduate Studies was created in the academic year 1947-48, reflecting the increasing attention paid to graduate studies at the university. Until that time only masters degrees had been awarded at the university, but in 1950 the first two PhDs were awarded, one of which was in Physics (Logan, 1958). In the 1950s, the Physics Department gained an international reputation, particularly in Theoretical Physics, and by 1957 had awarded 34 PhDs (Logan, 1958). The late 1950s and early 1960s was a period of rapid growth for doctoral studies in the department, with a total of 63 doctoral students enroled by 1964 (Calendar). Doctoral students comprised two thirds of the graduate students in the Physics Department, a ratio which was much higher than in many other disciplines at the university and has been maintained through to the present. By 1970 doctoral enrolments had reached a peak of 81, although Chemistry and Zoology had both surpassed Physics in the number of doctoral students enroled in those departments. Between 1970 and 1975 doctoral enrolments in Physics declined significantly to 37, but steadily increased since that time to equal the 1970 peak of 81 in 1996. While entrance into the PhD is normally preceded by the completion of a masters degree, there was an alternative route into the PhD, a choice that was not at all uncommon. Masters students could transfer directly into the PhD program after one year of a masters degree if they had successfully completed the bulk of their masters-level coursework with first-class grades, and showed "clear evidence of research ability" (Handbook,1 p. 4); as one doctoral student explained, this option has become increasingly common in recent years with Theory students (Tb). ^ a c h of the four departments produces materials to acquaint graduate students with departmental p o l i c i e s and pra c t i c e s . I r e f e r to these materials g e n e r i c a l l y as the "Handbook". 101 The PhD program in the Physics Department has no formal structural division, although students are generally regarded as pursuing either theoretical or experimental work, a division often mentioned by students when identifying their research area. Nevertheless, no formal divisions exist and doctoral students, both theoretical and experimental, can be found in the same courses: "There are usually theorists and experimentalists in all the classes, even higher theory ones; you'll find experimentalists taking them." (Tb) Research activities can differ markedly, with experimentalists generally working in teams and putting in more lab hours, perhaps having to do shift-work to supervise experiments. Theory students, on the other hand, are more likely to work individually or in small groups, and, according to one student, often just have to "sit in the office 9-5." (Tb) The department is also divided informally according to field of research in the department; for example, Medical Physics, Condensed Matter, or Subatomic Physics. A student explained: "I think in general Physics gets fairly departmentalized and people go off in their own little area" (Tg), but those divisions are not formal, and there are no variations in the requirements for completion of the PhD degree. PhD students in Physics spoke of a strong belief all physicists were involved in the same general pursuit, with one student claiming that "no-one who's really interested in Physics will want to suppress a certain research project or will want to exalt a certain research project." (Br) This attitude is promoted by the discipline culture: When I started as a graduate student I had the idea "well, Theoretical Physics is more important than Experimental Physics", and I sort of looked down on Experimental Physicists as being a lower grade of people. But since then I've realized that what they do is extremely important too. And what they do is quite difficult to do as well. So Theoretical Physicists and Experimental Physicists each acknowledge each other as being essential to the progress of Physics. And every single field of Physics will also recognize that any other research projects going on are also of great importance. (Br) 102 The belief that all physicists are pursuing a common goal, combined with the stability of the Physics Department over the years at the university, is reflected in the lack of formal divisions within the department. By its relative unity, and long and stable history, this Physics Department embodies the important structural characteristics of a "Hard" discipline described by Clark (1987) and Becher (1989). Recent university re-organization of departments were affecting the structure of the Physics Department at the end of the period of my study, as the department was about to amalgamate with part of another science department at the university. There may now be a more formal division than those that previously existed, with differing requirements for doctoral students who began their programs in the two separate departments, but my study did not include any students from that new field. The Physics students I interviewed generally agreed that, aside from physical changes in office space, this merger was likely to have little effect on their own studies. Chemical Engineering courses have also been offered at this university since its inception (Logan, 1958). In the early years, those courses were offered through the Department of Chemistry, a department which, along with Physics, gained in importance as a result of defense-related research during and after the Second World War. The growth of science research and graduate studies at this university after the Second World War led to re-organization of departments and graduate studies in the decade following the war. Chemical Engineering was removed from the Chemistry Department in 1954 with the creation of a separate Chemical Engineering Department (Annual Review). Doctoral studies in Chemical Engineering lagged behind the PhD program in Chemistry, and ten years after the creation of the department just 103 three students were enroled in the PhD program in Chemical Engineering, with enrolment increasing steadily, but not dramatically, to 18 by the mid-1980s (Calendar! In the decade preceding my study, PhD enrolment in the department more than doubled to 41 by 1996. (Department Figures) By 1996 there were slightly more doctoral students in Chemical Engineering than masters students. Although permitted, it is less common for students in Chemical Engineering to enter the doctoral program before completing a masters degree than in Physics. Students I interviewed had all completed a masters degree before entering the PhD program, and unlike Physics students, it is not unusual for Chemical Engineering students to have periods in the workforce between degrees. The PhD program in Chemical Engineering Department does not have the prominence of the doctoral program in the Physics Department. One student's impression of the status of PhD students in the department put them "almost at the bottom of the rung" when compared to masters and fourth year Undergraduate students (Ck), and a masters degree was thought to make students even more employable than a PhD (Ck). While this may not have been a widely-held view, the PhD program did not seem to dominate the Chemical Engineering Department, highlighting the applied bias of Engineering studies. Students did not identify competing camps of faculty or ideological differences in the Chemical Engineering Department (Ck), and departmental structures and requirements were well-understood by students and faculty (Nr). A detailed Handbook for graduate students was produced by the department, contributing to a shared understanding of formal policies which were uniform across the department (Handbook). Some distinctions are made between faculty and students whose research consists primarily of computer modelling, which is largely theoretical 104 work, and those are "doing the dirty lab work." (Ck) While this distinction is not critical, one student suggested applied researchers probably had a higher status than those doing modelling (Ck). Nevertheless, this student went on to state, "Generally, the feeling that just sort of pervades the department is just one of very loose structure." (Ck) Divisions in the department are based on fields of interest, with limited interaction between research groups (Ff). Although faculty work in separate fields, there is the sense they are part of a larger Chemical Engineering project, or they are "working on parallel things." (Ff) The Chemical Engineering Department is characterized as being loosely structured, but conducting allied research activities. The lack of structural or theoretical divisions suggests Chemical Engineering operates out of a secure paradigm with widespread consensus of what counts as legitimate research. Conflict, if any, might arise from disputes between the academic community and industry which is directly served by this applied field. Becher (1989) identifies a sense of inferiority felt by academic Engineers arising from the blurred boundaries between the academic community and industry, an inferiority that might be reflected in this department with its relatively recent history in comparison with the more established "Pure" discipline of Physics. PhD students in this department were clear that the relative status of Engineering research at the university is currently on the rise as a result of the increased importance society places on applied research. One student suggested recent cutbacks in funding were forcing the department to hire faculty who could draw research money from industry, further privileging more applied research (Ff). History is also an established subject of study at this university, and students taking a Pass Degree in the university's early years were required to include a course in History in their first 105 year (Logan, 1958). Although History has been an established department for undergraduate studies throughout this century, it was not until the late 1960s that graduate studies in History expanded substantially. When PhD degrees were first awarded by the university in the 1950s, the bulk of doctoral students were in the sciences, and by 1964 there were only seven students enroled in the masters program in History, and there were no PhD students (Calendar). The first two PhDs enroled in the department in 1965, and by 1970 the number of doctoral students had increased more than ten-fold to 26. Doctoral enrolments declined to 10 by 1980 (Calendar), but then began to increase again with the number of doctoral students in History reaching 24 in the Winter of 1996 (Departmental Information), just short of the peak in the early 1970s. At the time of my study the History Department had graduate enrolments comparable with other major arts departments at the university, but much smaller than established science departments. Doctoral students in the department explained that graduate studies had not been the department's priority until very recently, with the honours undergraduate program having the highest status. Students believed that faculty considered American universities to be the most logical choice of good graduate students in History, particularly doctoral students (Tm). That attitude was evolving at the time of this study, as the department attempted to raise the profile of the graduate programs (Cq). By 1996 there were 24 doctoral students enroled in the department and 26 masters students. Although it is possible to advance directly from a masters degree to a PhD without completing the M.A. if the student's "independent research" is " of high quality" and the student is recommended by faculty (Handbook, p. 7) the department specifically points out in its Handbook that this route is not common in practice (p. 5). My discussions with doctoral students in the 106 department confirmed this, and all of the students I interviewed had obtained a masters degree in History before beginning PhD studies. Students in this History Department were expected to complete their masters degrees in 12-18 months (Handbook), so the turnover of masters students was much greater than that of doctoral students. Still, masters students outnumbered doctoral students in the History Department, unlike Physics and Chemical Engineering. The History Department has offices in a prominent position in a complex of buildings housing a number of arts departments, reflecting its position at the university as an established arts discipline. While the department contains identifiable fields within the discipline, it lacked any formal structural divisions. Those fields are both geographical and topical, and important throughout the PhD student's program. Doctoral students I interviewed mentioned the fields as the major divisions within the department (Km), and students often had little contact with faculty outside their fields (Tm). Informal methodological divisions exist within the History Department which are not clearly perceived by all students. In general, faculty are divided by students into two groups, those who hold a "realist" conception of the study of History (Cq) and those who stress the importance of theory in any understanding of the past (Ca, Km). Students also mention a distinction between faculty who publish frequently and those who stress teaching (Cq), but none of these divisions are in any way formalized in the department (Tm). The History Department is described by doctoral students as being rather traditional in its approach to History, but changing in recent years: I think the department has a reputation as being rather traditional methodologically and ideologically, but that's changing and the composition of the department is changing. You're having more people who are much more radical in their sense of what they're doing. (Cq) 107 The department had been "trying to become more current and more engaged in contemporary thinking about history", and not mired in practices which are "naive methodologically." (Cq) According to one student, the