About Research Subjects
What are research subjects?
An opportunity to undertake an independent inquiry and conduct original research about an area of interest broadly in the field of environment and/or sustainability.
Learning outcomes include:
- Integrate and apply disciplinary knowledge and skills to an independently generated research question and investigation;
- Analyse and synthesize salient features and important theoretical, methodological and empirical trends in published literature and data;
- Present research findings in clear, concise and persuasive written and verbal forms
Who can do a research subject?
Students enrolled in the Master of Environment degree.
Are there any pre-requisites?
Students require permission from the subject coordinator (sought via submission of an application form and 500 word proposal) Background knowledge. Students should have completed 'Sustainability, Governance and Leadership' and 37.5 points or more of Master of Environment subject
Can I do more than one research subject?
Yes, however, this must be an academically appropriate step, considered and discussed with an OEP Academic Advisor and/or the Research Subject Coordinator. It is not possible to repeat the same subject, however.
In general, up to 25 percent of your study program can be in research subjects; in other words, 25 points of a 100 point degree, and 50 points of a 200 point degree.
What is the minimum sized research subject that I need to do to qualify for a PhD?
25 points. The following information is taken from the University of Melbourne Future Students webpage:
The minimum entry requirement for the PhD is an Australian four-year honours degree, or its equivalent, in a relevant discipline with a minimum overall average grade equivalent to an H2A (75%) grade achieved at the University of Melbourne.
If you do not have a four-year honours degree, you must demonstrate that you have conducted a research project equivalent to 25% of a year's full-time study at fourth-year, or Masters level. Visit the Melbourne School of Graduate Research for full detail on PhD entry requirements and regulations.
Students are advised to seek specific information from any other Universities directly.
Can I do a group research project?
It is possible that one supervisor may have a number of students working on a related topic – for example, a large interdisciplinary research project might provide opportunities for a number of students to work on different aspects of the central issue. However, research projects must be clearly distinguished and all research processes and assessment tasks must be undertaken individually.
Are there any grade requirements to be eligible for a research subject?
12.5 or 25 point subject average of 70% or above
50 point subject – 75% or above
When should I do a research subject?
- Towards the end of your degree
- After you have completed Sustainability Governance and Leadership and at least 37.5 points of Master of Environment subjects.
- After you have taken any background or methods subjects which may provide knowledge or skills relevant to your proposed research.
Is it better to do a Research Subject over two semesters or one?
This depends on your study plan and your personal and work situation and you can discuss this with your academic advisor/the subject coordinator.
In general students should anticipate spending about 10-12 hours on average per week for every 12.5 points. Do the sums – for a 25 point project about 20 hours a week is required.
Two semester subjects do allow more time to recover from any setbacks that may occur, particularly in projects with a practical component e.g. fieldwork.
Can I do an Internship subject in the same semester as a Research Subject?
- In theory this is possible, but in practice it is strongly advised not to do an Internship in the same semester as a research subject. The demands of both are quite different than regular subjects in terms of time, organisation required (both before and during enrolment) and assessment tasks.
- In order to fully engage with the opportunities for enhancement of your experience as a student in it is strongly recommended that you undertake research and internships subjects in different semesters.
Can I enrol myself in a research subject?
Applications and proposals are assessed by the subject coordinator. If your application is successful you will be advised by email of the steps you need to take to complete enrolment.
Can I withdraw from a research subject?
As per all university subjects, withdrawal before the census date incurs no penalty of fees or results. Withdrawal after the census date will incur penalties.
If I am enrolled in a two semester subject can I withdraw before the second
Students in two semester subjects can withdraw from the second semester of enrolment prior to the second census date. A ‘WD’ for withdrawn will be recorded against first semester of the subject. The second semester will be removed from you study plan and you will be able to take another subject in that semester. Students will be liable for the fees for the first semester of the subject.
Students in a one semester subject can withdraw before the census date and re-enrol in a two semester version of the subject.
What is the role of the subject coordinator?
Pre-commencement: coordination and conduct of information sessions; individual student consultation; approval of proposals and supervisor liaison.
Whilst enrolled: ongoing academic and administrative advice to students on an individual basis; management of assessment processes including results finalization and administration; leadership of workshop program.
