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WEEK 4

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REVIEWING THE LITERATURE

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4. Introduction
The bus is moving steadily but surely. We are making progress and
hopefully everyone is still focusing, keeping up with the pace and
hopefully, enjoying the journey. Although it might seem like early
days, if you get left behind now, you may find it difficult to catch up.
This weeks work is very important as it relates to Assignment 01 and
the Portfolio.

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Remember, stay on the bus!

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Week 4 will involve a bit of practical exercises such as visiting your library, physically
or online; finding out what journals are important and most used in your field of study;
accessing a computer to try out a Google search, etcetera.
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4.1

Reviewing the literature

Literature review is a continuous process that takes place from the start to the end
of your research. Every step in the research process needs to be motivated and/or
explained by information based on literature. This improves the scientific credibility of
your research. This is a very important part of research and, as you will be required to
write a literature review for Assignment 01 as well as for the Portfolio of Evidence at the
end of this module, you need to ensure that you follow the guidelines provided this week
very carefully.
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As mentioned before, to select a research problem, you need to go through the available
relevant literature to guide you in narrowing and clarifying the problem. To discuss the
background and context from which the problem stems, you need literature. Once the
problem has been stated, you will need to use literature to define the variables of your
study and describe what previous research has been done on them. As you can see, every
decision you make about your research will find grounding through literature, thus the
need for continuously reviewing the literature.
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Please read the section titled Reviewing the literature in Chapter


3A of Van Zyl (2013)/Salkind (2012). Take note of the differences
between general, secondary and primary sources of information. As
we say in everyday language, I want to get the story from the horses
mouth this is what primary sources represent. Whenever possible, in
scientific research, try to use mostly primary sources. Using secondary
references is not considered best practice when doing a literature
review.
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Finding your way around the library and other research tools is covered in the second
half of Chapter 3A of Van Zyl (2013)/Salkind (2012), starting from the heading Reading
and evaluating research. Note in particular the questions provided under the heading
Criteria for judging a research study which can be used as criteria for judging the
quality of articles. This criteria will help, because online research can provide you with all
sorts of information, with some not so credible scientifically. Therefore it becomes your
responsibility to sift through the material and decide what is credible for you to use.
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Activity 4.1
The list of journals provided in Table 3A.3 in Van Zyl (2013)/Salkind
(2012) is most probably not relevant for most of the fields of study in
CEMS. It is your responsibility to make your own comprehensive list of
the important journals (both international and national) in your field.
This will also help you to become familiar with the writing styles relevant
in your field.
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In Week 2, Resource 3, a list of the Department of Educations accredited journals is


provided. Have a look at the list and try to see which journals would be relevant for your
subject field.
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You can also access more material by searching for information on the Unisa librarys
website.

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When you open up the librarys website, click on library training:

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Then click on the tab Research Skills at the top of the page:

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On the next site, you will find a number of PDF documents on how to use the library
effectively. Topics covered include how to use the library homepage, how to find books,
how to find journal articles, and so forth.

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Take note of the examples of a Google search provided in Van Zyl (2013)/Salkind (2012).
Remember, you can read about all the possible ways of searching for
information, but until you try doing some of the searches yourself, you
cannot be sure that you understand them. Also, it is important for you to
remember that you can ask for help rather than thinking you have to find
everything yourself. Libraries can be big and intimidating, just like hitting
thousands of possible sites from your Google search. Hopefully, this
chapter will prepare you for such challenges and make you a bit more
confident to face the search challenge.

Activity 4.2

Try the following search: Access the library website. Click on


E-resources and click on A-Z list of electronic resources. Click on b in
the alphabet at the top, scroll down in the table and click on Business
Source Complete. When you are off-campus, you will have to enter your
student number and password. (This is the same information that you
use to sign on to myUnisa.) After you have done this, a search page
will open. In the first available slot, type in the keyword employability
and scroll down to Limit your search and enter the dates between January 2000 and
December 2010 in the spaces provided. Choose Academic Journal as the publication type
just below that. Then click on Search at the top of the page. How many references do
you find?
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We have found 383 references. If you have followed the steps correctly, you should find
the same number of references. (Note that even though the dates are in the past, when
new electronic resources are added to the currently available library ones, it may change
the number of references found slightly.)
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Activity 4.3

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Use the internet (Google Scholar) or the Unisa library to search for
a topic or specific variable or words of your specific field of study (or
your major subject in your degree) for relevant and recent research
publications
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4.2

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Writing up a literature review

The last section in this chapter of Van Zyl (2013)/Salkind (2012) deals with what you do
with all the information you have collected and how to write it up.
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A good literature review is not merely the listing of what each article
says, but is about finding a way to integrate information from various
sources and presenting that in a way that supports or gives credibility
to your research. The section titled Writing the literature review
towards the end of Chapter 3A of Van Zyl (2013)/Salkind (2012)
provides some hints on this.

