Navigating the doctoral experience: The role of social support in successful degree completion

Dharmananda Jairam, David H. Kahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

170 Scopus citations


This study investigated the role of social support in the successful completion of a doctoral de-gree. Thirty-one participants with earned doctoral degrees completed an open-ended qualitative survey. The researchers asked the participants to describe the behaviors from their social support network that both helped and hindered their degree completion. The findings lend support for the stress-buffer hypothesis and show that all three sources of social support (i.e., academic friends, family, and faculty) provide positive and negative support. The findings suggested the following recommendations for future doctoral students: a) aligning themselves with a small group of aca-demic friends and preparing for the inevitable peer competition, b) seeking assistance from family members on certain tasks and educating family members on the doctoral student experience, and c) establishing good rapport with a doctoral adviser who is professionally active. Results also suggest recommendations for doctoral advisers, including awareness of how negative communi-cation among faculty impacts doctoral students and the need to stay professionally active and maintain professional connections. Finally, limitations to this study and directions for future re-search are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-329
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Doctoral Studies
StatePublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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