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Section 2 Becoming a Researcher/Scholar / Chapter 3 The Doctoral Identity

At GCU, doctoral learners are expected to embrace and adhere to specific dispositions as part of the process of earning a terminal degree.

2. Role and Dispositions of a Doctoral Learner


When one becomes a doctoral learner, he or she may encounter different expectations from peers, faculty, and family. There is a perception that a doctoral learner is expected to display and embrace certain dispositions. Just as there are expectations for law-enforcement officers to display and embrace certain dispositions in the role of protecting citizens and upholding the law, there are expectations that doctoral learners must recognize. Learners are expected to exhibit certain dispositional tendencies in preparation for becoming scholars.


At GCU, doctoral learners are expected to embrace and adhere to specific dispositions as part of the process of earning a terminal degree. Doctoral learners:


• Are dedicated Scholar-Practitioners, passionate about their field, and become leaders in the disciplines and communities they serve.


• Are committed to producing scholarly research, which is ethical and academically honest.


• Are self-directed, able to self-motivate toward their continued pursuit of knowledge and are responsible for their own learning.


• Engage in reflective scholarly practice, asking questions of both self and others.


• Actively communicate effectively and professionally with peers, faculty, and college staff.


• Are accountable for the quality and academic integrity of their own scholarship and research agenda.


• Are receptive to the feedback, analysis, and constructive critique from peers and faculty within their scholarly community.


• Demonstrate how to design, execute, and present independent, academically rigorous research, that adds to the body of knowledge within their discipline. (Grand Canyon University, n.d.).


Doctoral learners should maintain a relationship based upon respectful communication with everyone they come in contact with; they should be dedicated to growth and the pursuit of a higher understanding of scholarship and knowledge; they should be committed to self-reflection and improvement of critical thinking in all domains of life. Additionally, enculturation to this philosophy of advanced scholarship and learning includes changing the attitude of the learner. Positive collaboration with peers, faculty, and staff is a grounding principle critical to successful completion of course work and the dissertation.  These dispositions provide a foundational approach in dealing with fellow classmates, faculty, and staff. Professional communication, self-appraisal as it relates to owning criticism and feedback from faculty, and being assertive in moving forward with the doctoral degree requirements all speak to the dispositional expectations of learners. These dispositions set the standard and expectations of the Scholar-Practitioner model for the College.


As discussed in Chapter 1, a doctoral degree is not merely completing assignments; it is diligence in completing research and exploring a body of knowledge that may be foreign, which may contain new vocabulary and conceptual thinking. A doctoral degree requires significantly more time reading peer-reviewed material.  A hypothetical assignment might be to read two chapters from a seminal book and ten journal articles. These reading assignments may be so lengthy and contain so many new vocabulary words and concepts that learners have to reread a paragraph multiple times to make any sense of it.


Ask anyone who has gone through this rigorous process, and he or she likely will discuss the sacrifices, the number of edits to the dissertation, or the number of times the APA manual had to be consulted to correctly cite and reference a work to make it perfect. Doctoral learners must prepare to make these same sacrifices, in addition to others that will be uniquely their own.