A coursework research project subject is an opportunity to undertake detailed independent study on an issue under the guidance of an academic supervisor.
Research subjects are undertaken for a number of reasons: completion of a capstone requirement; preparation for a PhD; or a desire to investigate a specific topic in depth, focusing a number of elements of coursework learning into one specific area.
The Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences offers different research project subjects, differing in credit points (25 or 50), duration (single semester or year-long) and final report length. Research Projects are often completed as capstone subjects within postgraduate coursework programs at FVAS, and typically done toward the end of your program.
Research Topics and Supervisors
You should approach individual academics with relevant expertise across your preferred topic area/s and discuss the possibility of supervision. Be aware that individual academics can only supervise a set number of research projects, and may not be able to assist you.
If you are not sure about the topic area that you would like to do research in, you a good place to start is this list of FVAS topic areas and contacts.
Research topics are then developed in conjunction with a supervisor. Some projects might have their objectives and scope pre-defined as part of a funding program.
Academics who agree to act as a supervisor can assist with the development of a research proposal that outlines appropriate methodologies and analytical frameworks for addressing the research question posed by the topic.
The research process
Completing a research project requires you to:
- focus on a problem or issue within a topic area supported by Faculty staff
- review literature and background information related to the discipline area and problem
- design and carry out an investigation into that problem or issue using an approved methodology
- balance project scope, time frames and resource scarcity
- develop a high quality written report and orally present your findings.
To gain a better understanding the differences in scope of projects carried out in minor and major projects, you can:
- talk to staff and potential supervisors,
- attend student presentations, and
- review previous project titles or reports, where possible.
As a capstone component of your program, the research project requires you to apply advanced and integrated understanding of your topic area and to use the expert skills you have previously learnt in your course. The projects cannot be used as training exercises in a new area of study. Your research project requires the production of an original contribution or piece of work. Research projects are student-driven, which means that you are responsible for planning and implementing your own research project. Research projects have strict schedules, requiring that you manage your time carefully and achieve tasks steadily throughout the semester or year.
The difference between a major and minor research project
Major research projects tend to deal with more complex topics requiring a more advanced skill set. Major project reports are marked to a higher standard than minor project reports. For more information about each option, see the differences between major and minor research projects page.
Research Project FAQs
FAQs - About Research Subjects
- What is an 'original' contribution?
The Faculty expects that in a 25 or 50 credit point subject, your research project should include some new analysis of data. For example, your project would normally include:
- an original analysis of the existing literature
- new data collection, or a new analysis of existing dataset
- original analysis of data, and
- reporting your findings with rigorous argument, synthesis and conclusion.
- When should I start planning my research project?
As a capstone subject, preceding coursework will be important in terms of shaping the skills and knowledge needed for a project. When planning your course, ensure that the subjects you take before your research project give you the skills and background knowledge you need.
In the semester before you want to begin your project, think about the research areas you are interested in, and potential supervisors. Discuss project opportunities with those academics.
- Who approves a project?
Your project will require the support and approval of a Faculty academic supervisor. A Project Approval form signed by a supervisor is required for enrolment in the subject. You should have this form signed before the semester commences, or at the very latest by the first week of semester. In some cases it may be appropriate to have a secondary supervisor. The subject coordinator may be contacted to discuss topic possibilities and potential supervisors. However, you do not need the subject coordinator to sign your Project Approval Form. Your course coordinator may also be able to help.
- What is the role of the Subject Coordinator?
The Subject Coordinator ensures overall governance for the subject and is responsible for its delivery. If you have complaints or issues with supervision and or other project related issues, you should contact the Subject Coordinator. The Subject Coordinator also supervises some students as an academic supervisor.
- How is the project supported?
Apart from the interaction with your supervisor, a one-hour class per week is timetabled during semester to assist with aspects of the project work. Recorded tutorials on different research topics are also available on Canvas LMS as learning material. Semester 1 classes are repeated in Semester 2. You may also need to access Academic Skills support. A Project Tutor is available on request for consultation on your proposal, presentation and report. You will need to make an appointment to meet the tutor.
- What are the funding arrangements for projects?
A small amount of funding is usually available for projects. There are strict rules for what is claimable as well as procedures for reimbursement. Funding will be discussed in the weekly classes. If you anticipate requiring funding to carry out your research project, discuss this with your supervisor as early as possible.
Project budgets may be larger than allocated amounts if there are external partners / supervisors or other sources of income. Such funding arrangements must be made explicit in the project proposal and authorised by the subject coordinator.
