Research best practice
The University's has four research-related policies, to ensure the University's full policy compliance with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. All four policies are available here.
- Responsible Conduct of Research Policy (the overarching policy, replacing the previous Policy on Research Practice)
- Management of Research Data and Primary Materials Policy
- Research Publication, Authorship and Peer Review Policy
- Research Misconduct Policy
The University's policy on Academic Integrity lays out expectations in this area and all candidates and staff have an obligation to understand and respect the rules and practices therein.
Ethics and safety approval
If research projects involve human subjects, animals, or biohazards then approval needs to be obtained from the relevant committee before the work can commence. To avoid delays applications should be made well ahead of the date at which research is planed to start.
Those planning to undertake research in SA schools will need to read the University site Criminal History Checks - staff and students first.
Where research involves working in a South Australian school then SA government legislation requires research workers to undergo a police check and for this to return information which does not preclude you from continuing. Police checks contains links to the 'Police check application form' (a.k.a. the National Police Certificate), and instructions on submission.
The University's Research Services Office has further information on research related Ethics and Biosafety.
Confidentiality of data
Research workers must obtain the consent of individuals to gather and record data concerning them. Those who have made the research possible must be protected from inconvenience or embarrassment through the release of personal information. The confidentiality of individual records must be protected during and after the research, and anonymity must be preserved in the publication of results. Candidates must not use such information for their own personal advantage or for that of a third party. When data are stored in computers, arrangements must be made to prevent unauthorised access to the files.
Data retention and storage
The University requires that all data be recorded in a durable and appropriately referenced form. Original data must be retained in the AOU or research unit in which the data were generated. Data on which publications are or will be based, must be retained or their location recorded.
All data that you use in your research, and in particular all data that is the basis of any publication (including your dissertation), must be stored according to the requirements specified in section 2.5 of Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (PDF, 508KB).
Candidates will be asked in their Annual Review of Progress reports whether storage of their data complies with the guidelines. These guidelines are concerned with ensuring not only the maintenance of high ethical standards, but validity and accuracy in the collection and reporting of data. It is a broad issue of ensuring that research results and methods are accessible to scrutiny by colleagues within the institution and, through appropriate publication, by the profession at large. It is intended that these guidelines should apply not only to research in experimental sciences, but to research in other branches of social sciences and humanities.
Data may include, but is not limited to:
- experimental data;
- interview tapes/transcripts;
- electronic data and data from limited access databases.
The term data means not only primary data gathered in an experiment, field trip, or interview, but also electronic data and data from limited-access databases. In this case, where it is not possible to 'hold' the data, the way in which the data were called up from a database must be recorded so that the same data can be retrieved by someone else.
The University requires that authors of publications complete a Statement of Authorship and Location of Data form at the time of submission of a publication. Ask your School Office about arrangements in your area for storing data and for completing the Authorship form.
Intellectual property has many facets including the following areas of particular relevance to research: copyright, patents, authorship, and managing confidentiality within a research project. Specifically, the University's Research Higher Degree Policy and Procedures (Section 10) states:
"Research students will be made aware of the University's policy relating to intellectual property before embarking on the research project. The policy will be made available to candidates at the time of enrolment. Where a research project involves a confidentiality agreement, research students will be counselled by the responsible University officer prior to a confidentiality agreement being signed by the student, about the consequences of restricted access to their research results, particularly in relation to research publications, seminars and activities associated with future applications for employment or research grants, and about the advisability of seeking professional advice. At the counselling session, the student may be accompanied by an independent person."
Research higher degree candidates are required to discuss with their supervisors IP issues at the start of candidature, or if issues arise, during candidature. Where the discussion identifies IP issues, a candidate will then undertake structured counselling before signing an agreement.
You will be advised of your rights and obligations at enrolment, and during the induction seminars held at the start of each semester. See Induction for Research Higher Degree Students.
Further information and counselling in relation to IP issues may be sought from:
|Phone:||61 8 8201 3552|
Confidentiality agreements and contractual agreements
A number of the University's postgraduate research candidates are working in collaboration with an industry partner, often with their stipend and/or research maintenance and facilities provided by the industry partner.
The industry partner may request, as a condition of providing research funding, that results from the research remain confidential for a period of time after the research has finished, so that they can exploit related commercial developments. Such restrictions may apply to the higher degree thesis, to publication through papers and to presentations in other forms (such as seminars).
