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Professional Academic Identity Development in Doctoral Students: A Comparative Analysis of Three Empirical Articles
Tracy M. Balduzzi
Grand Canyon University

Academic and Identity Development of Doctoral Students: A Comparative Analysis of Three Empirical Articles
Education has evolved in recent decades, renewing interest for research examining identity development, critical thinking, and socialization in doctoral study. Delivery methods, diverse student populations, and varied academic programs present academia with more challenges and opportunities for creating and developing scholars. This paper will describe three articles on identity development while discussing critical thinking skills in doctoral students. The articles analyzed in this paper are (Article 1)“Socialization of Doctoral Students to Academic Norms” by Weidman and Stein (2003), (Article 2)“Developmental Networks and Learning: Toward an interdisciplinary Perspective on Identity Development during Doctoral Study” by Baker and Lattuca (2010), and (Article 3) “Critical Thinking Distance Education and Traditional Education” by Visser, Visser, and Schlosser (2003). This paper compares research questions, literature review, sample populations, limitations, and conclusions. The author will conclude with discussions on the relationship between articles and opportunities for future research.
Comparison of Purpose and Research Questions

Article 1 and Article 2 are similar in research questions and overall purpose; developing doctoral professional identity. Article 3 examines how fundamental skills for doctoral students are taught in traditional and distance classrooms.
The purpose of Article 1 is to address the concern of socialization of doctoral student and the relation to stimulation of research and scholarly productivity (2003). This is addressed this by asking five questions; (1) activities students are involved in, (2) types of faculty and peer interactions, (3) perceived departmental faculty climate, (4) perception of academic departments as a network of supportive and respectful scholars, and (5) characteristics of the academic department and interest in scholarly activities supporting goals and values of the department. Article 2 examines a combination of network theories and sociocultural perspectives to help students develop an academic professional identity. Article 3 examines critical thinking skills in doctoral students in traditional settings and online settings. Acquiring foundational skills help doctoral students develop professional academic identities by empowering them with tools to socialize with other professional academics in their respective fields (Abdullah & Zainab, 2008). The research in Article 1 correlates with Article 2 by claims that identity of doctoral students is developed through socialization in scholarly activities. Article 1 and Article 2 are not similar to Article 3 but all three discuss necessities in doctoral education to enhance critical skills for participation in scholarly activities. Article 2 uses the example of accountants with regard to critically thinking, “an accountant who enrolls in a graduate program with the intention of eventually landing a faculty position, for example, will have to think of themselves as someone who does research rather than someone who does accounting” (Baker & Lattuca, 2010, p. 823). This statement supports Article 3; critical thinking skills need to be present in graduate education, both formally and informally.
Comparison of Literature Reviews The literature in Article 1 is used to help understand the results of the survey questions about perception of faculty, engagement, and encouragement. Article 2 includes an extensive literature review consisting of work conducted by experts to examine concepts and theories of doctoral studies. Article 3 uses literature examining the use of critical thinking in education and its relation to tradition and distance education. The research in Article 1 is supported by Dan Lortie and John Weidman. Weidman is the author to many articles and books discussing socialization of graduate and professional students. Dan Lortie, sociologist and author of Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study (1975), stated teacher socialization is an important factor to creating a successful educator and scholar. Lortie’s research supports Article 1 on the value of socialization of doctoral students (Lortie, 1959; Lortie 1975). Lortie argues that universities need to examine socialization influences relevant to the formation of a scholar over the full life experience (Goodson, 2000). The need for doctoral students to socialize in networks and scholarly activites is discussed in Article 2. The theme of Article 2 is unvierisities need to examine the formation of a scholar over the full life expereince, a theme also found in Article 1. Article 2 includes research on interdisciplinary perspectives of identity development by using developmental networks and sociocultural perspectives to examine whether identity is created or developed through doctoral study. Their support is literature by Alison Lee and David Boud, co-authors of multiple publications on graduate eductation. In the literature review of Article 2 reference is made to “‘Peer learning’ as pedagogic discourse for research education”, which draws the conclusion there is a need for pedagogy that consideres both actual material pracitices and relationships of students for learning and in the public environment (Boud & Lee, 2005). Lee and Boud are also used in Article 2 for support on writing groups fostering critical thinking in academic writing and research (Lee & Boud, 2003) The literature review in Article 3 cites expert researchers, such as Richard Paul, Linda Elder, and Peter Facione. Paul and Elder are regarded as subject matter experts on critical thinking (McGregor, 2005). Paul and Elder’s interest is incorporating critical thinking skills into educational classrooms. Facione’s research culminated in the 1990 APA Delphi Report used to influence critical thinking theory, teaching, and assessment in a broad range of academic disciplines and professional fields (Facione, 1990). A Recommendation from the Delphi report states critical thinking“equips students to apply CT to a broad range of educational, personal, and civic subjects, issues, and problems” (Facione, 1990, p. 16). The rationale is that assessment of critical thinking is a key factor in promoting academic success and achivement. The literature in article 3 supports the claim that critical thinking needs to be taught in doctoral programs if students are expected to contribute to academic and professional communities and develop a doctoral identity.
Interestingly each articles literature review, when viewed as a single entity, supports each other. While Article 3 does not use the same literature, the research does support the concept that critical thinking in graduate education helps students develop their doctoral identity. Students use these skills in coursework, academic institution, and the public; developing a doctoral identity within each network.
Another observation is Article 2 and Article 1 both use research by James S. Antony and John C. Weidman. Both Articles 1 and 2 use Antony’s 2002 research about doctoral student socialization to support the theory that socialization is enhanced by faculty commitment to student success and ensuring the socialization process is unique and individualistic (Weidman & Stein, 2003; Baker & Lattuca, 2010). Another similarity between these two articles is they both use John C. Weidman’s article co-authored by Darla J. Twale and Elizabeth L. Stein about socialization of graduate and professional students in higher education (2001) to stress the importance of modifying and clearly identifying roles scholars will participate in professionally and academically to develop identity (Baker & Lattuca, 2010).

