…thoughts on and about my PhD journey and beyond…

Archive for the ‘Researcher as research instrument’ Category

The thesis has been submitted…Leadership Literacies for Professional Staff in Universities

Typeface: Thesis from Lucas de Groot

Lucas de Groot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I’m very happy to report that I submitted my thesis ‘Leadership Literacies for Professional Staff in Universities’ last week. Here is a snippet about the findings and also my acknowledgements page.

Leadership Literacies for Professional Staff in Universities

The first discovery of my thesis was the naming of the Worldly, Sustaining, Leadingful, Relational and Learningful Leadership Literacies that I proposed were appropriate for leadership for professional staff in 21st century universities.  These indicate that the focus of leadership studies has moved from all about the leader (as it was in the 20th century) to the work of leadership that everyone does in knowledge-intensive enterprises (and into what is termed in the literature, a post-heroic leadership space). The next two discoveries found that these LL’s were evident in i) theorisations of higher education leadership research projects (The Scott report Learning Leaders In Times of Change and the Jones & Ryland report that synthesised 4 ALTC research projects about distributed learning prospects for Australian universities); and ii) in the data elicited from the lived experiences of work and leadership given by 226 ATEM professional staff members.  In naming one of the LL’s ‘Sustaining’ I was able to test for human sustainability indicators and these results are less rosy than the rest, and this is reflected in my final reflections. These discoveries led to my finding that the Worldly, Sustaining, Leadingful, Relational and Learningful Leadership Literacies were appropriate and indeed indicated as congruent with leadership for professional staff working in universities.

7.3 Final Reflections

My final reflections I turn to three ideas emerging in unison as I contemplate putting the final full stop in this thesis. These are about amplification, the idea of ‘leadership as the business of energy management’ and how these relate to the people I have featured in this thesis, professional staff in Australian universities.

I have spoken several times already about amplifying the considerable body of literature that is now encapsulated within the Worldly, Sustaining, Leadingful, Relational and Learningful Leadership Literacies. This thesis has also amplified the voices of professional staff working in universities, who as Szekeres (2004) reasoned in her search for them in higher education discourse, were ‘invisible workers’. I captured as many of these voices that wanted to be heard and they had much to say about work and leadership in universities in this early part of the 21st century. One of the key messages I discerned from their accounts was about energy management, having positioned this as a leadership concern within my Sustaining Leadership Literacy. Given the recollections in Martin’s (1999) research that I shared in this thesis, about the effects of change and turbulence on academic staff, there are similarities in the responses given by professional staff, some ten years later. I gave two accounts of academics voicing their frustration and sense of despair from Martin’s research*. These sentiments have been shared by my participants, and one quote, from Martha, eloquently encapsulates similar frustrations (and risks):

We seem to be working longer and longer hours—I regularly work a 50+ week and also work on the weekend. Most of my colleagues are in similar positions, this situation will increasingly take a toll on our health, work productivity and organizational sustainability. However, what can we do about it? Martha (Generation Jones (Late Boomer), Go8 Manager)

I regard this as a key leadership challenge in universities at this time. I am also struck, yet again, by the prescience of Mary Parker Follett, and her grasp of these concerns so long ago. She was a person ahead of her time. This leads me to ponder whether she may also be ahead of ours in light of her messages about making the connection between leadership and energy management stronger.

Whoever connects me with the hidden springs of all life, whoever increases the sense of life in me is my leader (Follett 1928, p. 294).

*This from earlier in the thesis in the chapter on Australian HE leadership…

Another notable work is Elaine Martin’s Changing Academic Work: Developing the Learning University (1999). Connecting student learning theory with then nascent ‘learning organisation’ literature to frame her study, Martin captured the effects of change in academic work through the lived experience of academics. In this snapshot of change in the UK and Australia, Martin reflected that it did “not make happy reading. They paint a picture of despondence and frustration, with the occasional pocket of optimism” (p. 13). The research revealed 60% of leaders, as well as 80% of academics (in non-leadership positions), complained that accountability was excessive (p. 17). Their concern was “not with accountability itself, but with the battery of accountability mechanisms which they saw as getting in the way of real work” (p. 17). In addition, Martin captured the effects of change on people, something that I emulate in the next chapter, albeit with a different cohort of university staff. She found that while 77% of leaders felt ‘undervalued’, so did 88% of academics (in non-leadership positions) [p. 21]. Two statements from contributors to Martin’s study are especially poignant, and support my argument that energy management is a key leadership responsibility in the 21st century:

The first, airs frustration: “I feel like the miller’s daughter in Rumpelstiltskin. Each day I do the impossible, I perform the miracle—but there is only greed for more, never gratitude for what I am doing” [Senior Lecturer, Social Science] (p. 21).

