Although you will only embark on your mini-thesis in your second year, it is important that you understand the process that lies ahead. The mini-thesis is the final requirement for the Master of Public Health. It should be 7 500 – 20 000 words long, depending on whether it is a Qualitative or Quantitative study. In our experience, however, less than 8 000 words does not provide adequate scope for a mini-thesis. It is weighted at 60 credits, and together with the Public Health Research module and the Quantitative Research Methods or Qualitative Research Methods or Monitoring and Evaluation in Health and Development Programmes module, this research component makes up 50% of your qualification.
After completing two assignments for Public Health Research, you take either Qualitative Research Methods or Quantitative Research Methods module in your second year. These modules guide you through the respective approaches and the process of developing a research protocol. You are expected to spend a few months working with a supervisor before submitting your protocol to the Community and Health Sciences Higher Degrees Committee (CHSHD). They meet monthly, except for November, December and January. You may also need to submit your protocol to an Ethics Committee in your own country. Spend time in advance finding out about this, so that it does not delay you.
Be aware that from the start of your mini-thesis, you need to remain very focused; because you will not have regular assignments to hand in by certain deadlines, you will need to create your own work plan, otherwise your timing could become drawn out. Linking up with fellow students to motivate each other is also a good idea. Asking someone who is versed in the topic in your workplace to meet regularly with you, simply so you have someone to discuss it with, is also a good idea.
What is a research protocol?
The protocol or proposal is a short, [max 12 page] but comprehensive outline of your mini-thesis. In the protocol, you describe in some detail what you are going to do to carry out your research. You present a literature review of what has been understood about the topic to date, and explaining what contribution YOUR research will make. The protocol stage is intended as a checkpoint to ensure that the research study you are planning is do-able and ethical, amongst other considerations. You will receive a framework that you must follow, as well as some exemplars of past protocols.
During your thesis year, you will be invited to attend a week-long mini-thesis workshop.
Assessment: Your mini-thesis will be marked by two examiners (one internal and one external) and the examiners’ reports will be submitted to the Community and Health Sciences Higher Degrees and Senate Higher Degrees Committees.
Information and Support
The Co-ordinator of mini-theses is Dr Hanani Tabana: work 021 959 9394. We strongly urge you to make, and keep, contact with the Division for Postgraduate Studies.
We provide Guidelines for the completion of your protocol and Mini-thesis in Year 2. This will be sent to you when you need it.
UWC Division for Postgraduate Studies aims to make thesis development not only easier, but also increase your chances of success. Find out more about what they offer by exploring their website.
Gearing up to Publish
As an MPH student, you should be gearing up to publish your MPH research – which, as it has been collaboratively developed with your supervisor, would make your supervisor a co-author of your published work. In your article, you would list your affiliation with UWC, as well as the institution you are associated with in a work capacity. Should you decide to publish based on thesis-work, it is imperative that you follow the School’s Student Publication Guidelines. These may be sent to you on request. Consult with your supervisor or request the Guideline from the Student administrators.
Choosing A Mini-Thesis Topic
As you near the end of your first year, guidance will be given on choosing a research topic. You may be encouraged to work with one of SOPH’s more experienced researchers on a project with potential impact. This will benefit both you and the project leader, because it will feed into the project and result in your mini-thesis and a manuscript with potential for publication.