Do I have to attend classes?
Rather than attend regular lectures and tutorials, students work independently to undertake the research program that they have planned in consultation with academic (and where relevant, industry) supervisors.
Supervisors assist and guide the academic development and implementation of the research. Students should arrange regular meetings throughout semester with supervisors to review progress.
There are workshops during the semester that provide skills development and academic support for the research experience; students must attend eight hours of these whilst enrolled in a research subject.
Is there an LMS site for research subjects?
There is a single LMS site for all of the research subjects, which be listed in the form: MERGE_2016_028: Environmental Research Project and Industry ResearchTo confirm you are enrolled in the correct subject code, please check your study plan.
About Research Topics
Does the OEP provide topics to students for research subjects?
No, for a number of reasons:
- It is part of the student experience to develop one’s own topic, seek a supervisor and write a proposal.
- The Master of Environment is a cross-faculty degree and the OEP doesn’t have the staff time available to do justice to the enormous scope of research that occurs in the ten faculties which teach into the Graduate Environmental Program.
How can I find a topic?
- Your own interests and ideas are a great starting point.
- Review the research of academics whom are experts in the field you are interested in to see what they are researching and develop your own ideas from there.
- Some faculties and departments and some academics list topics or areas of research that they would be interested to supervise a student in undertaking.
- Talk to academics who have taught classes on subjects you are deeply interested in.
- Explore options via Find an Expert.
- Read projects written by previous students. Hard copies are in the OEP – leave a student card and read in the OEP student computer lab or access the Digital Repository at the University of Melbourne Library.
Does the OEP advertise any project opportunities?
Yes, when sent to us by either academics or industry we will advertise an opportunity on our website.
About Research Budgets
How do I pay for any expenses associated with the research?
Students may cover costs directly.
Faculties of the main supervisor receive funds arising from student subject fees from the OEP. Once in Faculties, funds are dispersed according to the rules and agreements set within each Faculty. Where available, some funds may be provided through the supervisor to cover research expenses.
Discussion about budget requirements should occur with supervisors before submission of proposals and application forms.
If a supervisor or their department is supporting the research, how are
research expenses paid?
- After census date each semester the OEP divestsfunds to the Faculties.
- Students should discuss with supervisors how to pay for expenses in advance or to be reimbursed.
- Contact the Faculty of your main supervisor for advice about research expenses, not the OEP.
What do I do if I have no money to cover the cost of research?
- This is an unfortunate situation that hopefully can be avoided through careful planning of your research with your academic/industry supervisor.
- It might mean that the project you envisage needs to be reshaped.
- Project budgets should be addressed and resolved, in consultation with supervisors, before proposals and applications are submitted to the subject coordinator.
Do I have to find my own supervisor?
Advice about how to go about how to find a supervisor is available in the Subject Guide, in Information Sessions, and from the Subject Coordinator.
Who can be an academic supervisor?
- Academic staff, preferably from the University of Melbourne.
- Academic staff from other universities where the same expertise is not available at the University of Melbourne.
- Casual supervision by suitably qualified academics who may not be currently working in a University is possible. Discuss with the subject coordinator.
What is the role of the academic supervisor?
Before commencement in the subject:
- Advice, support and comments/feedback on a draft proposal.
During the subject:
- Signing of application form to indicate willingness to supervise, obtaining approval for supervision of your project and its budget from their Head of Department.
- Regular meetings (averaging one hour per fortnight) throughout to support the conduct of research, analysis of literature and research materials, reading and commenting on drafts.
- Consideration of resources required to conduct the research, including discussion of a project budget and possible provision of funds or other resources to support the research.
- Provision of confirmed, available academics with relevant expertise to act as examiners to the subject coordinator.
Who can be an industry supervisor?
Individuals in an organisation with whom you collaborate to develop the project: they should have,
- Relevant skills and knowledge to support the project.
- Access to information and key contacts in the organisation for whom they work.
- Knowledge of appropriate occupational health and safety advice and access to resources like workspaces if it is agreed that a student will spend some time in the office of the industry partner.
What is the role of the industry supervisor?
- Contribute to development and, where appropriate, conduct of the project.
