Analysis of social media forums to elicit narratives of graduate engineering student attrition

Catherine G.P. Berdanier, Carey Whitehair, Adam Kirn, Derrick Satterfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Background: Graduate engineering student attrition is prevalent, but most literature that studies graduate attrition is accomplished in disciplines outside of STEM or engineering, yielding an incomplete understanding of either attrition or persistence. Purpose/Hypothesis: The purpose of this article is to investigate the relationships between motivators of attrition for engineering graduate students. Design/Method: Data were collected using an online Web-scraping “bot” that mines data from the online forum Reddit. The anonymous textual forum threads collected were qualitatively analyzed through open-coding methods. Results: The emergent themes reveal the interconnectedness between the roles of the advisor, student perception of cost, their support network, goals, their perceptions of how others perceive them, and quality of life and work. Our model is flexible in that it illuminates underlying combinations of factors that can influence student attrition. Conclusion: This study provides a framework by which various stakeholders can approach the support and education of graduate students, including mentoring students both toward or away from graduate school per the student's goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-147
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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