Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Degree Granting Department
Higher Ed/Community College Ed
Thomas Miller, Ed.D.
Tonisha Lane, Ph.D.
Amber Dumford, Ph.D.
Jennifer Schneider, Ph.D.
Dwayne Smith, Ph.D.
Dissertation Advisor, Doctoral Education, Graduate Student Success, Sciences
This quantitative study utilized surveys to explore how science doctoral students receive support from their dissertation advisors and its relationship to graduate student success outcomes. The survey was distributed to active doctoral students majoring in the sciences at one large, public, Southeastern University. Within examining how the support science doctoral students receives relates to graduate student success outcomes, the study also examined additional factors that could influence graduate student success such as the participant size of the laboratory group, experience with undergraduate research, and time in program.
Findings revealed that on average science doctoral students report receiving more psychosocial support than career support. Students who reported higher levels of satisfaction with their laboratory group and those who had female advisors, were more likely to report receiving higher levels of psychosocial support. Also, students who reported higher levels of satisfaction with their laboratory group and having a female advisor, were more likely to report receiving higher levels of career support. Those students who had been the program longer, reported receiving less career support. This was also true for identification. The longer students were in the program, the less likely they would report identifying or wanting to emulate their advisor.
There was a statistically significant relationship between overall level of satisfaction with the advisor relationship and receiving career and psychosocial support. There was also a significant relationship between reporting high levels of satisfaction with the advisor relationship and reporting high levels of satisfaction with the laboratory group. Lastly, there was significance found between students reporting identifying with the advisor and expressing high levels of satisfaction with the advisor relationship. No statistically significant relationship was found between the levels of support received and number of academic benchmarks or scholarly works. There was also no statistically significant relationship found between levels of support or graduate student success outcomes with the number of participants in a laboratory group.
The study results indicated science doctoral students who have been the most successful at meeting graduate student success outcomes receive more psychosocial support from their advisors than career support. However, the more science students felt that their advisor was assisting them with career support, the more satisfaction they experienced with the overall advisor relationship. Advisors from other disciplines can look to increase the amounts of career support they provide to their students. Time in program was the only significant predictor of number of academic benchmarks met for science doctoral students. This needs to be explored in other disciplines given that most students in the sciences are only in the program for five to six years. The variable, scholarly works, was found to have two significant predictors, which were experience with undergraduate research and having had started the dissertation project. Undergraduate advisors and program directors from all disciplines should look to encourage their students who are interested in pursuing doctoral education to engage in undergraduate research as it will help them to progress more successfully through a graduate program. Doctoral advisors and program directors from all disciplines should look to create a curriculum that encourages students to start their research project as early as possible.
The level of satisfaction with the laboratory group was a significant predictor to the satisfaction with the advisor relationship, to receiving more career and psychosocial support, and to identifying the advisor more. Therefore, more research is needed regarding the influence of the laboratory group and graduate student success outcomes in the sciences. Overall, the results of the study provide insight as to how other disciplines and programs may improve their student success outcome rates by understanding some mechanisms that are contributing to the success of science doctoral students.
Scholar Commons Citation
Sheehy, Brittany N., "Support Received from the Dissertation Advisor and the Graduate Student Success of Doctoral Students Majoring in the Sciences" (2019). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.