In this paper I report a study of the conceptions of research held by a sample of doctoral students at an Australian research-intensive university. I take a unique approach by using metaphor analysis to study the students' conceptions. The students in this study were recruited for an on-line survey in which they answered questions relating to their conceptions of research. I arrived at four categories that I have labelled research is explorative, research is constructive, research is spatial, and research is organic.


PhD Students, Conceptions, Metaphors, Metaphor Analysis


I would like to thank Dr. Gerlese Ǻkerlind and Dr. Margaret Kiley of the Centre for Educational Development and Academic Methods (CEDAM) at the Australian National University (ANU) for their perceptive and constructive comments on early drafts of this paper.

I also thank Dr. Gerlese Åkerlind for discussing the analysis of my survey responses with me at various stages and making some useful and constructive suggestions. The responsibility for any errors that remain is mine alone and should not reflect on Dr. Åkerlind.

An early draft of this paper was read to a group of research students at The Graduate Lounge, University House, ANU. I thank the students for their comments and feedback on that occasion.

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