The trap that most new researchers fall into when writing up a literature
review, is to list what everyone has said and think that is all they have to do. For example,
According to X, employability is Y says employability is Z says employability is So
what? The point is that all these authors will have things to say. Just repeating what they
say may not contribute much to your research. However, if you find a way of collating and
integrating that information (by using your critical thinking and problem-solving skills)
to debate similarities and differences of various authors thinking about employability,
then your discussion turns to have more logic, evidence-based solutions and theory-driven
arguments. Look at what you agree with and what you disagree with; what conclusions do
you make from the debate; what gaps in the knowledge have you identified; etcetera.
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An example of this can be seen in the extract from the following article:

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Ehiyazaryan, E., & Barraclough, N. (2009). Enhancing employability: Integrating real world
experience in the curriculum. Education & Training, 51(4), 292308.
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2.2 Understanding the nature of engagement employability models

It is necessary to understand the nature of the engagement which learning employability


requires of students in order to explore the influences on students engagement. There are
a number of employability models (Dacre Pool & Sewell, 2007; Kumar, 2007; Yorke & Knight,
2006; Watts et al., 1996) which collectively identify the constituent elements of employability.
These include transferable skills, as well as employability attributes, collectively referring
to the developing ability of students to reflect, their developing self-confidence and their
propensity for self-efficacy (Dacre Pool & Sewell, 2007).

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A recent study of employers needs by the Council for Industry and Higher Education highlights
the key importance of team working skills and communication skills as the most sought after
graduate skills by employers (Archer & Davison, 2008). The demands on the mode of working
which the VM places on students emphasise working collaboratively in teams, as well as reaching
out to students at different levels of study in a variety of roles as employer, as employee, as
colleague. This research study reveals the effects which this form of learning had on students
employability both through affording opportunities for students to gain transferable skills but
also through implementing an integrated approach to delivering employability as discussed by
Rae (2007). In their USEM model Yorke and Knight (2006), identify metacognition, of which
reflection on learning is part, as a core employability component. We could argue that the
quality of students reflection is an indication of how engaged students are in the learning
experience and research literature has frequently highlighted links between reflection and
engagement in learning (Boud & Walker, 1990; Duffy et al., 2008; Moon, 1999).

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Student engagement in employability is further often related to students efficacy beliefs as


described by Yorke and Knight (2006) in the USEM model, also known in research literature
as self-theories. Studies by Dweck (1999) have shown that students self theories regarding
their ability to learn, can be either fixed or malleable. It is broadly accepted that learners with
malleable views on learning are better equipped for lifelong learning, are more versatile and
explorative in their approach to learning (Yorke & Knight, 2004), deal better with challenges
and are more inclined to take creative risks in learning. It is also argued that students with
malleable views to learning would possess more enduring enthusiasm for learning and would
be more likely to adopt a deep approach to learning (Bandura, 1997; Moon, 1999; Nicol &
Macfarlane-Dick, 2006).

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Can you see how the various views and opinions of different authors are integrated into a
logical argument in their own words?

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4.3 Referencing

Use the same article and take note that each reference that was used, was properly cited
and referenced in the text. Citing references correctly is a key requirement of academic
writing. There are various reference styles that can be used like Harvard, Chicago or
the American Psychological Association (APA) styles. For the purposes of uniformity, we
will use the APA style of referencing for this module. It is your responsibility to find out
which referencing style is used in your department. It is also your responsibility to learn
how to reference according to the APA style and apply it correctly whenever you submit
a piece of written work in this module. In the additional resources for this week, you will
find a brief guide to the latest version of the APA style (Week 4, Resource 3). You can use
this to familiarise yourself with the APA style.
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Plagiarism
The importance of referencing cannot be emphasised enough, more
so when it comes to the ethical consideration of plagiarism. Please
note that plagiarism is considered an extremely serious offense in
the academic and scientific world. You have documentation about
Unisas plagiarism policy and you are expected to be informed
about what plagiarism involves and to refrain from plagiarising
when preparing your written material for Assignment 01 and
for Assignment 03. ANY FORM OF PLAGIARISM WILL BE
CONSIDERED A SERIOUS OFFENCE AND THE APPROPRIATE DISCIPLINARY
ACTION WILL BE TAKEN. Please refer to Appendix 3 to see how plagiarism is dealt
with in this module. By registering for (and continuing with) this module you agree that you
will not commit plagiarism and/or any other forms of academic fraud. Further, you agree
to adhere to Unisas policy on plagiarism and that you are aware of the consequences of
plagiarism for this module (see Appendix 3).
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Most of the ethical principles cover what to do as a researcher to protect research


