Unity and detachment: a discourse analysis of doctoral supervision

Caroline Bradbury-Jones, Fiona Irvine, Sally Sambrook

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In this article the authors report on an approach that they used to enhance their understanding of the complex nature of doctoral supervision by analyzing e-mail communication within a supervisory relationship. Although some scholars have discussed research supervision, empirical research on the subject is limited, and the authors found no published attempts to explore doctoral supervision through the analysis of e-mail communication. The authors analyze correspondence between one doctoral student and two supervisors using discourse analysis influenced by the Foucauldian notion of disciplinary power. The findings revealed the discourses of unity and detachment operating throughout the course of the doctoral relationship. The authors suggest that research students might be no less detached from their supervisors on completion of their studies than at the beginning of their relationship and argue that understanding the discourses of doctoral supervision can enhance the quality and successful outcome of the experience.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)81-96
    Number of pages16
    JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Methods
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • Research supervision
    • Supervisors
    • University students
    • Communication
    • Electronic mail systems
    • e-mentoring


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