- Provide access to data, and other required resources as discussed at the proposal development stage
- Provide induction and relevant occupational health and safety support when onsite within the organisation or when conducting fieldwork in relation to the topic.
- Discuss and agree to sign relevant legal paperwork including agreements pertaining to intellectual property and copyright.
- Work with the academic supervisor to shape any reporting or publication requirements into tasks which can also be assessed as part of the assessment requirements for the student’s subject.
About Industry Subjects
What is the difference between 'research' and 'industry-based' research subjects?
Research and industry based subjects require that students have an academic supervisor, that the assessment tasks are set by the academic supervisor in accordance with the handbook, that students attend workshops led by the subject co-ordinator.
Additional requirements for industry based research projects are as follows:
- The research topic must be of mutual interest to the industry, the academic supervisor and the student.
- Ideally, industry partners, academic supervisors and students will all meet at least once before (i.e. during proposal writing) or very early on in the research process.
- Students must facilitate the relationships between the industry and the academic supervisors where there is not a pre-existing relationship.
- Legal paperwork is required to establish agreements between the industry and the University on matters of intellectual property and copyright, and to ensure compliance with the Fair Work Act (2009).
Can I do an industry-based research subject in my workplace?
Additional requirements for industry based research projects are as follows:
- Appropriate legal paperwork is crucial.
- Employers need to make time available for you to do the work associated with your research.
- Appropriate industry and academic supervision must also be in place.
Are there any different deadlines for industry-based research subjects?
- Deadlines set by the subject coordinator and the University apply, especially for submission of your final research project.
- University policy for extension and special consideration criteria also apply.
What legal paperwork is required?
- Professional Placement 'Letter Agreement', assigns intellectual property generated by the student during the research (other than the copyright in the student’s Assessment materials) and requires the University, both staff and students to keep the host organisation's confidential information accessed during the period of the placement confidential.
- Students are not party to the letter agreement but are expected to understand the contents and abide by its terms and conditions.
- 'Deed Poll of Assignment' (to be signed by the student). This assigns all intellectual property (other than the copyright in a student's Assessment Materials to the University so that the University can in turn assign it to the host organisation). By signing this Deed Poll students also give a legally binding undertaking to the University and the host organisation that they will abide by any confidentiality requirements as described in the letter agreement.
How do I know if my project should be undertaken through an Industry subject?
There are a number of criteria:
- If you are working for the organisation which is an industry partner.
- If you are required to sign any confidentiality agreements.
- If an organisation has considerable influence, indeed is closely shaping, the development of your research question and methodology.
- If you have approached an organisation with an idea for a project.
When should the legal paperwork be finalised?
After a proposal has been accepted, but before commencement of the semester in which the student is enrolled in an industry-based subject.
What are the benefits of an industry-based research subject?
- Experience in a developing a collaborative research project.
- Establishing industry contacts.
- Experience in providing research as a consultant.
- Enhancing skills in developing research questions, applying appropriate methodologies and analytical frameworksto interesting problems in real world contexts.
Are there any particular challenges or risks with an Industry-based research
- Establishing clear expectations of all parties at the commencement of the project is important, especially in relation to the scope of the project, assessment and other writing tasks and deadlines.
- Clear identification of required resources is crucial. Ensure that promised data is available on time, that equipment and resources for undertaking research are available prior to commencement.
- Research projects can change as they progress. In industry-based projects it is important that changes to the research direction, methods or assessment tasks are discussed in detail with all parties. Changes cannot occur to assessment requirements after semester has commenced.
- Any changes to research plans must ensure that the student is able to complete required assessment tasks in line with subject deadlines.
- There is a risk that an industry partner might withdraw from a project. Both academic supervisors and the subject coordinator will provide support as required. It is anticipated that careful preparation at the proposal stage greatly reduces the risk of this situation occurring.
Academic Rules: Extensions, Plagiarisms, Special Consideration, Ethics, Risk Assessment and Insurance
Are there special academic rules governing research subjects?
The typical University academic policies for Plagiarism, Extensions and Special Consideration apply equally to research subjects.
Is it possible to apply for an extension?
Extension requests (10 business days or less) are assessed by the subject coordinator. A Subjects Extension Form (OEP R4) is required.
