1 GUIDE TO MASTER S AND DOCTORAL STUDIES IN PSYCHOLOGY This Guide has been written for students wishing to study for one of the following degrees - DIS634-S: DIS643-T: DIS656-Y: DIS833-X: DIS841-X: DIS854-6: Master s degree by dissertation only (MA) Master s degree by dissertation only (MSc) Master s degree by dissertation only (MA(SS)) Doctoral degree by thesis only (DLitt et Phil) Doctoral degree by thesis only (PhD) Doctoral degree by thesis only (DPhil) The resources in the guide will also be of use to students registered for - DIS534-P: DIS680-Y: Course work master s degree in Psychological Research (dissertation component) Course work master s degree in Clinical Psychology (dissertation component)
2 ii What this guide is about This Guide contains information on how to proceed with your registration and subsequent studies as an advanced postgraduate student in the Department of Psychology. It will show you how to: # develop a research outline for your proposed study # get yourself registered # prepare yourself for the studies that lie ahead. Please follow the instructions carefully. We have an excess of master's and doctoral applicants and base our selection of students on the quality and viability of their research outlines. Only substantively interesting and well formulated outlines that can be shown to be relevant to our Southern African and African context are likely to be selected by prospective supervisors and promoters. You are welcome to visit our home page at for more information. We also welcome feedback on how to improve this Guide and the advanced postgraduate research programme in general. We wish you all the best with your studies! PROF FRED VAN STADEN CONVENOR: RESEARCH COMMITTEE MRS CHRISTA BARRISH SECRETARY: MASTER S AND DOCTORAL STUDIES DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY Tel: Tel:
3 iii Contents 1 MASTER S AND DOCTORAL PROGRAMMES OFFERED IN THE 1 DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY 2 OVERVIEW Bursaries 3 3 PREPARING YOUR RESEARCH OUTLINE Selecting a research topic The need for a literature search How to do a literature search Useful resources Justifying the proposed research Techniques of assessment or data collection Useful resources Research design Useful resources Ethical considerations Compiling your research outline Useful resources 12 Page 4 APPLYING FOR ADMISSION AND REGISTRATION Registrations from outside South Africa Registrations for studies involving clinical or counselling interventions Alternative registration recommendations Diagrammatic summary of application procedure 15 5 AFTER REGISTRATION Writing the dissertation or thesis Procedure Useful resources Chapter divisions Introduction Theoretical background Literature survey Research design Results Discussion, conclusions and recommendations List of references and appendices Some general guidelines on language and style Useful resources Diagrammatic summary of procedures after registration 23 6 SUBMITTING THE DISSERTATION/THESIS FOR EXAMINATION The examination panel Extracting an article from the dissertation or thesis Useful resources Article appraisal Diagrammatic representation of submission and examination procedures 25/26
4 iv 7 APPENDICES Appendix 1: Referencing style 27 Appendix 2: Instructions for the evaluation of research outlines 32 Appendix 3: General guidelines for evaluating research outlines 45 Appendix 4: Research interests of staff members 47 Appendix 5: Learning contract 57 Appendix 6: Examination guidelines 63 Appendix 7: Guidelines for compiling a manuscript based on a dissertation or thesis 66
5 1 1 MASTER S AND DOCTORAL PROGRAMMES OFFERED IN THE DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY Prospective students may consider registration for one of three different MA programmes or the doctoral programme: Master s degree by dissertation only (registration codes: DIS634-S, DIS643-S or DIS656-Y) This programme consists of planning and executing a research project under supervision of the Department. The research is written up in the form of a dissertation. This degree does not include a course work component. There is no closing date for registration for this degree. The student registers when a supervisor, who has accepted his/her research outline, has been secured. This Guide contains further information on how to proceed with registration for this degree. After completing the dissertation, a master s degree in Psychology is conferred. Students who completed an Hons BA in Psychology obtain an MA in Psychology. If an Hons BSc was completed, a MSc in Psychology is conferred. Similarly, an Hons BA(SS) leads to a MA(SS) in Psychology. Course work master s degree in Psychological Research (registration code: DIS534-P) While this Guide has not primarily been written for students doing this degree, they will find it useful as a resource in doing the dissertation component of their degree. This option comprises a degree by course work, and full time attendance is required. Therefore it is not offered through distance learning. This programme requires a considerable amount of independent work where academic strength is an advantage. Only a limited number of students can be admitted to the programme. Candidates are selected on the basis of their academic record, aptitude for research, motivation and interpersonal skills. Prospective students who pass the initial selection will be asked to visit the Department for the final selection during the latter part of each year. The course begins in late January or early February with a series of lectures and workshops. The rest of the year is divided between periods of placement with organisations in order to gain practical experience and on-the-job training, and further lecture series. During November, students finalise their research proposals (for writing a dissertation of limited scope) and complete their portfolios (on which they are examined). The dissertation is completed during the second year of registration. The master s degree is awarded on completion of the dissertation of limited scope. At present, students who complete the course work master s degree can still register as research psychologists with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) after meeting the requirements of a 12-month internship at an accredited institution. The degree equips the student with skills, competencies and knowledge to enter the job market in the field of applied research consultation in the social sciences. Application forms and more information on this option are available from the Department of Psychology (Mrs C Barrish, Theo van Wyk Building, Room 5-42, Telephone: (012) , Course work master s degree in Clinical Psychology (registration code: DIS680-Y) While this Guide has not primarily been written for students doing this degree, they will find it useful as a resource in doing the dissertation component of their degree. This option consists of course work, writing a dissertation of limited scope, practical training and an internship at an accredited institution. Only a limited number of students can be accepted and selection usually takes place in June of the previous year. Upon successful completion of the internship and the required year of community service, as well as conferment of the degree, students are eligible for registration as clinical psychologists with the HPCSA.
