Higher Degrees by Research Confirmation of Candidature - Guidelines

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Higher Degrees by Research Confirmation of Candidature - Guidelines

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Introduction

These Guidelines document Faculty specific requirements that are in addition to the information provided in section 13 of the Higher Degree by Research Candidature – Procedures, to assist candidates, supervisors and independent reviewers. The Guidelines include three sections, under which each Faculty specifies their requirements:

  1. Requirements:
    1. Schools within the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law
    2. Schools within the Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering
  2. Process:
    1. Schools within the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law
    2. Schools within the Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering
  3. Independent Review:
    1. Schools within the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law
    2. Schools within the Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering

1. Requirements

University Confirmation of Candidature requirements are described in section 13.3 and 13.4 of the Higher Degree by Research Candidature – Procedures. The following details faculty-specific requirements for the research proposal and the presentation.

Schools within the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law

The confirmation document normally comprises of the first three chapters of the thesis, e.g. introduction, literature review, and methodology. Where the first three chapters do not include all of the elements specified in the Higher Degrees by Research Candidature – Procedures section 13.4; these must be provided separately to the thesis chapters with the application for progression to confirmed candidature.

The confirmation presentation is either 15 or 20 minutes in duration with a further 15 or 10 minutes of questions accordingly. The Presentation and Questions combined should not exceed 30 minutes.

Doctoral and Masters candidates (excluding Doctor and Master of Creative Arts, see below for specifications for these programs) should include the title of the research, research question(s), research problem, significance and innovation of the research, relevant research literature, methodologies and methods to be used, expected outcomes, timelines and ethics.

For the requirement of thesis with publication(s), the candidate must also include in the confirmation documentation an explanation of the number and type of publications (including proposed titles of publications, titles of journals or conferences, authors, impact factors, suggested abstracts, and potential dates of submission), and also the format of the thesis with publication(s).

If the candidate wishes to present their thesis in a different format than a traditional thesis, they must explain the proposed changes as part of their confirmation documentation (i.e. in their updated Research Plan).

Creative Arts (additional requirements)

Doctor of Creative Arts (DCA) and Master of Creative Arts (MCA) candidates should include the title of the research/creative product, research/creative concept, the nature and purpose of the creative arts product, significance and innovation of the research, relevant literature, methodologies and methods to be used, importance of the research, timelines and ethics.

DCA and MCA candidates must also include a sample of the creative arts product.

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Schools within the Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering

The prime purpose of the confirmation document is to provide evidence that the candidate understands of the significance of the proposed research project, research methodology or methods, and ethical aspects. The confirmation research proposal should be around 10,000 words depending on the discipline and methodology (min 3,000 and max 15,000 words). The proposal should provide the reviewers and panel with sufficient detail to make informed judgments about the planned research. If the candidate wishes to present their thesis in a different format than a traditional thesis, they must explain the proposed changes as part of their confirmation documentation (i.e. in their updated Research Plan). The candidate must also include in the confirmation documentation (i.e. the Research Plan)  an explanation of the number and type of publications (including proposed titles of publications, titles of journals or conferences, authors, impact factors, suggested abstracts, and potential dates of submission), and also the format of the thesis. Candidates discuss with their supervisors the most appropriate format for their research proposal.

 

Proposal Requirements

The proposal should include the following elements (NB: not all sections are relevant in all projects):