The next is simply heartbreaking: “I gave to my work what I should have given to my family, I now have no family … and soon may have no job” [Lecturer, Economics] (p. 22).


I gratefully acknowledge my supervisor Sandra Jones for her encouragement, single-mindedness and considerable understanding of what it takes to stay on course as I traversed a lot of territory; and for knowing when to let me explore and when to rein me in. As a practice-led researcher I came with ideas and a passion for this topic which, under Sandra’s counsel, were galvanised into a plan of inquiry. I sincerely thank her for her encouragement, good humour, intellect and staying power. Special mention and thanks, Sandra, for your ability to finally move my resistant focus stemming from these ideas and passion for my profession to what is expected to be in (and out) of a thesis in the discipline of management.

Peter Macauley, my second supervisor, is acknowledged for his encouragement and the collegial working relationship we have shared for thirty years. Having someone who knew me well was invaluable for my own personal journey especially since my identity has shifted, was unmade and remade in the process of this experience. Thanks Pete for your practical and strategic advice, gleaned from your own doctoral education research focus, it was invaluable.

I also acknowledge the support and assistance of RMIT for their research training program, their RMIT/APA full-time Scholarship, as well as the opportunities afforded by presenting at international conferences in Rome and London.

I have many people to thank for their support during this time. Of special mention are my fellow doctoral students Deb Nanschild, Anne Hiha, David Holzmer, Ailsa Haxell and Robyn Ward for the many conversations shared which led me to deeper understandings of my inquiry (and theirs). Thanks to Chris Bigum for the generous chats about all things philosophical. Thanks also to Terry Evans for his initial encouragement to begin the journey and for wisdom shared during many coffees since.

Special thanks to the 226 Association for Tertiary Education Management (ATEM) colleagues who took the time to participate in this research project. This would not have been possible without the support of Maree Conway and Giles Pickford (ATEM Secretariat) who agreed to act as the conduit between myself, as researcher, and the potential participants for this study. Thank you, Linda McKellar, ATEM Vice President, for your wisdom and as conference travelling companion for several overseas conferences; Stephen Weller, President of ATEM, for your commendations of support and encouragement. Thanks also goes to my focus group of experts who tested the survey for relevance and ease of use.

Last but no means least are my family. I would not have been able to take time out to undertake this inquiry as a full-time student without the support of my partner, Philip. His encouragement, support and culinary skills sustained me during this time. I dedicate this thesis to my children Ashleah and Rohan who have been as supportive of my studies as I have been of theirs. They have been the inspiration to look afresh at leadership and hopefully they (and their generation) will benefit from, and indeed champion, the kinds of 21st leadership literacies I have introduced in this thesis.


Pardon, my philosophical disposition is showing…

Detail of The School of Athens

Plato and Aristotle. Image via Wikipedia

I’m concentrating on writing my research design chapter at the moment and so I am thinking about my philosophical disposition and how this notion is treated in theses.  No doubt it depends on the very things that make up the  philosophical disposition–the metatheories of epistemology, ontology and axiology– whether we 1) think about them at all, 2) understand them and claim them as our own, and 3) make these understandings explixit or keep them silent in the actual thesis.  In any event I figure if I’m doing a philosophy degree I should at least consider what this means.

While we can be plural and cross disciplinary in our theoretical frameworks, methodology and methods, I contend that it is impossible to be philosophically plural.  Our philosophical dispositions aren’t really choices in the same sense as choosing appropriate theory, methodology and methods for a particular piece of research, but rather are a statement of our understandings of  our way of knowing, our way of being and what we value.  It is therefore important to be clear and keep true to these dispositions in order to build a strong and authentic framework to make all the other decisions that need to occur in the conduct of research.

Whilst these insights about philosophy are all very well, they are not reason enough to be made explicit in the thesis.   The statements I make concerning my philosophical disposition will be included in my thesis to provide some background because I am positioning myself in the inquiry as one of the research instruments and therefore it is necessary to acknowledge “a critical self-awareness of [my] own subjectivity, vested interests, predilections and assumptions and to be conscious of how these might impact on the research process and findings” (Finlay 2008, p. 17).  They also influence the choices I have made to conduct a qualitative interpretive inquiry and so are explicated to locate my  philosophical, theoretical and methodological standpoints within the wider philosophical and research domains.

