Jacob J. Walker's Blog

Scholarly Thoughts, Research, and Journalism for Informal Peer Review

Re-Applying to the University of South Africa; Refining and Improving my Research Proposal

with 2 comments

My journey to earn my doctorate with the University of South Africa has had many fits and starts, in which over 5 years ago I was starting to think about applying to UNISA, and almost 3 years ago I started on different doctoral research with them, and last year I changed my idea completely about what research I wanted to do, but was a “day late, and dollar short” to get in. But it looks like this year I will be able to start again.

I do not regret the journey, as it has led me to doing research that I truly believe in and am intrigued by: which is to discover if there are hidden correlations between education and other aspects of a nation.

Originally I was going to do much of this with Microsoft Excel, as that is where my comfort and major knowledge and skill lies with.  But given the extra time I have, I am changing to use web based data collection and analysis, using a PostgreSQL database and Python / Django for the front-end and data mining algorithms.  I also am looking at using the Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF) in the naming of my fields, to attempt to make it easier to have my research be usable in other research.  I am also planning to make my research more “crowd sourced” and allow for “citizen science”, by developing curricula to help kids and teenagers learn about data science, and contribute to this project.  Thus I will have a strategy to maximize the number of potential correlations that can be discovered.

So, all of that is going well.  I just hope that UNISA as an institution continues to go well.  There seem to be dark clouds over South Africa these days, as it has worked its way to become part of the BRICS, it has been abandoning many “western” values and ideals, and their policies when it comes to travel to their country, freedom of the press, and intellectual property have ominous signs.  I chose UNISA for many reasons, but one of which is because I deeply respect Nelson Mandela, their most famous alumni.  But I must also consider the risk of how my degree might look in the future.  If I was to have received my degree from the University of Zimbabwe when Mugabe was still thought to be a hero by much of the world, I now would be paying the price. Because, even though the politics of the nation have no bearing upon the scholarship of my work; the field of education still has biases, because all humans first use quick heuristics (what we might call “first impressions”) for much of their opinion formation.  But, I’m too far down the path now to turn back, unless another university would be willing to pick up my research, and give me a fellowship to do so…  But that seems unlikely.

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.

Written by Jacob Walker

September 6th, 2015 at 11:59 am

2 Responses to 'Re-Applying to the University of South Africa; Refining and Improving my Research Proposal'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Re-Applying to the University of South Africa; Refining and Improving my Research Proposal'.

  1. Yes, PostgreSQL database and Python/Django are good to learn. I would not be surprised if Python slowly takes over PHP. Also, learn extensive JavaScript and use it server-side with Node.JS. That way you have one language to learn for both client and server. Of course, learn JSON, jQuery, and a few other things if you go the JS route.

    The Big Bopper

    15 Sep 15 at 5:35 pm

  2. Just to add: if you are looking for a free fully functioning database management system, consider Free Oracle. It’s free and can be used for commercial as well as personal databases. The restriction is that it cannot be greater in size than 1G. That’s OK for small databases. It is more-or-less Oracle Standard Edition meaning that you won’t get Enterprise Edition features such as partitioning and online index rebuilds among other things. That is probably not a show stopper for you.

    You can also download ANY version of Oracle free-of-charge, including Enterprise Edition, to your PC for educational purposes. It works on the honor system. If you later switch to creating databases commercially, then you will need to pay Oracle. Or if your intention is to immediately use it for commercial development, then Oracle needs to get paid.

    MySQL is another option, but you should use the InnoDB version which is an actual DBMS and not just an indexed file system like the original ISAM based MySQL.

    My preference for an open-source DBMS would be PostgresSQL for two reasons: 1) It is gaining traction for development of very large databases since many of its internal components have been rewritten for better performance (it used to be too slow for high volume applications), and 2) It is close to Oracle in the way it works, meaning it will give you experience that is somewhat transferable to Oracle which still is the #1 database in the world and an excellent skill to have.

    MS SQLserver has an educational version as well that I believe is free. Many of my Oracle clients have migrated over to SQLserver over the years just because it is cheaper. As a result I do a lot of SQLserver work these days, more so than Oracle DBA work which I did for decades. So learning SQLserver is not a bad idea either.

    There is a wiki entry that lists the programming languages and databases used at the world’s top internet sites including facebook, google, yahoo, and so on, that should help you decide what you want to learn. Top sites use the best of the best. You want to learn the same. Here is the link:

    The Big Bopper

    19 Sep 15 at 8:31 am

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: