A Case Study of Doctoral Research Assistantships: Access and Experiences of Full-Time and Part-Time Education Students
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Graduate students’ development as researchers is a key objective in higher education. Research assistantships provide distinctive spaces where graduate students can be nurtured and shaped as novice researchers as they develop theoretical and methodological knowledge. However, few scholars have investigated graduate student research assistants’ experiences and the ways these experiences are influenced by institutional regulations, informal practices, and social relations. The purpose of this case-within-a-case study was to explore the research assistantship experiences of full-time and part-time doctoral students in Education at an Ontario university. I present separate subcases for full-time and part-time students, and an overarching case of research assistantships in one program at a specific period of time. The main question was how do institutional regulations, informal practices, and social relations influence full-time and part-time doctoral students’ access to and experiences within research assistantships. My objective was to draw from interviews and documents to acquire a thorough understanding of the organizational characteristics of research assistantships (i.e., structures of access, distribution, and coordination of participation) to explore the ways institutional regulations, informal practices, and social relations promote, prevent, or limit full-time and part-time students’ legitimate peripheral participation in research assistantships. Although I devoted particular attention to the ways students’ full-time and part-time status shaped their decisions, relationships, and experiences, I was conscious that other factors such as gender, age, and cultural background may have also influenced doctoral research assistant experiences.