6 2 Application forms and more information on this option are available from the Department of Psychology (Mrs MD Lekgoathi, Theo van Wyk Building, Room 5-49, Telephone: (012) , Doctoral degree by thesis only (registration codes: DIS833-X, DIS841-X or DIS854-6) As is the case with the master s degree by dissertation only, this programme involves planning and executing a research project under the supervision of the Department. The research is written in the form of a thesis. This degree does not include a course work component and is therefore available on a distance learning basis. There is no closing date for registration for this degree. The student registers when a supervisor who has accepted his/her research outline has been secured. This Guide contains further information on how to proceed with registration for this degree. After successful completion of the thesis, a doctorate in Psychology is conferred. Students who completed an MA in Psychology, obtain a DLitt et Phil in Psychology. If an MSc in Psychology was completed, a PhD in Psychology is conferred. Similarly, an MA (SS) leads to registration for a DPhil in Psychology.
7 3 2 OVERVIEW In this Guide we describe how you should proceed to register for a master s or doctoral degree in Psychology by dissertation/thesis only. We explain how to develop the initial research outline that you have to submit in order to register. We also give you a basic overview of the requirements for executing your research and writing a dissertation/thesis. In addition, we provide references to other resources that may be of help in your studies. Students who register for the course work master s degrees in Clinical Psychology or Psychological Research should also follow the guidelines provided in this guide when they have to plan and write their dissertations of limited scope. The main purpose of the training we offer in the execution of a research study is to enable you to perform psychological research of a high standard. More specifically, we expect that, after the completion of the dissertation/thesis, you will have acquired the skills to enable you to # recognise and describe a promising research problem in Psychology # perform a thorough literature search # write an in-depth evaluation of present theoretical and empirical knowledge relating to a particular subject # plan and perform a research study in Psychology # write a good research report # judge the quality of research proposals and research reports written by others, and # compile an article based on your research. To help you develop these skills, we have formulated a general programme for you to follow when planning and performing your research and writing your dissertation/thesis. Of course, you may also follow your own way of developing your research outline. However, the end-product should be assessed according to the criteria provided in this guide. Each section of the guide deals with a particular phase of your research. Some sections include instructions about self-study assignments, each of which relates to a particular goal you have to achieve. The purpose of these assignments is to ensure that you do the required preparatory work before embarking on a research investigation and to train you in how to report the research in an academically acceptable way. The assignments should therefore not be seen as additional tasks or as being unrelated to the dissertation/thesis. You will find your completed assignments very useful in compiling your research outline and when writing the corresponding chapters of your dissertation/thesis. 2.1 Bursaries Merit bursaries are awarded annually to a few Unisa students who completed their honours or master s studies at Unisa with distinction. South Africans can apply for funding from the National Research Foundation (website: Applications should be made before registering for the degree. Prospective students living outside South Africa should investigate the funding possibilities for their studies within their country of residence.
