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Students must have completed or, for the first semester of this unit, be concurrently enrolled in THEL619 Introduction to Theological and Philosophical Research .

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 300 hours of focused reading and thinking, including discussion with the student's supervisor, attendance at a research seminar, and preparation of an extended piece of independent research.

Unit rationale, description and aim

In an increasingly complex and information-rich world, the capacity to identify and synthesise trustworthy sources of information, engage in well-reasoned and responsible analysis, and creatively refine and construct evidence-based arguments is essential. Such capacity is partly enhanced through developing critical and integrative research skills. Through this structured research unit, students integrate their subject knowledge and learn to apply their advanced research skills to critical problems related to their discipline. This unit aims to provide students with the opportunity to develop more advanced skills and knowledge in research, particularly in the area of Philosophy, through the completion of a substantial supervised research project. Students engage in extended supervised research on a specific topic in Philosophy that is of particular interest or significance to them and attend a research seminar. The topic for the project must be approved by the supervisor to ensure its feasibility. Students follow their own interests and direct their own learning to a large degree, under the guidance of a supervisor. In completing the unit, students develop skills in planning, implementing, and disseminating research. They acquire advanced research skills and the capacity to apply these skills to complex questions.

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
LO1Develop a research question in dialogue with a supervisorGC1, GC4
LO2Evaluate key questions pertaining to the topic, using appropriate literature and methodologyGC7
LO3Create a sustained piece of critical research, using the conventions of academic English, including appropriate referencingGC9, GC11, GC12


The project topic will be chosen in consultation with the supervisor.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit will be offered via individual supervision. As such, it will involve 300 hours of focused reading and thinking, including discussion with the student’s supervisor, and preparation of assessment over the course of two semesters. Through the provision of supervisory support, students will be assisted to meet all three of the unit learning outcomes. Such support will include assistance in the refinement of the research project, direction in terms of reading lists of key texts in the field, clarification of key concepts and theories arising from this reading, provocations toward critical analysis of unit reading, and support during the research essay drafting process.

Underlying the teaching and learning strategy are constructivist 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. Teaching through individual supervision provides appropriate support for students to frame questions with increasing independence, and enables students to follow their own research interests, test ideas, and plan their research activities. Active learning is encouraged as students share and expand their understanding of their research materials and questions with the supervisor and peers. A dialogical method, where students become expert conversation partners, supports deep learning. As students share ideas and provide drafts to supervisors, they are provided with written and oral feedback, learning how to frame arguments, analyse information, respond to feedback, and communicate ideas more effectively. They also provide such supportive feedback to others, and are encouraged to reflect on their own learning. Through processes like these, students are encouraged to become more active, collaborative, and reflective learners.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit has been designed to examine students’ understanding of the issues and theories under consideration, as well as their ability to critically analyse them. The learning outcomes are normally achieved through a two-stage process of formative and summative assessment. Students will meet regularly with their supervisor to work towards producing a research essay of approximately 12,000 words. They can expect formative advice and guidance on matters such as refining a research proposal, developing arguments, and identifying and evaluating important bibliography. The supervisor will provide detailed comments on one draft of the whole essay at least one month before the final submission date. Through gaining such regular formative feedback, students refine their research capacities. Participating in a research seminar will also assist students in refining ideas and understanding the research process. It also provides experience in the sort of presentation required in the first summative assessment.

This first summative assessment task is designed to give students experience of sharing research and responding to criticism, a common task engaged in by active researchers. It is modelled on a short academic research presentation, consolidating students’ ability to communicate research in a real-world context. It assesses progress towards developing a productive research question and evaluating key sources and approaches. It thus assists in developing skills required for the extended research project.

The second summative task is a piece of in-depth research, and as such assesses all learning outcomes (developing research questions, evaluating sources and methods, and creating sustained research using appropriate academic conventions). It enables students to demonstrate capacity to produce extended research in the form of a short dissertation. This research project will be assessed by two examiners independently of the supervisor. Students and examiners will be given a clear rubric to promote transparent assessment of the unit learning outcomes.

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

Presentation on the chosen project: (30 minutes, including 10 minutes of discussion (equivalent to 2000 words). This task is designed to provide students with the opportunity to share and discuss their research with their peers, elucidating their research question and evaluating key evidence and sources. Students also receive feedback in a supportive environment. Material from the presentation will be integrated into Assessment Task 2.


LO1, LO2

Research project (12,000 words). This task is designed to provide students with the opportunity to synthesise their learning, and requires them to demonstrate advanced research capacity, including through correct use of research conventions, defining and exploring a research topic, critically analysing an important debate in the field, evaluating key questions, and developing coherent and independent arguments, guided by a supervisor.


LO1, LO2, LO3

Representative texts and references

Texts will be chosen in consultation with the supervising member of staff.

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