participants. However, plagiarism has to do with the integrity and honesty of the
researcher. Plagiarism is using another persons work and presenting it as your own. This
happens when doing a literature review and a discussion is presented without crediting
the sources. Other plagiarists even take this further by copying and presenting extracts
of work from other authors as their own. Technological innovations and inventions have
made such transgressions easier because you can just copy and paste information as you
please. Be very careful, it is better to take to the time to find the reference and cite it
properly than face the possibility of being accused of plagiarism.

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Whether intentional or not, when plagiarism is detected, it does not have good consequences
for the researcher. This has become a very sensitive and serious ethical issue in research.
In recent times, people have been embarrassed professionally and some have even faced
punitive measures. As a student you could be expelled from the university if found guilty
of plagiarism and barred from registering again.
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Another plagiaristic act closer to home (for students), is taking another students work
(assignments, weekly assessments, portfolio), copying it and presenting it as your own. The
university is strict on such behaviours and the consequences are not worth the trouble.
Please familiarise yourself with the universitys ethics policy and policy on plagiarism and
misconduct in this regard. These policies are available under the additional resources
(Week 0, Resource 3 and 4).
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4.4

Problem statement
Activity 4.4

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Open the research proposal template again (uploaded as resource 6 of


this week) and review what a problem statement should entail.

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Following on the extract from Ehiyazaryan and Barraclough (2009) that


was presented earlier, look at how they have formulated their problem
statement, based on the literature that was provided.

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All of these are highly desirable behaviours and characteristics for a learners
employability. Moreover, such a clear relationship between the self-theories which
students foster and the nature of their engagement in learning makes it necessary
to consider the factors existing within a learning environment which influence the
development of such self-theories. This research study provides evidence of how the
opportunities existing within the VM learning environment acted to positively influence
learners confidence, thus playing a part in positively influencing self-theories. In addition,
and going back to the need to integrate the employability learning experience (Rae, 2007),
not only within the curriculum but also across all levels of undergraduate study this
research, focused on understanding the aspects of the VM learning environment which
required communication across levels of study, the nature of the working relationships
within this and the effect which this had on student learning. As the literature review
makes clear, part of achieving a high level of performance in employability provision is
ensuring learner engagement in this provision. This determined the focus of research
on learners perspectives and experiences of the employability module studied.
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The literature review further suggested some of the key implications which this focus
on learner engagement has for pedagogy. First, it is necessary to consider the effects
of an integrated approach to introducing employability to students would they be
responsive to a learning environment which asks them to communicate with students
across three levels of study, adopting different employment roles, where the demands
on their communication and collaboration skills are so high? Second, is there evidence
that these less traditional forms of engagement in learning, involving students in
setting up companies, applying for contracts, dealing with customers amongst others,
are successful in promoting the essential employability skills and attributes? Whether
students were reflective in the process of working in the VM environment, whether the
modes of interaction they adopted contributed to more positive efficacy beliefs and
self theories these are aspects of learning which this research was concerned with.
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4.5 Research objectives

Now that you have stated your research problem, you should formulate clear and realistic
objectives for the research.

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Activity 4.5
Review the guidelines that are presented on stating research objectives
in the research proposal template (Week 2, Resource 8).

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Let us now look at our research project to see what a literature review,
problem statement and objectives could look like. Keep in mind that this
is an abbreviated example. In practice, your literature review and
problem statement would be about two to three pages. Also take note
of how references are cited in the text as well as the reference list at
the end (the APA style of referencing is used).

