Gardner / Conceptualizing Success in Doctoral Education
in rural fields, many researchers will focus upon relatively few research prob- lems, urban researchers are generally fewer in number with more problems to be investigated.
These disciplinary groupings and organizational systems allow for a bet- ter understanding of the contrasting identities and characteristics of par- ticular fields of study. Becher (1981) commented, “Disciplines are cultural phenomena: they are embodied in collections of like-minded people, each with their own codes of conduct, sets of values, and distinctive intellectual tasks”(p. 109). These cultures within disciplines, therefore, greatly influence the faculty and, consequently, the doctoral students within the departments (Golde, 2005).
For example, Biglan (1973b) described differences among disciplines resulting in discernible paradigmatic assumptions, concern with practi- cal application, and concern with life systems. In addition, he studied the variation of social connectedness within disciplines, or the measure of “the informal relations among colleagues” (p. 204). He found, in particular, that social connectedness was important among the sciences since much of the research is conducted in team-based lab settings. Another measure of dis- ciplinary culture for Biglan was that of commitment to teaching, research, administration, and service. Biglan remarked, “What evidence exists indi- cates that the emphasis on, and significance of, teaching differs in physical and social science fields. Scholars in social sciences emphasize educating the whole student and evidence a more personal commitment to students than do those in physical sciences” (p. 205).
Finally, Biglan measured scholarly output as a characteristic of disciplin- ary differences, including the quantity and quality of publications produced. Biglan demonstrated that faculty in hard areas, such as those in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics, are generally rated higher in social connectedness for both their research and teaching activities, while those in the soft areas (e.g., humanities and social sciences) generally work more in isolation but indicate a higher commitment to teaching. Biglan’s explanation for these differences was based on the paradigmatic assumptions particular to the disciplines,in which the single paradigm of the hard sciences allows for more collaboration while the multiple paradigms of the soft social sciences may impede common understandings and frameworks.
Further differentiation from Biglan (1973b) and Becher and Trowler (2001) included the distinction of pure versus applied disciplinary cultures. Pure fields are those in which results are focused on discovery, explanation, understanding,and interpretation—for example,physics in the hard sciences and history in the soft sciences. Applied fields, on the other hand, are those in which research results in products, techniques, protocols, or procedures, such as engineering in the hard sciences and education in the soft sciences. This pure/applied distinction allows for a better understanding of the type