Peer support among doctoral students: #Docconnect

Sue Greener

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


    According to OECD data, collected in 2017, 40% of UK doctorate holders work in education, the majority of those in Higher Education. At the extreme ends of the range, this compares with 75% in Brazil and 16% in Germany. This reflects both national differences in attitudes to education and contributions to the economy of postgraduate researchers in different countries, but the clear implication is that today’s doctoral students will have a major role in educating tomorrow’s students. What kind of experience do we therefore want them to have, and does social media have a part to play? We can choose between a solitary unsupported journey to PhD or full integration into their academic communities, or somewhere in between which gives them the chance to choose to balance their personal, work and academic lives. This study reviews available academic literature on doctoral completion, factors inhibiting that completion and, in particular, the relevance of online and offline support communities to the individual student’s wellbeing. The impact of social media on the nonacademic or pastoral and practical support needs of doctoral students is discussed, and a specific project to support students at a UK university through a blended (campus-based and LinkedIn) support community is offered as an example from which HEIs may learn. The paper does not discuss supervisory practice but looks outside this relationship to the broader needs of the doctoral student and their relationships with peers. Many of these students live away from campus, risking isolation from academic connections and debate, especially where students are studying part-time. Ali & Kohun (2006) suggested that social isolation was a major factor in high attrition rates among PhD students, and a netnographic study by Janta, Lugosi and Brown (2014) suggested that international students may be particularly vulnerable. The research question driving this study is: What opportunities derive from facilitated or peer-led online support communities to combat non-academic factors which hinder doctoral completion? A model of varying support needs is proposed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 7th European Conference on Social Media, ECSM 2020
    EditorsChristos Karpasitis, Christiana Varda
    PublisherAcademic Conferences International 
    Number of pages7
    ISBN (Electronic)9781912764631
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020
    Event7th European Conference on Social Media, ECSM 2020 - Larnaca, Cyprus
    Duration: 2 Jul 20203 Jul 2020

    Publication series

    NameProceedings of the 7th European Conference on Social Media, ECSM 2020


    Conference7th European Conference on Social Media, ECSM 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher Copyright:
    © European Conference on Social Media, ECSM 2020.

    Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Doctoral study
    • Doctorate completion
    • Online communities
    • Peer support
    • Social media


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