department was "very Eurocentric", but now broadening the research scope, particularly in the area of Asian History (Ko). This is a result of the recent hiring of new faculty whose interests are in Asian History and well-known in their field (Ko). While attempts have been made to legitimize feminist approaches to history in the department, feminist history is not a well-defined grouping of students or faculty (Ca). The department is also attempting to eliminate past attitudes which regarded graduate work in the department as somewhat second-rate: I think that one thing the department's been trying to change is that whole attitude, because they've been trying to really upgrade the PhD program and make it more of a competitive program. (Cq) Debates are ongoing concerning departmental standards which some students and faculty believe are being threatened by pressure to increase course grades so History students can compete for external awards (Ca). In general, the department has a unified structure, with informal divisions principally defined by geographical fields. Methodological and ideological commitments of faculty are generally described as traditional, reflecting the age and background of the faculty, many of whom were hired during the expansion of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The long history and relative unity of departmental structures suggest a secure paradigm (Kuhn, 1970), although there are indications consensus around realist conceptions of history have been undermined in recent years. Some students are unaware of strong divisions within faculty, while other students, who are themselves in opposition to conventional approaches to history, are much more acutely aware of 108 internal divisions (Ca). These divisions have considerable impact on the understanding and application of standards of good historical research in the History Department. Clark (1987) predicts such disagreement leads to less predictability and more anxiety than in fields characterized by stronger consensus, a condition that would impact directly on the experiences of doctoral students. The Education Department of this study is one department of five in the Faculty of Education at the university. Education faculties typically include a wide variety of sub-fields, reflecting the individual subjects taught in schools; foundational subjects such as history, philosophy, and sociology of education; methods of instruction; curriculum; counselling and educational psychology; educational administration; adult education; and higher education. At the university of this study these sub-fields have been organized into five separate departments. I have not named the particular department to protect the anonymity of students. A Department of Education was first created at the university in the 1920s (Logan, 1958), but teacher training remained largely outside the university until after the Second World War. The Bachelor of Education Degree was created in 1942 and the Department of Education was renamed a School a decade later (Logan), training most secondary school teachers in the province until it was converted into a full-fledged Faculty at the university in 1956 (Tompkins, 1969). This was seen as recognition by the government and university that teaching "deserved the recognition of professional status." (President's Review, 1979, p. 13) In the early 1960s, the Faculty of Education was given the right to offer the EdD degree "without prejudice" to the possibility in the future of offering a PhD program (Tomkins, 1969, p. 67). The Education Faculty at this university, though, suffered from a general lack of prestige: 109 In almost every quarter of the campus there is an unhealthy and cynical suspicion about the performance of the Faculty of Education, and neither its staff nor its students is held in high regard. (President's Review. 1979, p. 15) The way to improve the Faculty's reputation was to address its standards: The buttress of the faculty's reputation is, in a word, standards—in the selection and evaluation of students, in the recruitment, reappointment, and promotion of faculty, in the insistence on and recognition of quality research, and in the development and continuous reassessment of academic and professional programmes which serve the educational needs of students in the province. (President's Review, p. 16) By the end of the 1970s, the Faculty contained more than 20 small divisions, sometimes referred to at the university as "departments", none of which offered a PhD degree (President's Review. 1979, p. 20). In 1975, 77 EdD students were registered in the Faculty, but students and faculty in Education were pressuring the university to grant the PhD, as the EdD was considered to be of lesser status (President's Review). Morale in the Faculty was at a low ebb, and the President's Review of the Faculty called for a re-organization of the small, loosely organized "departments" which had caused "insecurity", "a feeling of anonymity", and "problems of identification" for faculty in Education. The President's Review called for formal departmentalization of the Faculty in order to bond faculty "in a common enterprise", (p. 25) They believed organizing faculty in formal departments would raise their status at the university: ...they [departments] inhabit a discipline base which has its own integrity within the collective framework of a larger intellectual pursuit. Academic and personnel decisions as well as budgetary requests are more easily arrived at in such units, and they can more convincingly be presented to higher authorities precisely because the units have a legitimate status, formally recognized and endorsed by both the Faculty and the University, (p. 25) The authors of the President's Review did not think graduate programs in the Faculty enjoyed support across the university, explaining why applications for the PhD had been turned down on 110 numerous occasions, and the Dean of Graduate Studies had expressed little confidence in the Faculty's "capacity to offer the degree." (p. 51) The President's Review recommended a gradual transition from the EdD degree to the PhD in selected departments, and possibly interdisciplinary degrees offered through ah interdisciplinary Research Centre (pp. 54-56), but it had serious reservations about standards and recommended any application for the PhD degree be subjected to external review to "test the programs against standards maintained by other scholars in other universities", (p. 55) In the early 1980s the Faculty of Education offered courses within 8 newly-organized departments. The recommendation of the President's Review had been put into effect, and in the following year the first PhD student was enroled in the Faculty, though not in an area that would become part of the particular Education Department of this study. The number of PhD students enroled in the Faculty of Education increased to 30 in 1990, but it wasn't until the academic year 1992-93 that the first PhD student was enroled in an Interdisciplinary Centre, through which all of the PhD students in the Education Department of this study would obtain their degrees. The departmental structure was once again reorganized in the Faculty of Education, immediately prior to the commencement of this study, further consolidating the Education Departments to the current number of five, plus the Interdisciplinary Centre. The PhD degree is regarded by many students as having higher status than the EdD degree, and the vast majority of doctoral students in this department are now pursuing a PhD. In the winter of 1996, 49 students were pursuing a PhD in the department. This Education Department was in existence for only two years by the end of my study, and was largely comprised of a merger of two of the eight departments in the Faculty that were I l l created in 1981. A small number of students previously studied in some of the other departments in the Faculty. In the 15 years preceding my study, there was considerable change in the departmental organization of the Faculty, and this had an unsettling effect on the experiences of PhD students. Students still identified very strongly with one of the 23 "departments" that existed in 1980 (Ks), and there were still nine different "areas of special interest" (Handbook, p. 2) in which PhD students were separately placed in the department (Departmental Information). The reorganizations in 1981 and in 1994 offered the structure around which the PhD degree was given legitimacy by the university, but these reorganizations did not alter many students' first loyalty, or sense of identity. When I asked students questions about "their departments", I often received responses referring to one of the nine areas of special interest rather than the new department, or even the departments that had previously existed for 13 years. This confusion is important for understanding student's attitudes toward departmental standards. Clark (1980, p. 6) identifies disciplines as the "primary culture for academic workers", but it is not clear from PhD students in this Education Department what discipline their department represents. Adams (1976, p. 8) claims "the fundamental allegiances of the faculty member will be to the smallest unit to which he belongs", and the identification of PhD students in Education with their area of special interest illustrates how they have already adopted the priorities of their faculty mentors. The vast majority of current students in this department are masters students, outnumbering doctoral students by a ratio of more than 2:1 (Calendar), reflecting the professional nature of studies in Education. All PhD students in this department receive their degrees through the Interdisciplinary Centre which was created in 1976, arising out of the need to encourage dialogue between the various small "departments" at that time, according to its first director. It 112 increased the legitimacy of Education as a unified field of academic inquiry that could sustain a PhD program at the university. When the PhD was finally allowed in Education, it was first awarded to just two departments, and then to students in other departments through the Interdisciplinary Centre (Calendar). For PhD students in this Education Department, the structure of their program is very confusing, with three different levels of identification. While identifying primarily with their area of special interest, they also belong to the new department, which is making attempts to bridge the nine areas within the department. On a third level, the Interdisciplinary Centre actually offers their PhD program, and delivers the only compulsory course for all PhD students in this department. Many students expressed complete bewilderment about these structures. One student, for example, submitted an application for the PhD without being quite sure to which department it was going, "I guess I didn't really understand how the departments were set up", and when the acceptance letter arrived the student was surprised at the name of the department sending the reply, thinking, "Oh, that's exactly where I didn't want to go." (Sy) After almost a full year in the department this student did not have a very good idea of what other areas of special interest were part of the new department. Another student was uncertain about the relationship between the department and the Interdisciplinary Centre: I've never really understood [the Interdisciplinary Centre] anyway; I don't think most people do. It's very confusing. Apparently I'm getting my doctorate in [the Interdisciplinary Centre]. Isn't that nice. Now, where exactly are they located? (NO A student living and doing research out of the city had very little familiarity with the various areas of special interest within the department, and had absolutely no understanding of the relationship between the department and the Interdisciplinary Centre (Dg). 