Psychology Masters students’ experiences of conducting supervised research in their non-mother-tongue
Sobotker, Nicolette Leigh-Ann
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Completion rates of postgraduate students are relatively low worldwide. Completion rates in South Africa are currently 20% for Masters students and 13% for Doctoral students. Differences between South African universities that are attributed to the political history and racially patterned ways of allocating resources and facilitating development have been identified by the literature. Recent student protests identified issues of access, representivity and language amongst others, as important concerns requiring redress. Research has shown that postgraduate graduation rates are higher among first language English speaking students than non-mother-tongue English speakers. This study utilized a collective case study design to explore the experiences of Psychology Masters students doing thesis work in their non-mother-tongue. The study was underpinned by a Social Constructionist framework. Participants were selected using purposive sampling. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect data and the transcribed interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Measures such as, member-checking, inquiry audit, providing thick descriptions, and reflexivity were employed to ensure all four aspects of trustworthiness. Ethics clearance was obtained from the Human and Social Science Research Ethics Committee of the University of the Western Cape. Permission to conduct the study at the identified institution was obtained from the Registrar. The Ethics Rules of Conduct under the Health Professions Act were fully adhered to. Results indicated that participants struggled with conceptual thinking, reading, writing and speaking. Findings also illustrated that emotional support from family and friends is vital and highlighted characteristics of helpful supervisory relationships. On a latent level, three underlying forms of rhetoric were identified from participants’ descriptions of their experience. These are skill, power, and identity. These are discussed as products of the social structures and institutional practices that undergird them.