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Emotional impact of research on PhD students

Emotional impact of research on PhD students
Emotional impact of research on PhD students
Researchers can be emotionally affected by working on particular topics, such as illness or violence. Novice researchers, such as Doctoral students, may be particularly affected. However, research methods training does not typically include skills on how to cope with this. The small body of existing literature on emotional impacts focuses on qualitative research methods, but it is likely that researchers using other methods are affected too. This research project aimed to identify the extent to which PGR students at the University of Southampton are emotionally affected by their research. Focus Group Discussions were conducted with students from two Faculties to identify the range of issues experienced, and an online survey with all five Faculties was conducted to establish how widespread the issues are. Almost two hundred participants responded to the survey, reporting a wide range of emotional impacts of their Doctoral work. Some impacts were related specifically to the topic or methodology (not just qualitative methodologies), while others were related to Doctoral studies in general. There was clear evidence that some PGR students experience emotional effects from their research topic, but they were not always able to find effective coping strategies. While just over a third of survey respondents reported being distressed by their data collection, nearly half thought it was inappropriate to discuss emotional issues with their supervisors, despite supervisors having a pastoral care role. The most commonly used coping strategies were self-help, although institutional support was drawn on to a lesser extent. There were some concerns that University support services were not oriented toward the needs of PGR students, and that the responsibility for PGR wellbeing was not always clear. There were requests for additional support, such as mentoring, and greater communication of the support that is already available. Supervisors could consider encouraging their students to discuss the emotional nature of their research more openly, and reflexive diaries may be a useful methodological technique for PGRs to adopt.
Reflexivity, Emotion, Harm, PhD, doctoral students, student support
University of Southampton
Willis, Rosalind
dd2e5e10-58bf-44ca-9c04-f355f3af26ba
Lewzey, Paul Graham
f15713d5-5790-491b-a515-c4d93ed74489
Mulkey, Heather
9876260d-51d3-4555-8315-4f200616220c
Sanchez Garcia, Ruben
8246cea2-ae1c-44f2-94e9-bacc9371c3ed
Willis, Rosalind
dd2e5e10-58bf-44ca-9c04-f355f3af26ba
Lewzey, Paul Graham
f15713d5-5790-491b-a515-c4d93ed74489
Mulkey, Heather
9876260d-51d3-4555-8315-4f200616220c
Sanchez Garcia, Ruben
8246cea2-ae1c-44f2-94e9-bacc9371c3ed

Willis, Rosalind, Lewzey, Paul Graham, Mulkey, Heather and Sanchez Garcia, Ruben (2020) Emotional impact of research on PhD students Southampton. University of Southampton 39pp.

Record type: Monograph (Project Report)

Abstract

Researchers can be emotionally affected by working on particular topics, such as illness or violence. Novice researchers, such as Doctoral students, may be particularly affected. However, research methods training does not typically include skills on how to cope with this. The small body of existing literature on emotional impacts focuses on qualitative research methods, but it is likely that researchers using other methods are affected too. This research project aimed to identify the extent to which PGR students at the University of Southampton are emotionally affected by their research. Focus Group Discussions were conducted with students from two Faculties to identify the range of issues experienced, and an online survey with all five Faculties was conducted to establish how widespread the issues are. Almost two hundred participants responded to the survey, reporting a wide range of emotional impacts of their Doctoral work. Some impacts were related specifically to the topic or methodology (not just qualitative methodologies), while others were related to Doctoral studies in general. There was clear evidence that some PGR students experience emotional effects from their research topic, but they were not always able to find effective coping strategies. While just over a third of survey respondents reported being distressed by their data collection, nearly half thought it was inappropriate to discuss emotional issues with their supervisors, despite supervisors having a pastoral care role. The most commonly used coping strategies were self-help, although institutional support was drawn on to a lesser extent. There were some concerns that University support services were not oriented toward the needs of PGR students, and that the responsibility for PGR wellbeing was not always clear. There were requests for additional support, such as mentoring, and greater communication of the support that is already available. Supervisors could consider encouraging their students to discuss the emotional nature of their research more openly, and reflexive diaries may be a useful methodological technique for PGRs to adopt.

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More information

Published date: 12 November 2020
Keywords: Reflexivity, Emotion, Harm, PhD, doctoral students, student support

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 445340
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/445340
PURE UUID: a2e38072-09d2-42ae-8ef4-43706e203911
ORCID for Rosalind Willis: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-6687-5799
ORCID for Ruben Sanchez Garcia: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-6479-3028

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 02 Dec 2020 17:34
Last modified: 13 Dec 2021 03:05

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