Study Program for Research Candidates

A research study program for Higher Degree by Research students involves an original research project, or series of projects, conducted with the guidance of supervisors who are experts in their area.

The information outlined in this section is to give prospective students an idea about what study may entail. This could assist a student to plan their study, estimate their work load and ensure they meet the academic commitments required as part of their ongoing study as Sydney College of Divinity expects clear progress in each semester of enrolment.

Full-time / part-time student

A candidate for the degree will be designated as full-time or part-time based on time to be given to the research. Typically, full-time candidature requires an average of thirty hours per week and part-time candidature requires an average of fifteen hours per week. These hours should preferably be achieved through regular weekly commitment, but they may be achieved through varying periods of more and less intensive work.

Academic responsibilities of research candidates

Summary of Research Intentions and Thesis Proposal (Research Proposal)

Upon application for candidature, all research candidates will submit a Summary of Research Intentions, where they present the preliminary title, rationale, methodology, and structure of the proposed thesis. Upon ratification of the applicant’s candidature by the SCD Research Committee, MPhil, PhD and ThD candidates, in conjunction with their Supervisor and Associate Supervisor, then prepare their Thesis Proposal within the time frame prescribed by the SCD Research Degree Regulations for ratification by the Research Committee (one semester for full-time students, two semesters for part-time students). Then full entry, as opposed to provisional entry, is granted to the candidate into the research degree.

By contrast, when DMin candidates complete their two preliminary units at high credit level, they then submit their Thesis Proposal to the SCD Research Committee. Where any proposed research topic involves the collation of data from human subjects, an Application for Ethical Clearance of Research Involving Human Subjects must be submitted to the SCD Ethics Committee. Ethics clearance is normally sought at the same time as submission of the formal Thesis Proposal.

Orientation, Research Degree Thesis Writers’ Workshop, and further training beyond

All new candidates will attend virtually by Zoom platform the compulsory orientation program to research within the Sydney College of Divinity.

All MPhil, DMin, PhD and ThD candidates will also attend by Zoom platform the compulsory Research Degree Thesis Writers’ Workshop, held in either first or second semester. This session is designed to introduce candidates to practical matters affecting the production of a thesis.

Further training touching on each stage of the production of a thesis could be available.

Research Seminar attendance

Eight compulsory Research Seminars are held on alternate Tuesday or Thursday evenings during the year, four occurring each semester, each of which is coordinated by the Research Director. Seminars commence in March and conclude in November. The Program of Research Seminars is distributed in advance. Ongoing enrolment in all research degrees is subject to completing attendance requirements (i.e. 4 minimum each year) and presenting a paper related to the research seminar at least once each year for full-time candidates and at least once every second year for part-time candidates. DMin candidates participate in these seminars once they have entered the thesis stage of their candidature. Candidates will also be asked to respond to papers of their colleagues.

Attendance can be in person at the SCD or virtually by ZOOM platform. Two papers are presented at any Research Seminar. Papers are sent out the week before the seminar for prior reading and consideration by each candidate. Candidates are expected to notify in advance the Research Director if they are unable to attend Research Seminar.

Progress Report 

Each semester the supervisors report to the Research Committee concerning the candidate’s progress and any other related matter, using the Research Degree Progress Report form, which requires also candidate comment on the supervisor’s comments. This enables the Committee to monitor progress, offer advice to supervisors and/or candidates, and make appropriate recommendations to the Academic Board. In the event of continued unsatisfactory progress termination of candidature may be recommended. Unsatisfactory progress occurs when there is no evidence that production of the thesis has been advanced by identifiable further research, constructive meetings of the candidate with the supervisor, or written drafts, and where there are insufficient grounds for special consideration. Typically, unsatisfactory progress in one semester will attract directions to achieve particular goals in the following semester, and unsatisfactory progress for a second semester will lead to a requirement that the candidate show cause why the candidature should not be terminated.

Candidates experiencing extended academic or personal difficulties should discuss their situation promptly with their supervisor and the Research Director in order to establish the most effective way for them to proceed to eventual completion. In some situations it may be appropriate to apply for an extension. The normal upper limits for extension are one semester for full-time candidates and two semesters for part-time candidates. In other situations it may be appropriate to apply for leave of absence for a semester. Such applications should be addressed to the Research Director and are considered by the Research Committee.

Regular meetings with Supervisor

Candidates should work out a schedule of regular meetings with their Supervisor to discuss their progress, academic issues arising from their research, and to receive feedback from their supervisor on any submitted work of the candidate in draft or final form. It is the responsibility of the candidate to fit their schedule into their Supervisors’ availability and preferably to have prior agenda formulated for the meeting, of which the Supervisor is aware. Meetings can be held in person or by Skype. In terms of regularity of meeting, this is for the Supervisor and candidate to determine, but, at the very least, meetings should be once each quarter of the year, and, as needs be, bimonthly or monthly. The candidate should make regular contact with the Associate Supervisor as appropriate, but it is the Supervisor who is primarily responsible for the candidate’s progress. Should there be any necessity for a change of Supervisor/Associate Supervisor, the candidate should approach the Research Director first and discuss the situation confidentially.

Ethical research

Whether or not a candidate needs to obtain a specific ethics clearance, it is still obligatory to conduct ethical research. Ethical research includes avoidance of the following:

  1. Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the representation of another’s works or ideas as one’s own; it includes the unacknowledged word for word use or paraphrasing of another person’s work, and the inappropriate unacknowledged use of another person’s ideas.
  2. Fraud: Academic fraud is the falsification and fabrication of research results and dishonesty in reporting research results.
  3. Misrepresentation: Misrepresentation is the giving of false or misleading information in academic matters. It includes falsely claiming credit for past study and falsely stating that thesis material has not been used in another thesis beyond the permitted scope.
  4. Unethical behaviour: Unethical behaviour is behaviour that breaches accepted ethical standards. It includes failing to observe the terms of an ethical approval to conduct research and misuse of confidential information obtained in field education.

Failure to conduct ethical research may result in the candidate being charged with academic misconduct. Candidates should not assume that such misconduct will not be detected.

Nomination of home library for research and wider library borrowing rights

Each research degree candidate will be asked to nominate as a home library one of the College libraries, typically but not necessarily the library of the Institution in which the supervisor is based. This enables the College, in consultation with the supervisor and candidate, to build up research resources in the topic area of the candidate using a Research Degree Library Resources Grant to the library from the Sydney College of Divinity. The grant is made to the nominated library each semester in which the candidate is enrolled. The Application for Borrowing Status enables the student to go to the chosen SCD member institute library and set up borrowing rights.

Sydney College of Divinity has established an agreement with Macquarie University for borrowing rights of its research candidates. If candidates would like to avail themselves of this provision, they should contact the Research Director for the procedure.

Finalising thesis for examination

Candidates should make themselves aware from the outset of their candidature regarding the SCD Research Degrees Regulations on the preparation of the thesis for submission for examination, noting (a) the specific guidelines for the submission of the thesis, (b) bibliography and referencing, (c) the candidate’s submission of the Intention to Submit Form to the Research Director. Furthermore, they should also familiarise themselves in the same document regarding the examination process, the criteria for assessment, and the presentation and binding of the thesis following examination.

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