113 The reasoning behind the reorganization of this department into a "wacky department that doesn't make any sense" was suspect, according to one student: It seems to me that we're brought together, I guess it's for purely administrative purposes, to cut down on the costs. But from the student perspective, it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, I think mainly because there hasn't been any effort to draw the different departments together in a way that makes sense. (Sy) This sentiment was reflected strongly by another student in the same area of special interest (Ks). Attempts to offer courses across the unit boundaries met with limited success in the first two years of the department's reorganization, and was an absolute failure in one case. A student believed it was easier to co-ordinate contact with faculty and students outside the department than across some of the unit boundaries within the department (Sy). With the shift from emphasis on the EdD in the department to the PhD, some students were quite unclear about the distinction between the two degrees and what it might mean (Sy). The lack of clarity about departmental structure during the initial period of upheaval seemed to contribute to a general sense of uncertainty for some students, partly because faculty were not always able to focus their attention on students' needs in the confusion surrounding the recent departmental restructuring (Sy). This Education Department can be described as operating at a pre-paradigm stage, where there is not yet a core of "solved problems and techniques." (Kuhn, 1970, p. 43) The boundaries of the field are extremely unclear, and identification for students is primarily with their areas of special interest, which, though relatively stable, are not considered prestigious enough by the university to support PhD programs. The boundaries around the department and Interdisciplinary Centre, on the other hand, seem to encompass fields with conflicting problems and standards. A Commitment to Excellence (p. 28) argues interdisciplinary centres may be "inimical to effective graduate studies" in Canada: 114 Education at this level requires the development of certain skills: training in a well-defined and well-established method, language, and set of concepts; the acquisition of acceptable standards of validation and assessment; the development of an ability to criticize, synthesize, and conceptualize; and the learning of well-honed research skills in depth. Experience indicates that the attainment of these goals requires systematic immersion within a discipline. Those aspects of the PhD program devoted to enforcement of standards are bound to be problematic when there is relatively little consensus about what counts as a legitimate problem or technique in the field. Departmental Standards Physics The Physics Department appears to deviate substantially from the requirements for a PhD stipulated by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The department enforces important PhD program requirements not specifically outlined in the university Calendar, while modifying some of the Faculty requirements to suit the nature of doctoral studies within that particular discipline. The university Calendar specifically recognizes that some departments might require students to meet certain course requirements, and the Physics Department did, in fact, require that PhD students complete a total of twelve courses. This requirement is outlined in the department's Handbook students are given at the beginning of their program, and is a requirement about which there seems to be no confusion for students or faculty. There are no required courses, and the choice is left to individual supervisors and/or committees in consultation with students. The issue of Comprehensive Examinations, on the other hand, is a source of much greater variance in understanding. The Department Handbook indicates the absence of a written Comprehensive Examination, but that a departmental oral examination at the time of submission 115 of the thesis "serves this purpose." This appears to be at variance with the Calendar which provides that the Comprehensive Examination normally takes place at the end of coursework and that it is required for Admission to Candidacy, which typically occurs at the end of the residency period. An oral examination just weeks prior to the final thesis defense seems to be a considerable modification of this requirement. When I asked one student whether the department had Comprehensive Examinations, the student replied: "No. The university requires them, but the Physics Department gets around them in that you do two defenses of your thesis." (Tg) For one PhD student, coursework was the only requirement outside the thesis defense: "Formally, I think you need to take 12 credits, 12 units of coursework, and then do a thesis." (Tg) Other students had a different understanding of the Comprehensive Examinations requirement for Physics students: "We have yearly PhD committees in which you can be quizzed orally on comprehensive topics, I guess you'd say." (Ku) One student answered with a simple "No" when I asked about the existence of Comprehensive Examinations. (Ne) Another explanation was as follows: "There's no Comprehensive. A lot of other departments have Comprehensives, but we don't. We have more courses that you have to take instead of having the Comprehensives." (Ju) Considerable confusion exists in the department over just what took the place of the Comprehensive Examinations, if anything. It is remarkable that this was not a concern or even an important issue for most students. Nevertheless, I was given an interesting explanation for why the Comprehensive Examination might not exist in the Physics Department: The university does have a requirement that you have departmental comprehensive exams. The Physics Department doesn't want to do that; they don't want to pay the students to study for six months or a year. (Tg) 116 In other words, studying for a Comprehensive Examination was fine as long as it was the student who was footing the bill. Even though the department appears to do without a Comprehensive Examination, there are Annual Meetings with the student's committee that serves the purpose of supervising the student's progress: "You also are required to have an Annual PhD Committee Meeting where you present to your PhD committee what you have been working on and where it's going." (Tg) This meeting is not a mere formality, and the progress of students is carefully monitored: "Yes. Oh definitely! If they're not happy with your progress generally what they do is they schedule the next one six months later instead of a year and they ask you to come back with some progress." (Tg) Or, "I guess at least they have the power to make you at least take courses, specific courses, even if you have enough credits already." (Ne) This student doubted the committees would actually remove students from the program: "Oh, no, I think that's really rare as long as you're trying." (Ne) This was confirmed by another student who claimed, "Basically, no-one's ever had a problem really with their Committee Meeting; no-one's ever gotten kicked out as a result of a Committee Meeting." (Br) Another student agreed: "Not only do I not think they weed very many, I think I'd be surprised if they weed one in a hundred out that way." (Tg) The purpose seems to be more to develop the student's work to meet departmental standards: "This is just to ensure that your supervisor isn't sheltering you. Your work actually has to get exposed to three other people who also have to approve of what you're doing." (Br) Nevertheless, a student with experience in the department was aware of a case where the Annual Committee Meeting was actually used in making the decision to remove a student from the department (Tb). The 117 meetings can be quite stressful for the student, and the degree of formality depends very much on the make-up of the committee (Tg). The Physics Department has a policy of requiring a Departmental Defense just prior to the University Defense, and it is intended to cover a broader area of knowledge than the final defense. This is the replacement for the Comprehensive Examination, according to the Department Handbook. One student thought the existence of a departmental defense was a poor substitute for Comprehensive Examinations which would normally take place earlier in a student's program, because questions could be asked from coursework the student might not have taken since undergraduate days, perhaps ten years previously. The student added, "Besides which, if you're going to weed people out you should be doing it at the beginning, not at the end." (Tg) This was not a significant concern for students because students believed the departmental defense did not actually weed out many students (Tg), perhaps due to their timing: "Nobody that I know has actually been failed, or whatever, at that point; like, usually it's too late." (Tb) Physics students seem to prepare for their final Thesis Defense only at the very last minute, and do not seem interested in attending other defenses or discussing defenses before they actually prepare for their own: "Well, I've been to one although it was in Forestry... it's going to be horrible" (Ju) It was a frightening prospect to have to go through the ordeal, but not considered likely a student would fail: "Usually by that point any real problems are uncovered in the departmental exam and should have been cleared up by the time the university one rolls around, so the university one does tend to be pretty smooth." (Tb) Students are more likely to attend a university defense than a departmental defense, but, in general, students do not seem to 118 place a great deal of importance on specific preparation, indicating a confidence that knowledge and quality of research are important standards of student success in the Physics Department. A very strong belief exists among doctoral students in Physics that their discipline has uniform and relatively unproblematic standards. Those standards are well-understood by physicists, and eliminate the uncertainties and subjective judgements of some other fields. This belief provides a strong bond for people in the Physics community, and is reinforced by a relatively stable discipline with established practices. Physics, and Experimental Physics in particular, is considered to involve objective standards for good research: As far as research goes, if you think experimental research, you're doing experiments to find some results, so it's not that subjective. Whereas in arts, if you're doing some research on whatever, it's what you think. There's the subjectiveness that comes into that. (Ju) Other students repeated this same general theme: In general, because it's a mathematical field, a lot of the methodology is very well-defined. I know in Particle Physics it's very well-defined what they're using....Just by the nature of the science, if you're using some mathematical technique, you make a prediction. If the experimentalist goes out and measures that number, then people will begin to believe your method works. So there is a kind of acid test. (Tg) And: Physics is, I guess, one of the more basic fields of research, where you're really inquiring into what are the fundamental underlying structures and behaviours of the natural world. And that all goes on independent of physics; the world will still operate independent of us, but we want to just see how it happens. (Br) Physics students believe their discipline is based on objective standards that are not obscured by subjectivity or politics. Confidence in the existence of standards of good research in Physics allows the Annual Committee Meetings to be used as a means of eliminating students from the department in 119 extreme cases. (Tg) Committee members might have different areas of expertise, but they are unlikely to have fundamental disagreements over acceptable physics knowledge or research. (Tg) This allows for the smooth operation of a committee of four or more members. One student, responding to a question about how important it was for students to "learn the ropes", a concept that would be well-understood in some other departments, replied, "What do you mean, 'learning the ropes'?" The question had no meaning without an explanation, and the student was quite sure that "learning the ropes" was not a concern in Physics. (Tb) Another student was confident departmental politics played virtually no part in the life of a Physics student: "There aren't any sort of underlying essential politics that you have to get to know." A notable exception to this acceptance of a objective standards in the Physics Department is a Theoretical Sub-Field many students regard as an exceptional case, and somewhat puzzling. Students spoke of it being more like the "subjective" arts fields than a typical science field: "I would think it's very different because it is very subjective....there's all these underlying assumptions that you have to make ...and if you don't make these assumptions then there's no way you can ever figure anything out." (Ju) This was particularly problematic in the Sub-Field because it had "no experimental comparison." (Ku) The importance of experimental evidence for agreement in Physics became apparent as I spoke with Physics students, and was highlighted by the difficulties experienced by students in this Theoretical Sub-Field: I still think the biggest thing, the thing that would make the difference, is if there was more experimental evidence. If there was something that we could compare to and see, "Oh, this is what we're trying to construct. Can we make a theory that mimics this actual experimental behaviour?" Most other fields of Physics, there is an opportunity. (Ku) 120 Without experimental evidence to validate theoretical claims, some students in this field find progress agonizingly slow. One student explained that Physics research involved "intuitive leaps" (Ku) that were only later justified by experimental tests, and where no experimental comparison was possible there was little agreement on the validity of competing theories. Rigorous mathematical proofs were sought for new theory, but remained inconclusive. The need to justify claims with more rigorous proofs than would have been necessary if experiments could have validated the new theory delayed progress: I like to get the whole picture and then fill in the details, so it's kind of a style clash there I guess. And I think it has to do with the fact that it's theory, and there's theory without any experimentalist support. If it had experimentalist support I could have justification for making leaps in logic because I'd say, "Well, it looks like this and this is what it's supposed to look like." There's no model to follow; we're just building it. I guess maybe I didn't know that about the field when I chose it. (Ku) Agreement with the supervisor, and the supervisor's approach, was crucial to the success of the student in the Theoretical Sub-Field. This need for allegiance is a condition unfamiliar to other Physics students who generally believe the quality of their work will be recognized by any physicist. In the Theoretical Sub-Field the experiences of students more closely resemble the experiences of students in the arts/professions, where assumptions underlying any research are much more apparent, and commitment to basic assumptions made by the student's supervisor and committee are crucial for success. This is not a situation with which Physics students are very comfortable, having a firm commitment to objective standards in their field. One student described the frustrations of this Sub-Field: It always seems to be that one person is trying to out-shout the other person because none of the theories can be actually proven. They're just like, "Oh, this is what I think it is and I've got all these assumptions which I think are good but they 121 may not be." You know, someone else may say, "Oh well, you know, that assumption is totally garbage," and they just try and yell at each other. (Ju) The importance of using the "proper" language and terminology in this area is foreign to Physics students: "It's just so weird, this area, because there's all this terminology for simple things." (Ju) Learning the terminology of the Sub-Field creates a bond between the student and the supervisor that seems a prerequisite to serious attention by the supervisor and success (Ju), indicating a commitment to the same basic assumptions in a contested field as the supervisor. I found parallels with experiences of arts/professional2 students I was interviewing striking. The boundaries dividing academics in the Theoretical Sub-Field from non-academic theorists are carefully guarded. Maintenance of those boundaries has a significant affect on the experiences of students, as they find themselves on the front lines of the struggle to keep the amateurs separate from the academic professionals in the Sub-Field. The concern that anyone can make claims in the field requires academic theorists to differentiate themselves from the non-academics: This is the field that, I don't know if there are many other fields in Physics that this can be said, but this is a field where you get dozens and dozens of letters coming from laymen....It's because of the field that the field requires the rigour, because there are a lot of people who try to do it intuitively who fail, to be honest. They end up making basic assumptions, and they build this basic theory on their basic assumptions, and end up being wrong. (Ku) The professional physicists do not want to be confused with the outsiders: "Well, as I said, there is much greater opportunity for quackery in this field. That's probably a concern of [the supervisor]." Even within the academic Sub-Field there is little agreement: 2 I r e f e r to art s and professional departments such as Education as arts/professions. 