8 3 PREPARING YOUR RESEARCH OUTLINE 4 You have reached an important point in the development of your academic identity as you are now planning to participate in the generation of psychological knowledge. We are pleased that you have decided to undertake this adventure. We shall try our best to enable you to accomplish your objectives. It is important that you give some independent and systematic thought to your research topic before registration. The initial formulation of your research theme or research problem will help you demarcate your field of interest. Conceptually, this is probably the most difficult phase of your studies since you have to develop a research outline that displays your synthesis and reasoning skills at their best. You have to immerse yourself in the research field and make it your own by understanding the present thinking of researchers in your field of study. From here you identify a gap in the available body of knowledge that will form the basis of your research. 3.1 Selecting a research topic You have probably already formulated a provisonal title for your proposed research and given some thought to the viability of your research topic. However, much additional work is required to clarify the exact scope and nature of your project. It is advisable to read some master s dissertations or doctoral theses to get an idea of the required scope of the research. Another guideline which may be useful at this early stage is that your project should be comparable in scope to the investigations reported in major research articles in Psychology journals, although of course your dissertation/thesis will contain a much more detailed account of the literature and research than a journal article. 3.2 The need for a literature search In order to refine a suitable research topic in a particular field, it is necessary to study the existing knowledge in that field. Initially this should involve at least two procedures, namely general reading in your field of interest and performing a specific literature search for relevant references. Your general reading should be an ongoing process of active exploration in Psychology. Do not confine your reading to a clearly demarcated topic at this early stage but rather read to build up an adequate background. Investigate theories which have been, or might be, applied to the topic you have in mind; get a broad overview of the state of knowledge in your field and of its historical development; find out which techniques of measurement/analysis or research designs have been or might be used, and ensure that you understand them; locate and study recent reviews of the broad field of your dissertation (e.g. in the Annual Review of Psychology or the reviews in the American Psychologist or Psychological Review) to help you view your topic in its proper perspective; and identify the most important researchers and journals in your area of interest. This process of general reading should continue concurrently with more directed research activities, even to the point when you are interpreting your results. The first more specific step in defining a topic is a literature search. This is the process whereby references to relevant research are located and selected. Its purpose is to ensure that you become acquainted with an adequate sample of earlier work on which your own research is going to build. A literature search is aimed at locating different types of sources: # Overviews of the field. These often appear in books, review articles, historical reviews or state-of-theart reports and can be a very useful starting point for structuring the rest of your literature review. # Peer-reviewed journal articles. These usually form the bulk of a literature review and typically contain original new contributions to the field. Scholarly, peer reviewed journal articles are available from the Unisa library, via inter-library loan and on the Internet.
9 5 # Dissertations and theses, research reports and contributions to conferences and symposia. These sources have usually undergone some form of review, although it may not have been as rigorous as for journal articles. One often finds useful information in these sources that have not been published in journals. # Newspapers, newsletters, Internet discussion groups, general web pages, and other informal reports. These sources, sometimes called grey literature, are usually considered to be less reliable than more strictly academic sources, but can nevertheless contain interesting perspectives and good illustrative examples. 3.3 How to do a literature search It is unlikely that a recent bibliography on your particular topic has already been compiled. However, it is worth consulting the Subject Reference Librarian for Psychology (who works in the library) in this regard, as a bibliography on a related topic may be available. Such bibliographies will usually be dated and will most probably not cover every aspect of your research. You should, therefore, also do your own search, even if a bibliography is available. To gain access to the library and the subject librarian, you have to apply for a six months pre-registration admission to the library via the Secretary for Master s and Doctoral Programmes in Psychology, Mrs Barrish ( She will provide you with a request for access letter. Upon presenting this letter and a nominal access fee (which will be subtracted from your final registration fees) to the chief librarian, you may use the library and its services freely. Pre-registration admission to the library is granted for one period of six months only. Once you have gained admission to the library, feel free to consult the library personnel on how to search the library catalogue. If your research applies specifically to local conditions, special note should be taken of South African dissertations, theses and research articles in your field. The Subject Reference Librarian for Psychology will be able to help you with this. Also consult the library s subject catalogue and any other available source. You should also make use of Internet search engines and websites that are relevant to your field of research. In doing this it is important to be aware that Internet sources vary greatly in academic status - ranging from scholarly journals available online to informal web pages. In writing your literature survey you should show that you understand that not all sources have equal value. It is also important that you should provide an historical perspective on your field of interest by tracing the progression of thought in the field and by outlining recent developments. It is often possible to locate one or two good overviews of the historical development of a field, and in many cases this will be sufficient. However, depending on the nature of your topic, you may want to investigate some of the older literature in more detail. The primary focus of most literature reviews is on recent developments in the field, as reflected in articles in recent issues of international and local journals. During your literature search you will gradually delimit your topic on the basis of the nature and scope of previous work. If you find many hundreds of relevant references, your topic is probably too wide or too vaguely defined and should be narrowed down. Make a preliminary study of all the sources generated by your search that are available in the library and request photocopies of potentially important articles, books etc. or download them from the Internet for later detailed study. For those of you who require a systematic goal setting procedure in the form of a number of assignments that will all contribute to the composition of your research outline, your first self-study assignment is as follows: GOAL 1: RECORD THE RESULTS OF YOUR LITERATURE SEARCH IN THE FORM OF A LIST OF REFERENCES RELATING TO YOUR PROPOSED RESEARCH, WITH BRIEF ANNOTATIONS INDICATING THEIR RELEVANCE.