  1. Title (around 30 words): clear and concise containing the keywords of the topic
  2. Introduction/Background and Literature Review (excluding references around 7000 words): rationale for the research and how it can make a significant and original contribution to the field. The research should be located within a critical, analytical review of the relevant literature with particular emphasis on critical examinations of how proposed research project will add new knowledge to the field of study
  3. Research problem (around 500 words): a concise statement of the research problem and the key research aims, question and/or hypothesis the candidate is going to test or address (e.g. aims questions and / or hypothesis)
  4. Research Design, Proposed Methodology and methods (around 2000 words): A concise account of how the research is to be carried out, outlining how the research aims, questions and /or theoretical hypothesis are addressed. This section includes the theoretical framework for research design, strategy of inquiry and individual study design. Research techniques including sampling, data collection methods (e.g. laboratory methods, field collection techniques or related activities as applicable), data analysis (e.g. statistical design, thematic analysis), and strategies to enhance research quality. If more than one study is conducted a study by study approach is recommended. All methods and numerical approaches must be explicitly linked to the stated hypotheses or research questions; (excl. references, max 2000 words).
  5. Ethics (around 400 words): Provide evidence that research ethics matters have been dealt with or are being dealt with. Highlight expected ethical matters that may arise from the project and how they will be addressed (max 400 words). Describe, where applicable, any ethics approvals and any permits, licenses or other authorisations for the proposed research that are required by law. Attach documentary evidence of relevant approvals to the research proposal.
  6. Budget (around 500 words): include a statement detailing how the method/plan is going to be resourced and funded. The budget and resource statement should include equipment, travel or specialist services.
  7. Timeline and Publication Plan (around 500 words): a timeline illustrating how the candidate will complete the various aspects of their program including dissemination of their results through conference presentations and publications. Identify how the research is to be published and/or disseminated, listing prospective titles of papers and target journals (including the Impact Factor, 500 words).
  8. Reference list: Include a substantial reference list which is up-to-date and presented in a style identified as appropriate by the candidate’s supervisors (not included in word limit).
Presentation requirements
  1. Format: Formal academic seminar presentation open invitation to university and guests.
  2. Duration: 20-30 minutes plus 10-15 minutes discussion
  3. Timing: After the submission of confirmation document and feedback has been provided from examiners for integration into the presentation
  4. Quality expectations: Communicates with critical insight the research problem, methodological approach using academic verbal skills including appropriate responses to questions.
  5. Assessment: The confirmation panel assesses the oral presentation.

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2. Process

University Confirmation of Candidature processes are described in section 13.5-13.10 of the Higher Degree by Research Candidature – Procedures. The following provides further details on the process processes for Confirmation of Candidature in each Faculty.

To apply for confirmation of candidature, all candidates must submit:

  • A complete Research Plan and Progress Review form (with the option selected to indicate application for confirmation of candidature)
  • A research proposal

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Schools within the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law

On receipt of the candidate’s confirmation documents, the chair of the confirmation panel (usually the Associate Dean Research) forms a panel. The panel consists of the Supervisory team, Associate Dean Research and one to two independent reviewers (internal or external).

Panelists are given two weeks to review the confirmation document.

The confirmation presentation consists of two parts:

  • In part one, the candidate gives a 15 or 20 minute presentation to staff and students with a further 15 or 10 minutes of questions accordingly. The presentation and questions combined should not exceed 30 minutes.
  • Part two is a closed section with only the panel and candidate in attendance. Panel members will have an opportunity to ask questions, and the candidate will have an opportunity to clarify any areas of concern regarding their submission.

The candidate leaves the room and the panel discusses and develops a recommendation for the outcome of the application for progression to confirmed candidature in accordance with the section 13. Where applicable, the panel will also consider:

  • The number and type of publications appropriate for a thesis with publication(s) in the discipline and also the format of the thesis with publication(s); and
  • Any potential change to the format of a traditional thesis appropriate for the discipline

The candidate joins the panel again to receive advice on the panel’s recommendation.

The panel’s decision is recorded on the Research Plan and Progress Review (RPPR) form which is then sent to the Office of Research (together with the candidate's research proposal document and the written feedback from the panel including any required instructions for revisions and changes).

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Schools within the Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering

Candidates go through the Confirmation of Candidature process as early as possible, within 6-8 months after enrolment (double for part-time).

There are two criteria that must be met prior to the confirmation presentation being held:

  • That the candidate has (normally) attended at least 3 other confirmation presentations; and
  • That the candidate has completed the proposal revisions outlined by the reviewers to the satisfaction of the supervisors prior to formal submission of their Application for Progression to Confirmed Candidature.

The Principal Supervisor is responsible for ensuring that these criteria have been met and by completing the supervisor's section of the Research Plan and Progress Review (RPPR) form, declares these to have been met.

The process of confirmation will normally be administered through the appropriate School. Exceptions can be negotiated on a case-by-case basis within the Faculty.

Candidates may present via electronic means where they are not able to attend in person. The relevant School HDR Administrative Assistant will try to secure presentation space that has the capacity to video record presentations to allow others in the school to view these and also participate where possible.