Qualitative research example

Literature review
Modern-day students who are furthering their career prospects by embarking on
postgraduate studies have high expectations about their employability after graduation.
In line with these expectations, employers also have high expectations of graduates
to contribute positively and meaningfully to quality outputs in the work environment
by means of useful skills and positive personal characteristics. According to Smith and
Kruger (2008), graduates with employability skills should have the ability to optimally
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utilise opportunities to advance their careers in the dynamic world of work. Graduateness,
like employability, is viewed as a set of transferable skills that ensures the readiness of
graduates to function optimally in the world of work (Wheelahan, 2002). Richter and
Tyeku (2006) credited research as a vital part of preparing graduates for the labour
market. They also highlighted the different career opportunities in which research
skills and knowledge could be utilised. Research skills are also an advantage because
they overlap with most of the skills listed for employability. For example, communication
as an employability skill entails being able to access and deal with large amounts of
information, and also includes quantitative literacy (Griesel & Parker, 2009). Both these
skills are important and necessary for research. According to Hansen and Hansen (2009),
analytical and research skills are some of the skills most sought after by employers. Such
skills in the realm of the research methods module that they mentioned were computer
and technical literacy, and planning, organising and problem solving. This emphasises the
value of research skills for graduates, not only for the knowledge of the methodology
and experience of research processes that they gain, but also for the critical thinking
and creativity elements encompassed in these processes. Graduates, with these skills,
are able to express and position themselves in the scientific community through their
research outputs (Solberg, 2011).

Problem statement
Clearly, research is essential in cultivating students graduateness and employability, but
of interest would be how students view this. In a study done by Tomlinson (2008), it has
been found that students are indeed aware of the necessity to improve their employability
skills in order to distinguish themselves in a competing working environment. In line with
this research, the aim of this study would be to determine if postgraduate students
also regard research skills as important in developing their employability and to which
degree they believe that research skills would provide them with a competitive edge in
the working environment.
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Research objectives
The general aim of this research is to find out to what degree students view their research
skills to be important for their employability.

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The specific theoretical objectives are to:

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Conceptualise research skills from the literature.


Conceptualise employability from the literature.
Conceptualise the relationship between research skills and employability from the
literature.

The specific empirical objective is to:

Determine to which degree students regard research skills to be important for their
employability.
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Reference list
Griesel, H., & Parker, B. (2009). Graduate attributes: A baseline study on South African
graduates from the perspective of employers. Higher Education South Africa and the
South African Qualifications Authority.
Hansen, R. S., & Hansen, K. (2009). What do employers really want? Top skills and values
employers seek from job-seekers. Retrieved from http://www.quintcareers.com/job_
skills_values.html.
Richter, L., & Tyeku, S. (2006). Jobs and careers in social science research. In M. Terre
Blanche, K. Durrheim, & D. Painter. (Eds.), Research in practice: applied methods for the
social sciences (pp. 391-408). Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press.
Smith, E. E., & Kruger, J. (2008). A critical assessment of the perceptions of potential
graduates regarding their generic skills level: an exploratory study. SAJEMS, 11(2),
121138.
Solberg, M. (2011). Educating the citizen of academia online? International Review of
Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(4), 7787.
Tomlinson, M. (2008). The degree is not enough: Students perceptions of the role of
higher education credentials for graduate work and employability. British Journal of
Sociology of Education, 29(1), 49-61.
Wheelahan, L. (2002). Recognising prior learning and the problem of graduateness: The
changing face of VET (Vocational Education and Training). 6th Annual Conference of
Australian VET Research Association (AVETRA). Sydney.

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Quantitative research example


Literature review
[Please note that you would not insert the headings on the side in your
literature review. It is only indicated here to illustrate to you how
the literature review is compiled according to the various aspects that
should be covered.]
Modern-day students who are furthering their career prospects by
embarking on postgraduate studies have high expectations about their
employability after graduation. In line with these expectations, employers
also have high expectations of graduates to contribute positively and
meaningfully to quality outputs in the work environment by means of
useful skills and positive personal characteristics. According to Smith and
Kruger (2008), graduates with employability skills should have the ability
to optimally utilise opportunities to advance their careers in the dynamic
world of work. Graduateness, like employability, is viewed as a set of
transferable skills that ensures the readiness of graduates to function
optimally in the world of work (Wheelahan, 2002). Richter and Tyeku Background
(2006) credited research as a vital part of preparing graduates for the
labour market. They also highlighted the different career opportunities
in which research skills and knowledge could be utilised. Research skills
are also an advantage because they overlap with most of the skills listed
for employability. For example, communication as an employability skill

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entails being able to access and deal with large amounts of information,
and includes quantitative literacy (Griesel & Parker, 2009). Both these
skills are important and necessary for research. According to Hansen Defining
and Hansen (2009), analytical and research skills are some of the skills the
most sought after by employers. Such skills in the realm of the research variables
methods module that they mentioned, were computer and technical
literacy, and planning, organising and problem solving.
This emphasises the value of research skills for graduates, not only for Reporting
the knowledge of the methodology and experience of research processes previous
that they gain, but also for the critical thinking and creativity elements research
encompassed in these processes. Graduates, with these skills, are able
to express and position themselves in the scientific community through
their research outputs (Solberg, 2011).

