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Quality Research Skills / Research Methods

Cluster Research & Valorization

Target group

Members of the Doctoral Schools


1st or 2nd year of PhD


Module 1. The importance of scientific communication

On many occasions publications of researchers are used in an evaluation process, such as a grant/project application, a job vacancy or promotion, applications for conference lectures, etc. It is of great importance to publish in the right journals, to register these publications in the appropriate databases and to maximize the impact of your publication. Also copyright and patent issues will be addressed.

Instructor: Inge Van Nieuwerburgh (UGent)


Module 2. Reference software & Scientific databases

2.1. Scientific databases

General scientific databases (Web of Science, Google Scholar, Journal of Citation Reports...) and some specialized databases which are important for your discipline will be discussed as sources of scientific, peer reviewed literature, and as analyzing tools for the scientific relevance of publications, journals or researchers.

A specific Web of Knowledge Training is also provided. During this session Web of Knowledge, the platform hosting Web of Science, Journal Citation reports and Inspec, is demonstrated, with an emphasis on new features.


2.2. Reference Software

A demonstration of how to use reference software (Endnote, Reference Manager, BibTex): creating databases, importing records from scientific databases, completing and handling records in the reference database, cite-while-you-write,...

Instructors: Monica De Loose, Kristel Mareels, Inge Van Nieuwerburgh, Henri Verhaaren et. al.

Module 3. Research skills in practice & Research design

3.1. Research plan & proposal writing

A research proposal is like a business plan for research. A good proposal describes various aspects of the research: it clearly states the problem (what is the problem you want to work on?), the goals of the research (how do you think you can solve the problem?), the relation with the state of the art (how were similar problems solved by others?), the timing of the different research activities including a risk analysis, the expected results (papers, a dissertation, a demonstrator, a patent,…), and the financial and environmental resources needed.

Obviously a research plan is needed to apply for funding, but even if there is no strict requirement to write a project proposal, writing one helps to better focus the research by trying to plan the complete research process in advance.

For a proposal to be funded, the writing process should be guided by the proposal evaluation criteria. Therefore, this module starts from the proposal evaluation process, and explains which aspects are important for a proposal to end up higher in the ranking, and be funded. For the hands-on session, the participants will have to write their own three page proposal, which will be evaluated and ranked by their fellow students and by the instructor. By attending the evaluation of their own proposal, the students will learn how convincing their proposal is for the evaluation committee, and they will learn from the other proposals how they could improve their own.

Instructors: Prof Dr Koen De Bosschere, Dr Dominic De Groote, Dr Karen Vandevelde (UGent)

3.2. Effective graphical displays

Although widely used in research to analyze data and to communicate about them, graphical displays are still poorly mastered by researchers, who often use the wrong graphs or use them in the wrong way (and popular software does not exactly help). Using examples submitted in advance by the participants, the module on Effective graphical displays will teach you 1) how to select the right graph for a give data set and a given research question, 2) how to optimize the graph's construction to reveal the data, 3) how to phrase a useful caption.

Instructor: Jean-luc Doumont (Principiae)

3.3. Advanced problem analysis

Sometimes R&D effort is put on trying to solve the wrong problems. This may result in a significant loss of time and resources. In order to minimize this risk and identify the most promising routes to follow, several techniques will be taught to support you throughout your research.

A major part of the session focuses on the thorough analysis of a problem situation in systems or processes. Different techniques will be taught with each their own goal. Functional breakdown of the different elements in a system or process learn one to understand the working principles. In a next step the system will be positioned in time and space not to overlook any potential resources or constraints that could impact the system.

Revealed problem areas will be analyzed more into depth by the generation of a current reality tree. This is a logical tree linking all possible causes and effects with the goal to get a thorough understanding of the situation and eventually uncover the root causes of the initially stated problem. Once the root causes have been revealed, the first steps towards problem solving can be made. If, trying to solve one of the root causes, one is faced with a trade-off, we are confronted with an inventive problem and this is where TRIZ (acronym for the theory of inventive problem solving) comes in. TRIZ is a theory which provides you with all required insight to come up with inventive solutions.

A few topics like the concept of resources will be introduced. Contradiction solving strategies (e.g. a conflict between weight and strength within a system) will be taught and exercises will be made.

Instructor: Jan De Merlier (Altran)

Teaching and learning material


Teaching methods

Seminars & Workshops; assignments (module 3)



Credits (doctoral training programme of 60 ECTS)


Evaluation methods and criteria (doctoral training programme)

Each participants should attend at least 3 modules: module 1 (compulsory for all participants), one session from module 2 and one session from module 3

Non-periodic continuous assessment; Homework (module 3)

Registration fee

Free of charge for Doctoral School members


Overview of the programme and registration websites

Deadline for registration: 25 October 2011