Learning Experiences at Different Levels

Strategies for Success in Doctoral Programs

Every stage of learning poses certain challenges to those trying to accomplish some course or receive a degree. Doctoral programs represent the highest level of education that a nursing specialist may endeavor to achieve. Requirements for such students are quite different from expectations from other learners. However, one should not underestimate any of the educational experiences since each step in this process is crucial to reaching the highest level. Knowledge secured at pre-doctoral levels of education is a key resource to employ when working on attaining one’s doctoral degree.

A Discussion on Resources and Approaches

On the way to becoming proficient scholarly writers, students need to exploit a variety of strategies and resources that are not only helpful but also relevant and insightful. As a result, one can use these methods not only at the present stage of scholarly development but also at future phases. So far, the most beneficial resource has been reading and critiquing research papers. First of all, students are taught to differentiate between various types of articles (reviews, empirical studies, meta-analyses, and others). Next, pre-doctoral learners are instructed on types of research and parts of which studies are composed (Earley, 2014). With this knowledge in mind, one can proceed to analyze scholarly sources and identify their strong and weak points. Later, such experience will be useful to implement in the doctoral program.

When pursuing a doctoral level, one should be well acknowledged with citation and formatting styles. This knowledge is typically received during prior stages of learning. For nursing students, the most common formatting style is the one formulated by the American Psychological Association (APA). One should be proficient in arranging the paper, as well as in avoiding plagiarism in it. For these reasons, it is crucial to study the basics of citing and quoting other authors’ materials before entering doctoral education (Mitchell-Williams, Skipper, Alexander, & Wilks, 2015). With this knowledge in mind, one can be sure that the intellectual rights of other authors are not violated.

While analyzing learning experiences at different stages, it is relevant to discuss the level of autonomy a student has at them. In doctoral education, unlike the levels preceding it, the rate of independence is the highest. The preparation of a doctoral dissertation requires much time and effort, and it is natural that the advisor cannot and should not be present at all times. It is an independent endeavor, and only occasional participation of the supervisor is needed. Thomas and Müller (2013) emphasize that autonomy is the key motive for learners to engage in scientific studies. Thus, the possibility to work on a project independently is one of the core determinants of doctoral students.

Finally, it is necessary to mention some other features that are available to students before engaging in the doctoral program. Even when working on one’s bachelor’s or master’s degree, each student has valuable opportunities that can help to make the future learning prospects simple. For instance, students can attend conferences where they can identify their circle of scientific interests and meet people who share them (Conn et al., 2014). Also, one can start writing scholarly papers and publishing them when at pre-doctoral levels. That way, by the time one engages in doctoral work, they will have some experience and receive feedback on their work.

A Review of Literature

Researchers discuss a variety of strategies for success in doctoral programs. Conn et al. (2014) emphasize the significance of starting one’s scholarly path yet at university when one has ample opportunities to meet scholars at conferences, as well as publish one’s initial findings on the topic of interest. Conn et al. (2014) also note that reaching a work-life balance is a beneficial tool for doctoral students. Mitchell-Williams et al. (2015) remark that accurate referencing is one of the main keys to success in academic writing. Scholars note that avoiding plagiarism is of utmost importance in doctoral work. The authors also suggest some helpful software, such as PERRLA for APA, that can make the process of referencing simple (Mitchell-Williams et al., 2015).

Special attention in the reviewed studies is given to supervision and feedback. Can and Walker (2014) analyze the preferences for written feedback expressed by doctoral students. Scholars report that most frequently, such learners need the assessment of their main idea, clarity, and argumentation, as well as the coverage of data. At the same time, the authors remark that preferences on criticism and autonomy vary among doctoral students since individuals treat the likelihood of these aspects to increase academic success differently (Can & Walker, 2014).

Kobayashi, Berge, Grout, and Rump (2017) examine supervision as a success factor in doctoral programs. Scholars conclude that a certain amount of autonomy is useful for students, but it is not acceptable to leave all choices up to the young researcher. Teeuwsen, Ratković, and Tilley (2014) note that part-time doctoral studies may be an advantageous opportunity for some eager minds. Although there are some limitations to this approach, Teeuwsen et al. (2014) remark that combining education and research may be a successful option for many. Overall, the review of literature allowed identifying several crucial factors of success for doctoral students’ scholarly and scientific endeavors.

Based on the conducted research, it seems relevant to make some recommendations to consider when developing a plan for the successful completion of a doctoral program. First of all, one should refresh the knowledge of APA guidelines and make sure that he or she remembers how to cite sources appropriately. To avoid mistakes in this dimension, such software as PERRLA may be employed. Secondly, one should conduct an extensive review of articles on the selected topic of investigation. This step will help not only in identifying the gaps in the literature that has been published so far but also in setting one’s research goals correctly. Finally, it is recommended not to abuse autonomy and meet the advisor whenever a young researcher feels doubtful and needs professional advice and assistance.

Developing a PICOT Question

The suggested PICOT question is “In patients admitted to the hospital (P), does the implementation of the bowel protocol (I) compared to no protocol (C) lead to the decreased incidence of constipation (O) during their stay (T)?” The topic fits the PICOT guidelines since it covers all the elements required: population, intervention, comparison, outcome, and time. The problem of constipation in inpatients is an acute one, and it demands thorough analysis and resolution.

So far, the amount of evidence on applying bowel protocols for eliminating the incidence of constipation is not sufficient. Some researchers have investigated this method, but they acknowledge that there is little evidence of bowel protocols having a positive effect on patients’ constipation (Oczkowski, Duan, Groen, Warren, & Cook, 2017). At the same time, scholars admit that with relevant research, it will become possible to evaluate the advantages of the approach in question. In their extensive review, Coggrave, Norton, and Cody (2014) discuss the problem of constipation in adults and emphasize the significance of seeking solutions to it. The suggested topic is worthy of additional investigation since it can help to relieve one of the most burdensome side effects of a hospital stay.


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  2. Coggrave, M., Norton, C., & Cody, J. D. (2014). Management of faecal incontinence and constipation in adults with central neurological diseases. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1, 1-61.
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