122 Not that many people have managed to make [the object of research] in the lab, and because of that you can say anything and get published. At least not in any journal, but certain journals are a little less discriminative about what they publish, and people might get mistaken for experts in the field because they're prolific rather than accurate. So there are a wide variety of opinions. (Ku) Students align themselves with an accepted theory to avoid being confused with the "quacks". With the notable exception of students in this Sub-Field, Physics students generally feel assured of successful completion of a doctoral degree if they are persistent. Students I interviewed had difficulty recalling any dropouts, except for a few students who left the program to take jobs. Students were more likely to change fields than drop out completely: "It just seems to be that they don't drift out of Physics, they just drift away from their topic and they find themselves somewhere else." (Ku) Even a student in the Theoretical Sub-field, who felt at considerable risk of not completing a doctoral degree in that area, did not intend to abandon the PhD, program altogether: "I said I might continue with this [an alternative career] and quit the PhD as it is now, but I kind of want to resume it again later, maybe in a different field." (Ku) Although actual time of completion of the degree seems to be longer than students initially believed (Br), there is little doubt or anxiety in Physics about eventual completion of the PhD. PhD students in Physics operate within well-established practices to enforce standards of good scholarship and research. The mechanisms for enforcing those standards do not strictly conform to the requirements set out by the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the university, but this does not trouble students. Kuhn (1970, p. 47) suggests that a scientific field with a secure paradigm has little need for a body of rules when the "problem-solutions" are not seriously questioned. Members of the field take for granted the established practices of their discipline, and this seems to be the case in this Physics Department. PhD students in Physics generally have a 123 strong belief in a universalistic standard for science that allows for objective assessment of a student's performance. The Physics Department employs Annual Committee Meetings and a Departmental Defense at the end of a student's program to examine their progress, and students take those examinations seriously, they were not mere "hoops". Faculty are brought onto student Committees from across the department, and from other science departments, for the purpose of examining the progress of students. Even when committees contain more than four members, students have confidence there will be general agreement about what comprises quality Physics research, reflecting the consensus predicted by Kuhn (1970) and measured by Lodahl and Gordon (1972) in Physics, a scientific field with a secure paradigm. For students, this means nothing stands in their way to graduate with a PhD in Physics as long as they apply themselves diligently and sustain sufficient interest in their research projects. Even though Physics is considered a "Pure" discipline (Clark, 1987; Becher, 1989), it is interesting that Physics students place great importance on experimental "support" or "justification" for theoretical claims, regardless of the rigour of the mathematical formulation of the theory. The "acid test" of any theory, for these students, is evidence that the theory actually works in practice. The possibility of experimental evidence to support theoretical claims underpins the clarity and consensus around standards for scientific research. In the Theoretical Sub-Field, where such evidence is not possible, theoretical claims are hotly contested regardless of the mathematical rigour involved. The lack of experimental support for theory undermines the student's confidence in the possibility of objective standards for research in this area, making the Sub-Field more subjective, like the arts/professional disciplines, and students find this quite foreign and troubling. As I will discuss in Chapter VII, particular conditions of doctoral studies 124 for students in Physics discourage them from examining in any depth possible reasons for this inconsistency in their discipline. The result is that students in the Theoretical Sub-Field have difficulty recognizing what actually counts for success as a doctoral student in the absence of objective standards in the Sub-Field, and sometimes feel paralysed. Chemical Engineering The Chemical Engineering Department's extensive Handbook outlines the formal requirements of the doctoral program, and students find the Handbook particularly useful: "Even now I am reading it because, I don't know, there might be something different; each year I browse through." (Ff) An international student believes the decision to produce the Handbook was partly due to the large number of international students in the department who were not likely to have contacts beyond their supervisors when they first arrived in the department, "so they took longer to learn simple things." (Bk) The department does not require PhD students to take courses during their studies, except for registration in a series of seminars and the formality of registering in a PhD thesis course. The Handbook stipulates that individual committees might require the student to take other courses deemed essential by the committee. This was generally confirmed by students who claimed doctoral students in Chemical Engineering were not required to take any courses, and many students, in fact, took few: I guess most PhD students don't end up taking a significant number of courses. In our department if you come through a mainstream Canadian university recognized program, as we did, then we don't have to take any courses at all....I chose not to take courses. (Ck) Another student explained: 125 One of the things that I was told when I was applying was that you don't have to take any courses if you don't want to. The reality is a little bit different because if your prof wants you to take a course...there's not really much you can say about not taking it; you have to have some pretty darn good reasons. (Nr) Sometimes additional courses are required after the proposal defense if the committee detects a weakness (Be). The "compulsory" seminars are held once a week where students give presentations of their research, and they are required to obtain a pass in this course based on their presentation. Graduate students must attend the seminars at least until they have presented their own, but this requirement is not strictly enforced: "As you noticed the room was not packed. Most people don't go. In fact, if everyone were to show up, I don't think the room would hold them." (Ck) Another student described the seminars as compulsory "up to a point." (Nr) To fulfil the Comprehensive Examination requirement of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the department sets out the requirement in its Handbook for doctoral students to present and defend a Thesis Proposal within 12-15 months of commencing the program, depending on the number of courses being taken by the student. Students confirm they usually started writing up a Proposal within the first six months of their program (Be, Ck), but the requirement that it be defended within 12-15 months is not strictly enforced: "They are not very strict about when it does occur....in the end my committee members were not available so the date just kept getting pushed back farther." (Ck) The Thesis Proposal is intended "to demonstrate to an examining committee that the Candidate has the basic knowledge and potential ability to pursue research in his/her chosen field." (Handbook, p. 8) After successful defense of a research proposal the doctoral student is formally Admitted to Candidacy. Considerable confusion prevails among PhD students about the actual existence of a Comprehensive Examination in their department. A student knowledgeable in departmental 126 affairs explained: "In theory they can question you about absolutely anything [at the Proposal Defense], being officially called a Comprehensive Exam, but there's not enough time." (Ck) While all students were aware of the need to defend a Thesis Proposal, some did not realise this requirement was actually intended to fulfil the Comprehensive Examination requirement of the university. Following are some responses to my questions about the existence of Comprehensive Examinations in the department: "They don't [have Comprehensive Examinations]; they just have the Proposal Defense" (Be); "No we don't have [Comprehensive Examinations]: we have just the Research Proposal Defense, and there they might ask you more general questions, but we don't have more formal Comprehensive Exams" (Ff); "No, fortunately not!" (Bk) This particular student believed it was impossible to have a truly "comprehensive" exam in Chemical Engineering, but that it would be a good idea to require that students take a set of core courses in its place (Bk). The Proposal Defense was regarded as a real test by most students: I think they know this is the last chance to send a bad guy home, because afterwards it would be very hard because there is nothing objective....[After the Defense] the supervisor has to take the responsibility and say, "No, I don't like your performance," and that's very hard for a supervisor to do. (Bk) This student likened the Proposal Defense to the Oral Defense of the Thesis. Another student agreed: They're definitely judging what you're doing, because in the end when you come to defend your entire work, if anyone questions the validity of your research it's already gotten that rubber stamp of approval from your proposal. (Ck) This student also described it as "just an oral grilling of sorts." (Ck) The student explained further: 127 It is a hoop in the end. You do realise in the back of your mind it is just one of those things that you have to jump through,; you have to play the game; you will survive. Nevertheless it is a very nervewracking experience. They sort of, it's made out to be a terror of an experience. (Ck) Students gave each other this advice before the defense: "It's just an afternoon of hell, but after that you know you're going to get through it." And you say, "Yeah, I do know I'm going to get through it." But it's just not something that you look forward to. (Ck) This student had no knowledge of a PhD student who was actually prevented from completing a degree because of an unsuccessful proposal defense: "What would happen if you didn't make it through is that you would do it again." (Ck) The department has an interest in making sure students are successful: "I imagine it would look bad, from the point of view of the students, for them to be losing their students" (Ck) Another student could only recall a rumour of a previously unsuccessful student at some time in the past (Be). Between the Proposal Defense and the Thesis Defense, students are guided in their research primarily by their supervisor: "Apart from your supervisor, you have very little professional interaction with the other supervisors." (Ck) Students understand this as a major reason why the formal defenses of the Proposal and Thesis are so important in Chemical Engineering, as the judgement of the individual supervisor can be dismissed as subjective. For a Chemical Engineering student this kind of individual enforcement of standards runs contrary to the universal standards they believe exists in their discipline, and individual supervision is in need of the check imposed by the defenses. The Thesis Defense consists of two parts in the Department of Chemical Engineering, according to the Department Handbook. The first part, a Departmental Defense which utilizes a committee of at least four examiners, one of which is normally from another science department at 128 the university, ensures the student meets the standards of the Chemical Engineering Department and science in general. Only after those standards have been rigorously applied does the doctoral