Roles and responsibilities:

The candidate: Ensures that all forms and required documents are completed and submitted within the required timeframes. Students submitting confirmation documentation during December and January need to ensure that their research plan includes an extended timeline to accommodate the availability of all the panel members to review the documents and then be in attendance at the confirmation seminar.

The Principal Supervisor: applies text matching software to the research proposal and takes appropriate action, nominates the reviewers and ensures that the final proposal document and presentation incorporate the reviewer’s feedback and that the final proposal document incorporates all feedback formally provided during the confirmation process.

The Associate Dean (Research): Chairs the confirmation panel and signs and submits the ‘Research Plan and Progress Review form’ to document the faculty's assessment of the application for confirmation of candidature, after presentation and if necessary again after further work or re submission.

The Office of Research: makes available relevant forms and Guidelines, conducts quality assurance checks in support of compliance with relevant Policies, Procedures and Guidelines, and facilitates monitoring by the Research Degrees Committee.

The School HDR Administrative Assistant: liaises with the review panel to ensure that the forms are processed and the panel/presentations organised; ensures that candidates and supervisors are notified in a timely manner; and updates the university candidature management database to facilitate accurate reporting on candidature progression to the Research Degrees Committee.

The three-stage process is outlined below:

Stage one: research proposal independent review

  1. The Principal Supervisor nominates three reviewers (one of which must be external to the University, plus one reserve reviewer). These reviewers should be content and/or method experts. Supervisors provide these reviewer names and details to the School HDR Administrative Assistant (SHDRAA) one month prior to the submission of the confirmation document.
  2. The SHDRAA arranges the ADR approval of the nominated review panel, and invites the reviewers.
  3. By the confirmation submission date nominated in their initial Research Plan, the candidate submits a research proposal to the
  4. The SHDRAA notifies the ADR and arranges sending of the confirmation document to the reviewers; the organisation of the confirmation panel process and the tentative planning of the confirmation

On receipt of the candidate’s confirmation document, the chair of the confirmation panel (usually the ADR forms a panel. The panel consists of the Supervisory team, ADR, Head of School/Centre Leader (or nominee) and the two independent reviewers (internal and external). External panel members may attend via teleconference or electronic means.

  1. The internal and external reviewers should submit a written review within four weeks to the SHDRAA who distributes this to the ADR to determine the outcome. The SHDRAA then provides the outcome and reviewer’s reports to the Principal Supervisor, and returns the original documents to the Office of Research (for retention on the student file).

Stage two: response to feedback on research proposal

  1. The Principal Supervisor discusses the feedback candidate, and develop a plan for response. The candidate will address the feedback by revising the confirmation document and the presentation (evidenced by a point by point written rebuttal) to the satisfaction of the Principle supervisor (who notifies the SHDRAA of the need to arrange a presentation).

Stage three: Confirmation seminar and formal panel review

  1. The student submits an “Research Plan and Progress Review form” indicating their application for confirmation of candidature, together with their revised research proposal, point by point written reviewer rebuttal and Safe Assign report to the Office of Research who provide it to the SHDRAA.
  2. The SHDRAA organises the confirmation presentation including recording, ensures the panel have a copy of the above documents and invites other members of the School or Research Centre to attend (invitations should be made as widely as appropriate and multiple presentations held in the same session where possible to enhance the audience numbers).
  3. The candidate gives a 20-30 minute presentation to panel members, staff and students with a further 10 or 15 minutes of questions accordingly. The presentation and questions combined should not exceed 45 minutes.
  4. Following the presentation (or group of presentations) and questions will be a closed session where the panel discusses and develops a provisional recommendation and questions to clarify
  5. The candidate is then invited to meet with the panel and will have an opportunity to clarify any areas of concern regarding their
  6. The confirmation panel then determines the outcome of the application for progression to confirmed candidature in accordance with the Higher Degrees by Research Candidature – Procedures section 13.5. The 'Research Plan and Progress Review' form is completed by the panel and must include an outcome including any required changes/recommendations prior to confirmation of candidature
  7. The SHDRAA returns the ‘Research Plan and Progress Review’ form and associated documents in the agreed format to the Office of Research who conducts the required quality assurance checks (and where necessary, Research Degrees Committee consideration of any recommended exemptions from the Higher Degrees by Research Candidature – Procedures) and subsequently informs the candidate of the final outcome.
    1. Where the faculty decision is ‘Needs improvement’, to the satisfaction of the Principal Supervisor, any changes recommended by the panel must be addressed to the satisfaction of the supervisor only and the supervisor will let the Office of Research know when this is completed.
    2. Where the faculty decision is ‘Needs improvement’ to the satisfaction of the independent reviewer and Associate Dean (Research), any changes recommended by the panel must be addressed to the satisfaction of the Principal Supervisor and the Associate Dean Research (evidenced by a point by point written rebuttal) within the negotiated timeframe, who will let the Office of Research know when this is completed.
    3. Where the faculty decision is that a doctoral application for confirmation is ‘Unsatisfactory’ with the option to enrol in a Master level program, the candidate may be required to change the document according to all feedback (evidenced by a point by point written rebuttal) within the negotiated timeframe (with candidate and supervisors) to the satisfaction of the Associate Dean Research.
  8. The Office of Research formally notifies the candidate of the final outcome of their application to progress to confirmed candidature, and next steps as required.

