Engineering Research Teams: The Role of Social Networks in the Formation of Research Skills for Postgraduate Students
This study explores learner experiences regarding skills acquisition of a cohort of engineering doctoral students enrolled in a New Zealand university. Employing a qualitative methodology, we interviewed 28 PhD students about the range of experiences and exchanges that comprised their pathways to skill acquisition. Students reported that research projects with application enabled the development of ‘real world problem solving’ by drawing on bonding and bridging network ties. Indeed, informal structures and disciplinary norms operating in the culture of postgraduate engineering research are principle contributors to successful progression, degree completion and outputs. Research practices emphasising repetition and doability establish productive environments for postgraduates, enhancing support for collective endeavours and increased outputs. In the absence of formalised skills development programmes, the approaches discussed in this paper contribute to postgraduates’ timely acquisition of skills. This research can assist supervisors, academic developers and administrators from a range of disciplines in improving postgraduate research environments.