Diagnostic Sessions

At least two 45-minute sessions, about a month apart

Diagnostic sessions support students to identify their needs so that they can go on to access one-on-one support in a series of Research Development Clinics.

Students identify challenges and gaps and decide on the kinds of support they need in order to make progress. As course coordinator, you allocate the best available facilitator, trainer, or mentor to provide the necessary expertise to meet each student’s requirements.

The interactive nature of the session enables students to communicate their needs effectively and make consistent and measurable progress. Within a diagnostic session, the facilitator requires the student to map out a clear strategy to achieve a series of critical goals in order to complete their research.

After this exercise, students can:

  • Be self-critical.
  • Receive critique of their PhD protocol and proposal.
  • Offer constructive peer support to other PhD students.li>
  • Identify resources (human and literature) and use them to develop their PhD proposal.

As course organiser

  • Identify and invite a range of suitable and available facilitators and mentors – in addition to students’ own supervisors – to play advisory roles.
  • Allocate a suitable facilitator to each student.
  • Ensure the availability of a well-spaced physical space or virtual leaning platform such as Zoom.


  • Prepare ahead to ensure they get maximum benefit from the student-led session.
  • Identify the kinds of expertise they need in (for example) writing and conceptualising, demography, epidemiology, biostatistics, or qualitative research methods.


PhD students meet in small groups or one-on-one with a facilitator.Each student describes to the group and/or the facilitator their project and progress.

With the assistance of the facilitator, they identify the support that would enable them to progress.

The student writes up notes detailing what they agreed with the facilitator.


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CARTA Curricula Copyright © by The Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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