STARS course modules

Module 1

Identifying your research niche and getting started with research plans
Dr Vincent Titanji, Honorary Dean and Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Buea, Cameroon

This is the first of nine modules and serves as an introduction to the rest of the course. Divided into four parts, it begins by examining the definition of research, the classification of scientific disciplines and research, the scientific method, and the personal and institutional determinants for launching a successful research career. Part 2 looks at strategies for getting started; Part 3 deals with developing a career plan; and Part 4 explores research collaboration and the possibility of consultancy work.

At the end of this module, participants will be familiar with the concept of research as it is practised in the university. Not only will they be able to identify a research focus that is feasible, relevant and fundable, they should also be able to develop a career plan within the university context.

Module 2

Finding funding, developing research proposals and your first grant applications
Dr Layla Cassim, Founder, Layla Cassim ERS Consultants CC

This module covers the pivotal topic of how to obtain funding for research projects. It looks at how to identify appropriate and inappropriate funders, how to write the research proposal that shows prospective funders and other stakeholders how the research project will be executed, how to put a grant application together and what help may be available within each institution.

Module 3

Managing your research project
Professor Cliff Studman, Founder, Pie Square Consultants Ltd

This module will enable participants to set up and manage their research projects effectively in collaboration with the university administration, specifically looking at project time management against a plan that will include milestones, procurement, ethical values, financial management with appropriate documentation, reporting, and achieving project objectives.

Participants will be given a basic method for monitoring the expenditure from their research account and be able to manage collaborators and subordinates effectively, ensuring compliance with ethical requirements. They will also be able to manage external relationships with sponsors, stakeholders, and the media, recognising the importance of intellectual property and research uptake, and strategic planning for future research.

Module 4

Researcher? Teacher? Administrator? Parent? Managing your time
Professor Sylvie Kwedie Nolna, Founder, CLEAR (Capacity for Leadership Excellence in Research)

Effective time management starts with the commitment to change. Time management is feasible as long as you commit to action. Through better planning, prioritising, delegating, controlling your environment, understanding yourself, and identifying what you will change about your habits, routines, and attitude, you can get a hold of your time and meet your professional and personal goals as you intend.

This module will introduce you to the skills and tools needed to help researchers be both productive and efficient.

Module 5

Building effective collaboration and establishing partnerships
Professor Frans Swanepoel, Deputy Director, African Doctoral Academy, South Africa

This module starts from the idea that collaboration and partnership are cornerstones of global and local research systems, and therefore early career researchers need to be skilled at doing both. Collaboration is the ability to work alongside others in your research network to achieve your professional goals. By extension, effective collaboration is the skill of doing this joint work well, i.e. 'the art of collaboration'. When collaboration between two research institutions is cemented into a formal agreement or contract, a partnership is born. So, if the boundaries of collaboration can be thought of as somewhat blurry or undefined, a partnership explicitly sets out the terms of mutual benefit, within particular timeframes and resource parameters.

This module encourages early career researchers to grasp 'the art of partnering', that is, the calculus of designing and agreeing research partnership terms in ways that enhance their personal career development and help to achieve their institution’s strategic objectives.

Module 6

Getting your work in print: Writing and publishing for academic audiences
Professor David Katerere, Associate Professor, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa

This module describes the process of crafting and drafting a manuscript for publication in peer-reviewed journals. In addition we also discuss the journal requirements and editorial functions critical to understanding and successfully navigating the pathway to seeing your work in print.

Module 7

Beyond the university: Communicating and presenting research to non-academic audiences
Vincent A Ankamah-Lomotey, Deputy Registrar, KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana

The general public needs to be informed about what research is being undertaken, whether locally, nationally or internationally, and how it may hold the solution to some of their daily challenges. The wider audience, which includes funders, investors, and governments, also need to know what research is being produced in order to make decisions about where to invest – and therefore research outputs must be communicated in a way that is meaningful to them.

The public is looking up to researchers to provide solutions to their day-to-day challenges, it is therefore necessary for researchers to do their best to learn the requisite skills for effective communication of their research. This module will explore how to develop these skills.

Module 8

Ethics in academic life
Professor Walter Godfrey Jaoko, Professor of Tropical Medicine and Clinical Parasitology, University of Nairobi, Kenya

In this module we will begin by defining what ethics is, discuss how to identify ethical issues that may affect your research, examine some examples of good practice and ethical guidelines, discuss issues of research integrity and finally look at how you can become a positive role model for your students and juniors.

Module 9

Supervision
Dr Nelleke Bak, Director of Postgraduate Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa

This module addresses pertinent challenges for both supervisors and students in Africa at a time when the nature of postgraduate studies is rapidly changing. The module provides tools for supervisors to establish best practice in differing circumstances, expectations and contexts. It addresses key questions that roughly follow the supervision process. First, it examines the broader framework of university education before looking at some crucial changes that are taking place.

Discussion then moves to the rights and responsibilities of supervisors and students, before tackling the advantages and disadvantages of different styles and models of supervision. It addresses the tricky boundary between supervisory guidance and imposition and also looks at how to avoid student withdrawal and coping with problem cases. Much of the module explores how supervisors can strengthen their student’s academic writing through scaffolded learning and clear feedback. Finally, the module considers preparing for and dealing with the examination process, including the possibility of post-examination co-publication. 

Creative Commons Licence

Structured Training for African Researchers (STARS) by The Association of Commonwealth Universities is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Licence.