student go on to the second stage of the Thesis Defense which includes the participation of an external examiner. One student who had seen many defenses considered the Departmental Defense to be the tougher of the two, with the final defense a mere "formality" because students already had the whole department behind their work (Bk). Despite the importance of the Thesis Defenses, some students had never been to watch a Defense, believing they would be judged fairly according to objective scientific standards when it was their turn to defend (Be). PhD students do not consider standards of good research in Chemical Engineering to be particularly problematic (Bk, Nr): "In the fields I can think of, it's one of the easier fields to judge. Many projects either succeed or do not." (Ck) They generally believe that if they do good work they will be successful in their studies (Ck), perceiving a consensus among faculty around the definition of good research (Ck), and disagreement only occurs when faculty in various sub-fields of Chemical Engineering simply lack the technical expertise to judge each other's work (Ck). Standards of good research are more negotiable on the boundary between the academy and industry: There's a definite difference between industry's view of what should be done at the university and the academic's view of what should be done at the university, and that's a good thing, actually, because we get funding from both. We get funding from a number of places and it's very important for that industrial perspective to be there, because otherwise I firmly believe that academics have a tendency to drift off into the nether world of not-necessarily-applicable research. Engineering, if nothing else, should be applicable in the end. (Ck) Industry-sponsored research is by definition more applied, but also places less emphasis on scientific rigour: "The industry would want, just in general, more quick and dirty answers." (Ck) 129 Students generally approve of industry standards, and agree that input from industry has a beneficial effect on research in Chemical Engineering by keeping university research in line with social needs (Be, Nr). PhD students say they are not caught up in disputes between industry and the academy over the quality of research required of students, because industry is tolerant of the extra demands put on student research by the university: "They understand that [the demands of university supervisors]: as long as we're progressing they don't mind." (Nr) Success in graduate school is unproblematic: "I think it's a case of once you're accepted, actually, it takes a bit of effort actually not to succeed." (Nr) The only people who drop out are those who lose interest or get jobsj according to this student. Students often generalize about doctoral studies across the university from their own experiences without having much contact with students in other departments, particularly across the arts/science divide, and the problem of unclear standards in other departments is largely unknown to doctoral students in Chemical Engineering. Students claim science and engineering are universal, and even where debates existed around new theories, those debates were contained within "certain limits". One student had no concerns regarding judgement of student research: "It will be judged by objective standards." (Ff) The question of standards and their application is even less problematic in the Chemical Engineering Department than in the Physics Department. This reflects the importance students place on experimental evidence to support theory, and in Engineering experimental evidence is a primary concern of the field. Chemical Engineering students engaged in "modelling", a more theoretical endeavour than most Engineering work, are held in somewhat lower esteem in the department. Although Becher (1989) suggests an feeling of inferiority among academic Engineers, the students in this department do not support this view. They generally privilege the 130 standards of industry as opposed to those of the academy, and consider any conflict a difference of degree as opposed to an incommensurable conflict of standards. Chemical Engineering students assume consensus in their field over objective standards of good research, and have little reason to question the existence of those standards. As with the Physics Department, the Chemical Engineering Department's mechanisms for examining the progress of students are not a particular concern of students, even though, in the students' eyes, they do not conform to university requirements. A hard-working PhD student has little reason to doubt eventual success in Chemical Engineering. History Standards of scholarship and research in the History Department are one of the most troubling aspects of a PhD student's program, as the actual understanding and application of those standards is unclear and often inconsistent. The History Department closely follows the requirements for a PhD set out by the Faculty of Graduate Studies in the university Calendar. When students enter the doctoral program they are required to consult with their supervisor or temporary advisor plus the department's Graduate Advisor to set out a suitable program of courses. Final approval for course selection rests with the Graduate Advisor, so the department maintains close control over the selection of courses, unlike the other three departments I studied that left selection of courses up to students and their individual supervisors. PhD students take a minimum of one research seminar and two major readings courses (Cq). They are also required to pass a second language requirement in order to graduate (Handbook, Tm), but this is not identified by any students as a source of particular concern. 131 According to the Handbook, History graduate students are required to take courses in both Comparative History and Historiography at some point in their graduate programs, either as masters or doctoral students (Handbook, Tm). This requirement has arisen out of the increasing awareness of the extent to which theory informed all historical research, altering the department's traditional conception of historical research as atheoretical and objectively understood (Km). Doctoral students, themselves, pushed to have more explicit evaluation of coursework by faculty in the first semester of a student's program (Cq). Prior to that, many students received good comments from faculty, and then received unsatisfactory grades at the end of the course (Ko). As course results are important measures of a student's progress in the History Department, students took this problem very seriously. To the students' surprise, faculty resisted more formal and explicit evaluation of students' progress in a traditional area of enforcement of standards, suggesting to students faculty were often uncomfortable with their ability to apply fair standards. Despite a trend toward more detailed and helpful evaluation practices, a concern about inconsistent evaluation remains in a department where resources are scarce and grades from courses are crucial for securing the limited funding available. Comprehensive Examinations are the most important hurdle for PhD students in History aside from the Thesis Defense. The Handbook sets out the format of the examinations, and students describe actual experiences writing Comprehensive Examinations as conforming very closely to their proscribed format (Cq). This might not seem remarkable, but of the four departments in this study History is the only department that strictly follows the university's own requirements for Comprehensive Examinations. PhD students write 3 three-hour exams in one week, followed by an oral examination in the following week (Handbook), choosing their fields 132 for examination in consultation with their supervisor and the department's Graduate Advisor. The Handbook sets out a list of fields, from which students can deviate with good reasons (Ko, Ca), but, in the end, are required to follow the "suggestions" of the Graduate Advisor, and students know "suggestions" are usually requirements (Ko). Comprehensive Examinations are held twice a year (Handbook, Tm), and although students do not sit exams together, each sitting is held within a short block of time (Handbook). For one student, preparation for the Comprehensive Examination involved a very easy relationship between the student and supervisors: It ended up being a very informal process of discussion between me and my supervisor, and me and each of the other minor field supervisors. In each case we came up with a reading list that we both mutually agreed upon, and in the case of my minor field, we essentially spent the year before, I would come in once a week and we would talk about what I should be doing, and I would make sure that I would be reading that, and it was almost like a mini-readings course where..! just went through all this stuff. (Cq) Some students had very different experiences, being given a prepared list of readings and told to go off and prepare for an exam (Cq), but, as this student said, "Mine was more of an evolving process in all three areas." (Cq) This student received assurances of success from faculty prior to the exams (Cq), and only the student's own sense of insecurity, an insecurity shared by most students interviewed, kept the student unsure of the end-result. This insecurity seems to arise from the belief anything can happen at a Comprehensive Examination. The standards are not clear, and seem idiosyncratic: "The requirements for the Comp Exams, even, are just all over the place; it just depends who you get." (Km) Alignment with a supportive supervisor is a crucial element of success, and appeal to a broad standard of scholarship in the judging of examination results is not possible for students (Km). One student believed insecurity results in students 133 conforming to a "template" created by faculty and valuing "safety" over "experimentation" (Km). When students are not sure standards exist by which original ideas might be judged, they can increase their confidence of success simply by agreeing with their supervisors. Even though students believe few students fail their Comprehensive Examinations, and do not see them functioning for that purpose (Cq), the occasional exception does occur (Km). The result for PhD students is tremendous insecurity in the face of almost certain success. Students sometimes describe the process of preparing for Comprehensive Examinations as a useful exercise, but they are much less charitable about the function of the Comprehensives as examinations: "They're horrible things; they're useless really." (Tm) This student claimed it was impossible to demonstrate anything like a comprehensive knowledge of a subject in three hours. Nevertheless, they were of huge importance in the student's life: There's a lot of discussion because the comps loom so obviously....the actual event is not so bad, but you have to build it up as something - a rite of passage -otherwise you won't survive. There's a lot of stress involved, and they're made out to be that way. (Tm) Another student supports this view of the purpose of the exams: To make sure you read the books [laughter]!...I also see it very much as a male rite of passage: if you can get through that, you're OK. If you can't get through that then it's a good thing you're out of here because you obviously don't have the stuff. It's very much a "we had to do it, you have to do it" point of view. (Ca) The real test is of the students' personal qualities, favouring toughness and individual perseverance, rather than being a test of the student's grasp of an agreed-upon body of knowledge. Students claim faculty have no common understanding of what the Comprehensive Examinations are meant to achieve: "I guess the main beef about Comps is that no-one agrees about what their purpose is." (Tm) 134 A common belief among students is that the decision about who passes the exams is made before the exams are actually held: "I think everyone's decided, before the event ever happens, whether you've passed or failed." (Tm) And, "I think it's always decided before you do your Comps." (Ca) Some faculty let their students know the questions in a general way in advance, and others were much more guarded with their questions (Tm). When one student was unsuccessful in the Comprehensive Examinations, there was a lot of discussion among other students about the reasons for the failure: There was a lot of discussion about where this [the failure] came from, whether the student just didn't perform up to standard, or whether there was something else going on. There seems to be the conclusion that there must have been something else; that the student must have been blacklisted or something. (Tm) Apparently, this student had never been warned there was a problem with the student's work (Tm). The purpose of the comprehensive requirement and the method of preparing for the examinations are not clearly articulated, and a student explained why this might be the case: They'd have to decide then what the purpose of these might be, right? I think it would conflict with personal styles of how they interact with their students; whether they're a hands-off kind of person or whether they'd like to be very close and guiding. (Tm) Students do not believe the Comprehensive Examinations need to be such a hurdle: I think the idea of mastering a large body of material and being able to say something sensible about it, being able to draw out some themes, is very useful. I think the logistics of how it is done could be changed radically. (Ca) The Thesis Proposal requirement is quite new in the department, only being implemented in practice for three years (Tm), and for many students it is still quite an informal procedure (Cq). Some students are quite satisfied with the way the new requirement was being put into practice (Cq), although there is some uncertainty about what makes a good Thesis Proposal: 135 One thing I have to make clear is I