Under the auspice of the project “Transforming African Universities to Meaningfully Contribute to Africa’s Development (TAGDev)” with funding from the Mastercard Foundation, the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) organised a training on academic proposal writing and scientific data management for Masters and PhD students from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment from Gulu University. The training took place from 1st to 5th July 2019 in Churchill Courts Hotel in Gulu Town. As the next generation of academic leaders and researchers, RUFORUM recognises that equipping the students with practical skills in conceptualising and developing quality research proposals is paramount. This is not only useful in enabling the students to complete their Masters and PhD studies on time but equip them with skills for rigorous scientific research of acceptable quality worldwide. It is recognised that the University professors deliver quality work and providing an opportunity for research practitioners to share experiences in developing research projects, running practical sessions on software use for data analysis, interpretation and presentation of research results will further ground students’ practical skills as tomorrow’s scientists and also allow then complete their studies on time.
The training was organised targeting students who had just finalised their course work in the first year and were now preparing their research proposals for presentation to the academic committees of the University. The training was delivered in a practical, student focused exercise on qualitative and quantitative research process from problem tree analysis as a tool for conceptualising and presenting research problems to choice of and development of research tools, sampling techniques, data management in excel. Practical data management was demonstrated using the topics and dummy data which the students are developing with support from the academic supervisors at the University. Analysis was demonstrated using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) for surveys and other social science related research, and Genstat for experimental and other biological science related research. Practical sessions were also conducted on how the scientifically interpret and present results in scientific publications.
In total, 46 students attended from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment (FAE) of Gulu University (15 females, 31 males), 4 of which were PhDs (1 female and 3 males). The training benefited all the Masters students in FAE as a way of widening the TAGDev project support to the wider Gulu University beyond the project supported students. The Lecturers from Gulu University very much appreciated the training as a great supplement to what they had done with the students and was timely given that the students were scheduled to defend their proposals at their respective departments at the end of July 2019. Prof Duncan Ongeng, the Dean Faculty of Agriculture and Environment specifically acknowledged that,
this training was timely and much needed to reinforce what the student supervisors had done and providing practical experiences from purely research practitioners. We believe that the students will finish within the next one year to collect, analyse and write up their theses, and produce at least one scientific journal paper before graduation prior to their graduation”.
The students also greatly appreciated the training as a timely intervention to help them develop quality research proposals and allow them finish on time. “I particularly loved the session of problem tree analysis. It helped me conceptualise and clearly present the problem as well as the broader situation that my research will address. The practical sessions on how to use SPSS for data analysis was very useful for me. I can now finish my proposal” Said Sognigbe M. Monique (Female), Master of Agri-enterprise Development from Benin. Ms. Iyaloo Sheyavali (female), Master of Master of Science in Food Security and Community Nutrition student from Namibia said that
I was struggling with Chapter three (3) of my research proposal specifically how to design and conduct my experiment. The problem tree analysis was also very useful for me to understand the relationship between the root causes and the problem that I am addressing in my research. I also appreciated the fact that the facilitators were available even up to 10pm to support the students perfect their work.
RUFORUM will also conduct a similar training for Masters Students at Egerton University in Kenya.