How do professional doctoral candidates conceptualise the relationship between different types of professional knowledge?

Ruth Deery, Stephen Day

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Background: The ability to synthesise different lines of thought related to any given concept is seen as a critical skill to be developed by professional doctorate candidates. However, many doctoral candidates struggle with their own thinking identity and critical synthesis particularly within their writing.

Aims: To explore how professional doctorate candidates conceptualise and articulate the relationship between the nature of professional knowledge, different types of professional knowledge and the application of professional knowledge.

Methodology: Thirteen Professional Doctorate candidates consented to participate in this study. Participants were asked to engage with a synthesis task that involved drawing a diagram depicting their view of the relationship between different types of professional knowledge. They were also asked to write an explanation of how the diagram conveyed their perspective on this relationship. They were then placed in three groups and asked to discuss their diagrams and produce a collective diagram/poster of how they now understood different types of professional knowledge. Individual diagrams and accompanying explanations where then analysed to identify similarities and differences between the diagrams. The accompanying explanations were analysed using critical discourse analysis to explore the level of complexity, clarity and articulation of thought.

Findings: A diverse range of conceptualisations regarding the relationship between the Aristotelian concepts of episteme, phronesis, techne and doxa were produced. There were similarities within the sample diagrams. Three participants produced Venn Diagrams; used an organism as an analogy; one produced a table; two produced overlapping continua diagrams with four struggling to produce a diagram at all to go with their descriptions. From the group posters two groups produced similar looking posters with the third using a DNA helix as a metaphor for the relationship. Through discussion and questioning in the whole group participants articulated similar conceptualisations of the relationship.

Conclusion: Professional Doctorate candidates struggle to convey their conceptual understanding in diagrammatic form but can articulate their thinking in writing. Further research is required into how higher education tutors might develop professional doctorate candidates’ ability to summarise their conceptual understanding in diagrammatic form.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2016
EventSERA 41st Annual Conference, 2016: Challenging Attainment and Improvement - University of Dundee, Dundee, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Nov 201625 Nov 2016


ConferenceSERA 41st Annual Conference, 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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