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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tracking humanities PhD outcomes: an update on the TRaCE Project | University Affairs - MY OPINION

"Organizers are reviewing results of the pilot project and aim to launch the next phase this fall." according to Eliza Bateman, PhD candidate in law, is the TRaCE liaison officer, Catherine Nygren, PhD candidate in English, is the TRaCE writer/editor and Paul Yachnin, Tomlinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies, is project director.
Story image for phd from University Affairs

TRaCE was a one-year pilot project, carried out from fall 2015 to fall 2016, about humanities PhD outcomes. Twenty-four Canadian universities took part in an experiment in data gathering about the jobs PhDs are doing, getting grads to tell their stories, connecting doctoral students with PhD graduates inside and outside the academy, and inviting grads to serve as mentors, presenters, guest teachers, and so on, in the graduate programs they’d left behind. TRaCE has the potential to become a valuable resource for those in PhD programs and those thinking about doing a PhD, as well as for educators, employers and policy-makers.

The people who worked on TRaCE included a planning group with members from across the country and several data experts, and a head office group at McGill University. Both groups were a mix of faculty and students. The lion’s share of data collection and the work of interviewing the grads were done by 51 graduate student researchers.

The project tracked over 2,700 PhD grads (graduating cohorts from 2004 to 2015 from 60-plus departments). The TRaCE website features analyses of the quantitative data as well as narratives developed from the interviews. The website has a networking capacity: once we build a greater online community, the site will enable grads and students to talk about different career pathways. If a student reads a narrative that speaks to her aspirations, she will be able to reach out to the person whose story it is.

We are working now on TRaCE 2.0. It will be a two-year follow-up project that will aim to gather quantitative and qualitative knowledge about the humanities PhDs we didn’t have the resources to include in the pilot and also to reach out to PhDs in the social sciences, as well as the fine and performing arts. Also in the planning stages is a four-year research initiative, the Human Sciences Doctorate in Canada (HSDC) Project. HSDC will draw on the data and narratives from TRaCE 2.0 and will undertake to answer three questions: what do human sciences PhDs do for the people who earn them, for the institutions that offer them, and for Canadian society?

But before we start TRaCE 2.0 or HSDC, we want to have a clear-eyed look at what we’ve done in the pilot project. What did we do right and wrong? What are the key questions that need to be addressed about methodology? How far do we have to rethink the enabling assumptions of the work? To do this, it will be helpful to organize our reflections into three large categories: communication, methodology, and bias and objectivity. There will naturally be a bit of overlap among the categories.

Source: University Affairs