don't know if the department really has a guideline or structure for writing a research proposal, or writing comprehensive exams. I've heard there are various versions of what is a good research proposal and what is not...so I guess students don't have a clear idea about how to write a research proposal. (Ko) One of the biggest issues around the Thesis Proposal for students is the language used to describe the Proposal meeting with the student's committee. Some faculty refer to the meeting as a Proposal "Defense", and students are very concerned the use of this language to describe the meeting might cause it to become another large hurdle like the Comprehensive Examinations (Tm). Some students are content with the formal Proposal requirement itself because it forces both students and faculty to keep the student's progress in mind; however, the temptation to turn the meeting into one more overblown ritual rather than a truly developmental tool in the thesis writing process concerns some students: "It is a concern because we could see it becoming something like the Comps, very stressful, being very formal, being a Defense", (Tm) The concept of defense does not make much sense to one student in History who believes the nature of historical research does not lend itself to any sort of defense of a Thesis Proposal at that stage in a student's program. This student believes a researcher in History begins with a set of questions and a vague idea of what approach or theory the researcher needs to draw on, but has to actually delve into the materials before deciding what approach actually works (Tm). Another student makes an interesting distinction between a defense model for the Thesis Proposal and a more developmental model: I'm always pushing grad students to make sure that we don't see it that way [as a defense], because I think then the potential for the interaction that can be beneficial in this process is lost because you're stuck with defending it, and how they judge you is based on how successfully you defend it....It seems to me that casting it in that adversarial term just negates anything that you can benefit from it, and then the concern is that it would become another gatekeeping potential, and yet another 136 hurdle. Rather than something that assists you it becomes something that impedes your progress. (Ca) It is still too early for students to judge whether they will be able to rely on the acceptance of the Thesis Proposal should problems occur later in their programs, as this has not yet been tested in the History Department (Ca, Tm). Informal divisions in the department make establishing standards of research problematic, particularly between the "naive" historians coming out of a "19th century conception of history" (Cq) and those who critique the possibility of meta-narratives in history, and it takes PhD students some time to understand the importance of these two approaches to History (Ca). Faculty, on the other hand, are quite aware of the different approaches and often disagree about the value of each other's work (Ca, Km). Unfortunately, they rarely debate these issues directly in public so students can see the extent of disagreement between faculty (Km). Students are exposed to individual faculty's theoretical stances in isolation, mostly in coursework, where students are immersed in one theoretical position or another (Ca). Students, by choosing the right supervisor can escape serious challenge to their own research commitments, but getting caught up in a dispute between faculty can be "terrifying" and a serious blow to the chances of success for a doctoral student (Km). At important junctures in the student's program, the ultimate defense is a supportive supervisor with power (Km). The question of standards is very difficult for students, even those who believe they are quite successful: "I haven't had a sense that one prof thinks I'm not doing enough and one thinks I'm doing plenty, but it's something I worry about, so I just try to do everything." (Cq) A student who has had some difficulties with the formal requirements of the department was at a complete loss to even begin to describe what kind of standards might exist in the department (Km). 137 Students spoke of a kind of literary standard (Cq) (although even that was disputed by one student who believed the process of the PhD degree contributed to a lessening of literary standards) (Km), or a vague sense of thoroughness (Ca), or rigour: "If somebody is really just doing journalism, or are they really doing History?" (Cq). One student summed up standards in the department in one word: "Idiosyncratic" (Ca). The student went on to explain: "I don't think there are standards for this [historical research]. I think History is too slippery to establish a standard." (Ca) Another student was quite unaware of any standards in the department for historical scholarship: "I don't see that; I don't see any requirement or any standard that's set by the department." (Ko) The lack of a commonly understood standards of good research in History explains why some supervisors are unwilling to stand up for their students: "They're not sure of their judgement; therefore, they don't promote anyone; therefore, they can never have made a mistake." (Ca) Ultimately, the standard of good work seems to be whether the "finished product" contributes to the contemporary debates in history (Ca), a standard that had little to do with prior judgements of methods or conduct of research, which one student believes is "very spotty" in History. (Ca) A student who was secure about meeting faculty's expectations, expressed some exasperation that many other students didn't understand what was really expected of them as doctoral students: I always feel that the students who don't really know [what the standards are] aren't really paying attention, because you're made to know quite soon that really what you should be doing is, your papers should be journal-quality papers. If you read journal quality articles, that's what your papers should look like, so you do have a standard you're given. (Cq) 138 This student was confident "journal-quality" was an unproblematic standard, in full view of the students from the beginning of their graduate programs: I think I've been a little anomalous because I've been more aggressive, and I've just taken seriously this standard which I felt was put out right at the beginning, and that's been how I've worked. I haven't felt like there hasn't been a clear idea of the kind of stuff that I should be doing. (Cq) By meeting the expectations of faculty, this student felt accepted in the departmental community: I think the fact that I've published stuff throughout my time I've been in the department doesn't hurt. I mean people look at you differently once you start, because then you're one of them. So you get taken more seriously because you're just, I wouldn't call it a game as much as you're making yourself conform to the general standards. (Cq) In my view, this student identified a critical departmental standard that was not formally articulated in the PhD program. Students who follow the explicit curriculum of the doctoral program and ignore the other informal requirements are not meeting the expectations of faculty: "The value really is to be able to do independent research and to get it published, and so that's how you attain status, that's how you are accepted in." (Cq) This student thinks most students are unaware of the seriousness of these standards, and this student was rewarded for uncovering them independently. When students make an appropriate alignment with a faculty member who shares their theoretical commitments, then progress for the doctoral student can be quite smooth: "Everything I've ever done [s/he's] liked, and I can't quite figure it out." (Cq) When comments were given to this student, there was no problem for the student to interpret their meaning: "I will get responses that give me an idea of the kinds of things that this person thinks are good things to do or important things to do." (Cq) Proper alignment with the right supervisor also means the student is able to pick up on the cues of the faculty, which are especially important in an 139 environment where students feel judged constantly, but according to standards that are not recognized by most students. (Cq) As one student put it, "History is incredibly subjective: what one person sees as wonderful research, someone else writes a book report that just flays the person alive." (Ca) This student explained a defensive strategy in the absence of clear standards of good work: I think [publishing] is good protection. I think going to conferences is very good protection....It sounds so manipulative, doesn't it? I'm doing what I can to make sure I have a reputation that goes beyond [the university]. (Ca) If that fails, the student has considered other strategies: "What will protect me? The fact that I will push as hard as I can." (Ca) Insecurity promoted a certain combativeness in this student: If they're going to shoot me down, they're going to have to really make some holes, because I will not knuckle under and say, "OK, that's your judgement. I accept it." That's the only thing I can do. (Ca) Many students in the History Department anticipate the Thesis Defense with a sense of dread. Like students in other departments, some make a point of watching a number of other students' defenses (Ca), and others admit they have not seen enough to prepare for their own (Tm). One student who had struggled with oral presentations in the past was too frightened to watch even one (Km). Another student who had finished writing and was waiting to defend made a fairly typical comment: I've been to a couple; I should probably go to some more." (Cq) Studying other defenses is important preparation in History because students do not feel confident the quality of their work will be enough to guarantee success. They must be able to conduct themselves appropriately and meet a standard of performance for which science students do concern themselves. 140 Very few students drop out of the History program at the doctoral level, according to departmental information, but data on exact numbers or rates of attrition have not been kept at a departmental level. Students consider drop-outs a pervasive problem (Km), and identify the first year of coursework and the latter years of thesis research as the times when students are most likely to leave a PhD program in History (Cq). A lack of funding was one reason students mention as a reason for students to drop out, or "just fade away" as some students put it (Tm, Km), although one student claimed the problem was further exacerbated when supervisors also did not give students non-financial support in their research (Km). Students spoke of a real concern on the part of the faculty concerning the policies and standards of the PhD program: "They've been trying to really upgrade the PhD program and make it more of a competitive program." (Cq) The recent addition of the Thesis Proposal requirement and reaction against attempts to bring grades in history courses into line with other disciplines in the arts is perceived by students as examples of attempts at reinforcing departmental standards (Cq, Ca). One student indicated the department had a very lax admissions policy, and they were then in the process of tightening their admissions requirements: I see our department as a department that is trying to really lift itself up by its bootstraps, and it's in the process of really trying to turn out excellent degrees, and it's probably in the transition from a regional university that's more accepting, and I think they're going to start tightening up their requirements. (Cq) This had some connection to recent budget problems for the university: The sense is growing that there are already so many PhDs being produced that it's not really doing people much good to turn out middle level PhDs, but to maybe accept fewer people in, but make sure that those few people are better supported and turn out a better product. (Cq) 141 Students generally agree student evaluation and maintenance of standards is a critical issue, and evaluation of students takes place on many levels, including departmental rankings for fellowships and other funding (Cq). But the formal mechanisms for maintaining standards, such as the Comprehensive Examinations, the Thesis Proposal meeting, and the Thesis Defense do not seem to actually function directly to screen students. One explanation offered by students is that faculty cannot agree on anything, and have difficulty making any common standard explicit (Km). Students mostly self-select themselves by giving in to the "threat" of those mechanisms because they do not believe they can "make the grade." (Tm) This message is transmitted in all sorts of informal ways to students, but reasons for the message being directed at particular students is often not clear to them. Students with the most tenacity are likely to succeed, as Adams (1976, p. 77) suggests: "But all in all the test of endurance creates self-selection: those continue who can run the requisite distance and whose hearts are attuned to the pace." PhD students in History experience considerable stress when they have no explicit standard for success, but believe they were constantly being judged (Cq). The extent of distress among History students concerning the application of standards of good research is much greater than that of students in Physics and Chemical Engineering. This surprised me, as History had a long and stable tradition at the university, suggesting more consensus regarding standards of competent historical scholarship. Clark (1987) and Becher (1989) suggest History is a typical "Soft" discipline, characterized by disputes over theory and method. At this university, doctoral studies in History began in the 1960s, at a time when "realist" conceptions of history were dominant among faculty. Belief in universal or objective standards of