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The Review of higheR educaTion

SprinG 2009

of training graduate students receive in these disciplines, particularly in re- gard to social connectedness, as well as the methods and modes of research conducted within the discipline (Biglan, 1973b). Moreover, a higher com- mitment to application is indicative of more social connectedness in service activities and more applicable publications such as research reports.

Finally, Biglan (1973b) distinguished between life and nonlife disciplines. Disciplinary areas focused on life systems, such as the study of botany and agriculture in the hard sciences and psychology and education in the soft sciences, are those which are also more socially connected. These faculty members are generally more interested in collaborative teaching activities and graduate training in these areas is characterized by a more team-oriented approach to advising. Nonlife disciplines, including computer science and engineering in the hard sciences and communications and economics in the soft sciences, generally have faculty members who spend more time on teaching activities but who more independently work and advise graduate students (Biglan, 1973b).

While both Biglan’s (1973a, 1973b) and Becher’s (1981) models are widely used, neither has been widely tested beyond their initial conceptualization; and many would argue that not all of the components of the Biglan model can be validated (Braxton & Hargens, 1996). My study therefore uses a conceptualization encapsulating the four general areas of disciplinary clas- sification that are shared by both Biglan’s and Becher’s models, including the classifications of (a) pure sciences or hard-pure disciplines, (b) humanities or soft-pure disciplines, (c) technologies or hard-applied disciplines, and (d) applied social sciences or soft-applied disciplines. This conceptualization therefore uses disciplinary culture and context as a guiding framework to understand how success is defined in doctoral education in the seven dif- ferent disciplines studied.

reSearch methoDS

This study was guided by the question: How does disciplinary context and culture influence understandings of success in doctoral education? I interviewed 38 faculty members actively involved in doctoral education in seven departments at one institution. I chose the seven disciplines for two reasons. First, it was important to examine doctoral education from mul- tiple disciplinary perspectives representing disciplinary diversity (Becher & Trowler, 2001; Biglan, 1973a). Second, a previous study had determined that these seven disciplines represented both the highest and lowest completion rates over a 20-year period at their institution.

The seven disciplines were English, communication, psychology, math- ematics, oceanography, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science. Departments in the soft-applied fields (e.g., educational fields) had

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