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Postgraduate Study in Australia

Surviving and Succeeding

Edited By Christopher McMaster, Caterina Murphy, Benjamin Whitburn and Inger Mewburn

Each contributor to this book was given the remit: "If you could go back in time to talk with yourself when you began your studies, what advice would you give?" Hindsight is such a bonus, especially, when vying for your doctorate or postgraduate degree. Postgraduate Study in Australia: Surviving and Succeeding addresses this with advice from postgraduate students and recent graduates that will assure that you are not alone in your endeavors.

This project follows similar editions that focus on Aotearoa/New Zealand, South Africa,
the United States, and the United Kingdom, and is currently being replicated in Scandinavia. This down-to-earth anthology shares personal stories from postgraduate students and recent graduates, employing a practical approach and focusing on the context of postgraduate studies in Australia. This first-person approach to research about postgraduate study helps curate the current understanding, with critical reflections adding to our collective knowledge. Both prospective and current postgraduate students will find this collection insightful.

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Foreword: Making Sense of Experience (Pat Thomson)


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Making Sense of Experience


The Hungarian social scientist Michael Polanyi wrote a great deal that was relevant to the ways in which learning occurs. Polanyi argued that all knowledge production was an act of creation which was profoundly about the person, their commitments and passions. He proposed that much of what is often understood as systematic, ‘objective’ and the product of logical reasoning, was actually enmeshed in informed hunches, dreams and intuitions based in ‘tacit’ knowledge (Polanyi, 1958/1998, 1966). His argument could certainly apply to the ways in which doctoral research knowledge is produced. However, it also applies to the process of doing the PhD itself. When undertaking a PhD, candidates not only learn the ‘stuff’ of their dissertation, they also learn about the actual process of doing the doctorate.

The experience of doing a doctorate can remain as tacit knowledge, a profound experience which, although unexamined, is nevertheless a basis for future and further action. Think for instance of the eponymous supervisor who appears to have little basis for their supervision practice other than they ‘know’ that ‘this works’—they are basing their actions in ‘tacit knowledge’ of experience, their own, and subsequent experiences with doctoral candidates. But tacit knowledge can also become more explicit.

In my field - educational research—we value experience as a basis for action, but argue that learning from experience is considerably enhanced if...

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