historical scholarship fit comfortably with the notion of a PhD degree certifying the 142 future competence of a professional academic. As the increasing realization of the importance of theory in History undermines confidence in the existence of these standards, consensus as to what valuable historical research entails has broken down. Kuhn (1970) identifies a post-paradigm stage, when a field which previously achieved the consensus of its members becomes vulnerable to dissension from within. This History Department provides some evidence of the post-paradigm stage, making the question of standards an increasingly urgent concern. The introduction of more explicit and visible standards to measure competency in a field is symptomatic of an insecure paradigm, perhaps explaining the recent concern of students and faculty in History over entrance requirements, course grading, and thesis proposals. The actual application of standards is extremely problematic at the same time they are increasingly stressed by everyone involved. This contradiction is central to the experiences of doctoral students, and I will argue in Chapter VII the PhD student's ultimate success in History might depend on the student's ability to obscure that contradiction. Education The examination practices of this Education Department conform very closely with the requirements set out in the university Calendar, reflecting a need in Education to appear to apply rigorous standards to the PhD to gain acceptance by the university as a legitimate program. Explicit and formalized rules suggest consensus in a field, but Kuhn (1970, p. 48) argues just the opposite: "When scientists disagree about whether the fundamental problems of their field have been solved, the search for rules gains a function that it does not ordinarily possess." The Department Handbook outlines a brief, but explicit, framework for the formal requirements of the 143 program. Students are required to complete a program of coursework, the core of which includes at least one research seminar offered by the student's area of special interest, and one common course offered by the Interdisciplinary Centre. Although this department is the only one of the four departments I studied that imposes a common required course, students entering the PhD program in the same year do not actually all take the same course at the same time. Students typically take a total of 6-8 one-semester courses over a period of two years (Handbook). Because of the recent merger of departments, many PhD students I spoke with had not been subject to these precise requirements, although they described course requirements and practices that were quite similar. Attempts to bring students into common courses from across areas of special interest in this department were sometimes unsuccessful. One student spoke of a core seminar in the first year of the new department that attempted to bridge two areas as being such a difficult mix that it was disbanded part way through the course: Actually, part way through this term we were split up because it was so desperate....What it turned out to be was just a total waste of time for everybody, so we just split up after Christmas. (Sy) After the split students and the faculty member in charge of the course commented on how well the new arrangement seemed to work: I think the students, long before that, should have said they felt their time was being wasted because now that we're unto ourselves even the professor has remarked, "Oh, I wish it could have been like this before, because now that we're by ourselves we're actually having discussion that are worth our time. (Sy) This student was very skeptical of the possibility of core courses in the department being able to bridge the areas of special interest very successfully: "I think unless it's really carefully thought 144 out, it's a really bad idea. It could prove to be a horrific waste of time." (Sy) The possibility of creating a course with a common theoretical base for the department might prove to be difficult. For many students this is a confusing requirement, as the relationship between the department and the Interdisciplinary Centre is not always well-understood by students (Sy): "I could never really figure out what I was doing there...It was confusing, and all I know is that it was required and it was my time to do it." (Ni) The purpose of the course is to bring students together in one forum to be introduced to the wide variety of approaches that can be brought to bear on the study of Education (Course Outline). The course provides students an opportunity to situate their own project within a number of competing paradigms, and to begin to promote and defend their own particular choices of research projects. It is an early opportunity for students to "rehearse" (Course Outline) the promotion and defense of their research they will be called upon to perfect over the course of their doctoral studies. Rather than being taught how to master a commonly agreed-upon research standard or method in their area, students are being trained to defend their choice of project and its method in a contested field. Students begin to recognize that any choice they make is open to attack from other researchers in their own field, and their success lies in articulating reasoned defenses of their commitments even if they are unsuccessful in convincing their opponents (Ks). Researchers with diametrically opposed research commitments learn to co-exist in the same field, and the common core-course seemed to serve the purpose of immersing the student into that environment, as well as developing in the student a commitment to engaging in those debates. 145 PhD students also take a number of optional courses chosen in conjunction with their supervisors, although the limited choice of courses in particular areas of special interest makes some of those courses virtually compulsory in practice: The major problem, to my mind, is that there aren't sufficient courses for us to take within our department, nor are there sufficient ones that can be recommended to us from outside our department. (Sy) These courses neither serve the function of eliminating students from the program who do not meet certain standards (Sy), nor do they prepare students very well to learn common standards of research in the department, as students find standards for research articulated in courses sometimes actually contradict those of their supervisors (Dg). Coursework is considered beneficial when it specifically focuses on the area of interest of the student (Ni), and reading courses designed to meet the needs of the particular student's research projects are often those the students find most helpful: I think it would have been much more helpful for me to do more reading classes with one or two more people. I mean, personally it [the formal coursework] was great. I found these classes really interesting and I'm glad I took them, but I mean if my goal was to get a PhD, these classes didn't help me. (Dg) One student stressed the importance of courses in shaping that student's fundamental commitments about research. Choice of the right courses provides a forum for students to "get to know how to stick to their research ideas and fight for them." (Kj) Coursework is considered most valuable by students when it helps develop individual research projects and the students' ability to defend those projects, but it does very little to develop or enforce department-wide standards of good research. Comprehensive Examinations in this department differ somewhat from those in the History Department. The Education Department has abandoned the "testing" format of 146 comprehensive examinations where students answer questions designed to verify their expertise. The Education Comprehensives consist of three papers written by the student, typically over a period of 2-3 months, in consultation with an examination committee. Rather than simply testing the student's ability to recall and demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of broad fields, these examinations also serve the purpose of developing the student's ability to write to a standard acceptable in their particular field (Handbook). Supervisors in the department are very diverse and flexible as to the formalities of the process, with students actually writing the papers in disparate circumstances. Reading lists and questions develop as a part of a mutual discussion between student and committee members (Kj), and students speak of the benefits of using the Comprehensive Examinations as chapters in their theses, or as eventual publications (Ni). One student who wrote a Thesis Proposal before doing the Comprehensive Examination believed this allowed a more focused approach to the development of Comprehensive Examination answers that would feed directly into the student's research (Kj). The Thesis Proposal requirement is well-established in the Education Department, and, although the Proposal is intended to be written after Comprehensive Examinations have been completed, some students I spoke with had reversed the order of the requirements because of their particular circumstances (Ks). The practice of the Comprehensive Examinations and Thesis Proposals in this department function to bolster the student's ability to do research and defend their projects within in an area of special interest, but do little to enforce a broader department-wide standard of good research. Some students refer to the Comprehensive Examinations and Thesis Proposal as "hoops", meaning they have the appearance of gatekeeping mechanisms but not much substance. 147 Although many students have little difficulty developing an acceptable Thesis Proposal, and speak of the process in developmental terms, the issue of standards in this department is very problematic for other students. They often refer to "good research" or "excellent students" and are reluctant to give up notions of agreed upon standards of research, but an awareness of the criteria on which these judgements are based in the department is not always evident. I identified two main demands placed on the students. One of those demands involves the students' willingness to align themselves with particular supervisors' methods and approaches to research, and demonstrating the commitment to forcefully defend those commitments in an appropriate forum. Although this seems to be crucial to the success of students, they are reluctant to admit this is indeed an important test, as it conflicts with their commitment to uphold a belief in a standard of research shared by all in the field. Only after some discussion are students willing to admit that evidence supporting a particular theoretical approach is more favourably judged than evidence from a contrary approach. An interesting case was a PhD student whose committee changed part way through the writing of the Thesis Proposal because of the withdrawal of the supervisor. The remaining committee members had previously supported the developing Proposal based on a quantitative design. In fact, the university's Ethical Review had been approved and the initial supervisor advised the student to "get going" on the research even before the Proposal had been accepted. After the withdrawal of the initial supervisor, who was the proponent of quantitative research, the remaining committee members were suddenly not particularly enthusiastic about the research design. But the student was never directly informed of the problems the remaining committee members had with Proposal drafts submitted by the student, and was simply told there were 148 "some problems" (Dg). The student submitted drafts over a period of more than a year, receiving general encouragement and no major criticism. Finally, after a "frustrating" process that seemed to go nowhere, the student and new supervisor finally agreed to change the design essentially from quantitative to qualitative. The student was never explicitly told the research the student had already started would not be accepted by the committee, as this would have required an explicit rejection of research standards which were quite acceptable for other faculty in the same department, and, in fact, had been accepted by the rest of the committee while the more established faculty member had been supervisor. The preferred process was for the student to "voluntarily" realign the research to the new dynamic on the committee. Most students never underwent this kind of blatant manipulation, so they were not forced to confront the extent to which standards of good research might conflict within their own department. They did not have to examine the source of the standards on which their own research was judged acceptable. Even this student had very conflicting views of the process that had occurred. Nevertheless, this student was aware of the importance of choosing committee members carefully (Dg), and believed students choosing committee members "incorrectly" was the biggest problem for some PhD students: I think it's committee members who've been chosen incorrectly that has been the biggest problem. Some people have had very well-thought-out ideas that they're having, that people who are available to them don't understand or won't accept. (Dg) A student suggested that the fewer committee members the better, as more than three just increased the chance of disagreement among them (Kj). Another case illustrates how students are able to hold on to contradictory notions about standards of good research. This student first claimed the supervisor was encouraging research 149 with "substantiated support." (Ks) The supervisor was dismissive of work that seemed to be "off the cuff', and the student, at this point, believed that simply providing evidence for a claim was one criterion for good research and that any substantiated claims would be accepted. The student also recognized that in addition to providing evidence, the evidence must be located within a theoretical framework, and theories must be "logically