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Student support, Academic libraries, Doctoral students


Introduction. Much of the research about how academic librarians can better support doctoral students has focused on information behaviour and advanced research skills but has neglected affective factors. An exploratory review of research literature on isolation and doctoral students suggests that feelings of isolation can have negative consequences for students’ progress on the dissertation. The review identifies themes, areas of support, and suggestions for future research.
Method. Library and information science, psychology, education, and interdisciplinary databases were searched for papers addressing issues of isolation experienced by United States doctoral students during the dissertation phase.
Analysis. Thematic analysis identified the following themes of physical, cultural, and intellectual isolation, as well as strategies to ameliorate these social and emotional issues impacting doctoral student success.
Findings. Academic librarians and the services they provide are largely absent from the research describing doctoral students and isolation. Isolation impacts doctoral students’ research behaviour. The review results indicate that doctoral students have a strong need for communities of support.
Conclusion. To alleviate doctoral students’ isolation, recommendations for support include fostering a sense of community, building trust, and creating academic counter-spaces. Additional suggestions comprise enhancing library services to doctoral students and integrating academic librarians into campus-wide support networks.

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This article was originally published under a CC BY-NC-ND license as:

Forbes, C. and Bowers, J. (2019). Emotional silos: a review of doctoral candidates’ isolating experiences and the role for academic librarians in campus-wide support networks In Proceedings of ISIC, The Information Behaviour Conference, Krakow, Poland, 9-11 October: Part 2. Information Research, 24(1), paper isic1823. Retrieved from (Archived by WebCite® at

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.