Equipping our master’s students to master quality research

In March, 2024’s MPhil students had the opportunity to attend the Africa Centre’s annual “Master your master’s” workshop, which aims to equip and motivate them for successfully completing their research assignment. The master’s programme builds on the knowledge and skills obtained during the postgraduate diploma or another, similar HIV/Aids-related qualification.

The workshop consists of various student presentations (read more about those here) and topical sessions presented by internal and external experts sharing crucial skills and expertise with the students.

This year’s keynote speaker, Dr Marilize Burger, research consultant at the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University, introduced the theme of the 2024 workshop by talking about the importance of quality research and ethics – a critical topic in the world of research, especially in light of the ongoing AI developments.

Students were also schooled in different research methods, with senior lecturer and interim director Dr Burt Davis explaining the ins and outs of quantitative research, while external lecturer Dr Takiyah White Ndwanya focused on qualitative research. These sessions shed light on the various factors that determine which methods to use when (e.g. the purpose and nature of the research, type of data collected, as well as practical considerations such as time and money) and helped students to understand the significant impact their choice of research method can have on the quality of their research outputs.

The role of ethics in academic research was also in the spotlight. Ethical methods play a key role in multiple research aspects, from research methodology, how research subjects are dealt with (think of consent and confidentiality) to how the data is analysed and the results portrayed. Students had the privilege to listen to Rachel Mbuyamba, a reviewer on the Departmental Ethics Screening Committee (DESC) at the university and the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC), share her expertise on this topic.

The excellent foundation laid in the workshop was supplemented by hands-on, small-group sessions presented by Dr Ruth Albertyn on the practicalities of how to transform research ideas into well-written research proposals. Ruth is a specialist in academic research and development and writing for publication. These sessions included time for interaction, discussion, critical reading and feedback on the students’ work in both a group and one-on-one set-up, and the student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Lamlile Vilakati-Mahlangu described it as a very informative and enriching experience, while Zanele Cekiso added that “…the workshop empowered me with elements I was struggling with in writing my research proposal”.

If you are currently enrolled in our MPhil programme and would like a recap of any of the sessions, log on to SunLearn where you’ll find the recordings.

Dr Marilize Burger, research consultant at the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University, spoke about quality research and ethics in her presentation as the keynote speaker.
As a specialist in academic research and writing, Dr Ruth Albertyn provided expert, practical guidance to students on drafting their research proposals: “It’s a privilege to work with students at the Africa Centre as the research projects they do are making a real difference in the world.”