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3. Independent Review

University Confirmation of Candidature outcomes are described in section 13.5-13.6 of the Higher Degrees by Research Candidature – Procedures. The following details of local requirements for independent reviewers of confirmation of candidature research proposals.

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Schools within the Faculty of Arts, Business and Law

Independent reviewers of applications to progress to confirmed HDR candidature are asked to provide feedback on the following in their report:

  • General comments
  • Originality
  • Methods
  • Critical thought
  • Contribution to knowledge
  • Edits and referencing
  • Overall recommendation

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Schools within the Faculty of Science, Health, Education and Engineering
Reviewer selection and nomination
  • Normally three reviewers, all of whom are external to the supervisory team (and one external to the University), who can provide a constructive critique of both the methods and the
  • The Principal Supervisor liaises with the supervision panel to nominate and approve the reviewers. Must be approved by the Associate Dean Research.
  • The Principal Supervisor contacts the nominated reviewers in the first instance (please only contact 2 in the first instance and have 1 reserve).
  • Must be available to complete the review within four weeks and to attend the confirmation presentation either in person or by videoconference or other means.

The independent reviewer of applications to progress to confirmed HDR candidature is asked to provide feedback both within the document and supported by a 1-2 page written report. The candidate should demonstrate:

  • sufficient breadth and depth of the relevant literature
  • how the project contributes to the existing body of knowledge
  • a firm grasp of the overarching aims, methodology, methods and techniques and logistics to gain robust data (either empirical or qualitative or both) that will enable the project to be successful
  • where appropriate, the ability to formulate testable hypotheses that are logically coherent
  • sufficient knowledge about the techniques required to analyse the data
  • that the progress and proposal (as described)  is of quantity and quality suitable for a Master by Research/Doctoral confirmation
Reviewer feedback

Independent reviewers of Applications to Progress to Confirmed HDR Candidature are asked to provide feedback on the following in their report (please see accompanying framework for further guidance):

  • General comments
  • Originality (e.g. is the project novel and innovative, likely producing research outcomes that will be publishable?)
  • Methods (e.g. is the project realistic, practicable and within the scope usually accepted appropriate for the program?
  • Ethical aspects (e.g. are all possible ethical issues appropriately identified and addressed?)
  • Feasibility (e.g. And, Are the future milestones appropriate and consistent with the stated aims?)
  • Timeframe (e.g. is there a likelihood of timely completion?)
  • Critical thought (e.g. Does the work show adequate synthesis and critique of previous research and theory?)
  • Contribution to knowledge (e.g. Are projected publication outputs reflective of scientific quality in terms of impact factor of journals or similar)?
  • Edits and referencing
  • Overall recommendation (including, if applicable, whether the candidate can be upgraded to a Doctoral degree or downgraded to a Master degree)

It is expected that all members of the confirmation panel will review the confirmation document and will be present at the Confirmation seminar (in person or other means). The purpose of the confirmation reviewers is to provide feedback to support the candidate's development as a researcher and to provide advice and to assess whether the candidates has the potential complete the proposed research plan using the method identified, and whether this research meets the required level for the program being completed e.g. Doctoral or Masters by Research.

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