It will probably not surprise readers to learn that my philosophical disposition is one of an interpretivist epistemology, relativist ontology and values laden axiology.  Now that sounds easy enough, but it has taken me nearly three years to be able to say that out loud.  In fact, up until a month ago I thought my epistemological standpoint was constructivist!!

So how about you?  What is your philosophical disposition? Do you intend to write it in to your thesis and what are the reasons for this decision?


Finlay, L. 2008. A dance between the reduction and reflexivity: Explicating the “phenomenological psychological attitute”. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology,  39, pp. 1-32.

Social media and my PhD

Britain Going Blog Crazy - Metro Article

Image by Annie Mole via Flickr

This post was first published as a guest post on thethesiswhisperer, on 31-Aug-10 and was mentioned in this article in The Age on 9-Aug-11.

In this post I want to reflect on the value of using social media and what it might have to offer research students. As a full time PhD student investigating a messy phenomenon in real time–leadership literacies for the knowledge era–I made a conscious decision to be an active learner, to learn by doing and learn by connecting with people as well as through the literature.  I had always been a reflexive practitioner and wanted to also be a reflexive researcher.

The ‘learning by doing’ part began by mapping out conferences where I could present drafts of my work. I wrote abstracts about what I needed to develop arguments for.  I thought that there would be no better way to focus the mind than presenting on that topic in 3 or 6 months time!  Yes, it might be the ‘extreme sport’ end of PhD comportment, but it did work for me.

The risks associated with presenting work that is not ‘perfect’ and still in development have to be considered, but the benefits of receiving timely and valuable feedback really helped me with my work.  The ‘connecting with people’ part occurred at these conferences, where I met theorists in the field (yes they are human beings!) and people with aligned interests.

The ‘connecting with people’ part was also met by the interactions with the social networks I’ve built up using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and to a lesser extent Academia.net.  The sharing of ideas and resources has been a two way thing and even though most of what I’ve learned through these networks will not go into the thesis, they have been invaluable as an action learning tool to pick up on trends, test ideas and to get a feel for what is emerging or fading.  This has helped strengthen the research instrument that is ‘me’.

The reflexive researcher part was taken up with the blog where I have written a lot about my struggles with ‘text work as identity work’ (For more see Kamler and Thomson’s book “Helping Doctoral Students to Write). I started my blog in November 2008, inspired by a  Professor at RMIT,  Brian Corbitt, telling a story about Germaine Greer writing “The Female Eunuch” from her collection of vignettes.

A vignette is a small piece of writing which tries to encapsulate a story or a moment of insight in a stand- alone piece. The beauty of a vignette is you don’t have to try to connect with other ideas.  This is opposite to how one might normally think about a thesis, which is meant to be a long, densely inter-related document. The vignette approach seemed a compelling idea, and one that I reflected on for a few months as I pondered just how I was going to become a writer, specifically how I was going to write A LOT.

I thought that blogging might be the modern day equivalent of Greer’s vignette approach. Brian was quite pleased that he had inspired such endeavours and, in typical professorial fashion, suggested that there could be a paper on ‘blogging as a research method’ in it! I have yet to write that paper, mainly because I don’t feel like I am leading that charge, unlike Lila Efimova whose blog and PhD studies are well documented at Mathemagenic and widely cited.

My blogs were written when I needed to think and reflect and this seemed to be in the period leading up to the confirmation and when designing the research.  I am currently using these blogs–these placeholders of my thoughts–as I draft my thesis chapters.

I remember commenting to my supervisor at one low point that I couldn’t write anything, not even a blog posting.  I was expecting a blast for being a terrible PhD student but reassuringly Sandra mused that perhaps I didn’t have anything to write because the issues, for now, were sorted.  Instead, perhaps, this marked the shift to a new stage of the PhD–a ‘doing the research’ stage, rather than ‘thinking about the research’ stage.  That was indeed an ‘aha’ moment for me and it is true that I didn’t feel the need to write many postings while I was ‘doing the research’ but now that I am back into writing and analysing I think that the need to blog will be more frequent.

A blog can be an archive of reflections about what it means to do a PhD. It can be a placeholder for the vignettes that build to become arguments in the thesis and, unlike a personal journal, the thoughts and arguments are open for scrutiny and feedback.

Blogs about the PhD journey–like thethesiswhisperer and by individuals–remove the veils of mystique that mask the hard work.  It shows us the ‘invisible work’ which never makes it into ink in the final thesis document.  A blog does not a PhD make, but a blog can help develop the necessary confidence to become ‘writerly’ which is necessary to tackle the thesis itself.