- Assessment of eligible applications for extension occurs with reference to University Extensions Policy.
- Extension requests beyond 10 business days require an application for Special Consideration via the student portal.
Will an extension affect my graduation?
- For those in their final semester and wishing to attend the nearest graduation ceremony, an extension means there may be a delay in finalising a result.
- The University sets deadlines for submission of final results, as does the Graduations Office.
- It is possible an extension will mean a student cannot meet University and Graduations Office deadlines for submission of results.
- Students can still complete their degrees, graduate in absentia at the next ceremony, or graduate at a later ceremony.
Will the subject coordinator inform students about progress of their results and
likelihood of getting to the nearest graduation ceremony?
Do ethics, risk assessment and insurance compliance regulations apply to
- University Ethics Policy. All ethics applications must be submitted through the Faculty of main supervisor. Supervisors to ensure research is compliant with ethics requirements and to support the application process.
- Risk assessment (see Faculty of your supervisor).
- Insurance and overseas travel – information available from the University Safety Office.
Application Form and Proposals
Why are so many signatures required on the application form?
- The proposal and application process is a formal indication that students are adequately prepared to undertake a research subject, that they have a committed supervisor who has the approval of their head of department to undertake the supervision.
- Applications will not be processed until all signatures are in place.
Why are the deadlines for proposals so far ahead of the semester in which I want
to take a research subject?
- Early preparation is key to successfully completing a research subject.
- The process of thinking through a topic, consulting with academic supervisors, creating relationships with industry partners all takes time. The proposal focuses student and supervisor attention on all required elements (question, method, budget, and timelines).
- Early deadlines allow time for the subject coordinator to consult with academic supervisors as necessary, and for administrative processing of applications (i.e. manual enrolment by OEP staff).
- Students can commence work on their project as soon as their proposal is approved and they have been enrolled in the subject.
What should be included in a proposal?
Up to 500 words describing: The scope of the topic, research questions, specific methodology, some indication of timelines for the research, some indications of expected outcomes. More details about how to write proposals are available in the subject guide.
See 'mock proposal' with examples.
How do I submit the application and proposal form ?
Scanned copies may be sent to OEP-Research@unimelb.edu.au.
Assessment and Examination
How are the assessment requirements determined for each student?
Assessment requirements for each of the nine subjects are specified in the Handbook.
What happens if my supervisor requires some additional assessments?
The details are to be documented on the application form (OEP R1).
The weighting of the assessment for the final report is adjusted (to between 60 and 100% of overall assessment).
The word limit for the final report is reduced to recognise the workload associated with alternative assessments.
Word limits, submission dates and percentage weighting of overall assessment are determined by supervisors in line with hand book requirements.
When are the assessment requirements established?
At the time of writing the proposal and filling in the application form and finalised no later than prior to the commencement of semester in which the student is taking a research subject.
The subject coordinator may discuss proposed assessments with supervisors to ensure they meet handbook requirements.
Can the additional assessments change throughout the semester?
University policy requires the stipulation of assessment requirements before commencement in a subject. This is to protect students’ interests and ensure that unreasonable expectations are not imposed.
How is the final project assessed?
- Final projects are examined by the supervisor (12.5 points), the supervisor and one other academic nominated by the supervisor (25 points) or two other academics nominated by the supervisor (50points).
- Projects are forwarded to examiners by the Subject Coordinator and examiners are asked to return their result and comments within two weeks.
- A detailed assessment/examination policy is available in the subject guide.
Who assesses any additional assessment tasks?
- The supervisor and/or one other academic. The supervisor advises the subject coordinator who an appropriate examiner is based on the complexity and time involved for the additional task. For example, an additional academic examiner is appropriate if the task is theoretically complex, involves considerable time and/or has a significant influence on the nature and shape of the final project.
- The OEP does not pay for marking of smaller additional assessment tasks.
- Presentations must be assessed by two academics.
How long does examination take?
The first stage of examination will take two to three weeks from submission.
In the instance where a score is unresolved after the first round of assessment, a further two weeks may be required to allow a third examiner to read a project.
There is a risk that a student’s score is not resolved in time for University graduation deadlines. Every effort is made to avoid this situation.