UKZN Academic Speaks at PhD Conference
UKZN’s Dr Zilungile Kwitshana addressed the 2nd South African PhD Conference in Umhlanga on the topic: “What to Expect during a PhD Examination”.
The Conference was convened by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.
Speaking from an examiner’s perspective, Kwitshana said a thesis was always checked to establish whether it was of an acceptable standard and was presented and discussed appropriately enough to merit the doctorate being conferred.
Examiners were required to hold a PhD qualification and have sufficient postgraduate supervision and research experience. ‘Examiners need to be independent and objective at all times,’ she said.
When marking a thesis, examiners looked at whether it made a contribution to new knowledge and if there had been a systematic investigation of a question to arrive at a new result. Kwitshana said they also checked to establish whether the thesis was in line with several aspects of the candidate’s scholarship and followed a well-developed and well-structured argument.
Dr Conradee Write spoke on: “Publishing during your PhD”, in which she said it was vital to never give up trying to get a thesis published. ‘It could take up to 10 years!’
Write said it was wise not to accept offers from unknown journals and to define issues of copyright upfront. ‘Insist on face to face meetings and signed agreements.’
She said publishing during a PhD was important for paving a future in academia. She advised candidates to always aim at high impact publications as opposed to lower impact ones. However, she warned: ‘Don’t expect your first paper to be earth shattering, but it must be well written. Papers give you a reputation while a thesis only gives you a doctorate.’
Ms June Rose Ngcobo of the National Research Foundation’s Funding Directorate addressed candidates on funding and what the organisation offered once PhDs had been completed.
Ngcobo said the NRF provided human capacity support and financial support and also had a national post-doctoral research forum that had been operating in Cape Town for five years. She said the forum consisted of international researchers, funders and potential employers, and hosted grant writing workshops.
Also at the Conference were two doctoral candidates from the UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, Mr Khayelihle Makhathini and Ms Thabisile Mpofana, whose masters research projects in neuroscience were funded by the NRF.
Makhathni said earning a doctorate was usually a long, hard road. ‘You start out enthusiastically and then over time your energy levels might drop. Conferences such as this one equip us with the necessary skills to keep going. You also get inspired by meeting other scholars and academics who excel in their work.’
Said Mpofana: ‘It is very important for researchers to conduct studies that are relevant to the community.’