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The role of the researcher

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This article was first published on Dr. Craig Wright’s blog, and we republished with permission from the author.

As a researcher develops through the doctoral learning process, it is essential to find academic peer support groups that can aid in providing feedback and support. The development of relationships with peers and supervisors who can act as mentors enables the student to develop social skills and enhance their academic identity (Wisker et al., 2003). Interaction with one’s peers and supervisor is vital; through the interaction with other people, we develop wisdom and sharpen our skills (Proverbs 27:17). Through interactions with other people, the burgeoning researcher will be challenged, pushing the individual further and helping them to develop their knowledge and skills in argumentation and rhetoric.

The development of scholarly identity

Coffman et al. (2016) discussed how the development of communities of practice (CoP) would allow the student in adult education to discover role models that can challenge the student, while offering a safe environment in which to grow. With feedback from peers, the developing researcher can manage the emotional pitfalls that occur with rejection and the necessity to change and resubmit work frequently. The adverse shocks of rejection can lead many emerging scholars to develop a sense of failure and internalise the negative feedback they receive (Dinham & Scott, 2001).

The development of a scholarly identity is crucial. It is through the development of such an identity that the nascent researcher can improve upon existing research and contribute to the academic community. Inouye & McAlpine (2019) noted that the skills gained from working with the peer group in the academic learning environment and the supervisor and mentor would enable the researcher to develop in a way allowing them to fit into a community of experts in their given field. In the same process, the student is transformed into an independent thinker.

The process involved in a bachelor’s or master’s education creates individuals who are often good course takers. Garcia & Yao (2019) discussed how becoming an independent scholar would involve learning the necessary skills to be able to both internalize expertise and exhibit competency. A significant component of the research process involves the dissemination of new knowledge. The researcher needs to communicate with their peers to disseminate the new knowledge they have discovered. It becomes necessary for the research student to be comfortable with the changes that ensue as they develop as a researcher. Equally, the instructor needs to understand their role in creating an integrated community of emerging scholars.

The role of mentorship in student development

It is the role of the mentor in leading the emerging scholar through a transformational learning process that will enable the student to learn from rejection and become stronger for it. Such a process helps the emerging researcher develop an identity (Coffman et al., 2016) that others will come to respect. In the interactions with other people, the student learns how to express themselves and disseminate the new knowledge they have created. By working with the student, the supervisor acts as a mentor, and is not merely helping the student to understand the positive aspects of research and avoid obvious pitfalls. Yet, it is also important to note that not all problems will be avoidable. The supervisor can help the student learn how to handle rejection and other negative aspects of the research process (Lee, 2008).

The development of new skill sets is necessary for the completion of any research degree. When it comes to a doctoral programme, the research student is expected to not only learn how to gain knowledge but create and synthesize new knowledge. Here, the researcher needs to learn how to engage in the socialisation process that, in gathering information that is necessary to conduct their research (Garcia & Yao, 2019), will both promote their scholarly identity and allow them to engage in broader discourse. The supervisor-student relationship is a two-way process. The interaction between the student and the supervisor provides benefits for both individuals. As the student gains new knowledge and shares it with their supervisor, the supervisor maintains and develops expertise in the field the student is researching.

Inouye and McAlpine (2017) demonstrated that a process of reflection and self-reflection was itself improved when conducted with other people. When communicating with other people, the feedback given allows the researcher to develop their written and interactive skills while clarifying their ideas and improving the methodologies used for collaboration with other people. In the dual role of a mentor and an instructor, the doctoral supervisor can manage the feedback process between the students’ peers and external parties. In particular, the feedback provided by the supervisor should challenge the doctoral student, providing learning opportunities. Even where the student is likely to experience negative emotional responses, the supporting role of a mentor can help reduce the burden that such stress brings with it.

Publishing the findings of research work is an essential component of academic and scholarly investigation (Denis et al., 2018). As a component of the research role, a researcher must develop both research skills and the capacity to communicate their findings. Without such abilities, the researcher will never be able to contribute to the larger community. The transformation from graduate to scholar to research professional provides challenges and opportunities that aid the student in transforming their persona, allowing them to strengthen their research while actively engaging with their research community and cohort. Developing skills in a friendly environment, under the direction of the research supervisor, and in conjunction with the student’s peers provides opportunities to learn how to engage with the wider world while avoiding the negative consequences of failures associated with learning.


The development of the necessary skills to review and criticise one’s own work in a manner that allows positive development comes from the external feedback provided by research peers and mentors. The supervisor’s role in managing the developing student is one of aiding transformation and enabling the student to create a sense of self-identity, one that allows honest self-reflection yet strengthens the confidence the student has in their work. It can be seen that the doctoral students who develop relationships and strong support groups are more able to analyse their progress and more positively accept feedback when compared to those who failed to utilise the provided opportunities. The development of a CoP can aid the researcher in developing a successful research career.


Coffman, K., Putman, P., Adkisson, A., Kriner, B., & Monaghan, C. (2016). Waiting for the expert to arrive: Using a community of practice to develop the scholarly identity of doctoral students. International Journal Of Teaching And Learning In Higher Education28(1), 30-37.

Denis, C., Colet, N., & Lison, C. (2018). Doctoral Supervision in North America: Perception and Challenges of Supervisor and Supervisee. Higher Education Studies9(1), 30.

Dinham, S., & Scott, C. (2001). The Experience of Disseminating the Results of Doctoral Research. Journal Of Further And Higher Education25(1), 45-55.

Garcia, C., & Yao, C. (2019). The role of an online first-year seminar in higher education doctoral students’ scholarly development. The Internet And Higher Education42, 44-52.

Inouye, K., & McAlpine, L. (2019). Developing Academic Identity: A Review of the Literature on Doctoral Writing and Feedback. International Journal Of Doctoral Studies14, 001-031.

Lee, A. (2008). How are doctoral students supervised? Concepts of doctoral research supervision. Studies In Higher Education33(3), 267-281.

Wisker, G., Robinson, G., Trafford, V., Warnes, M., & Creighton, E. (2003). From Supervisory Dialogues to Successful PhDs: Strategies supporting and enabling the learning conversations of staff and students at postgraduate level. Teaching In Higher Education8(3), 383-397.

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