Re-examining the Socialization of Black Doctoral Students through the Lens of Information Theory


  • Kimberly Y. Franklin California State University, Los Angeles


The socialization of Black doctoral students has been studied from many theoretical and conceptual standpoints, with the exception of information theory. In this paper, the conceptual and theoretical frameworks of small worlds and the Theory of Normative Behavior developed by information behavior scholar Elfreda Chatman are used to illuminate the information behaviors that are implicit in the socialization of Black doctoral students. Doctoral student socialization is enacted through faculty and peer relationships that communicate the norms, values, and expectations for performance that facilitate academic and social integration in graduate school in preparation for faculty roles in the academy. Despite the importance of socialization for student success, research indicates that Black doctoral students experience racism, isolation, and hostile climates in predominantly white institutions, which jeopardizes their chances for a successful outcome. Through a review of literature about the socialization of Black doctoral students in the United States, viewed through the lens of Elfreda Chatman’s theoretical frameworks, this paper examines doctoral education as a small world characterized by social and cultural norms that facilitate or hinder the socialization of Black doctoral students. Given the absence of an explicit focus on race in Chatman’s research, the salience of race as a context for the experiences and information behaviors of Black doctoral students is discussed. Areas for future research about the socialization of Black doctoral students in library and information studies are also identified.

Pre-print first published online 10/11/2020

Author Biography

Kimberly Y. Franklin, California State University, Los Angeles

Kimberly Y. Franklin is the Education Librarian at California State University, Los Angeles. She earned an MLIS from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an MA and PhD in education with a specialization in higher education from Claremont Graduate University. Her research and writing interests include diversity in doctoral education, information literacy, and minority-serving institutions of higher education.