- Do Minor/Major Research Projects help admission into research higher degree (PhD) studies?
Research work at undergraduate and postgraduate level is important in assessing suitability for admission into a PhD program. Project work completed to a high standard will assist your application.
If contemplating PhD level study you should look into PhD admission requirements at a variety of universities. If you are considering continued academic research past your Masters it may be advisable to undertake a Major Research Project. Please note that the substance of previous research projects will NOT be carried over into research higher degree studies.
- Can I publish my work?
Supervisors may encourage publication. The publication pathway is seen as a two-stage process:
Firstly, focus on producing a high quality research report for assessment purposes.
Once the assessment phase is completed, talk to your supervisor about different publication options. The basis of any co-authorship is agreed with the supervisor and other stakeholders and publication preparation commences.
- How can I use the research project with to assist my career development?
The written report and oral presentation should be highlighted in your Curriculum Vitae as major achievements from your course.
As postgraduate students, you should be thinking about particular strengths around which you will build your career. Highlight how your research project has helped you develop these strengths. For example, your research project should help you demonstrate specific discipline-related skills.
In addition, through research you will develop skills in independent critical thought, rational inquiry, and project management. These skills should be selling points underpinning any career seeking or advancement.
- How can I manage my research project for a successful outcome?
Projects are driven and managed by you. To be an effective project manager, you need to be goal - oriented, highly motivated, organised, self-critical and able to set priorities and manage your time. A successful project will be one that is planned in realistic terms from the outset:
- Begin as early as possible
- Set a realistic scope, and schedule your project with achievable milestones
- Make sure you allocate enough time and resources to your project
- Be organised – manage your time and set priorities
- Before you begin, ensure you have a good foundation in the core discipline area and your research method
- Have a good grasp of the related literature (breadth and depth)
- Have realistic project risk assessment and a back-up plan (risk mitigation)
- Don’t leave things to the last minute
- Organise frequent contact with your supervisor/s, weekly or fortnightly meeting is recommended
- Keep your project to schedule by completing key tasks on time
- Avoid writer's block by writing early and often
- Use your draft report as a report ‘road-map’ – so that you have a clear sense of direction in your research.
FAQs - About Research Topics
- How can I find a topic?
- Start by thinking about what you are interested in, or what subjects you have enjoyed the most
- Your lecturers might highlight topic possibilities in class
- Talk to academics who have taught subjects you are really interested in
- You can look at the research of academics who are experts in the field you are interested in, think about what they are researching and develop some of your own ideas from there
- Look at the list of topic areas and contacts here
- Explore your options via the University’s Find An Expert
- Can I do a group project?
No. You must do your research as an individual. There are no group-assessed tasks. However, you might find yourself working with others on a common theme or topic area where your individual project scope is clearly delineated in consultation with your supervisor. That means even if some students are working on similar research topic, the research proposal and final report is assessed individually.
- Can internship arrangements fit within the scope of a research project?
No. Internships are offered through separate subjects and have different learning outcomes.
FAQs - About Supervision
- Do I have to find my own supervisor?
Yes. If you are having difficulty finding a supervisor from academic staff, you should talk to your course or stream coordinator regarding options within your discipline area.
- What is the role of the project supervisor?
Supervisors for projects provide mentorship and guidance for the project. The expectations that students might have of supervisors and vice-versa will be discussed in class. Supervisors are not normally involved in assessment tasks, such as marking the proposals, presentation and final report
Before commencement of the subject
Your supervisor can provide advice, support and comments on your draft proposal. They will sign your application form to indicate their willingness to supervise your research project.
During the subject
Your supervisor will be available for regular meetings (usually one per week) throughout your project to support your literature review, the conduct of the research, and reading and commenting on drafts. You are expected to initiate and organise these meetings and maintain regular contact with your supervisor. They can also help you to plan project specific requirements such as risk assessments, lab inductions, etc.
You might also be expected to meet and contribute to a discipline group.
In your last few weeks, your supervisor will assist in finalising your report for submission. It is important that sufficient time is allowed to review draft work.
Together with your supervisor you should consider the resources required for the research, including a discussion of budget and provision of funds or other resources needed to support your research.
FAQs - Academic Rules and Issues
- Are there special academic rules governing research projects?
There are no special rules - University academic policies on areas such as Assessment, Plagiarism, Extensions and Special Consideration apply to research projects.
