Economics Department kickstarts research excellence via workshop series

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Department of Economics orientation and research workshop for new Masters and PhD students
Department of Economics orientation and research workshop for new Masters and PhD students

By Lalelisile Mncwabe


In an effort to foster a sense of belonging and equip students with essential research skills, Rhodes University's Department of Economics recently organised a three-day orientation and research workshop for new Masters and PhD students.

Attended by a total of 25 first year Masters and PhD students, orientation sessions were considered a success by Professor Meshach Aziakpono, the Department of Economics Postgraduate Coordinator, who led the initiative.

The primary objective of the three days was to provide students with the necessary tools and knowledge to conduct advanced research in the fields of applied economics and finance. The workshop was important in helping students develop high-quality research proposals for their thesis projects. Through a series of interactive sessions, various aspects of research design, quantitative data gathering, and analytical techniques were covered.

Professor Jen Snowball, the Head of the Department of Economics, was also part of the workshop, highlighting the significance of ethical principles, considering it a crucial step in the research process. While the workshop provided insights into theoretical principles behind research methods, it also stressed the practical application of these methods in developing a research approach tailored to specific questions.

A second workshop, scheduled for July 24th to 26th, will delve deeper into literature review, data sourcing, and analytical techniques. Professor Snowball outlined that this workshop would prepare students to present their research proposals to the Commerce Higher Degrees Committee for evaluation and approval. The overarching goal is to guide students in determining and identifying research questions, suitable research methods and data sources, and choosing analytical methods relevant to their research topics.

According to the students' evaluation feedback, it was overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to learn and engage in meaningful discussions. The workshops also offer an opportunity for Masters and PhD students to meet others in their group and for students new to Rhodes University to see the campus and meet their supervisors in person. However, some students suggested extending the orientation period to a week, citing the vast information covered in the three-day workshop.

Recognising the dynamic nature of academia and the evolving needs of incoming students, Professor Aziakpono further expressed his commitment to continually revising and enhancing the programme to meet these demands. He emphasised that the recent workshop was just the beginning of a series of initiatives aimed at equipping students with the skills and knowledge necessary for success in their academic pursuits.

Furthermore, Professor Snowball underscored the importance of the resources and support services offered by Rhodes University students through the Centre of Postgraduate Studies (CPGS). In her opinion, “Access to extensive library resources and student-friendly websites is pivotal in facilitating research and academic growth.”

She emphasised the significance of leveraging these resources to enhance the learning experience and broaden students' understanding of their respective fields.

With access to comprehensive libraries and online databases, students are equipped with the tools to conduct in-depth research and stay abreast of the latest developments in applied economics and finance. Additionally, it highlights the value of academic supervisors who provide guidance and mentorship to students throughout their academic journey.

Professor Aziakpono expressed optimism that the workshop's success would inspire other departments to adopt similar initiatives, enhancing research practices university-wide. By equipping students with solid research skills early in their academic journey, Rhodes University aims to nurture a culture of excellence and innovation in scholarly endeavours.

The orientation and research workshop organised by the Department of Economics at Rhodes University marked a significant step in empowering first year Masters and PhD students with essential research skills.

By staying attuned to the changing needs of students and the academic community, Professor Aziakpono, along with his colleagues, aims to ensure that the orientation programme remains relevant and impactful for future generations of students.