Comparison of Sample Populations The sample population of Article 1 was 83 doctoral students, 40 from the Department of Sociology and 43 from the School of Education. The importance of this sample population is to compare students from a traditional background versus those that earned a master’s degree and had a career before reentering an educational program. There is no sample from Article 2 but the research utilized 73 different published works on various topics related to education. Article 3 also had no sample population but used results from another study of data collected on students’ social relationships with faculty and peers. These populations or targets are important for doctoral identity especially as education continues to evolve.
Comparison of Results/Conclusions The articles analyzed for this research have similar results on opportunities supporting doctoral students in critical thinking, socialization, and identity development. Article 1 concluded a relationship exists between the context of an academic department and student participation in activities associated with scholarly roles in identity development. Article 2 concluded that identity is formed, not created, by larger social contexts than those solely within an academic institution. Article 3. concluded critical thinking is important in traditional and distance education in order to develop future scholars. The conclusion in Article 1 answers the initial research question of the concern of socialization of doctoral student and its relation to stimulation of student research and scholarly productivity. The results from the survey in Article 1 show there is a relationship between students participating in scholarly research and perception of faculty promoting opportunities for scholarly socialization, which relates to Article 2. Article 2 examined theoretical insights from network and sociocultural researcher to provide a framework for identity development in doctoral education. Their conclusions were two types of socialization exist in a doctoral student’s life, informal and formal socializations. Article 2 determined that groups, networks, and social contexts shape scholarly formation and they claim that the doctoral student’s life as a whole needs to be considered when examining identity development. Article 1 formally recognized that socialization is needed for identity development of doctoral students while Article 2 formally recognized both formal and informal socialization is needed. Both articles informally recognize that an outcome of doctoral identity development is the ability to be an active and contributing member in the academic field and general community. Being an active and contributing member does require the use of critical thinking. Article 3 recognized critical thinking skills are easier to incorporate in distance education where students typically have more access to informal socialization; however, they make no suggestions on enhancing critical thinking in traditional education.
When viewed together, the overall conclusion is education is changing resulting in a need and opportunity to determine better methods for including formal and informal socialization and critical thinking into graduate education. To conclude, analysis of these articles show there is a need for socialization of doctoral students. Both informal and formal socialization provide opportunities to practice and learn critical thinking needed to develop a doctoral identity. Lastly, since informal and formal socialization is needed, a framework for incorporating both into doctoral education, to help in the development of doctoral identity, must be examined.

