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Psychological health of doctoral candidates, study-related challenges and perceived performance


Barry, KM and Woods, M and Warnecke, E and Stirling, C and Martin, A, Psychological health of doctoral candidates, study-related challenges and perceived performance, Higher Education Research and Development, 37, (3) pp. 468-483. ISSN 1469-8366 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© 2018 HERDSA

DOI: doi:10.1080/07294360.2018.1425979


Psychological distress is prevalent in doctoral degree training and affects studentsí completion time. It is crucial to monitor the amount of distress experienced and understand the causes for it to inform the type of support most needed. This mixed method study explored challenges related to candidature, self-reported progress and measures of perceived and actual psychological distress with a convenience sample of 81 doctoral candidates in an Australian university. Using validated survey instruments, participants reported higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress than age-matched general population normative data. Additionally, those who self-reported being behind or exceeding their study schedule had significantly higher scores for depression, anxiety and stress than those who reported they were meeting schedule. Conversely, stage of candidature did not affect any of these attribute scores. The responses to open-ended questions about challenges associated with doctoral study were coded and explored with an existing typology. The most frequent challenge reported in doctoral study is related to the development of generic skills, followed by management of self, including motivation. Given that not all challenges could be included in the existing typology, we recommend expansion to the typology.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:PhD candidates, stress, challenges, postgraduate training, doctorate, psychological distress, DASS
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Applied and developmental psychology
Research Field:Educational psychology
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Mental health
UTAS Author:Barry, KM (Associate Professor Kara Barry)
UTAS Author:Woods, M (Dr Megan Woods)
UTAS Author:Warnecke, E (Dr Emma Warnecke)
UTAS Author:Stirling, C (Professor Christine Stirling)
UTAS Author:Martin, A (Professor Angela Martin)
ID Code:123715
Year Published:2018
Web of Science® Times Cited:12
Deposited By:Agriculture and Food Systems
Deposited On:2018-01-22
Last Modified:2019-03-05

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