argued" and not just "beliefs". I inquired whether a student could come from a theoretical approach that the supervisor disagreed with, articulate that theory "logically", provide evidence in support of the theory, and succeed in doing PhD research from that approach. The student admitted this would have been impossible, and the judgement of what was "good evidence" and a "logical theory" depended on the supervisor's agreement with the research approach from which the evidence and theory came: I guess I'm very careful about whose work I base my own ideas on, and that's another thing, if I'm able to find people that [s/he] has respect for to back up my argument, no matter what it is, then [s/he'll] go along with it. That's true, yeah, so definitely for us the standard is based on who you're citing, who you've been reading, how much credibility those people have in the field already according to them [the individual supervisors]. (Ks) Students often spoke of the importance of adopting the research commitments of their special areas of interest, and of their supervisors. Developing a research project out of courses offered by the eventual supervisor is an especially fruitful way to begin any PhD program, or, even better, arriving at the university with a clear interest and a faculty member who supports that interest. One student complained that the specific foci of graduate-level courses undermined that student's ability to make informed judgements about the relative merits of competing theoretical stances (Sy). Faculty teach courses with their own theoretical stance clearly privileged, but students do not have the confidence or the "expertise" (Dg) to seriously critique these stances. The path of least resistance for students is to align themselves with a faculty member who shares 150 their comrnitments, if possible, or to gradually allow themselves to shift their positions to conform with the faculty member if there is none who shares their initial commitments (Dg). Evidence of shared commitments includes the adoption of a common language to discuss problems in the field (Ks). One student mentioned that using the "right words" seemed to be the most important issue with respect to Comprehensive Examination answers that were not acceptable. Once the student altered the choice of language, the faculty member was satisfied: "[The supervisor] was very careful about word usage. [S/he] disagreed with some of the words that I used and the way I used some of the words, that was the major problem." (Dg) Although the student disagreed with the supervisor, the student eventually re-wrote the answer to conform with the wishes of the supervisor. This is particularly interesting because the student had a firm commitment to autonomy. Another successful student spoke of coming to learn just how important it was to identify the assumptions that underlay any research, and how arguments are always based on a particular set of assumptions, an issue that was not explicitly discussed in the PhD program, according to this student (Hg). Alignment with the right people and the right theories and the right evidence in a very contested arena is an important test of good research for students, but those students seemed reluctant to admit this was the test, preferring to believe they were meeting a more objective standard. The second demand placed on students is a kind of rhetorical ability, both written and oral. The students do not necessarily expect to convince an opponent with conflicting commitments, but need to make a good presentation of the rational arguments in support of their own commitments (Ks). Even though various researchers in the field might have diametrically opposed views on the value of each other's research, the ability to defend one's project is an 151 important test recognized by all. The rhetorical standard involves both an ability to argue for the commitments of the chosen research project and design, and the commitment to do so publicly in a department where various approaches compete for respect and adherents. A difficulty for PhD students in this department is that, although everyone might recognize the advantage of being a skilled advocate of a strong position, it is not so clear the advocacy itself might be the central standard by which faculty across the department judge students. The actual substance of the argument, which is open to legitimate attack from a variety of perspectives within the same department, indicates a more personal allegiance with supervisor and committee. Although the skill of argumentation is a major concern in this department, one student did not think there was much preparation for students to succeed in this area: "I don't think you are prepared very well. There's no deliberate, I haven't come across deliberate teaching of how to present an argument." (Hg) This student believed it was a problem that PhD students were forever being told to clarify or improve an argument, but were never given actual instruction on how to do this. It was as if the real rules of the game were being kept hidden (Hg). Another student agreed, "Everybody says how important writing is, yet it's never addressed directly." (Ks) Learning the hidden rules of the game is an important theme of students in this department, underscoring the lack of explicit standards from which the students might derive a measure of security: "I think you've got to find out what the requirements are and use them to your advantage." (Sy) For the students who do uncover the hidden rules, success comes much easier (Sy, Hg). Some students mentioned they learnt the rules from their masters degree (Kj), and believed that students who had not done a thesis masters would be at a real disadvantage in the PhD program (Sy): "I talk to students around here who have done a masters degree by 152 coursework and they're nowhere near as street-wise as I am." (Hg). The fact that some students had experience teaching at universities prior to their PhD program was also of benefit (Dg): "I may be a bit lucky here in the fact that having worked in a university..! know a bit how the system works, the academic system, so I think you've got to work it, you know." (Hg) Students who do not make good use of the system find the "endurance test" of the PhD all the more gruelling. Students learn they had little to gain from seriously questioning their own positions once they were aligned with their supervisors and committees. To do so would be to question the "expert" supervisor, and to expose the student to easy attack in the public forums in which students are encouraged to engage, beginning with the Interdisciplinary Centre's compulsory core course. Students in this department have the dual task of showing sufficient identification with a particular research tradition at a sub-departmental level, while meeting standards of rhetoric at an extra-departmental level. Neither demand originates from any identifiable departmental standard of good research. Nevertheless, students I spoke with were reluctant to give up convictions that standards of research existed, and that they were becoming increasingly successful at meeting those standards (Ks). In an environment where standards are not well-understood, the Thesis Defense becomes an important concern. Students in this department prepare more for their eventual Defense than in the other three departments. Considering the importance of rhetorical skills in this department, the performance of the student is put to a real test at the time of the Defense. In the sciences, where there seems to be much more agreement about what made good research, the research findings might be allowed to speak for themselves, even if the rhetorical skills of the student are 153 not well-developed. Where standards of good research are not well-accepted, and value is put on strong presentation and defense of the research project, quality of writing and a strong oral defense is the ultimate test of the student's ability. It surprised me to learn that students in this department not only went to see many defenses, but some actually found them very enjoyable: Yeah, I love them [Defenses]....I can tell you that since I've been here I have been to 1,2,3,4,5 defenses and I've learned something from every one of them....I think you learn every time you go to these things. You see the style of questions asked and so on. (Hg) After seeing Defenses, some students then discussed the merits of the student's performance: "I think there's been a lot of debate about Defenses among students, whether it was a good Defense, bad Defense." (Hg) Another student mentioned an incident where a fellow PhD student gave a Defense that was judged by other students to be inadequate, so the student who gave the Defense was asked to come speak to a class about the reasons for the poor performance (Kj). This would have been unimaginable in the Chemical Engineering Department, for example, where students did not even ask questions of other students at the compulsory seminar as their way of showing support and solidarity. There, presentation of research is an aggravation, as opposed to an important end in itself. In Education, students are being socialized into a "combative environment" (Ks). Kuhn (1970, p. 48) describes the pre-paradigm period of a field as "marked by frequent and deep debates over legitimate methods, problems, and standards of solution, though these serve rather to define schools than to produce agreement." This is the environment PhD students in the Education Department are being socialized, and the contradictions these students face concerning standards of research and scholarship are deep, and sources of potential danger. 154 Standard Contradictions PhD students are standing at the gates to an academic profession, and, as Clark (1980, p. 4) states, "The recruits to different academic specialties enter different paradigms, the sharing of beliefs within a field about theory, methodology, techniques, and problems." The various academic professions, through the departmental structures at the universities, enforce standards to ensure adequate expertise for their new members. The PhD is the most widely accepted educational process through which such recruits are certified as experts, so enforcement of standards of research ability is central to that degree. The legitimacy of the degree to accredit expertise in the production of original knowledge assumes such standards exist and are generally shared by members of the particular professions. The experiences of PhD students in four departments at this university suggest there are very different conditions regarding the credentialing aspect of the PhD, and the experiences of PhD students are fundamentally affected by those conditions. In the sciences, students generally share a belief in objective standards of research that are well-understood in their departments by students and faculty, and which can be used to certify expertise in their disciplines. Those standards are bolstered by "experimental comparison", which is possible in most areas of Physics and Chemical Engineering. Structures and practices which apply those standards are respected by students, and students concentrate on developing their research expertise. The one area of Physics where there is no possibility for experimental comparison is considered to be an anomaly that puzzles students both within and outside the Sub-Field. With no way to develop consensus around competing theoretical perspectives, PhD students in this Sub-Field are judged on the basis of their choice of language and personal allegiances, as well as their mathematical rigour. Rather 155 than attempting to reconcile the conflicting experiences of PhD students in that contested area, Physics students dismiss this area as an anomaly in an otherwise unproblematic, objective discipline. Arts/professional students, on the other hand, tend to reject the possibility of objective standards in their own theoretical approaches to History and Education. They recognize that all knowledge is situated within particular theoretical frameworks or perspectives, and that consensus in their fields is unlikely. The experimental comparisons that convince science students they are engaged in a common enterprise of knowledge accumulation and production are not possible in the study of the social world. Arts/professional students engage in the contestation that arises from incommensurable theoretical approaches applied to the same aspects of the social world, and try to develop the commitments and abilities that promote their own particular positions in those contests. For the most part, arts/professional students do not confront the contradictions that arise from their theoretical rejection of objective standards, while at the same time participating in a professional credentialing process that is predicated on the existence of just such standards. Cude (1987, p. 49) explains: The PhD degree, initially proving itself as an apprenticeship to scientific research, simply expanded into the humanities and social sciences as these disciplines strove to emulate the more rigorous methodologies of scientific inquiry. The History and Education students generally reject the epistemological assumptions behind those methodologies which enhance the authority of the PhD, but are careful not to undermine the status and power they hope to eventually attain from the degree. Nelkin (1975, p. 54) recognizes the interest experts have in containing apparent disagreement: Conflict among experts reduces their political impact. The influence of experts is based on public trust in the infallibility of expertise.... Conflict among 156 scientists...demystifies their special expertise and calls attention to non-technical and political assumptions that influence technical advice. Just as the faculty in the History Department are careful not to make their disagreements explicit through open confrontation, PhD students in the arts/professions learn to protect their own emerging expe