Towards “operating within” the field: Doctoral students’ views of supervisors’ discipline expertise


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Aim/Purpose: This paper considers the role of supervisors’ discipline expertise in doctoral learning from a student perspective.
Background: Doctoral students need to develop expertise in a particular field of study. In this context, developing expertise requires doctoral students to master disciplinary knowledge, conventions and scholarship under the guidance of supervisors.
Methodology: The study draws on a mixed-method approach, using an online survey and semi-structured interviews conducted with doctoral students.
Contribution: The paper brings to the fore the role of supervisors’ discipline expertise on doctoral students’ research progress.
Findings: The survey data suggest that doctoral students nominate their supervisors on the basis of their discipline expertise. They also view supervisors’ expertise as key to the development of ‘insider’ knowledge of their doctoral research.
Recommendations for Practitioners: Supervisors play a pivotal role in helping doctoral students overcome intellectual barriers by imparting their discipline knowledge as well as balancing satisfactory doctoral completion rate and high quality student experience.
Impact on Society: Doctoral supervision equips doctoral students with the right arsenal to be able to competently operate within their field and prepares them for their future research or professional career that demands a high level of discipline expertise.
Future Research: The scope of the findings leaves open a discussion about the experiences of doctoral students matched with non-discipline expert supervisory teams; for example, the extent of the mismatch and its ramifications. Copyright © 2017 Informing Science Institute.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalInternational Journal of Doctoral Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2017


Gube, J., Getenet, S., Satariyan, A., & Muhammad, Y. (2017). Towards “operating within” the field: Doctoral students’ views of supervisors’ discipline expertise. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 12, 1-16. doi: 10.28945/3641


  • Discipline expertise
  • Research expertise
  • Doctoral students
  • PhD students
  • Supervisors
  • Doctoral learning support
  • Student-supervisor fit


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