Exploring students' experiences of producing a masters dissertation.
Nzimande, Mildred Nomkhosi.
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A substantial number of research articles have been published on postgraduate (doctoral and masters) studies, locally and internationally. Whilst most of these articles address issues of research supervision, some are seen to be concerned with issues of postgraduate retention and throughput as aspects of focus and debate on Higher Education Institutions. This research study was conducted with the aim of analysing students' experiences of researching for a masters dissertation. Seven masters students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa participated in this study. Using a qualitative case study approach within the interpretive paradigm, the researcher sought to answer the two critical questions: 1) what are students‟ experiences of producing a masters dissertation? 2) How are masters students supported through the process of research? The theory of experiential learning was used as a framework for this study. This theoretical framework assumes that people learn new knowledge by consciously reflecting upon their existing and newly constructed knowledge. The literature reviewed as the point of departure for this study was based on two major issues, namely: students‟ issues as well as supervision issues since these are the areas that have been widely researched concerning postgraduates. Issues of trustworthiness and credibility were taken care of and are explained in chapter 3, as well as ethical considerations for the participants. Based on the collected data, eight themes were created and data analysed accordingly. From the analysed data four major insights emerged relating to individuality of research; self-direction in learning; students‟ previous experience; and challenges of research. The findings suggest that research supervision is the major contributory factor to the students' progress with their research. Therefore, greater efforts on the supervisors part in terms of creating an enabling environment for students to successfully conduct or complete their research studies seems to be a necessity. Hence, one of this study's recommendations is that the institution or the specialization should consider introducing group supervision to minimize the privatized nature of supervision. A proper working plan needs to be in place to ensure that postgraduates are adequately supervised in the manner that will encourage them into becoming successful researchers.