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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Online Scheduled
  • Semester 2Online Scheduled



Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, synchronous learning through Zoom or Teams, or discussion forums. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit introduces students to research methods in theology, religious education, and philosophy and prepares them for a coursework master’s research project. Students survey and critique a selection of research methods, focusing on conceptual frameworks, methods, sources, and resources most relevant to their research project. The unit assists students to frame research questions, conduct literature surveys, contextualise and analyse diverse sources, identify relevant resources, understand issues relating to research ethics and data management and security, and explore the design of their research project. The unit aims to enable students to construct robust research projects informed by rigorous and ethical scholarly frameworks.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Interpret a selection of research methods, conceptual frameworks, and sources relevant to theological or philosophical researchGC1, GC7, GC11
LO2Synthesise information relevant to their research from diverse sourcesGC1, GC9, GC11
LO3Develop a research proposal and project design that applies and integrates the knowledge and skills developed in the unitGC1, GC7, GC9, GC11


The unit will include topics such as:

  • Theories, sources, and methods in theological and philosophical research
  • Data and information management and analysis
  • Research ethics and integrity
  • Use of specialist digital resources for research purposes (e.g. databases, specialist software, quantitative methods packages, bibliographic/information management tools, use of AI).
  • Developing a research proposal, interpreting and evaluating primary and secondary source material, and constructing a literature review..

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as live workshops in the online classroom or discussion forums. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. 

Underlying the teaching and learning strategy are constructivist and andragogical principles which emphasise that students are active, adult learners who engage best when what they are learning is relevant to them and they are responsible for their own learning.

Peer-assisted and collaborative learning are central to the design of this unit. The priority during the online workshops will be working together to refine and discuss research methodologies, use of relevant resources, and project design (including information management, analysis of data and sources, and research ethics considerations).

Students will also have the opportunity to participate in a 3-Minute Thesis style presentation. This is modelled on the internationally successful 3MT® competition. developed by the University of Queensland in 2008 (permission granted): This enables students to hone skills in communicating complex research ideas and demonstrate understanding of project design and the development of productive research questions.

A key component of this unit is its interdisciplinary nature. By participating in the presentations, students will have an opportunity to receive real-time feedback from peers working in related, but distinct, disciplines. Students thereby gain an overview of research methods and conceptual frameworks across religious education, theology, and philosophy, while also being able to develop specialist skills in their main areas of interest. 

The unit also draws on reflections on the research process and contemporary research methods by discipline experts within the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy. These will be used asynchronously and need not be accessed in any particular order. They are designed to stimulate reflection on key topics and assist students to design their own projects.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for the unit is designed around the premise that students typically learn best when content and assessment are relevant and have clear applications. Consequently, each of the assessment tasks is modelled on core research activities undertaken by Higher Degree Researchers around the world. The assessment tasks are formative and summative and are scaffolded to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate attainment of the learning outcomes. 

The skills developed in this unit are designed to support research in a supervised research project of their choosing in theology, religious education, or philosophy. To that end, the assessment tasks require students to locate, organise, interpret and synthesise information in order to produce an original and viable research proposal. The template for the final research proposal is modelled on real-world grant applications for competitive research funding. 

The skills developed in this unit are also translatable and transferable and can be used to apply for competitive grant funding in other contexts. 

 In order to pass this unit, students are required to complete all assessment tasks and attain an overall pass grade for the unit by demonstrating the achievement of a minimum standard across all Learning Outcomes. 

The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome. 

The first task is modelled on the academic book review, a key research resource across all relevant disciplines. It begins to orient students to their chosen field of research. It is a short task to test students’ ability to understand, interpret and synthesise research methods and sources relevant to their interests.

The second task enables students to apply their wider reading and interpretations of sources and methods to their own research questions and situate their own emerging research interests within the wider field. It is modelled on an academic research presentation, thus introducing students to real-world approaches to communicating research in the field.

The third task assesses all learning outcomes through a research proposal again modelled on an authentic task associated with research. In setting out their own research proposal, students will interpret sources and methods, synthesise information relevant to their own research, and demonstrate the ability to apply their knowledge in constructing a project design.

In order to pass this unit, students are required to complete all assessment tasks and achieve an overall minimum grade of pass.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes


Short review of an academic book or article: Students write a review of a major recent or field-defining book or peer-reviewed journal article in their discipline area. Reviews should be written in the style of an academic book review. 

 Successful reviews will (1) clearly summarise and identify the argument, contribution and key research methods; 2) briefly interpret the thesis and methods of the work under review, placing it within important methodological debates or movements.


LO1, LO2


Three Minute Thesis- style Presentation (3MT®): Students will give a 3-minute oral presentation on their proposed research project and then respond to five minutes of open questions from their peers. 

Students will be assessed on (1) the clarity and effectiveness of their presentation; (2) how well they conveyed their chosen conceptual framework and project design; (3) their ability to convey the significance and distinctive contribution of their research with reference to the wider field by synthesing appropriate methods and sources. 

Students are also required to ask relevant questions of their classmates. Questions should relate to either content or methodology.


LO2, LO3


Research Proposal: Using a given Research Proposal template or as agreed with the unit coordinator, students will write a 2,000-word project proposal in which they set out the key elements of their project design and research methodology, interpreting and synthesising previous literature and significant sources, relevant research ethics and data management issues, and central conceptual frameworks.  


LO1, LO2, LO3

Representative texts and references

Texts and references appropriate to the topic will be identified and provided to students depending on the area of investigation. An indicative list is provided here.

Baggini, J. and P. Fosl. The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods. Wiley-Blackwell, May 2010.

Beuving, J., & de Vries, G. (2015). Doing qualitative research: The craft of naturalistic inquiry. Amsterdam The Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press.

Bevans, S. Models of Contextual Theology. Revised and expanded edition. New York: Orbis, 2002.

Browning, D.S. A Fundamental Practical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.

Creswell, J. & Guetterman, T. (2019). Educational Research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Field, A. (2018). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics (5th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Fiorenza, F.S., and J.P. Galvin. Systematic Theology: Roman Catholic Perspectives. 2 Vols. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.

Ormerod, N. Introducing Contemporary Theologies: The What and the Who of Theology Today. Enl. and rev. ed. Alexandria, N.S.W.: E.J. Dwyer, 1997. 

Pears, A. Feminist Christian Encounters: The Methods and Strategies of Feminist Informed Christian Theologies. Burlington, VT.: Ashgate, 2004.

Schmidt, L. Understanding Hermeneutics. Stocksfield: Acumen, 2006. link

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