On writing…or trying to…

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writing. Image via Wikipedia

I’ve had another period of writer’s block, and,  as before it has preceded yet another aha moment.  This time to do with the design of my study.  No matter what the reason, or when it occurs within any writing project, it’s a difficult time.  I was prompted to write this post as a response to Ailsa’s lament on the very subject “Some writing got wrought, and I’m now right on track“.  In many ways though, it is a note to self…

>>Lovely post Ailsa. You’re not alone in this wrestling match with self to transfer the thinking we do in our heads into a written text that may or may not ever be read!!

It’s easy to become defensive in the face of expectations of others, like the examiners and those within the discourses we are writing to, as these invisible voices do take on mythic proportions at times. But I think it’s our own expectations that are at the heart of this struggle.

The struggle to write is understandable when we remind ourselves that we’re not simply transcribing, the very act of writing is an act of thinking out loud. For me, it is the ultimate sense making activity.  Because of this, the struggle for me is not reserved for the final writing stage of the thesis (where you are just now) but has been with me since the beginning. I wrote a blog post about this upon reflection of my confirmation.

One thing that helps me when I get too close to it all, is to remember the wise words from a Winter School some time ago. It was either Brian or Andy who reminded us that “It’s not about being interesting, it’s all about being interested!!”

Put another way (thanks Viv) sometimes in order to write we just need to “put down our clever and pick up our ordinary”.

As well as writing I’m also thinking about analysing my data so I’m looking at lots of ways to represent data visually at the moment.  Here is a word cloud about this blog, via Manyeyes.

word cloud

Other-Centredness and kindred mindful approaches to leadership in an emerging world

Pedagogical Creed

Image by technovore via Flickr

Please forgive me, it has been several months since my last confession–oh…I mean posting!!  There are quite a few reasons for this ranging from writer’s block, to shifting into the ‘doing’ part of my research, and as my supervisor pointed out to me–that I am moving from one stage of my research to another and perhaps I don’t have such a need for the writing-as-thinking outlet.

The blog has been instrumental to the conceptual stage of my research, both as the writing-as-thinking platform and a way to share my learnings and in many cases un-learnings with my peers.  As a practictioner-researcher, this sharing of information and the opportunity to receive feedback has been an important part of my personal research journey.

As I enter into the data collection stage this blog might be rather quiet, but no doubt when I get into the analysis stage it will re-emerge as I wrestle with and make sense of my thoughts and the data.

Today then is quite an important marker in my PhD journey as my data collection has officially begun, and I’ve just received notification that an abstract has been accepted for a conference next February, see the following abstract.

Until next time….


The concept of ‘researcher as research instrument’ within the hinterlands of research


Hinterland by Mike the Mountain via Flickr

Piantanida & Garman (1999) present a theory to expand the notion of qualitative inquiry to present it as a method and a logic of justification for the research study.  Their theory makes explicit the notion of the ‘researcher as research instrument’ (other references to ‘researcher as research instrument’ include Guba & Lincoln, 1981 ; Shindler & Case, 1996 ; Piantanida & Garman, 1999 p. 139; Janesick, 2001 ; Meloy, 2002 p. 61; Merriam, 2002 ; Patton, 2002 p. 109; Janesick, 2003 p. 47).

…the researcher is as much a part of the inquiry as the intent of the study and the inquiry process.  In fact, the researcher’s thinking lies at the heart of the inquiry…Ill-conceived dissertation folklore…contribute[s] to “dissertation block” by diverting attention from the very wellspring of knowledge that feeds the dissertation—that is, students’ own professional experiences, personal intellectual concerns, and assumptions about knowledge (Piantanida & Garman, 1999, p. 24).

Engagement with the ‘researcher as research instrument’ notion is very much dependent on the researcher’s worldview and their own ontological, epistemological and axiological underpinnings of what constitutes acceptable research.  Just how explicit this position is ‘owned up to’ is also dependent on the underlying assumptions and within the social contexts of acceptable research practice within disciplines and theoretical schools of thought.  The continuum for making this position explicit (or not) runs from an objective (values free) stance where the notion of ‘researcher as research instrument’ may be hidden from view to the subjective (values laden) position where it may be fully declared. researcher_as_instrument1

Whether this position is indeed visible or hidden it is nevertheless in play in the everyday decision making and conduct of research, for example:

  • The patterns of reading the literature
  • Who is seen as expert, novice, practitioner and what weight is thus accorded?
  • Intuition, insight and subjectiveness
    • Are these and other ‘soft’ skills used to guide decisions about the research?
  • Researcher’s experience in the world, at work and in research?
  • How much of this is drawn upon to come up with a do-able research project?
  • How the research is written, how the researcher is positioned within the text.

