Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, which reflects the standard volume of learning for a unit in a University qualification of this Australian Qualifications Framework type.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Graduates of programs in Ignatian Spirituality should develop knowledge and skills in this discipline and be able to reflect critically on the ways in which their personal development impacts upon their various roles. In this unit, students will participate in a supportive research community, in which they will learn methods of qualitative research and approaches to the academic study of Spirituality. They will develop skills in thesis formulation and writing and research methodology, and apply these skills to a particular aspect of Spirituality. Students seeking to complete the 20 credit point research project (THEL623) in lieu of the Spirituality or Spiritual Direction Capstone must also complete this unit. The aim of this unit is for students to develop capacities for undertaking research in Spirituality.

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.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Analyse critical issues in the study of Spirituality as an academic discipline (GA4);

LO2 - Compare research methodologies for the academic study of Spirituality (GA4); 

LO3 - Examine key issues in the construction of research papers (GA4);

LO4 - Apply these methodological and research skills to a particular aspect of Spirituality (GA9; GA10). 

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • Methodologies versus methods;
  • Qualitative research methods;
  • Spirituality as an area of research;
  • Ethical questions in research;
  • Formulating the research question;
  • Thesis-writing;
  • Publication strategies;
  • Using Turabian/Chicago footnotes and bibliography;
  • Issues of style.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, which reflects the standard volume of learning for a unit in a University qualification of this Australian Qualifications Framework type.

THSP609 will be delivered in multi-mode, that is, in various combinations of face to face and mediated learning environments, utilising strategies which may include:

  • Self-directed activities (such as completing scaffolded reading tasks or web-based exercises) which enable each student to build a detailed understanding of a topic;
  • Small-group tasks and activities (such as contributing to discussion forums or undertaking peer review) which enable students to test, critique, expand and evaluate their understandings;
  • Plenary seminars and webinars which enable students to link their understandings with larger frameworks of knowledge and alternative interpretations of ideas;
  • Practical or fieldwork activities which enable students to rehearse skills necessary to the discipline and to be mentored in that practice;
  • Critically reflective activities (such as a guided Examen or private journal-writing) which assist students to learn reflexively, that is, to identify their affective responses to the learning and to integrate their learning with action.

The unit is delivered with the expectation that participants are adult learners, intrinsically motivated and prepared to reflect critically on issues as well as on their own learning and perspectives.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to complete all assessment tasks and achieve an overall minimum grade of pass. All assessment tasks are designed for students to show their achievement of each learning outcome and graduate attribute. They require students to demonstrate the nexus between their learning, dispositions, and research practice, and the evidence on which this demonstration is based.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1. Essay (3000-words). This task is designed to enable students to focus on critical issues and research methodologies for the study of spirituality.


LO1, LO2, LO3


2. Essay (3000-words). This task is designed to enable students to demonstrate their ability to apply research methodologies and skills to a particular aspect of spirituality.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Denzin, N.K. & Y.S. Lincoln. Handbook of Qualitative Research, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. 2000.

Dreyer, E. & M. Burrows, (eds). Minding the Spirit: The Study of Christian Spirituality. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

Heimbrock, H. "From data to theory: Elements of methodology in empirical phenomelogical research in practical theology," International Journal of Practical Theology 9, no. 2 (2005): 273-99.

Horner, R. "Towards a Hermeneutic Phenomenological Methodology for Theology," International Journal of Practical Theology 22.2 (2018): 153-173.

Patton, M.Q. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods, 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2002.

Robson, C. Real World Research: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-Researchers, 2nd ed. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, 2002.

Schneiders, S.M. et al. Exploring Christian Spirituality: Essays in Honor of Sandra M. Schneiders. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2006.

Swinton, J. & H. Mowat. Practical Theology and Qualitative Research. London, UK: SCM, 2006.

Turabian, K. L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 8th ed. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Van Manen, M. Phenomenology of Practice: Meaning-giving Methods in Phenomenological Research and Writing. London/New York: Routledge, 2016.

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