EVENT: Autumn School for Postgraduate Students (25-29 May 2020)


I hope that you are well and safe in these uncertain times.

In the last week, I have been inundated with calls and emails asking whether my upcoming Autumn School for Postgraduate Students, scheduled for 25-29 May 2020, is going ahead, given the current corona outbreak.

Yes, the Autumn School is going ahead on 25-29 May 2020. If it is not safe for us to have a face-to-face workshop, we will have the workshop online via Zoom, a lovely and very user-friendly online meeting platform.

For those of you who would like to attend the Autumn School, please keep in touch with me individually via email or phone. I will make a final decision at the end of April about whether we will proceed face-to-face or via Zoom. If we have a face-to-face workshop, it will be a small workshop (maximum 20 students), so it complies with the South African government’s restrictions on the size of gatherings. Furthermore, if we have the face-to-face workshop, delegates will still have the option to join us on Zoom, so those who prefer to attend online instead of physically are still able to do so.

If we have the workshop on Zoom, I will courier mail all delegates their Postgraduate Toolkit DVDs before the workshop, so that everyone has the required study material before the workshop starts.

Please note that the deadline for registrations is 11 May 2020.

For those who are interested in attending the workshop, I suggest that in the mean time you download Zoom (if you have not done so already) and become familiar with the software programme.

I remain committed to making sure that postgraduate students and researchers receive the research support and assistance that they need, and at the same time providing my services in a safe and responsible way.

What is the Autumn School for Postgraduate Students about?

In this workshop, we cover the entire research process. My aim in these 5 days is to demystify the process of research and to help you complete a high quality thesis in good time, as you build towards a longer-term research career. Everyone who attends the workshop also gets a free copy of my Postgraduate Toolkit DVD (3rd edition).
I use an intersectional feminist, decolonial and queer-friendly lens to investigate how research can be used to address the pressing socio-economic and other challenges that we have in the country, and on the continent and more globally. My approach is interdisciplinary and holistic, and there is time for group work as well as for you to work individually and get feedback from me on your research and writing. The workshop is ideal for postgraduate students at any level of study, as well as supervisors and post-doctoral researchers.
We cover the following essential topics in the course of the workshop:
DAY ONE (The research proposal):

  • Introduction to research – reflecting on the history, philosophy and context of research, and the need for decolonised research
  • Ethics in research
  • Narrowing down the scope of a research project and deciding on a suitable topic
  • The structure of a comprehensive research proposal, which each component gone through in detail

DAY TWO (Research design and methodology):

  • Defining what research design and methodology is
  • Different types of data (primary/ secondary and quantitative/ qualitative) and how to choose the most appropriate kind of data for your research project
  • 18 commonly used research methods, and how to select the most appropriate for your research
  • Key concepts that examiners and reviewers are going to be raising (error, bias, reliability, validity, pilot testing)
  • The structure of a good research design and methodology chapter
  • Key project management principles in research

DAY THREE (Thesis writing):

  • Quality of life challenges that can make it more difficult to complete the research project, such as time management, balancing different demands, stress and health problems, as well as motivation.  We look at wellness holistically
  • Different structures/ formats of a thesis
  • How to write a high quality thesis, with each of the chapters gone through in detail.  Particular attention is turned to the literature review 
  • Theoretical frameworks, how to use these and where they go in the thesis
  • University requirements for thesis submission
  • The thesis examination process, which we cover in detail.  We go through a typical examiner’s form so that you can see the kinds of things examiners will be looking for
  • Common mistakes to avoid in academic writing

DAY FOUR (Publishing, grant application writing and the student-supervisor relationship):

  • How to write and publish an academic journal article – I am a reviewer for the South African Pharmaceutical Journal and will also share a reviewer’s perspective with you
  • How to select a suitable journal and decide on the scope of a paper
  • How to apply for funding – in particular, I take you through how to complete a funding application for the National Research Foundation (NRF), one of the largest funding bodies in South Africa. I am also a reviewer for the NRF and will share more details about the review process that is used for Thuthuka applications
  • Oral and poster presentations on your research
  • The student-supervisor relationship, how this relationship can be enhanced and ways of addressing conflict. We look at the role of mentorship in the research context in South Africa and some of the challenges that are being experienced
  • Career development for researchers – in this section, we also consider self-employment as a career option for researchers

DAY FIVE (Feedback and guest talk):

  • Individual and group presentations and detailed feedback on your research
  • Guest talk by Mictert Marketing Research on the practical challenges involved in field work

You can decide which days you would like to attend. However, we recommend that you attend all 5 days, because research is an integrated process – for example, when we go through thesis writing on day 3, you may realise that you do not have a clear research question guiding the entire thesis. The research question is covered in detail on day 1, when we look at the research proposal.
Cost of attending individual days: R1200 per day ex VAT (total is R1380 per day)
Cost of attending the full 5 days: R5000 ex VAT (total is R5750 for the entire Autumn School)
The prices above include workshop attendance, refreshments and lunch (if the workshop is face-to-face) and a free copy of the Postgraduate Toolkit on DVD (3rd edition, valued at R500 ex VAT). VAT is not charged for international payments. A discount of 10% is given for 5 or more registrations from the same institution. Travel and accommodation is not included in the above costing (the closest hotel is the Parktonian Hotel). An electronic certificate of attendance will be issued at the end of the workshop.
Dr Layla Cassim has been facilitating research workshops for more than 9 years at different universities and research bodies across South Africa. For more information on her business, Layla Cassim ERS Consultants CC, please visit Dr Cassim holds a B.Pharm. (with distinction) and PhD (Pharmacology) degrees from Rhodes University as well as an MBA (with distinction) from UNISA.

These are just some of the comments that have been made by previous workshop participants:

  • “This workshop really helped my confidence and gave me the tools that I needed to make my PhD a lot easier, and helped my motivation.”
  • “You have illustrated complete mastery of your course content both in breadth and depth yet you are able to share this information simply and meaningfully.  Your ability to draw in just the perfect examples from supervisions you have undertaken to concretise your explanations was excellent.  Presenters generally leave things at the level of theory so this was a remarkable change accordingly.  You are really brilliant at this and students find this approach valuable.”
  • “I […] attended your workshops. Please be informed that l finished my dissertation in May 2017 instead of December 2017. Please be also informed that l have just had my provisional final examination results and all 3 examiners had no objection to giving me 75% above for my dissertation. I owe it to your research workshops. Thank you so much, your workshops opened my mind and motivated me in terms of research.”
  • “This is just to express my hearty appreciation. You may recall that I nagged you when I was about to start my studies last year. I want you to know that I made use of your toolkit  and,  finally, I went through. I was actually surprised that I finished my master of Theology in a year instead of the usual two years. My supervisor and other colleagues in the faculty were shocked. I don’t know how to thank you for saving my time and money. I am now fighting to start my PhD this year and with just the same approach I am hopeful.” 
  • “One of the best (if not THE BEST) workshop / conference I have ever attended in my career of 35 years.”

In order to register for the upcoming Autumn School for Postgrad Students on 25-29 May 2020, please complete the registration form ( and email it back to me. I will then send you an invoice.

Deadline for registration: 11 May 2020
Deadline for full payment: 18 May 2020
For further information or queries, please feel free to contact me on +27749995847 or

We pray that the corona outbreak can be contained soon.

Yours in development,
Dr Layla Cassim

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