10 6 Keep the following in mind: # It is impossible to estimate or specify the number of items on your list beforehand and it may vary from several dozen to a few hundred. What is important is that the topic which your sources define should be both of manageable size and of adequate scope. Naturally, your search should include the most recent literature together with as many older sources as you deem appropriate. # Write a brief introduction in which the parameters applying to your literature search are specified: Describe the topic in a few sentences (the search terms used are often helpful here); indicate the time span of the publications covered by your search; list the sources which you used in your search; indicate the languages in which the literature was written and whether there appears to be any relevant literature in other languages. This information will be useful if you wish to extend your search later. # Your references should be recorded in accordance with the Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). Copies of the latest (5 th edition) version of the APA s Instructions to Authors are available in the library. Appendix 1 contains a summary of this referencing style and should be followed when composing your research outline as well as your dissertation or thesis. # Your list of references will obviously be very useful when writing your dissertation or thesis, but it should not be seen as limiting either the scope of your research or the contents of the dissertation or thesis it is only a provisional list. # Your search, and the resulting list of references, should not be limited to empirical investigations, but should also include relevant theoretical and methodological contributions. For the purposes of this assignment, you may list your references under thematic headings. This will help you see where the gaps might be. # Each source should be followed by a brief evaluation of its importance for your intended research and dissertation. Usually one or two sentences will suffice for this. Do not attempt to give an abstract of the source Useful resources Books De Vos, A.S., Strydom, H., Fouche, C.B. & Delport, C.S.L. (2002) Research at grass roots: For the social sciences and human service professions (2 nd Ed.). Pretoria: Van SchaikPublishers Hart, C. (2001). Doing a literature search: A comprehensive guide for the Social Sciences.United Kingdom: Sage Publishers. Leong, F.T.L. & Austin, J.T. (1996). The Psychology research handbook: a guide for graduate students and research assistants. London: Sage Mouton, J. (2001). How to succeed in your master s and doctoral studies. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers. Rossouw, D. (ed.) (2003). Intellectual tools: Skills for the human sciences. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers. Terre Blanche, M. & Durrheim, K. (1999). Research in practice. Cape Town: UCT Press. Internet sources
11 Justifying the proposed research 7 Research can only be justified by showing that the expected results will contribute in some way to psychological knowledge or insight. Such a justification therefore takes the form of a critical evaluation of existing theoretical knowledge and systematic research relating to your chosen subject. As part of this, you should point out one or more gaps or uncertainties in existing knowledge and indicate how your dissertation/thesis is expected to fill these. During this phase of your research, previous work relating to your research context or research problem should be evaluated critically to establish the state of existing knowledge and the precise nature of the contribution you could make. This evaluation often indicates which research design could be used most profitably. Theories or parts of theories which have been applied to your research context/problem, or to closely related contexts/problems, should also be reviewed critically to operationalise the research context and/or to derive testable research questions and/or predictions (hypotheses). If this proves to be difficult or impossible in the case of descriptive or inferential research, it may be necessary for you to modify an existing theory which has not yet been related to your topic. The research questions and/or hypotheses (or the specification of the purpose of your research) should form the focal point of your whole research project: they should be the end-product of your survey of existing knowledge and the starting point for planning your own investigation. The form this takes will depend on the kind of research you contemplate doing. If, for example, you plan on doing a classical experimental study, formulating a formal research hypothesis is a good idea. If you plan on doing an open-ended qualitative investigation, you should formulate a clear statement describing the purpose and context of the investigation. Whatever the adopted methodological approach may be, it should in all cases be underscored by articulating an applicable paradigmatic approach to the study. This part of the research process is usually prolonged, difficult and unstructured, and requires intensive intellectual and creative effort and sustained motivation. In addition to your general reading and study of the literature located in your search, it helps to seek additional information, for example by talking (and listening) to other researchers. Neither this guide nor your prospective supervisor or promoter can tell you how you should go about studying existing knowledge in order to delimit a good research project. However, some ideas on how literature surveys and theories should eventually be reported in writing are presented in section 5.3. These will also be useful when completing your second assignment. GOAL 2: WRITE A JUSTIFICATION, NOT EXCEEDING 3000 WORDS, FOR YOUR PROPOSED INVESTIGATION. INCLUDE A STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM OR RESEARCH CONTEXT OR RESEARCH TOPIC, AND A BRIEF CRITICAL EVALUATION OF EXISTING EMPIRICAL AND THEORETICAL KNOWLEDGE RELATING TO THIS PROBLEM OR RESEARCH CONTEXT OR RESEARCH TOPIC. ALSO INCLUDE THE DERIVATION OF (A) RESEARCH QUESTION(S) THAT MAY GUIDE YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR HYPOTHESES WHICH YOU PROPOSE TO TEST (OR A SPECIFICATION OF THE PURPOSE OF YOUR PROPOSED INVESTIGATION). THE CONTRIBUTION WHICH YOUR RESEARCH IS EXPECTED TO MAKE TO EXISTING KNOWLEDGE SHOULD BE INDICATED EXPLICITLY.
