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Characteristics of Being a Student


Being a student is a dynamic and interesting stage of development, especially at the college level. At this stage of live, there several development phases, challenges, and achievements that come into play. At the same time, many negative influencers might distract or even make a student drop out of college. Although the experiences of two or more students cannot be the same, there are similarities in the qualities that make a good student and the best responses to negative distracters.

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The research question is; what defines the qualities of a good student? This research question delves into the underlying qualities that an effective learner must possess to survive and thrive in the college environment. The objective of this research study is to explore in detail the themes and concepts that define the experiences of being a college student. Specifically, the research focuses on the qualities and strategies that a student should have or practice to be an effective, focused, and self-reliant learner. Data collection was done through direct interview involving the researcher interviewing the selected student over 20 minutes.

The researcher selected a single participant, who is a female college student who has spent the last four years as a learner in university X. Specifically, the learner is a stay-in-college student. A thematic analysis was used in the analysis of the responses and the findings identified specific themes that can be related to general student experience in college. The analysis suggested that the primary factors that contributed to being a good student are “ability to exercise self-discipline”, “proper time management”, “good social and interaction skills”, “self-discovery”, and “ability to suppress peer influence”.

The thematic approach in the analysis was effective in empowering the researcher to explore a series of variables and make a comparative analysis. However, since the research was focused on a single participant, it was very difficult to establish a data set for comparative inferential statistics. The implications of the above findings and any other consideration are explored in detail in this research paper.

Research Question

Since the proposed research is multifaceted and result-oriented, the research question was generated to cover the general attributes that a student should have to be able to function well in a college setting. Specifically, the research question was designed to cover the desirable attributes of an effective learner to capture the aspects of the discipline, consciousness, and time management. Therefore, the proposed research question is;

  • What defines the qualities of a good student?

To answer the above research question, the sub-questions were framed to capture the main themes for thematic analysis of the experiences of being an effective student in college. From the above research question, the following sub-questions were generated to comprehensively tackle the research objective.

  1. How does the ability to exercise self-discipline affect the performance and effectiveness of a college student?
  2. What are the role of proper time management in facilitating proactive and all-round student experience in college?
  3. What are the impacts of possessing good social and interaction skills in the development of a student and survival in college?
  4. Does peer influence have an impact on the performance and general success of a student in college?

Method of Analysis

To comprehensively establish the underlying themes, the researcher opted to focus on the identification of four themes that the participant could understand. This was necessary to give the scope for investigations on the subject of interest. The researcher decided the ideal approach of analysis would be the thematic method. However, a lot of critics of this approach have challenged its inability to provide clear guidelines in the general analytical framework. This weakness has made many researchers ignore the actual process employed to analyze results (Cleland, Leggett, Sandars, Costa, Patel, & Moffat, 2013). In this study, the researcher was keen to use a clear, duplicable, and translucent methodology.

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To carry out a thematic analysis, the researcher took an epistemological position. This simply means acknowledging the desire to incorporate the experiences of the participant and what she has attached to these occurrences. At the same time, the researcher considered the actual impacts of this experience and their social context to get a meaning. This “contextualist” position was necessary to balance the constructionism and realism of the experiences that make a good student (Given, 2015). Since the proposed method is phenomenological, the thematic analysis has a flexible nature to construct an in-between position that is neither naïve nor radical.

Therefore, the primary intention of the researcher during thematic analysis was to consider the reality of college experiences to the participant, through a proactive exploration of her experiences and what she attaches to each occurrence while intercepting the role of social context in shaping the participant’s meaning-making. A single participant was selected by requesting permission to carry out the interview based on the content of the informed consent letter. Measures were put in place to avoid stigmatization or uneasiness (Given, 2015).

Before the commencement of the study, ethical approval from university X was acquired besides seeking consent from the volunteer participant. The interview took place within university X. Upon arrival for the scheduled interview, the interviewee and the interviewer exchanged pleasantries. The interviewer then explained to the participant the objective of the interview in exploring her experiences as a student. Verbal instructions were given to the interviewee, who provided a similar consent.

A series of questions that were pre-developed by the researcher was used in the interview. Specifically, questions were created within the context of the research question to ensure that the responses given are on track with the relevant issues (Guest, Namey, & Mitchel, 2013). The interview secession commenced with an interaction centered approach to build confidence and ease the atmosphere. The questions then moved to personal experiences touching on self-discipline, peer pressure, time management, and general social environment in college.

During the interview, the researcher was keen to stick to the themes of discussion, which are “ability to exercise self-discipline”, “proper time management”, “good social and interaction skills”, “self-discovery”, and “ability to suppress peer influence” as factors facilitating effective scholarly commitment in college. To ensure that the analysis process is stronger, the researcher used an audio recording device to grasp everything from the participant (Guest, Namey, & Mitchel, 2013). The recording was reviewed several times after which they were transcribed with the writer’s responses.

The collected data from the interview was transcribed to ensure that initial ideas and thoughts of the research study are captured since this is a significant stage in thematic analysis. The collected data were reviewed several times besides the audio recordings to guarantee transcription accuracy. According to Given (2015), repeated reading and listening to an audio recording of the data facilitates immersion and closeness to the focus of the study. The coding phase followed, which is characterized by the identification of data features that are pertinent in line with the research question. Since coding is intrinsic to thematic analysis, the collected data set was accorded equal magnitude to identify any repeated patterns.

