Challenges faced by postgraduate distance students in research proposal writing: A case of the institute of distance education of the University of Zambia
PC Manchishi, D Ndhlovu, Dr. W Phiri, LP Thomson
Universities all over the world require that their postgraduate students submit well researched quality theses in order for them to graduate with desired academic qualification. Drawing on social dilemma theory and Tinto (1975) Integration Model, the aim of the study was to understand what challenges UNZA-ZOU postgraduate distance students faced in research proposal writing. Based on a literature review and by the use of a descriptive case study, Tinto (1975) model is adapted in this study to integrate demographic, individual characteristics that affect postgraduate distance students from writing quality research proposal papers. A sample of 120 participants from the UNZA-ZOU postgraduate distance students in Zambia was used to study the above topic. Qualitative data were used to elaborate and explain quantitative results’ findings. Study findings pinpoint towards the general barriers to postgraduate distance students research proposal writing skills. The significant identified barriers to postgraduate distance students’ quality research proposal writing skills are: inadequate of time as research proposal writing is combined with other modules, lack of research proposal writing skills on the part of postgraduate distance students, students’ poor attitude towards research proposal writing, and low engagement frequency levels (r = 0.357) of some supervisors with students. The study further established that most immediate past studies analyzed (µ = 5.84, σ = 3.16, N= 61) rejected their Ho by assuming that students pursuing postgraduate studies do Posses adequate research skills yet in fact to the contrary. However, this study has established that inadequate skills in research methodology among postgraduate distance students is a significant factor (i.e. Pv < α; 0.001 < 0.05). The study equally noted with concern that research memorandum of understanding plan between a supervisor and student were not encouraged or inexistence. This trend did not only affected UNZA-ZOU postgraduate master’s programme but a similar trend remained true in most universities (63/68 = 92.6% of the registered universities with HEA in Zambia).The study made the following recommendations: 1. The University of Zambia And Zimbabwe Open University Through Institute of Distance Education should allocate more time to the research module. 2. Supervisors should have frequent engagement with students. 3. The University of Zambia and Zimbabwe Open University through the Institute of Distance Education should introduce weekend sessions in all provincial centres for the students who need help. 4. Research memorandum of understanding plans should be promoted by institutions of higher learning including UNZA-ZOU.