Where a research project involves a confidentiality agreement research candiates will be counselled by the University prior to a confidentiality agreement being signed by the candidate, about their obligations under such an agreement and terms of the confidentiality agreement, particularly as they relate to thesis examination, research publications, seminars and activities associated with future applications for employment or research grants.
Within the first six months of candidature, you are required to complete an Initial Review, including a literature survey and detailed project proposal (for masters candidates), the detailed proposal can be combined with the mfid-term review). You should discuss the format and content of your proposal with your supervisor. Ideally, the literature survey will serve as the basis for the literature review that will be part of your final dissertation, and the project proposal as the basis for the introductory chapters to the dissertation.
You should submit your extended proposal to the Faculty Office along with an Initial Review of Project Proposal and Literature Review form, which requires that your supervisor provides a critique of the proposal.
At some time between 12 and 18 months of candidature (6 and 12 months for masters candidates), you are required to present a review of your progress and plans in both written and spoken form. Your work will be considered by a panel consisting of your supervisors and chaired by a member of the School's Higher Degree Committee. You will be asked to discuss your work with the panel, who will offer constructive criticism and suggestions to help you bring your work to completion within the allotted period of candidature. The panel will report to the Faculty Office on your progress, highlighting any issues that they believe might jeopardise the timely completion of the work.
There is no specific format required for the mid-term review or the spoken presentation; you should discuss particulars with your supervisor and your school's Higher Degree Coordinator. Depending on arrangements within your school, you may be able to use a paper that you have written for another purpose or a presentation that you have made to your research group to satisfy all or part of the requirement. When you have finished working on your review and presentation, you should make arrangements with your School's Chair of Higher Degree Commitee to schedule the review panel at a mutually agreeable time.
Annual review of progress
In accordance with the University's Research Higher Degree Policies and Procedures, Section 17, the progress of each higher degree candidate is reviewed annually. The current review period is from 1 June 2015 to 31 May 2016. Annual review of Progress forms are sent out to candidates in August each year by the Student Finance Services.
All RHD candidates who have been enrolled for at least three calendar months during the review period, including those who commenced their candidature and those who had a period of intermission during the review period, are required to complete the Annual Review of Progress form and submit it by 30 September of the current year. The review process requires that both you and your supervisor discuss your progress with your School's Chair of Higher Degree Commitee (as delegate of your Dean of School). The form asks for information from both you and your supervisor about a range of matters to do with your progress, your supervisory arrangements, and any problems that may have arisen during the past year. If you have any concerns about your progress, you should make sure they are raised, recorded and discussed as part of the review process.
Completion by the due date of the Annual Review of Progress is required to ensure that your scholarship will be renewed for the following year. Failure to complete the review might be grounds for preventing your continuing enrolment.Your reports are forwarded to the Faculty RHD Administration Team to review. Issues identified in your reports will be considered and as necessary followed up by the Faculty.
Appointment of Examiners
When you are close to submitting your dissertation, your supervisor will submit a "Recommendation for Appointment of Examiners" form nominating two external examiners who have current expertise in the field of your research and who are familiar with the requirements of a RHD and the process of examination. Ideally, the form should be submitted approximately three months before submission of the thesis to allow time for the Faculty Office to put in place arrangements for examination. Otherwise, the examination may be held up while examiners are contacted and agreements sought.
Per section 20.4 of Research Higher Degrees Policies and Procedures it is required that the names of examiners are not known to students until after the examination is complete (and then only with the permission of the examiner). This is further discussed in Confidentiality of Examiners (PDF 8KB) .
However, policy also provides that you be given the chance to provide names of potential examiners that you do not want to examine the work. For example, you may believe that a certain person or group would not consider your work objectively because they are committed to working in very different ways.
When your dissertation is ready for examination, in accordance with University policy, you must submit three copies of the document and any support materials. One copy will remain in the Faculty Office in reserve; the other two will be sent to the examiners. The examination copies of the thesis should be in final format and conform to all appropriate guidelines for RHD theses, although they need not be printed on archival paper and can be loose bound (using a comb binding) with soft covers. Appendix E: Rules for Higher Degree Theses of Research Higher Degrees Policies and Procedures gives detailed information about the required form and presentation of a RHD thesis.