12 3.5 Techniques of assessment or data collection 8 Having formulated either the purpose of your research or research questions or some testable hypotheses, you are in the case of having selected a qualitative oriented research paradigm, in a position to specify the research topic and its context. In the case of having selected a quantitative orientation to your research, you can now specify which variables will have to be measured and the population to which these measurements will apply. # If a qualitative research approach has been adopted the next step will be to describe how you will obtain your information. A wide range of information collecting methods ranging from interviews to observations to document analysis are available and a fitting combination of methods should be selected and justified. Your selection of appropriate information collecting methods should be based on a thorough review of broad discovery or exploration oriented methods. # If a quantitative research approach has been adopted, the next step will be to select appropriate techniques for measuring each variable. This is entirely up to you and should be based on a sound knowledge of psychological assessment techniques in general and their application to your research problem in particular. Some of your measurements may be based on the application of existing psychological tests. When selecting and evaluating a measuring instrument, particular attention should be paid to information relating to its availability, whether or not it has been standardised, whether your subjects will be comparable to the standardisation group, and its reliability and validity. The strictness of the requirements with regard to the psychometric properties and applicability of a measuring instrument depends, among other things, on the importance in your investigation of the variable being measured. Measurement of the dependent variable(s) should obviously be beyond reproach, otherwise the research is not worth doing. The principal independent variables should also be properly measured, while less stringent requirements may be in order for variables which are expected to play a peripheral role. If you do not intend using psychological tests, specify in detail how you will collect your research material. Explain why the method of your choice is appropriate, what possible difficulties you may encounter and how you will avoid these. If you plan on doing interviews or a survey questionnaire, provide a draft interview schedule or a draft questionnaire. For general overviews of measurement techniques, you will find a fair number of helpful textbooks on psychological testing and assessment in the library. The third assignment on the process of composing your research outline is as follows: GOAL 3: IF YOU HAVE ADOPTED A QUALITATIVE APPROACH: SPECIFY HOW RESEARCH MATERIAL WILL BE COLLECTED, INCLUDING A JUSTIFICATION FOR YOUR CHOICE OF TECHNIQUES AND THEIR THEORETICAL BASIS. IF YOU HAVE ADOPTED A QUANTITATIVE APPROACH: SPECIFY WHICH VARIABLES ARE RELEVANT TO YOUR INVESTIGATION AND INDICATE HOW EACH WILL BE MEASURED; GIVE BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS OF YOUR WAY OF MEASUREMENT, INCLUDING A JUSTIFICATION FOR YOUR CHOICE, ITS THEORETICAL BASIS, AND IF RELEVANT, ITS AVAILABILITY, METRIC PROPERTIES AND STANDARDISATION Useful resources The following sources may be useful in locating and evaluating appropriate measuring instruments: Aiken, L.R. (1996). Rating scales and Checklists: evaluating bahaviour, personality and attitudes. United States: John Wiley
13 9 Buros, O.K. (Ed.) Test in Print. Highland Park, N.J: Gryphon Press. Latest edition. Buros, O.K. (Ed.) The Mental Measurements Yearbook. Highland Park, N.J: Gryphon Press. Latest edition. Fehrman, P.G. & Obrien, N.P. (2001). Directory of test Collections in Academic, Professional and Research Libraries. Chicago: The Association Groth-Marnat, G. (2003). Handbook of Psychological assessment. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons. The mental measurements yearbook.(1998 or later edition). Hifhland Park, NJ: Gryphon Press. Wesite and book: The following websites also contain information that may be helpful: Research design This phase of your research involves planning the data collection procedure and requires an adequate background in research methodology. It will be assessed according to contemporary methodological requirements in Psychology as well as the methodological standards of recent investigations in your particular field of interest. If the earlier phases of your planning were executed properly, you will find that many aspects of your research design follow logically from your formulation of the research context, research problem or hypotheses. When working with hypotheses you should remember that although they explicitly indicate only what you expect to find in your investigation, they usually also imply how this should be achieved. The how is your research design and should be such that the hypotheses will be unequivocally supported or rejected by the results of your investigation. The same how question is also applicable when you make use of descriptive or qualitative research. Depending on your research design, your data analysis may entail anything from an intensive qualitative analysis to elaborate multivariate statistical techniques. Irrespective of the kind of analysis undertaken, there are two general requirements to be met when choosing methods of data analysis. First, the analysis, like the research design, should be adequate in the sense that it should allow you to reach unequivocal conclusions or achieve the previously specified purposes of your research. Secondly, you should use only techniques or methods of analysis which you fully understand. This requirement should not place any serious limitations on your choice of a research topic or a research problem or design, but will rather indicate the nature of some of the general reading which your research requires. Usually you need not acquire detailed mathematical or statistical knowledge of your techniques of analysis (although such knowledge may prove to be quite useful), but we expect you to know what you are doing as a researcher in Psychology. The assignment below indicates the nature of these expectations. If your analysis of results requires computer facilities and you are unable to obtain these elsewhere, the University s Department of Computer Services may be able to help. Registered master s and doctoral students may use the University s facilities for their research after registering their project with that department. There is no cost involved but it is required that you be able to visit the computer laboratoria at the main campus or satellite campuses. GOAL 4: BRIEFLY DESCRIBE YOUR PROPOSED SAMPLE(S), RESEARCH DESIGN, DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURE AND METHOD OF ANALYSIS, JUSTIFYING EVERY CHOICE. REFER TO THE ASSUMPTIONS UNDERLYING YOUR PROPOSED ANALYSES AND THEIR TENABILITY.