The notion of ‘researcher as research instrument’, therefore takes root in the ontological, epistemological and axiological underpinnings of what constitutes acceptable research for each of us.  From here it will manifest (or be hidden) in the selection of research methods and in the research text itself.  For those of you who are undertaking research, have you thought much about the position of ‘researcher as research instrument’ ?

Your comments welcome:

How do you, see yourself (more or less depending on technique, method, philosophical framework) as part of the creation of the ‘text’ and ‘data’? (Take the poll above)

Do you see this position as being ‘not about me but through me’ in your own research work?

What resonates most strongly here?

Attached is the discussion paper and readings on this topic which were prepared for the RMIT Qualitative Inquiry Special Interest Group meeting of 5-May-09.


Guba, E. G. & Lincoln, Y. S. 1981. The evaluator as instrument, Effective evaluation, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, pp. 128 – 152.

Janesick, V. J. 2001. Intuition and Creativity: A Pas de Deux for Qualitative Researchers. Qualitative Inquiry, 7 (5), pp. 531 – 540. http://qix.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/7/5/531

Janesick, V. J. 2003. The choreography of qualitative research design: minuets, improvisations, and crystallization. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry, 2nd ed., Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 46 – 79.

Meloy, J. M. 2002. Writing the qualitative dissertation: understanding by doing.  (2nd ed.) Mahwah, N.J., Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Merriam, S. B. 2002. Qualitative research in practice: examples for discussion and analysis.  San Francisco, Calif. ; Jossey-Bass.

Patton, M. Q. 2002. Qualitative research and evaluation methods.  (3rd ed.) Thousand Oaks, Calif., Sage Publications.

Piantanida, M. & Garman, N. B. 1999. The qualitative dissertation: a guide for students and faculty.  London, Sage.

Shindler, J. V. & Case, R. E. 1996. Apperception and Meaning Making in the World of Qualitative Inquiry: An Examination of Novice Qualitative Researchers, Annual AERA Meeting. New York,  AERA.


Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. 2008. Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials.  (3rd ed.) Thousand Oaks, Calif., Sage.

Kamler, B. & Thomson, P. 2006. Helping Doctoral Students Write: Pedagogies for Supervision.  Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, Routledge.

Law, J. 2004. After Method: Mess in Social Science Research.  London ; New York, Routledge.

Boundedness and creative will(ingness)


I had the great privilege of conceptualising and presenting a leadership masterclass for the higher education sector last week, based on my PhD topic “leadership literacies for the knowledge era”.   There were 11 participants and three main presenters and we all came together to learn/unlearn and reflect about our part in leading the sector.

The HE sector in Australia and New Zealand faces competition from many quarters–global competition for students and talented staff; competing tensions for resources and time–where both are scarce and the issues and the  ‘must haves’ and ‘must dos’ are many–in a sector whose purpose has a nation building agenda as well as the more visible teaching, research and service imperatives.

There is so much I could say about the masterclass experience, suffice to say that I well and truly feel I’m on the right track with my PhD study and I’m glad I didn’t wait until after I finish my study before I offered this program as it is clear leaders need this support now.  Both the masterclass and my PhD stem from the same source–as a pratictioner/researcher with a very strong sense of disquiet about health of the HE sector.


However, the focus for this blog comes from a conversation and subsequent reflection about one of the experiential learning activities from the Equine Assisted Learning session on day two.  As you can imagine we were all very much out of our comfort zones when confronted with how to persuade four horses–rather than people–to cooperate with our teams in completing the activities we were set.

There were 3 activities: the first an observation activity which was not too taxing; next ‘the mane event’ where we had to peg bits of cardboard with words about values and resources on to the mane of the horses, with a set of ‘policies’ to guide the group;  and the final activity was called ‘horse billiards’ where we had to persuade the horses to move into one of the four spaces designated ‘pockets’–again with all sorts of policies and rules.  The participants had been divided up into two teams and a lot of the learning came about by watching how the first team did the activity and how that could be improved.

