Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


Satisfactory progress in the coursework component of each degree required. The Course Map will specify the sequence of units to be followed.

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 75 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. 

Unit rationale, description and aim

There are a range of employment / service contexts within the broad discipline area of theology and philosophy in which skills in research are a necessary precursor to, and/or integral component of, achieving effective outcomes. Examples include the skills in establishing a thorough contemporary status quaestionis of every thesis question, conducting research into pastoral issues such as the patterns and effects of institutional sexual abuse, and appropriate skills in qualitative and quantitative research for the study of ethical fields such as the use of vaccines in a pandemic situation. These examples highlight the need for particular declarative, conceptual and functioning knowledge to build and sustain your capacity as an effective researcher.

The learning necessary to meet these needs is supported through a suite of 5cp units, each of which makes its own individual contribution, and builds on the ones that precede it. This developmental narrative is designed to dovetail with other units of study that you undertake, regardless of which postgraduate degree you are studying within the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy. In the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) each of these units follows the three taught units of the degree, deliberately aligning with the achievement of research milestones. Conversely, in the Masters of Theological Studies, these units provide a basic introduction to Theological and Philosophical research. In each course, the units aim to facilitate the incremental and scaffolded appropriation of the research methods and skills necessary for your field of inquiry.

This unit is the first of the 5 cp units and introduces you to the principal and foundational methods required for all theological research and in which theoretical and practical issues are considered in relation to particular theological disciplines.

As you appropriate the theological foundations and skills of your chosen field of study, this unit aims to introduce and connect those learnings with the theoretical underpinnings and research methodology of Christian theology and practice that are required for the successful completion of your course.

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 - List and describe appropriate, strategies for writing a research essay, key skills in information retrieval (including the use of databases and research software), and scholarly evaluation and use of sources (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA10);

LO2 - Demonstrate a critical understanding of the concepts, issues, models and methodologies relevant to the particular branch of theological or philosophical research within which you are working (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9). 

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

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:

General theological/philosophical research methodology, covering matters such as:

  • the nature of postgraduate research; 
  • practical reading and writing strategies; 
  • reflective critical thinking, and developing a scholarly argument; 
  • effective use of information technology (library databases, Endnote, etc); 

Sub-discipline specific research methods frameworks, concepts and approaches relevant to specific sub-disciplines within Theology and Philosophy will also be explored.  

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 75 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. 

Each of the 5cp research units utilize a model of adult-learning that recognizes, supports, respects, and develops the wealth of experience and knowledge that you bring to your learning and research. This strategy aims at facilitating your appropriation of unit content in relation to your own learning needs and personal growth as leaders in your specific field of expertise. As a result, this strategy generates readiness for personal transformation and meaningful professional impact.

Depending on the discipline-specific expertise required, some course maps will also involve face-to-face intensive learning experiences. You will be invited to reflect upon your personal experience of unit content and process (e.g., lectures, group conversations, workshop activities, guest presentations, and/or videos). These learning spaces draw upon a learning and teaching strategy of nearly 500 years of educational philosophy and practice found in the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP), an approach to learning that converges with elements of “constructivism” (Biggs) and is consistent with principles of adult learning badged as “andragogy” (Knowles). The IPP understands learning and teaching as sequenced in exploration of context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. The learning process that it facilitates draws on the Christian view of the human person in its structure and content, for example, by emphasising your dignity and creative contribution, as a student, to the experience of learning.

This learning and teaching strategy facilitates your capacity as a research student to do the kind of research that will enable you to succeed in your professional practice and development.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this, and each of the 5 credit-point units that engage with Theological and Philosophical Research, is to facilitate an incremental and scaffolded appropriation of research methods appropriate to previously covered and/or current course content. This unit has one assessment piece, directly linked to your course map, which aims to help you acquire, assimilate and apply different forms of knowledge necessary for your specific area of theological and philosophical research. It is important to note that the learning activities in this unit are constructively aligned with your learning achievement to scaffold your ability to undertake the single summative assessment item.

The summative assessment task of this unit requires you to connect elements of the unit on Research Methods I with your prior learning, and to demonstrate a developed understanding of academic information literacy, together with skills and strategies for retrieval and use of sources necessary for theological research. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment piece: Research Skills

In light of the skills taught in this unit, you will demonstrate your key learnings in information retrieval (including the use of databases and research software), scholarly evaluation and use of sources.


For example:

Three Minute Thesis- style Presentation 


LO1, LO2

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Blaxter, Loraine, Christina. Hughes, and Malcolm. Tight. How To Research. 4th ed. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education, 2010.

Bouma, Gary D., and Susan Carland. The Research Process. Sixth ed. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Craswell, Gail. Writing for Academic Success: A Postgraduate guide. London: SAGE, 2005.

Cryer, Pat. The Research Student's Guide to Success. 3rd ed. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill/Open University Press, 2006.

Geldhof, Joris. Liturgical Theology as a Research Program. Theology. Leiden ; Boston: Brill, 2020.

Gray, Paul., and David E. Drew. What They Didn't Teach You in Graduate School 299 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career. 2nd ed. Sterling: Stylus Publishing, 2012.

Lester, J. Writing Research Papers. 13th ed. New York: Longman, 2010.

Murray, Rowena. How To Write A Thesis. 3rd edition. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education, 2011.

Myers, William R. Research in Ministry: A Primer for the Doctor of Ministry Program Chicago: (Exploration Press, [Third edition]), 2000.

O'Collins, Gerald. A Short Guide to Writing a Thesis: What to Do and What Not to Do. ACU Series. Hindmarsh, S. Aust.: ATF Press, 2011.

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

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