14 Useful resources Many good textbooks on research design have been written and you should at least scan the available methodology texts in the Psychology section of the library. We have found the following references worthwhile: Campbell, D.T. & Stanley, J.C. (1966). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research. California: Houghton & Mifflin. Creswell,J.W. (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. London: Sage. DePoy, E. (1999). Introduction to research: Understanding and applying multiple strategies. St. Loius: Mosby. Goodwin, C.J. (1995). Research in Psychology: Methods and design. New York: Wiley. Miller, D.C. (1991). Handbook of research design and social measurement. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications. Mouton, J. (2001). How to succeed in your master s and doctoral studies. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers. Rossouw, D. (ed.) (2003). Intellectual tools: Skills for the human sciences. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers. Thomas, R.M. (2003). Blending qualitative and quantitative research methods in theses and dissertations. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press. The websites below also contain information and links on research design: In addition to books and websites on research design, a good way of getting a better understanding of design issues is to pay close attention to the designs used in the sources you consulted for your literature review. It is often possible to find a study very similar to what you intend doing and then to emulate that in designing your own study Ethical considerations It is important to realise that when you execute this part of your research, you will in most cases be working with people and not just with ideas or results. As a researcher, you will be responsible for the well-being of your subjects/respondents/participants during the time they collaborate in your investigation. Ethical considerations should therefore be kept in mind during both the planning and execution of this phase of your research. We recommend that you consult the Ethical Code for Psychologists of the Psychological Society of South Africa (website: and the guidelines set up by the Board for Psychology of the South African Health Professions Council (website: A further good reference for ethics in social science research can be found at: 3.7 Compiling your research outline After having completed the above assignments, you are ready to compile your research outline. By using the information you gathered, explain your research plan with reference to the following: # The suggested title of your dissertation/thesis. This should clearly convey the nature of your proposed project in as few words as possible. (The type of participants or data collection methods need not be mentioned.)
15 11 # The research problem. At the outset, you should inform the reader what problem(s) you aim to solve or what question(s) you will address, explaining why you consider it important to do so. # Literature survey. Briefly sketch existing theory and relevant knowledge relating to the topic/problem(s) you have mentioned. Base your arguments on recent review and research publications. Lead the reader towards your research questions and/or research hypotheses (or delineate your research context) through critical analysis and systemisation of the information. State the research context/questions and/or research hypotheses that arise out of this literature, and indicate how your study will add to existing knowledge. # Research design. Delineate the accessible population and the sampling procedure. Clearly describe the formation of the research group(s) as well as how you will obtain your information. When using a quantitative research approach, indicate what variables will be measured. Explain the measurement procedures, as well as the reliability and validity of the techniques of assessment that will be used (or describe the trustworthiness of observations and interpretations you intend to make). Summarise threats to the validity (or trustworthiness) of your study and indicate how you intend to resolve these threats. Pay specific attention to ethical considerations. # Data analysis. Discuss the techniques or methods that will be used for analysing and interpreting the results. # Table of contents. Give a preliminary chapter and heading outline of your proposed dissertation/thesis as you currently see it. You will be greatly helped in this section by considering the tables of contents of other dissertations or theses in your field of study. # References. At the end of your proposal, you should list the references mentioned in your text. Follow the system used by the American Psychological Association. # Appendices. Attach drafts of your measuring instruments if any. # Evaluation schedule. Attach a completed evaluation schedule (see Appendix 2) in which you have rated your own outline. You should obtain at least 80% in your own estimation before submitting the outline. The body of your research outline should consist of about 10 to 15 pages. It is important that you stick to the essential critical aspects of literature review, research design and data analysis only. In Appendix 2 you ll find a list of evaluation criteria and an evaluation schedule. Follow the instructions to appraise the quality of your outline. The evaluation schedule acts as your own systematic quality indicator. By assessing your own work in this way you will get a good indication of weaknesses that require attention before you submit the outline for consideration. Use 80% as your benchmark of a properly composed research outline. Only then submit your outline to us for consideration. For your interest, and as an additional indicator of the issues to be considered when compiling a research outline, an example of general guidelines that lecturers may use when evaluating research outlines (along with those contained in Appendix 2), is provided in Appendix Useful resources Should you require further reading and guidance on writing your research outline, you are welcome to use the following references: Coley, S.M. (1990). Proposal writing. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Mouton, J. (2001). How to succeed in your master s and doctoral studies. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers.