What really struck me was how, for a person who rated 0% on compliance in the Windows on Work Values questionnaire, I could be so concerned with doing right by the set rules and policies–pushing them as far as I could, sure, but nevertheless keeping within them–because of my concerns of being ‘disqualified’.   I was equally taken aback when the other team seemingly disregarded some of the ‘rules’ when it was their turn.  This struck me as a major disjunct at the time and in subsequent conversations with participants afterwards and one of the explanations that was mooted was perhaps it was because of my overarching role as masterclass convenor as well as participant in the exercise?

Talking through the experience with Gill a few days later (Gill was one of the EAL instructors) it was clear that there was more to it than that. Both of the instructors saw that both teams kept very much to the rules, even the team that I perceived had ‘broken’ some of them.  Gill went on to explain that this is very common in EAL activities and they put this down to the fact that people who are in new situations, feeling discomfort, or say, unable to use their usual rationale for doing things tend to find comfort in rules to guide them–as a way to frame or bound their situation.  Gill then asked me, “so what were the consequences of breaking the rules/policies?” They had not provided any (but we hadn’t noticed at the time) so it was clear to me then that we had created our own internal consequences…  Now this was an ‘aha’ moment indeed!

Self Censure

This ‘aha’ moment was partly due to the earlier reading on ‘the identity work of leaders’ (Sinclair, 2007) and in particular her explanation of Foucault’s ideas about discipline and surveillance symbolised by the ‘panopticon’–a surveillance tower in prisons, located so that all prisoners may be watched without knowing when or how, and ultimately compelling prisoners to take on the burden of disciplining themselves.

Further, there is extensive evidence that individuals in work organisations not only become intensely self-regulatory, but also police their peers more punitively than any watchtower guard.  Working conditions, systems of remuneration, career paths–in short, how we are at work seems increasingly to be under someone else’s, or worse our own, punitive control (Sinclair, 2007 p. 133).

Creative Will(ingness)

This whole experience and reflection led to further thinking about creativity and how it can be dampened.  It is very difficult to be creative in situations that give rise to fear or discomfort–until one can find one’s comfort boundaries and then push beyond them.  What is interesting here is how people react to situations, depending on their appetite for new things and past experiences to draw from.  Given more time in the EAL activities I’m sure many of the 13 participants would have identified the boundaries and pushed past them to find creative solutions outside the ‘box’ we’d put ourselves into.  The constraints on the day, however, led to the most enlightening learning experiences for me displaying as the gap between my rhetorical self and myself-in-action on the day.

These reflections about creativity and boundedness have now helped me to explain to myself why I am so seemingly creative/brave/foolhardy in my approach to representing myself in the PhD journey when what I propose is clearly not the norm in the discipline of management.  I realise now that I have two distinct experiences to draw from that are not common to people undertaking i) PhD study or ii) PhD study in the discipline of management, in that:
i) Most people don’t think about ‘doing’ a PhD until they sign up to ‘do’ a PhD.  Gill’s argument about rules and policies providing comfort in new and/or uncomfortable situations makes sense then that most PhD students accept the set procedures as they stand.
ii) Most PhD students studying in the discipline of management don’t have the same perspective on qualitative inquiry as I do.

In my case, my work between 1998-2007 was in the management and support a PhD program in a Faculty of Education that was renowned for qualitative inquiry excellence and doctoral education (see references below for books by Terry Evans and Barbara Kamler).  I worked with qualitative inquiry scholars and PhD students pushing the boundaries of what constitutes scientific practice.  These people saw qualitative inquiry as a ‘way of being’ (methodology) not just as research method so the thought of  the ‘researcher as research instrument’ is the norm for me .  When I came to my own PhD study (albeit in a different university and a different discipline), I found myself in the unique position of feeling less bounded by convention because I had seen the PhD process and journey unfold dozens of times–some successfully and some not so–and have this knowledge to draw from.

This doesn’t mean that the PhD journey will be any ‘easier’ for me, but at least I have these experiences to draw upon to help me through the difficult times.   This sharing of insight highlights that my PhD study flows through me and is not necessarily about me, and that every PhD candidate comes to their study with a unique set of skills and experiences.  These inner resources should always be encouraged to be used as a resource within the PhD experience.


Denholm, C. J. & Evans, T. D. 2006. Doctorates Downunder : keys to successful doctoral study in Australia and New Zealand. Camberwell, Vic., ACER Press.

Kamler, B. & Thomson, P. 2006. Helping doctoral students write: pedagogies for supervision. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, Routledge.

Sinclair, A. 2007. The identity work of leaders, in Leadership for the disillusioned: moving beyond myths and heroes to leading that liberates. Allen & Unwin, pp. 132-133.

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