A life story study of PhD students (re)constructing their multivoiced identity

Xiujuan SUN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper sets out to offer emic insights into doctoral students’ identity formation processes emerging at the interface of their personal biographies and situational doctoral conditions. Leaning on a dialogical theorisation of identity, the study analyses life stories told by four PhD students, focusing on how participants narratively position and reposition into being their multivoiced doctoral identity. It particularly discerns two types of doctoral development trajectories according to the different degrees of agency individuals exercise in dialogically interrogating, negotiating, and juxtaposing their multiple I-positions. Meanwhile, findings indicate that internal dialogue as a reflexive vehicle has significantly empowered all the participants’ striving for a continuous and coherent self. The article sheds nuanced light on the temporally, spatially, and socially fluid nature of individual agency in mediating students’ personal and professional identity sensemaking within the context of research education. Copyright © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-424
JournalStudies in Continuing Education
Issue number3
Early online date18 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Sun, X. (2022). A life story study of PhD students (re)constructing their multivoiced identity. Studies in Continuing Education, 44(3), 409-424. doi: 10.1080/0158037X.2021.1872523


  • Doctoral identity trajectory
  • Life story
  • Narrative positioning
  • Individual agency
  • Dialogical reflexivity
  • PG student publication


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