16 12 Punch, K.F. (2000). Developing effective research proposals. London: Sage. Wicknam, S. (1997). Guidelines for writing research proposals: workbook. Vredehoek, Cape Town: Research and Academic development. The following websites also contain information on how to compose your research outline:
17 4 APPLYING FOR ADMISSION AND REGISTRATION 13 The development of a thorough research outline is an essential first step that allows you to start assessing the feasibility of your study. Once you are satisfied that you have given sufficient thought to your research outline, proceed as follows: # Attach a completed evaluation schedule (see Appendix 2) to your research outline. If you do not adhere to this stipulation we may return your research outline with the request that you assess your own work and develop it until you have received at least 80% in your own estimation before resubmitting it. # Inspect the list of research interests of staff members (see Appendix 4) and identify a lecturer whose research interests match yours. Submit your research outline to this person with a covering letter requesting his/her appraisal of your proposed study. This can be done via , fax or ordinary mail. (The departmental fax number is: ). # Request the staff member to assess your research outline and to comment briefly on its viability. You may be asked to reconsider aspects of your outline and to resubmit it before the staff member makes a commitment on being your supervisor/promoter. If the lecturer is not able to act as your supervisor/promoter, he/she should refer you to another academic who may be of assistance. Please request a referral, for in this way you enter into a networking system that should lead to a mutually acceptable match with a mentor with whom you can collaborate in executing your study. However, remember that staff members can only accommodate a certain number of advanced postgraduate students and are not obliged to accept you as a student. # IMPORTANT: Also send a complete copy of your submission and covering letter to the course secretary for master s and doctoral studies (Mrs C Barrish) for record keeping. Don t forget to add the submission date on your Evaluation Schedule. You should receive feedback within one month. # Once a member of staff has agreed to become the supervisor/promoter of your study, you may proceed with final registration. Contact the Department of Student Administration (Postgraduate Student Affairs) and inform them of the title of your study and the name of your supervisor/promoter. If you have not yet completed a registration form, you should do so now. These forms are available from: The Registrar (Academic), Unisa, P O Box 329, PRETORIA, Please note that we can only accommodate a limited number of postgraduate students. Our workload, the interests of staff members and especially the quality of your research outline will determine whether we can accommodate you as a master s or doctoral student. Also, please consider registration only when you are fully committed to your proposed topic of study. Changing your field of study after registration will most likely result in wasted time and energy. It may also result in a hastily construed proposal and the consequent refusal of reregistration. You only have to pay registration fees when your research outline has been accepted. For initial admission purposes, only a nominal administration fee is required. 4.1 Registrations from outside South Africa In the case of students residing outside South Africa, we require that their theses/dissertations should be co-supervised by an appropriately qualified person with whom face-to-face contact is possible. It is therefore important that you obtain the consent of a joint supervisor/promoter (at least in principle) before you register.
18 14 Please proceed as follows: Forward the curriculum vitae of the proposed person who will act as your joint supervisor/promoter along with your research outline to a lecturer whom you wish to approach as your supervisor/promoter. It is preferable that your research outline should already be approved by the person you wish to be considered as your joint supervisor/promoter before you submit it to us for consideration. Our departmental research committee will then appraise the adequacy of the person's academic and experiential background for the intended study. A joint supervisor/promoter should have some formal academic background in Psychology, some specialist knowledge on the topic of the study and/or some formal research background. The submission of a research outline that is already supported by a joint supervisor/promoter is likely to expedite your final registration considerably. 4.2 Registrations for studies involving clinical or counselling interventions Please note that if your study involves therapeutic or counselling interventions, the supervision we provide will relate only to the research aspects of your study. You will have to make your own arrangements to ensure that your applied work is properly supervised by a therapeutic or counselling professional. 4.3 Alternative registration recommendations If your academic background does not contain adequate formal training in Psychology or you have been academically inactive for a number of years, it may be recommended that you complete a number of undergraduate and/or honours courses in Psychology for non-degree purposes before registration for master s or doctoral studies will be considered. For this reason it is important that you submit your curriculum vitae and transcripts of the academic records of your degrees to the Department of Student Administration (Postgraduate Enquiries) before submitting your research outline for evaluation. At this point you do not have to pay the full registration fee, only an administration fee is required. If your research ideas are not yet adequately developed, it may also be recommended that you first enroll for our honours (fourth year) paper in Research Methodology (for non-degree purposes). Since this paper is structured around the development and execution of individually conceptualised studies, you will have a good opportunity to systematically develop more differentiated thoughts within your chosen field of study. If properly conceived, the research report can be used as a pilot study within the framework of the master s or doctoral investigation. This recommendation may also be made if you obtained less than 60% average (or a B+ in the North American assessment system) for your honours or master s studies.
