The Research Professor in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Theo Davies, continues with his series of seminar that he presents to the faculty’s departments on the first Tuesday of every month. On 6 June 2023, Professor Davies, an Alexander von Humboldt scholar, made a presentation to the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Professor Davies said that the main reason for the series of seminars was that he wants to empower the faculty staff with research-related knowledge so they can be able to publish in recognised academic journals. This will assist the University a great deal to becoming a research intense university.
The topic of the presentation was how to write a ‘winning proposal’. Professor Davies defined a research proposal as “a plan of attack on a researchable problem. It is a communication instrument, outlining the researcher’s specific and clear intentions to the proposal reviewers”. Professor Davies further explained that the research proposal was also “a selling document intended to impress and convince the reviewers of the researcher’s ability to carry out the plan, and of the scientific worth of the proposal”.
Professor Davies advised the department’s staff to consider some of the main areas that should be part of the research proposal. Some of these are how the proposal aligns with the department’s, or the faculty’s niche areas; the important research questions in the field; the gap of knowledge the research seeks to fill; and most importantly, how the public will benefit from the outcomes of the research. A good response to these, and other important questions, could result in the proposal attracting funding.
Another important part of the presentation was the proposal abstract, which Professor Davies described as a summary of the proposal. He said the proposal must answer the following questions: background, aims, methods results and conclusions.
Also, Professor Davies laid out the complexities of publishing articles in journals, and what researchers should expect, and how they should deal with that situation.
Responding to questions from the staff members, Professor Davies said one of the reasons for rejection of papers by journals was that the papers may not be complying with the scope of the journal. Professor Davies advised staff not to be disillusioned by being rejected. He said they would need to find out why the article was rejected, and then take the remedial action.
The Mathematical Sciences department staff said they learnt a lot from the presentation. Dr Sfundo Gumede, a Lecturer in the department, said that he learnt that a research proposal “sells” one’s research. “A good proposal is most likely to impress reviewers and funders among other things,” said Dr Gumede. Dr Gumede said they aimed “to work collaboratively as departmental colleagues on specific research topics in Mathematics. The knowledge gained from the seminar will be very useful in drafting our research proposal to attract funding for our research,” Dr Gumede said.