Research in Learning Technology (Sep 2016)
Reaching the unreached: de-mystifying the role of ICT in the process of doctoral research
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become a necessary element of academic practice in higher education today. Under normal circumstances, PhD students from all disciplines have to use ICT in some form throughout the process of their research, including the preparation, fieldwork, analysis and writing phases of their studies. Nevertheless, there has been little research to date that explores PhD students’ first-hand experiences of using various ICT to support their research practices. This paper brings together the findings and the key points from a review of significant parts of the existing literature associated with the role played by ICT in the processes PhD students use in doctoral research. The review is based on 27 papers appearing in international peer-reviewed journals published from 2005 to 2014. The study seeks to address the under-researched area in the current literature of how ICT plays a role in the processes of doctoral research. While there are many contributions taking the ‘institutional’ or ‘teaching’ perspectives, papers focusing on ‘student’ perspective, or the viewpoint of engaging ICT in daily study routine, are relatively fewer. As far as research methodology is concerned, this review found that many of the papers that were examined were mostly based on perception data such as surveys or interviews, while actual practice data were rarely present. With their ready access to technologies, PhD students are well positioned to take advantage of a range of technologies in order to carry out their research efficiently (in terms of means to an end) and effectively (in terms of reaching goals within a task). This review reveals that in the literature, this important area is under-represented.