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Managing your candidature

In embarking on your Honours candidature, you will need to identify a research topic and review the existing research and literature.

Selecting a research topic

Areas of new research may come from problems to be solved or obvious gaps in previous research. Some students may have already identified an area of interest. For others, the area of interest might have been identified after discussions with potential supervisors. Whatever the source, the research area needs to be:

  • refined to fit within the time limits, abilities and resources of the candidate, and the resources and facilities of the school;
  • appropriate for the level of the degree being taken; and
  • justifiable to the academic and general community.

The process of identifying and developing an appropriate research topic requires wide reading, including:

  • theses and dissertations;
  • reports;
  • journal articles; and
  • books and reviews in related areas.

This reading should complement discussions with the supervisor, research students and others within the University.

The University's library staff can help in identifying relevant literature. For more information see the ECU library website.

Refining the problem

An essential first step in your research is converting an area of interest into a defined question that can be answered. Depending on the field of research, the problem can be defined as a question to be answered (for example in Social Science) or a hypothesis that can be supported or rejected (experimental sciences).

Successful research often depends on the ability of the researcher to get answers to their research problem. Confining the research problem to a well-defined question makes it easier to assess whether the objectives of the research can be achieved.

Reviewing the literature

You will need to carry out a literature review in two stages. The first stage is carried out while deciding on a topic. The review will be included in the research proposal.

The second is a thorough investigation of literature relevant to your research. This review will be included in your final thesis.

The literature search involves three categories of material:

  1. the specific content of the proposed study and previous research undertaken on the research topic;
  2. selected concepts and theories closely related to the topic; and
  3. research design, methodology, reporting, statistical processes and thesis preparation and guidelines for thesis writing.

Some research studies will actually use the literature as a source of data. Examples of such studies include investigations of methodologies, bibliometrics, analysis of literary works and some historical studies.

The review should not only summarise relevant information, but also support the feasibility of your proposed research and place it in the context of the discipline or subject area.

It may also outline a conceptual framework or identify a theoretical base from the literature for the research project.

Reference management

We recommend that from the beginning of your candidature you use bibliographic software such as EndNote to manage your references in a private library. Endnote is available for students to download from the ECU library web pages.

Search plan

A search plan should be developed before starting the major review of related research and literature. Essential parts of the plan include:

  • the scope of the search and relevant descriptors;
  • the period of published sources;
  • categories of resources;
  • countries of publication; and
  • time schedules.

Where relevant, non-print materials including audio and videotapes, movie film and photographic and graphic materials should also be viewed.

Consider the following procedures while carrying out a literature search:

  • record relevant information, and/or literature data, together with a complete citation of source, with page numbers, for each note or entry made the first time the particular source is used;
  • relate relevant notes made on a similar topic from the many sources; and
  • maintain a developing bibliography by completing a full and accurate bibliographic record for each source used. This data may be conveniently recorded in a bibliographical database (such as Endnote).

Referencing style

A referencing style appropriate to the discipline should be used consistently throughout the thesis for in-text and end referencing. Consult with your supervisor regarding referencing style.

It is essential that you exercise great care with referencing to avoid accusations of plagiarism that can lead to the imposition of severe penalties including exclusion from the course.

The research design

The research design is critical to the success of the research project. If an inappropriate or incorrect design is chosen, you may find you are unable to find answers to your research questions.

Documentation checklist

Every school has their own process, with timelines and deadlines that you need to adhere to when undertaking an Honours degree. Your School Honours Coordinator can provide more information.

The following documentation should be submitted either by you or your supervisor to the School Honours Coordinator, in a timely manner as per the Honours program timeline:

  • approved Nomination of Supervisor(s) OR nominate supervisors on your application;
  • Risk Assessment and Management Plan (signed copy);
  • email from supervisor verifying reviewers’ comments have been addressed in the research proposal;
  • approved clearance from an Ethics Committee with a signed hard copy of the Ethics Application form;
  • approved Nomination of Examiners form;
  • soft (or hard) copy of the final thesis ready for examination; and
  • letter from your supervisor confirming that the examiners’ comments have been incorporated to the supervisor’s satisfaction.

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