Wahida, Global Food Studies, University of Adelaide
Higher education institutions in Australia offer opportunities for their research students to develop their ability and individual set of research skills. This can be done through conducting a research project either full time or part time. One of the biggest constraints that is often faced by many students is that students entering higher degree research programs are assumed to have a complete set of skills and experience in conducting independent research.
Designing research is often considered to be the first problem that every student has to deal with and often needs to be resolved within the first year of candidature. Every student is expected to determine whether she will develop her own research project or being part of a large project with their supervisors. Each option has its own advantages and challenges. Designing and implementing an independent research implies that students have limited amount of budget. However, this option provides more flexibility in terms of timeline and research content than being part of a supervisor-lead project. This article elaborates issues on designing research in particular designing a quantitative survey and how it helps students meet their academic requirement based on the presenter’s experience being involved in the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR)-funded project “Market Demand for High Value Agriculture Commodities: Promoting Competitiveness and Inclusiveness”. This involvement is part the requirements of the John Allwright Fellowship scholarship awarded to the author.
For research students at the University of Adelaide, the series of work start at the development of research proposal, or knows as the CCSP milestone (Core Component of the Structured Program). Students are expected to complete the CCSP within six months from the commencement of their candidature. It is important to include and consider the following aspects in the documents: background, a literature review, research questions, objectives, methodology, methods and budget.
Financial support through getting involved in a project
Finding (additional) financial support for the research budget is recommended as it helps us produce a high quality research design, and, therefore, at the final stage of the research project we will be able to produce high quality data sets. Having good quality datasets help us -produce good quality analysis. The involvement of University of Adelaide researchers in ACIAR-funded projects have been designing and implementing structural producer, consumer and trader surveys. The survey design process start by developing the questionnaire, selecting respondents, developing the sampling frame, pre-testing questionnaires, training enumerators, collecting data and a series of data management processes including data entry, data cleaning and data validation. These all processes normally take between 6 and 12 months.
Working with large survey datasets requires us to work closely with the enumerators. Thus it is very important to design and train enumerator to deliver every question in the questionnaire as clear as possible. Training enumerators is essential. Well-trained enumerators can ensure interviews with respondents are implemented as requested by researchers and interview methods are uniform between enumerators.
During the study period, students are recommended to develop other important set of skills and values that might help them to develop our career and networking. One important value that research students should develop during their candidature is ‘branding’ their research profiles. Most experienced researchers started their career from conducting simple research. One of the most important factors that is sometimes being neglected is that during their study is that students are encouraged to establish their professional networks, particularly in their research fields. This might help their career in particular by developing a superior research profile. The next step in branding research profiles is to position the brand and through different outlets such as presenting at conferences, publishing at academic journals, attending weekly seminars, etc.
Branding research profiles can be developed by engaging with third parties or building a collaborative research project. Majority of students come from developing countries. Costello and Zumla (2000) indicate that many collaborative research projects in developing countries in the past were conducted under three major approaches known as “semi-colonial paradigm”. The approaches are postal research, parachute research and annexed sites research. Such a research typology has attracted criticism.
Recently, some researchers introduce a “partnership” approach to ensure the benefits from research projects are equally distributed to all parties. Evaluation of research partnership should take into account the following aspects: a) mutual trust and shared decision making; b) national ownership; c) early planning for the translation of research findings into policy and practice; and d) development of national research capacity. Being a team member of a research project, it is very important for researchers including research students to ensure that the listed aspects are recognised in the project that we are involved in.
*Wahida shared her experience and knowledge about designing and conducting research at PPIA-GoLive Indonesia workshop series. Wahida is a researcher at the Indonesian Centre for Agricultural Socio-Economic Policy Studies (ICASEPS) at Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Global Food Studies, Faculty of Professions, University of Adelaide.