Victoria University now provides two core coursework units for all new PhD researchers:

  • Conceptualising & Contextualising Research
  • Research Integrity & Ethics.

Students who are enrolled full-time in the PhD program are normally expected to complete both units in the first semester. Part-time students are normally expected to undertake one unit per semester across the first year of study.

As they are a required part of your PhD program, there is no additional charge to undertake these units.


These units have been designed with extensive input from research supervisors to assist you as you prepare for candidature. They offer additional formalised learning and support as you begin your research career at doctoral level.

The learning activities and assessment tasks in these units are designed to contribute to the development of a high quality candidature proposal (and Ethics application if required) in the context of the discipline, and to the success of candidacy.

In addition, the units are intended to assist in the systematic building of your research-related skills and to help foster a culture of intellectual engagement, peer learning and support for VU PhD students. They play a crucial role in preparing you to take up your position as an independent researcher in the increasingly complex and multi-disciplinary context of the Australian and global research environment.

ROP8001 Conceptualising & Contextualising Research

This unit provides postgraduate researchers with the opportunity to conceptualise and contextualise their proposed research within appropriate disciplinary discourses and paradigms as they develop their candidature proposal.

It will develop your capacity to recognise and contextualise research questions or hypotheses within those disciplinary frameworks, and provide you with the opportunity to explore theoretical frameworks and research methodologies and techniques in relation to your particular research area.

Topics Include:

  • disciplines and paradigms
  • engagement with the literature
  • epistemologies and the application of knowledge
  • choosing theories and methods.

On successful completion of this unit, to the level required for an initial research candidature proposal, students should be able to:

  1. formulate an original and significant research question or problem that their research will address
  2. demonstrate an understanding of the epistemological basis of their research discipline(s)
  3. identify and specify how they will apply key theories and methodologies that relate to their area of research
  4. locate their research project within existing knowledge as represented in the literature
  5. justify their choice of theories and research methods and techniques within their chosen disciplinary framework(s).

To pass the unit, you must achieve an overall grade of at least 70%, and a grade of at least 70% for your research paper. The overall grade is calculated on the basis of the following:

  • Web postings
  • Abstract for your mini-conference presentation
  • Research paper to outline location of your research problem/issue in relation to existing knowledge and research approaches in your discipline/field
  • Conference presentation on your research problem, its location within a field of knowledge, research design and methodology, and what is distinctive and original about your proposed approach.

ROP8002 Research Integrity & Ethics

This unit of study provides postgraduate researchers with the opportunity to gain advanced level understandings of integrity and ethics in relation to the conduct of research in a range of disciplinary contexts.

It will develop your capacity to engage in current debates about research ethics and integrity, and to identify and develop positions on critical issues in research integrity and ethics in relation to your own research project area.

Topics include:

  • research governance and community ethics
  • research conduct
  • authorship and intellectual property
  • research limits
  • consent and confidentiality
  • animal research
  • commercialising research.

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

  1. demonstrate an advanced understanding of fundamental principles and current debates about ethics and integrity in research
  2. demonstrate familiarity with relevant national codes and university policies that impact on research practice and appropriate conduct in various research environments
  3. identify key areas of ethics and integrity that relate to their own area of research practice
  4. demonstrate ability to critically evaluate options and approaches to resolve issues in research integrity and ethics that may arise in their field of research
  5. argue to defend a position in relation to research ethics and integrity as it relates to their own area of research practice and design of their own research project.

To pass the unit, you must achieve an overall grade of at least 70%. The overall grade is calculated on the basis of the following:

  • Reflective portfolio on ethics and integrity in your research
  • Research paper on research ethics and integrity in relation to your proposed research area
  • Poster presentation on an ethical or integrity issue in your own field.

Progression from coursework & candidature

All commencing PhD students are expected to enrol in and complete the units.

Your performance in the coursework component of your degree will affect your progression to candidature. You will normally need an average mark of 70% or above across the two units to be permitted to present for candidature. In line with University policy you have a maximum of 6 months EFT following the completion of the final unit in which to present for candidature. However, we would expect that most students would be prepared to present for candidature prior to this, i.e. following notification of successful completion of the Coursework as soon as their supervisors determine that their proposal is of a suitable standard.

If your mark for a Unit is less than 70% you will be permitted one resubmission in order to gain 70%. If you still do not have an average of 70%, you will be advised to discontinue your course or transfer to another course, and if you do not follow this advice, in line with University policy, the Unsatisfactory Progress process will normally be commenced.

You will be expected to have regular meetings with your supervisor/s and to continue to work closely with them while you are studying the units.

The units have been designed to complement the work you are doing with your supervisors. You will be expected to be having regular meetings outside class with your supervisor/s as well as regular interactions with other students and researchers in your area to maximise the benefit you get from the learning within each unit.

In addition, much of the assessment for the units is designed to be directly able to be incorporated into your candidature proposal and related documentation (eg. ethics application, where required).

Exemption from coursework

In a very limited number of cases, exemptions for the Coursework Units may be granted by the Academic Coordinator on the basis of an application for Advanced Standing.

If you believe that you can make a convincing case to support your argument that you are already familiar with the material covered in the units, you should contact the PhD Coursework Units Academic Coordinator in the first instance to discuss your case; the Coordinator will then send you an Application form and Guidelines.

Please note that these forms are complex and you should allow sufficient time to complete them. Documentary evidence of your prior study and a statement of support from your supervisor are required.

We strongly advise you only to apply for Exemption for ROP8001 (on the basis of your current research) if your Candidature Proposal is very far advanced, and for ROP8002 if you have extensive prior study or experience in the area of research ethics at doctoral level.

A successful application for exemption will not involve any change to your study load for visa or Centrelink purposes.

Masters by Research students

If you are commencing in the Masters by Research program, you would not normally be able to enrol in these units. They have been designed to meet the needs of new students in the PhD program.

There are, however, other options that might be appropriate to you in your Masters by research program, including research preparation units of study offered within your College for Masters (and, in some cases, honours) students, and other training and development workshops offered by the Graduate Research Centre.

Please discuss your initial development needs with your supervisor/s to determine what might be appropriate for you.

Contact us

For more information about the PhD coursework units, contact us by email:

Email: [email protected]