Comparison of Limitations Graduate studies traditionally targeted students with goals of becoming professors or researchers. With new technologies, a global economy, and more people with formal education, earning a doctorate has become a way to distinguish oneself. New technology has allowed opportunities for people to earn a doctorate while working full-time, having families, and being active members in their communities. Although doctoral studies are offered to more people, it does present certain challenges in research, teaching, and doctoral identity development. This section will examine the limitations of each research article.
Article 1 limitations. The sample population used in this research was limited. Only two academic departments were included with one department having a larger population of part-time students. A study conducted in 2009 showed that part-time students are less involved in their collegiate experiences than full-time (Laird, Curce, & Ty, 2009). The sample population in Article 1 of full-time and part-time students started to expose the differences in student to peer interactions between populations. Another interesting result from the survey was the suggestion that foreign graduate students are hesitant to interact with faculty members (Weidman & Stein, 2003). While the results from Article 1 are targeted to a more traditional student, this limitation presents opportunities for further research as more graduate programs are delivered in a nontraditional format.
Article 1 also admitted an assumption of students’ perceptions that departmental goals were actually established by the academic department (Weidman & Stein, 2003). This assumption limits the research because the length of time a student has been in the program or the number of interactions with professors is unknown. It is possible that perceptions were based on limited interactions with faculty, which could skew the information.
Another limitation was survey questions used activities that students could reasonably be expected to participate. The researchers chose activities, which may not represent what students think are activities reasonably expected to participate. Having student perspective could provide insight on types of activities found more valuable which could present different results.
Unidentified limitations. One of the main contributing researchers in the literature review is also the author of the article. There are three other Weidman sources used in this article. Referencing one’s own work can either prove that one is an expert or show bias toward the research. Using oneself as a contributing author could allow readers to question the validity and creditability of the research.
Article 2 limitations. Article 3 stated that traditional doctoral programs sometimes remove learners from local communities and networking groups, forcing them to adopt the culture and values of the institution (Visser et al., 2003). This challenges the Article 2 concept of using multiple networks outside the institution to develop doctoral identity. Aligned with this limitation is that varied academic fields have complicated the study and research of identitiy development. The identity development of traditional doctoral students is different than identity development of a student who has had a career for some time. In addition the networks each population has access to provide a broader range of experiences.
The authors also recognized the limit of resources on analytical attention to the activity of learning and its role in identity development (Baker & Lattuca, 2010). Each article discusses how socialization of doctoral students helps develop a doctoral identity but none explain how learning and socializing are combined to develop the identity creating a gap in research.
Unidentified limitations. Article 2 has a similar challenge to Article 1 with regard to differences in socialization of traditional versus nontraditional students. The growth of distance education has allowed for social scholarly activities different from those in a traditional program. While this limitation provides a challenge for Article 2, it does provide an opportunity for further study to examine the differences to further examine and explain these differences.
Article 3 limitation. One of the major obstacles for distance education is that institutions try to operate online programs like traditional ones (Visser et al., 2003). Trying to create a one-size-fits-all education creates inconsistencies with learning objectives such as critical thinking. The two different styles of education also require different teaching styles, which if not incorporated correctly affects students learning.
Unidentified limitation. The authors appear to be bias toward distance education. They present suggestions for incorporating critical thinking in online education but not in traditional education. Additionally, no mention is made of using an online component to supplement traditional classroom learning. This again, presents challenges for this research but does offer opportunities for future research especially as technology use in education increases.
Review of limitations These articles present adequate information to support their purpose statements. It appears that each article has limitations relating to traditional education versus distance education. These limitations could be a result of the recent development of online education. While these limitations present challenges for the articles used in this paper, they do provide opportunities for future research.
Conclusion and Recommendations for Future Research
With varied programs and distance education, students are likely to have networks and groups outside the institution. This creates an opportunity for future research on doctoral socialization and identity development. Another area for future research is a comparison of scholarly productivity of traditional versus distance students. This comparison would need a population sample from academically and professionally targeted programs, which would address recent concerns with doctoral identity. One last opportunity for future research is exploring the impact of traditional education with an online component. The research in Article 3 of teaching critical thinking skills in traditional and distance education could provide a comparison for examining these skills in a hybrid format.
In conclusion, even with differences in the articles, it is clear there are many thoughts about the future of doctoral identity development. These articles when viewed as a single identity prove there is a need for more research. The different thoughts, concepts, theories may, especially with new developments in education, give current and prospective doctoral students research projects to help develop their doctoral identities.

Abdullah, A., & Zainab, A. N. (2008, Fall). Empowering students in information literacy practices using a collaborative digital library for school projects. Journal of Educational Media & Library Sciences, 46(1), 5-29.
Baker, V. L., & Lattuca, L. R. (2010, November). Developmental networks and learning: Toward an interdisciplinary perspective on identity development during doctoral study. Studies in Higher Education, 35(7), 807-827.
Boud, D., & Lee, A. (2005). 'Peer learning' as pedagogic discourse for research education. Studies in Higher Education, 30(5), 501-516.
Facione, P. (1990). Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. Millbrae: California Academic Press.
Goodson, I. (2000). Professional Knowledge and the Teacher's Life and Work. In C. Day, A. Fernandez, T. E. Hauge, & J. Muller, The Life and Work of Teachers: Internatioal Perspectives in Changing Times (pp. 11 - 24). New York: Routledge Falmer.
Laird, T., Curce, N., & Ty, M. (2009). Individual and environmental effects of part-time enrollment status on student-faculty interaction and self-reported gains. Journal of Higher Education, 80(3), 290-314.
Lee, A., & Boud, D. (2003). Writing groups, change and academic identity: research development as local practice. Studies in Higher Education, 28(2), 187 - 200.
McGregor, S. (2005). Review of thinker's guide series. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 29(6), 529.
Visser, L., Visser, Y. L., & Schlosser, C. (2003, Winter). Critical thinking distance education and traditional education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 4(4), 401-407.
Weidman, J. C., & Stein, E. L. (2003). Socialization of doctoral students to academic norms. Research in Higher Education, 44(6), 641-656.

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