Proposals and final reports are submitted via Turnitin. You are expected to be aware of standards of academic honesty. You can use Turnitin to review your drafts anytime up until the submission date.
- Is it possible to apply for an extension?
Send requests for short extensions (10 working days or less) to the Subject Coordinator.
To apply for an extension longer than 10 working days, please apply for Special Consideration through the student portal. More information about Special Consideration is available here.
Your project planning requires you to carry out an assessment of all risks impacting completion and how you might deal with these. Unforeseen technical or seasonal delays and disruption to completing your research before the submission date do not automatically entitle you to an extension.
- Are projects bound by ethics approval processes?
Yes. Talk with your supervisor about whether you need to make an ethics application. If you do need to make an ethics application, your supervisor will help you to ensure your research is compliant with ethics requirements and support your ethics application. To find out more about ethics in research and ethics approvals, please see the University’s Office for Research Ethics and Integrity.
- Do I need a risk assessment or insurance?
Talk to your supervisor about whether your research requires a risk assessment. For laboratory-based project, you will need to have a lab induction and complete all required documents. Some specific scientific equipment also has strict rules and requires induction and training. Discuss with your supervisor to arrange lab induction and equipment training. If you are travelling, you may need a travel risk assessment and insurance, you should discuss these matters with your supervisor. For more information, see Health & Safety.
FAQs - Assessment
- How is the project assessed?
A grade is awarded based on three assessed components - proposal, report and oral presentation - using grading criteria which are explained in class and published via the LMS. For more information about the assessment, please read the Handbook entry for the subject you are enrolling in, and talk with your supervisor.
The project proposal and final report are marked by staff independent of the project (not your supervisor) with moderation provided by the subject coordinator and staff with expertise in the discipline area. When necessary, two staff may mark the final report and complete the grading sheet providing summative feedback.
Given the tight timeframes with assessment, the main source of formative feedback is from your supervisor.
Oral presentations are marked by academic staff independent of the supervision of the project. The presentations are scheduled during Weeks 10, 11 or 12. Presenters may elect to present during SWOTVAC providing this does not impact exam preparation.
- How should I go about writing my report?
An effective report writing strategy establishes an overall report framework or skeleton early.
Your academic writing skills in your literature review and report need to be of the highest order. The University's Academic Skills Unit provides access to programs and resources that can assist with this.
It is important to seek feedback and criticism by providing drafts to your supervisor. You can also have other people read and give feedback on your draft.
- What should be included in a proposal?
Your proposal should link a problem or issue with a research question(s). It should include information about the scope of the topic; specific methodology; and indications of timelines and expected outcomes. Project management aspects such as risk identification and analysis, planning your time and other resource requirements and scheduling of work should also be addressed.
The proposal needs to demonstrate strong awareness of literature domains and key sources to be developed in the literature review.
- Can I exceed the prescribed report word length?
No. Like all written assignments, your proposal and final report are bound by University Policy which allows a 10% tolerance on word limits. If your report is under/over this tolerance, grading penalties are applicable. Remember that a high quality report distinguishes itself through quality of analysis, not length.
In gauging the size of your report exclude the words in your reference list. All else within the body of the report is part of the word count.
- How do I prepare for the final presentation?
Grading criteria for the final presentation focus on the need for an engaging presentation using a more spontaneous delivery style. Reciting or reading a highly scripted talk is not conducive to engaging with your audience.
It is important to practice speaking in a range of contexts during your course e.g. tutorials, small groups etc. Toward the end of the semester, it is important to practice presenting by yourself, to colleagues and to your supervisor. Time your practice presentations. By video / audio recording them you can also get a sense of how you portray yourself to others.
Also learn to anticipate the questions that the audience is likely to ask.
Your supervisor (or nominee) will also be encouraged to attend and ask more technical questions relating to your presentation.
- Do I need to listen to all student presentations?
You are expected to attend a block of presentations, providing an audience for other presenters. The draft schedule is generally available during the middle of the semester.
How to apply
- Complete the FVAS Research Project Application Form - this form must be approved and signed by your supervisor(s).
- Scan and upload the form to Stop 1 using the Enrolment Variation Form.
- When filling out the enrolment variation form, select 'Add Subject' and click 'Yes' when asked if you have tried to amend your study plan. You will then be able to upload your approval form as a Subject Variation Document.
- If your application is approved, Stop 1 will enrol you in the subject and will send you confirmation.
- If your application is not approved, you will be notified by Stop 1.