The third phase involved the identification of the primary themes through the combination of similar codes. According to Braun & Clarke (2006), the development of thematic maps is necessary for aiding the integration of the codes into a theme. Thematic maps are vital in the visualization and linking of existing relationships between two or more themes. In the third phase, themes with inconsistent data were discarded to ensure that the remaining themes form a logical pattern.

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Further coding was carried out at this phase to guarantee that not code is missing. In phase four, the researcher defined and named the themes, which are accompanied by a comprehensive analysis. The researcher was keen to make considerations of the experiences within each theme and how they relate to the evident storyline from the data gathered (Given, 2015). Also, short and punchy names were developed to convey the indication of theme essence. The last stage involved report production by selecting examples within the interview transcript to illuminate the theme elements. The extracts identified the pertinent issues within each theme and illustrated a clear example of the underlying argument.


The thematic analysis process presented interesting concepts from the interview transcript as evidenced by the collected data. The theme categories approved from a transcription of the data are “ability to exercise self-discipline”, “proper time management”, and “good social and interaction skills”. These themes summarize the respondent’s understanding of what being a student is about as discussed below.

Ability to exercise self-discipline

This theme is explored by the ability of the respondent to acknowledge the role of self-discipline in college life as a student. In this scenario, the theme is differentiated by self-control, personal etiquette, and self-responsibility. However, nothing irrefutable could be deduced since the sample size consists of a respondent. Therefore, the impact of self-discipline can only be demonstrated from the interview transcript. The respondent was able to identify different elements of self-discipline as a theme of being a college student as highlighted below.

  1. The first thing you would need to do is to keep your goal in sight.
  2. We kept our self so busy that I eventually wouldn’t have time for anything so dangerous and unnecessary.
  3. I’d then go to the library for an hour…and…be back around 10 pm.
  4. I’d retrieve it to bed by 11.00.

The respondent is aware of the impact of discipline as part of the attributes of being a student. She was able to pinpoint that a student should “keep your goal insight” and “kept ourselves self so busy”. Self-discipline has the context of being a student.

Proper Time Management

This theme was explored based on the ability of a learner to apply planning skills to make the experience of being a student success. The application of time management as a theme encompassed knowledge gained from proper facilitation and balancing of activities through examples. For instance, the respondent gave several instances of time management and planning to accomplish the mission of being a student. The participant was able to note that time was allocated to different activities such as a library, assignment, eating, exercise, and socialization time as highlighted below.

  1. If I have morning lectures which start at 9 am.
  2. I would start the day likewise…really quick.
  3. I would then attend another lecture at around 3 pm.
  4. My roommates and I made it a point to eat by 7 or 730 pm.

The entire transcript captured several instances where the student associated with the theme of time management as very vital for successful leaner life in college. In fact, of all the themes, the respondent was able to identify time management or planning as instrumental to smooth operation as a student.

Good Social and Interaction Skills

The respondent noted that good social and interrelation skills form the basis for survival and thriving as a student. As a theme, social interaction skill was identified as a core variable since it can apply to any learning institution or even work environment. As captured in the findings, the respondent demonstrated that the ability to adapt to a college environment is an ingredient for being a student as highlighted below.

  1. Luckily…I was well adjusted and had the good company of my friends also roommates.
  2. But it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t found my best friends.
  3. We started on a healthy track with regular morning jogs and yoga classes.
  4. K and S (name of friends), got me hooked to meditation and mindfulness classes.

The respondent understood the significance of this theme. There is evidence from the interview transcript that social interrelation skills may even help a student survive the negative impacts of peer pressure such as bullying, scolding, and victimization.

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The aspects of self-discipline, social skills, and time management are vital ingredients of effective operation as a college student. Time management enables a student to accomplish different duties and plan for a series of events without abandoning any. For instance, the respondent was able to plan for the time spent in lecture halls, library, eating, sleeping, and doing co-curriculum activities. The element of social skills forms the basis upon which a student discovers him or herself. In this scenario, the respondent was able to establish meaningful relationships with her peers to overcome the challenges of low self-esteem in the first year of study (Given, 2015).

Upon self-discovery through the interaction of her roommates, who double as friends, the respondent was able to overcome these challenges and become a better person with high self-esteem about her body and dressing. Lastly, the element of self-discipline has been a pillar upon which the respondent has set goals and achieved them (Willing, 2013). From the interview transcript, the student has survived college life after developing self-discipline in the second year and thereafter.

Unlike in the first year of learning, the respondent was able to meet assignment deadlines, quit smoking, and plan for most of her activities without any glitches. Unlike other methods of social investigation, such as ANOVA, the thematic analysis presented a well-orchestrated ground upon which visible traits could be pinpointed and correlated to the themes derived from the research question. However, dealing with a sample of one respondent made the inferences less convincing, and a trend was very difficult to establish. The findings conformed to a study carried by Boud & Molloy (2014), which noted that self-discipline and planning are instrumental ingredients of being an effective student.


Boud D., & Molloy, E. (2014). Rethinking models of feedback for learning: The challenge of design. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(6), 698- 712.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101.

Cleland J., Leggett, H., Sandars, J., Costa, J., Patel, R., & Moffat. M. (2013). The remediation challenge: Theoretical and methodological insights from a systematic review. Medical Education, 47(3), 242-251.

Given, M. (2015). 100 questions (and answers) about qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Guest, G., Namey, E., & Mitchel, L. (2013). Collecting qualitative data: A field manual for applied research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Willing, C. (2013). Introducing qualitative research in psychology (3rd ed.). Berkshire, UK: Open University Press.

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