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Research Protocol and Thesis

Please download the document for more detailed information and the process flow as explained below.


What is your question, goal, timeframe

It is likely that you will spend some time on your thesis. To make it worthwhile choose a question that interests you. Make this question as specific as possible. If you find a question that is part of our strategy then you will be able to draw from our resources even more. Plan ahead and realize what your time frame is. Ideally you should complete the project within the first 2 years of your registrar time because you will be studying in your last 2 years. It is expected that you publish your thesis in a peer-reviewed journal and that you present it at a (inter)national congress.

There are 4 phases to your MMed

1. Protocol phase
2. Data collection phase
3. Publication and submission phase
4. Correction phase

Step 1 - Protocol Phase, DRC and Ethics approval

This phase can be time consuming if you are not following the guidelines. Make sure you tick all the boxes. The time spend here will save you many days of work during the later stages.

Pointers for your protocol.

  • Use the UCT guidelines FHS 015 and checklist of the Surgical Departmental Research Council for the content you need.
  • Use the FAST TRACK FORM FOR RETROSPECTIVE FOLDER REVIEWS of the Surgical Departmental Research Council if this is your study design.
  • Use CONSORT and EQUATOR guidelines as checklist. This will help keep a standard you need for publication. 
  • Include data sheet (example), statistical analysis, and a power calculation if needed (Statistician: clinical research centre)
  • Make sure you check spelling!
  • Sign a Memorandum of Understanding (D2a) with your supervisor.

After your supervisor has approved the protocol (with consent forms and appendix) it must be submitted to Michael Held. This will ensure that you are not overloaded with high risk projects and that you are in line with our strategy. Don't submit unfinished protocols.  

Once approved you have to electronically submit your protocol to the Departmental Research Council (DRC)

After DRC approval you have to apply for ethics approval at HREC

  • FHS 013 form (New Protocol Application form) - signed by you, your supervisor, HOD and DRC
  • Synoptsis (Section B) - this is a "Protocol in simple language"
  • Your Protocol
  • Consent forms and other appendix documents
  • DRC approval letter

send the HREC an email with everything but they need the submission pack in 3 hard copies.

The following documents need to be handed in to the Postgraduate Office as they are required for the Professional Masters Committee Chair and the Board of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

  • Protocol (beware of the timelines here - there is a 6 month deadline for MSc/PhD students).
  • Approval letter of HREC
  • Form D1 - Approval of Study proposal
  • Form D3 - supervisor appointment form
  • Form D2a - Memorandum of understanding between supervisor and student
  • Form D2b - Annual Progress report for your supervisor if you take longer
    After 1 year, apply to HREC for continuing approval Form FHS016 (for intervention study) or FHS017 (for record review) or submit a study closure form, FHS010, if the study is complete. If registration in MMED III is required for more than one year then complete form D2(b) and submit to Post Grad Office when re-registering. 

Step 2 - Data Collection Phase

  • Stick to the approved timelines
  • Changes to the protocol need to be discussed with the supervisor and will need to be dealt with to prevent delays, whilst submitting change requests to ethics, if necessary.
  • Students should communicate with their supervisor at the very least quarterly on their progress
  • you will need to report on your progress every 6 months to the ORU
  • A formal report is required annually
  • Redcap is available as data collection tool to all UCT students. The Clinical Research Centre will assist with queries here.

Step 3 - Writing-up Phase / Publication

  • Read and follow the MMed guidelines provided by UCT postgraduate office for the format.
  • We only accept submissions of MMed as published journal article (see guidelines)
  • Use a referencing program such as Endnote or Refworks.
  • Make use of the UCT Writing Centre.
  • Only use publication-ready format (template for MMed) if you have written your Final exam and are running out of time. 
  • For your article, choose a journal which is relevant to your topic. It must be listed in the citation index of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) or accredited by the Department of Education.
  • You must list the affiliation and that you completed your research for the degree of MMed at UCT, as well as the affiliation of your supervisors and co-authors.  It should state: Orthopaedic Research Unit. Division of Orthopaedic Surgery- Department of Surgery. University of Cape Town. (and reference to the hospital, i.e. Groote Schuur Hosptial)
  • Candidates must closely liaise with their supervisors to coordinate timelines and make sure submissions happen to meet graduation timelines and/ or College cut-offs.
  • It is recommended that the candidate only submits if the supervisor(s) agree that the dissertation is ready for submission. It is recommended that enough time is left for both the candidate to thoroughly proofread the document, not just for factual correctness, but also for style, grammar, punctuation and spelling, while giving the supervisor enough time to make suggestions and recommendations (also see below).​
  • Should the candidate fail to submit a manuscript to a journal within this time period, they must accept that their supervisor(s) is/ are entitled to publish their data on their behalf, with the student as co-author. It is unethical not to publish the research findings, negative or positive. 

Step 4 - Correction and Submission Phase

Candidates are required to answer all queries and suggestions made by the examiners of the thesis in a line by line fashion. All queries are addressed, to the satisfaction of the supervisor before re-submission.
Be very aware of timelines.

Use People Soft and Turnitin to hand in your thesis.

UCT Dissertation Submission deadlines (confirm this with the postgraduate office)

1. March 15th for June graduation
2. August 15th for December graduation Note on fees: To avoid attracting fees, dissertations need to be submitted before the beginning of the first quarter (first day of academic year), and before the start of the second semester (mid July) to qualify for a 50% fee rebate (Fees).