EVENT: Spring School for Postgraduate Students (26-30 October 2020)

Aim is to demystify the process of research and to help you complete a high quality thesis in good time

Warmest greetings, Postgraduate students, Supervisors and Researchers

I hope that you are all keeping well and safe.

Our recent research workshops over the last few months have all been conducted online, and we have had wonderful participation from postgraduate students and researchers from across South Africa, the SADC region and Africa more widely. Thank you to all who have attended, and for the robust discussions we have been able to have.

We are very happy to announce that our next and last public workshop for 2020 will be our Spring School for Postgraduate Students (26-30 October 2020), which will also be held online. In these 5 days, we cover the entire research process (see below), and all delegates receive free online access to my Postgraduate Toolkit DVD (3rd edition). My aim 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.

Are you a postgraduate student who is struggling to complete your research project? Are you having difficulty in writing up your thesis? Are you thinking of enrolling for a postgraduate degree, but you are not sure where to start? Are you keen to publish papers in journals but are not sure how to? Are you having problems with your supervisor and you are not sure how to address these? Are you trying to apply for funding? Are you a supervisor or a post-doc who wants to establish a long-term research career?

What impact does COVID-19 have on your research? How do you proceed with research in environments that are increasingly authoritarian and where censorship is becoming more and more of a problem? How do we maintain independence as researchers, when faced with pressures from funders who may want the research to serve particular agendas? How do we develop critical thinking skills and an awareness of structural privilege that could influence how we do our research and possibly cause bias? How do we get back to the basics and develop a love of reading, so that our writing becomes better, in a world in which there is constant bombardment with short sensationalist headlines on social media? These are just some of the important issues that we will be discussing.

I use an intersectional feminist, decolonial, Pan-Africanist 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 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 in any discipline, as well as supervisors and post-doctoral researchers.

To those who are interested in attending the Spring School but who also have work/ other commitments that don’t allow them to be present during the day, you can still attend the workshop – all sessions are video recorded, so you can watch and catch up in the evenings or weekends. You will also have access to all the workshop material and will be able to correspond with me if you have any questions or would like feedback on your work.

Strict online security measures are taken to protect the online privacy of the workshop and delegates and these will be shared with delegates beforehand.

We cover the following essential topics in the course of the workshop (you can attend the whole workshop, or just certain days, as mentioned below):

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 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 strongly 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 Spring School)
The prices above include workshop attendance and a free online 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. 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 Spring School for Postgrad Students on 26-30 October 2020, please complete the registration form ( and email it back to me. I will then send you an invoice.

Deadline for registration: 12 October 2020
Deadline for full payment: 19 October 2020
For further information or queries, please contact me on +27749995847 or

Yours in development,
Dr Layla Cassim

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