Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Department of Leadership, Policy, and Lifelong Learning

Major Professor

Waynne B. James, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Tony Tan, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Dinorah Tyson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janet Richards, Ph.D.


doctoral process, completion factors, photovoice


The purpose of my study was to understand the perceptions of first-generation female doctoral students (FGFDS) and what factors may impact first-generation female doctoral students’ completion of their doctoral program. As the researcher, I collected data through: (a) interviews, (b) participant generated photographs, (c) the group meeting, and (d) the researcher’s personal reflexive journal. Two research questions guided this exploratory qualitative study: In what ways do first-generation female doctoral students in the College of Education perceive their experiences impact their progress during their doctoral program at a large research university in Central Florida?; and what factors do first-generation female doctoral students perceive to influence the completion of their doctoral program? Data were generated through the interview schedule, the photos, the group meeting, and the demographic questionnaire. I used a 6-phase process of thematic data analysis to generate themes from the interviews and to compare the results of the photovoice process. The five pre-ordinately defined themes used for the virtual interview, rank order of photographs, and group meeting were: socialization, psychological factors, faculty mentoring, understanding the academic process, and financial support. Additional themes from the virtual interviews were physical and mental exhaustion and COVID19 impact and challenges. During the group meeting and rank ordering of photographs, participants identified two additional themes: the broken doctoral process and feeling alone and lost throughout the doctoral process. This study contributes to research on first-generation female doctoral students in the university setting. It also adds to the body of literature on ways educators such as faculty, advisors, and support staff could provide more intentional and supportive programming specifically geared towards the needs of FGFDS to ensure they feel welcomed and supported throughout the doctoral process. The conclusions from this study were that participants did not always have the tools to navigate the next step in the doctoral process or to work through an obstacle, so many arrived at the moment of crisis and considered dropping out of their doctoral program. The implications suggest doctoral advisors, faculty advisors, and wellness counselors could work together through a virtual platform dedicated to help students navigate the doctoral process.