19 Diagrammatic summary of the application procedure The following flow diagram summarises the application for the admission and registration process: STUDENT PROSPECTIVE SUPERVISOR/PROMOTER UNISA ADMIN (POST GRADUATE) Enquiry: registration procedures. Submit CV and academic record of degrees and course work for appraisal. Prepare and submit research outline (include evaluation schedule $ 80%): - send one copy to prospective supervisor/ promoter for appraisal - send one copy to M&D course secretary for record keeping - Send general and departmental guidelines on registration - Departmental M&D Course secretary arranges library access Admission: Appraise academic records and obtain Department of Psychology s recommendation: - initial admission acceptable - completion of some honours courses and/or undergraduate courses/modules, in which case the M or D application is postponed Evaluation response: (If initial submission was not in lecturer s field of expertise or if lecturer s quota of students has been filled he/she responds to the student by recommending an appropriate alternative supervisor or requests the proposal committee to recommend an alternative possible supervisor/promoter. He/she comments on the submission and informs prospective student: - refusal of registration based on inadequate/inappropriate academic background - recommend resubmission Redraft research outline and resubmit - recommend refusal of registration topic if second submission is unsatisfactory - recommend final registration if first (re)submission is satisfactory Submit final registration along with registration fees to Unisa Student Administration Process registration and final access to library and subject librarian Flow diagram 4.I: Application for admission and registration procedure for master s and doctoral students (dissertation/thesis only) in Psychology
20 16 5 AFTER REGISTRATION Your supervisor/promoter is your main contact with the University and deals with all aspects of your studies, except administrative matters which are handled by the Department of Student Administration (Postgraduate Enquiries). In the Department of Psychology, supervisors/promoters (along with joint supervisors/promoters) perform functions such as the following. They: # evaluate research outlines, research proposals and proposed titles of dissertations/theses # discuss with their students, at the student s request, any aspect of the proposed research on which the student wishes to obtain advice and provide the required help to the best of their abilities # contact students from time to time to establish how their research is progressing, and advise students of the times during which they will be on leave or unavailable # arrange, at the student s request, meetings with members of the Department or other persons who may be of help to the student in planning or performing the research # recommend that the student be allowed or refused registration for the next academic year # evaluate the chapters of a dissertation/thesis as they are written and suggest improvements # give formal permission for a dissertation/thesis to be submitted for examination # act as one of the examiners of the dissertation/thesis which they supervised Supervisors/promoters, being fully aware of the importance of quick feedback, will do their best to return submitted assignments and chapters of the dissertation/thesis as soon as possible. A supervisor s/promoter s responsibilities are not suspended during a sabbatical, or during December and January, except for the days from Christmas to New Year and during the time that he/she may be officially on leave. If no feedback is received within four weeks after submitting any work, you should contact the supervisor/promoter to enquire what the position is. If you should ever find yourself in the unlikely position of being strongly dissatisfied with your supervisor s/promoter s work, you should state the case in writing to the Chair of the Department of Psychology, who will follow the matter up. On the other hand, it should be stressed that you are enrolled for an advanced degree and not the supervisor/promoter, which implies that you should do the work. It is not your supervisor s/promoter s duty to help analyse the data or correct grammatical, spelling and typing errors if these or other aspects of your work are not up to standard, you may obtain the services of an appropriate expert to improve them. Furthermore, the responsibility for all aspects of your dissertation/thesis rests with you alone. The supervisor/promoter can make suggestions as to what should be done, but the student makes the final decisions. Also, permission to hand in the dissertation/thesis for examination does not imply that your supervisor/promoter will award it a pass mark. The above explication of the roles of supervisors/promoters and joint supervisors/promoters are formalised in a learning contract (see Appendix 5), which upon registration, is signed by all. Please read it carefully before agreeing to sign it. 5.1 Writing the dissertation/thesis If your research outline is accepted but your supervisor/promoter is of the opinion that aspects of the outline still require some attention, your first task after registration will be to write a research proposal. A