Significant events and the role of emotions along doctoral researcher personal trajectories

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: This study focuses on furthering the understanding
of doctoral researcher development, through the examination of
significant events and application of the trajectories analysis frame-
work. Conducting doctoral studies requires a high level of cogni-
tive, personal and emotional competency. Students experience
positive and negative emotions that affect their confidence and
their performance, in both their doctoral studies and their personal
Purpose: The aim of the study was to analyse, in depth, the emo-
tional experiences of doctoral students when faced with different
significant events throughout their doctoral studies and examine
associations between their emotions and their trajectory.
Methodology: A sub-sample of participants from a wider European
study of 10 Spanish doctoral students was analysed. To delve into the
emotional aspects of the PhD trajectories, a deeper analysis of three
cases was carried out. A qualitative interpretative approach of
a transversal nature was adopted to analyse, in detail, the type of
events and the type of emotions associated along the students’
PhD trajectories.
Findings: The analysis suggested that, despite the high negative
emotions they felt, the participants valued the experiences lived
throughout their doctorates and perceived them as mainly positive
rather than negative. The most critical situations were linked to
methodological and research design decisions that forced the par-
ticipants to reassess their competencies and address the implica-
tions of these decisions in the final outputs of their research. The
relationship with their supervisors was valued as crucial for their
emotional well-being. The results highlight the relevance of the
meaning-making process of the experience and the effect of pre-
vious emotions on how students interpret and cope with future
Conclusions: Identifying specific issues that are emotionally signif-
icant and having a better understanding of the role of emotions
experienced during the PhD can help to support and enable pro-
gramme directors and supervisors to establish clearer monitoring
and supervision strategies that promote reinforcement, personal
validation, visibility of achievements and sustained motivation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-323
Number of pages20
JournalEducational Research
Issue number3
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jul 2020


  • Emotional competency
  • Significant events
  • PhD studies
  • early academic careers
  • Higher education
  • Well-being


Dive into the research topics of 'Significant events and the role of emotions along doctoral researcher personal trajectories'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this