Problem statement
Clearly, research is essential in cultivating students graduateness and employability, but
of interest would be how students view this. The first question is whether students who
are working already would view this differently from students who are not yet working.
Secondly, one could ask if this perception of students would influence their commitment to
their studies. Students are often underprepared in terms of their exposure to research
methodology at undergraduate level. Many disciplines do not require a course in research
methodology at undergraduate level, while some may offer an introductory course on
statistics in isolation, which is often presented outside the department. Students
therefore often lack the necessary background in research methodology or statistics
when starting their postgraduate studies (Lie & Cano, 2001; Maasdorp & Holtzhausen,
2009). Furthermore, one could expect negative emotional experiences such as anxiety
and fear to interfere with students ability to learn and master research concepts (Baltes,
Hoffman-Kipp, Lynn & Welzer-Ward, 2010; Lie & Cano, 2001). Because of the challenges
in teaching research and the fact that students often feel so overwhelmed by the mere
thought of doing a module on research methodology, students do not remain motivated
to do their best. Consequently, many experience despondency and anxiety when studying
research some even at the mere thought of what is ahead and before even taking the
first step in the learning process. The question could however be asked that if students
regarded research skills to be pertinent for their employability, would this influence their
levels of commitment towards their studies?
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Research objectives
The general aim of this research is therefore to determine if students regard research
skills to be important for their employability, if male students view this differently than
female students, and if their opinion is related to their commitment to their studies.
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The specific theoretical objectives are to:

Conceptualise research skills and employability from the literature.


Conceptualise students commitment to their studies.
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491

Conceptualise the relationship between students opinion regarding the value of


research skills for employability and commitment to their studies from the literature.

The specific empirical objectives would be to:

Determine the degree to which students regard research skills to be important for
their employability.
Determine if male students view their research skills and employability differently
than female students.
Determine the degree to which students are committed to their studies.
Determine if there is a relationship between students opinion of the value of research
skills for employability on the one hand and their commitment to their studies on the
other hand.

Reference list
Baltes, B., Hoffman-Kipp, P., Lynn, L., & Welzer-Ward, L. (2010). Students research selfefficacy during online doctoral research courses. Contemporary Issues in Educational
Research, 3(3), 51-57.
Griesel, H., & Parker, B. (2009). Graduate attributes: A baseline study on South African
graduates from the perspective of employers. Higher Education South Africa and the
South African Qualifications Authority.
Hansen, R. S., & Hansen, K. (2009). What do employers really want? Top skills and values
employers seek from job-seekers. Retrieved from http://www.quintcareers.com/job_
skills_values.html.
Lie, K. G., & Cano, V. (2001). Supporting diverse learners through a website for teaching
research methods. Educational Technology and Society, 4(3), 50-63.
Maasdorp, C., & Holtzhausen, S. (2009). Undergraduate research preparation is crucial
for postgraduate studies. Interim: Interdisciplinary Journal, 8(1), 40-55.
Richter, L., & Tyeku, S. (2006). Jobs and careers in social science research. In M. Terre
Blanche, K. Durrheim, & D. Painter. (Eds.), Research in practice: applied methods for the
social sciences (pp. 391-408). Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press.
Smith, E. E., & Kruger, J. (2008). A critical assessment of the perceptions of potential
graduates regarding their generic skills level: an exploratory study. South African
Journal of Economic and Management Sciences, 11(2), 121138.
Solberg, M. (2011). Educating the citizen of academia online? International Review of
Research in Open and Distance Learning. 12(4), 7787.
Wheelahan, L. (2002). Recognising prior learning and the problem of graduateness: The
changing face of VET (Vocational Education and Training). 6th Annual Conference of
Australian VET Research Association (AVETRA). Sydney.

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*Please note The literature review was adapted from: De Beer, M., Van der Westhuizen,
S., Bekwa, N., & Peterson-Waughtal, M. (2013). Developing student research
skills in an open distance learning context. Submitted for publication in M.
Coetzee, (Ed.), Graduateness in higher education: Issues and explorations
on praxis.
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That was quite a bit of information to work through, putting a lot of responsibility on you
to find out things, and even having cautionary and warning notes to add to the mix. Even
so, we hope the information gave you a lot to think about and reflect on.

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Keep in mind that there is a bus load of other students on the same journey as you are.
And as you pass through each week, you can all say another one bites the dust and count
down to the next weeks challenge. Week 5 will focus on qualitative research designs.
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