When you submit your thesis, you must also complete the Submission of RHD Thesis for Examination Form, which includes a written statement from your Principal Supervisor about whether or not they agree that the thesis is ready to be examined. Note that University policy (section 19 of Research Higher Degrees Policies and Procedures) allows you to submit the thesis even if your supervisor does not agree that it is ready for examination, but only after an attempt has been made to resolve the matter through discussion, in conjunction with a Contact Officer or the Dean of School. You should also note that it is University policy that the examiners are not told whether or not the supervisor agrees that the thesis is ready for examination.
At the time of submission, your candidature status changes to "Under Examination", which for enrolment purposes is equivalent to intermission. That means your scholarship payments will cease and you will not normally have access to University facilities. However, it is common practice for schools to grant "guest" status to candidates awaiting examiners' reports; if you wish for that option, you should discuss your situation with your Dean of School.
Upon submission of your thesis, the Faculty will forward copies to the examiners. The process is outlined in more detail in section 21 of Research Higher Degrees Policies and Procedures.
Consideration of Examiners' reports
Examiners are normally given up to eight weeks to submit their report. If necessary, the Faculty Office will follow up on overdue reports. If it becomes clear that an examiner will not be able to deliver a report within a reasonable time, an alternate examiner will be appointed; clearly in such a circumstance the process of examination will be delayed. In cases where the examination process becomes protracted for any reason, the Faculty Office will keep you informed as to the status of the examination.
When both examiners have reported, you and your supervisor will each be sent copies of the reports (with names suppressed) and invited to respond to the examiners' comments. The nature of your next step will depend on the Examiners' Reports (section 22 of Research Higher Degrees Policies and Procedures).
The most common outcome is that the examiners have identified various minor matters that require attention, but that the changes can be made subject to approval by the School Higher Degrees Committee without requiring further examination. If the outcome is different in your case, you should contact your School's Chair of Higher Degrees Commitee to discuss the matter.
If you have been asked to make a response to examiners (PDF 11KB) , you should discuss what is required with your supervisor. Once the agreed changes have been made, you should write a report detailing how you addressed each of the examiners concerns, then make an appointment to discuss your response with the School's Chair of Higher Degree Committee. When the Chair of School Higher Degree Committee is satisfied that the changes have satisfactorily addressed the examiners' concerns, and that the amended document conforms to all guidelines for RHD theses, they write to the Faculty Higher Degrees Committee recommending that the degree be awarded with a copy of your response attached to the letter.
When the thesis has been accepted, you must submit two hardbound copies of the final document, on archival quality paper, to the Faculty Office. See Section 25.1 of University policy.
As an alternative, you may submit a single hardbound copy, together with an electronic copy in the form prescribed for lodgement through the Australian Digital Theses Program of which Flinders University is a member.
In addition to the final copies of the thesis, your supervisor must also provide a citation identifying the key contributions and significance of the research. The citation should be around 150 words in length and expressed in language accessible to the general public. It will be used to acknowledge your work at graduation ceremonies and in printed graduation records, including your Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS).
When final copies have been lodged and the citation received, the Faculty Office will certify the completion of the degree. Note that in order to graduate and receive your parchment, you will need to submit an application to Graduate, irrespective of whether you wish to attend a graduation ceremony or arrange for your degree to be conferred at Council.
Note that where a thesis has been re-submitted for alterations as required by examiners' reports, the final format for theses (PDF 9KB) requirements must be met.
Concerns or issues
If you are concerned about any aspect of your RHD study, your first point of contact should be your supervisor. Early intervention is very important as issues that are dealt with promptly can be defused before they become serious.
For matters that relate to your candidature or to other aspects of University policy and procedure, you should firstly and promptly speak to your School's Chair of Higher Degree Commitee, who has had experience with the procedures of RHD study in your area and is familiar with recent policy developments.
If the matter is something that you feel unable to discuss with your supervisor and the School's Chair of Higher Degree Commitee, then you should make an appointment to see your School's Dean. They have overall responsibility for academic matters, including supervisory relationships and academic progress.
Finally, if the matter has escalated to the point at which you feel that a serious conflict has arisen between you and your supervisor, you should approach a University-appointed Contact Officer, who will provide advice about how to proceed. The Student Related Policies and Procedures Manual's 'Appendix F: Conciliation and Arbitration Procedures relating to Supervised Higher Degree Research' sets out RHD specific conflict resolution procedures.