Informal peer mentoring during the doctoral journey: perspectives of two postgraduate students
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Doctoral studies can be isolating for postgraduate students who do not have strong connections with peers within the department through which they are enrolled. Collaboration of doctoral students across disciplines represents an exciting opportunity to decrease isolation, build networks and maximise research output and development of research skills. This paper reports on an informal peer mentoring relationship between two doctoral students at Flinders University in South Australia. The relationship developed through a university writing group in 2008. This progressed to a mentoring relationship built on similar research interests. The students met regularly to assist each other, reflect on the doctoral experience and share learnings. They also supported each other informally through emails. In this paper, we report on how our mentoring relationship relates to postgraduate socialisation and the stages of mentoring reported in the literature. This relationship created a safe “space” outside of the students’ disciplines to talk about issues related to their doctorates. This assisted with coping with the challenges of a doctorate. Through assisting each other, the students learnt that there is much that can be transferred across disciplines. Removing this discipline specific nature of research assisted in developing general research skills. Research output was increased through this process. From 2009 until 2011, the students presented at two conferences, had two papers accepted as conference posters and submitted one manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal, all related to their collaboration. A willingness and commitment from both parties, including a desire to learn about the other discipline, increased the effectiveness of collaborative efforts and enabled the relationship to continue. This experience demonstrates the benefits of collaborating across disciplines. Collaborations between doctoral students from different disciplines could be encouraged by universities as a strategy for supporting postgraduate students and maximising their research output.