University of Sydney Handbooks - 2012 Archive

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Postgraduate research

Research degrees

The Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning offers three research degrees: the Master of Philosophy (Architecture), the Doctor of Philosophy and the Doctor of Science in Architecture.

Master of Philosophy (Architecture) (MPhil(Arch))
The research master's program allows a candidate to undertake research and advanced specialisation in any of the areas of scholarship and research undertaken by the faculty. Entry requirements for the MPhil(Arch) include a bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline. The program is generally completed in four semesters of full time or eight semesters of part time study. The final thesis for the Master of Philosophy (Architecture) is expected to be in the range of 30,000 – 60,000 words.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This research degree is awarded for a thesis considered to be a substantial, original contribution to the discipline concerned. Entry requirements include a research master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree with first or second class honours. Alternatively you may be admitted having passed a qualifying examination at an equivalent standard. This examination could be completion of a period of relevant advanced study and research towards a master's degree at the University of Sydney. The PhD is normally completed within eight semesters of full time or 16 semesters of part time study. The final thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy is expected to be in the range of 50,000 – 80,000 words.

Doctor of Science in Architecture (DScArch)
This degree is awarded for published work which, in the opinion of the examiners, has generally been recognised by scholars in the field concerned as a distinguished contribution to knowledge or creative achievement. The candidate shall be a graduate of at least five years standing. If the candidate is not a graduate of the University of Sydney he or she must have been a full-time member of academic staff of the University for at least three years or have had similar significant involvement in the teaching and research of the University.


The Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning is a multidisciplinary faculty. Within the structure of the faculty there are no formal schools or departments. However, to assist research students to maintain a close relationship to other students and academics of similar academic interest to them, a range of disciplines have been established. These are:

  • Architecture and Allied Arts
  • Architectural and Design Science
  • Design Lab
  • Urban and Regional Planning and Policy.

Each discipline is under the leadership of a senior academic staff member, and usually closely involves research students, postdoctoral fellows and visiting scholars as well as academic staff of that discipline. Their purpose is to promote a stimulating and productive atmosphere for research and research students and to promote discussion among like-minded research students and academics about their own research and other contemporary topics. This is usually done through a regular research seminar.

As part of their probationary requirements, research students are expected to make a public presentation of their research topic before the end of the first 12 months of candidature. The primary audience, apart from the supervisor, associate supervisor, and other academic staff and researchers with close interest in the subject, is students in the discipline. It is anticipated, however, that such presentations will be made known to the entire faculty staff and research student body.

Disciplines have no official status for students and are not recorded on academic transcripts.

Students are directed to a discipline by the Student Administration Centre on the basis of the academic interests of their supervisor. However, it is up to the student to take an interest in that group or any other group.

Requirements of your candidature

All students are required to make timely progress with their research and to submit their theses on time. Students commencing from 2005 have the following maximum time limits:

  • PhD – full-time candidature: 8 semesters
  • PhD – part-time candidature: 16 semesters
  • MPhil – full-time candidature: 4 semesters
  • MPhil – part-time candidature: 8 semesters

It is important that you keep in regular contact with your supervisor, ideally meeting once a week especially during crucial periods of your candidature. To ensure that students progress satisfactorily, all research students are placed on probation for two semesters and are required to fulfil certain criteria. These are listed below. Once the service requirements have been completed satisfactorily, candidature will proceed on a permanent basis.

Any change in candidature (such as suspension or change in supervisor) must be agreed with your supervisor and notified in writing to the Student Administration Centre.

Probationary requirements

The requirements for satisfactory completion of the probationary period include:

  • the submission of a satisfactory Research Proposal to the candidate's supervision committee
  • the presentation of the Research Proposal to the candidate's committee at a public seminar
  • demonstration of adequate English language competency to the candidate's committee
  • completion of the unit of study ARCF 9001 Modes of Inquiry: Research and Scholarship in the first semester of enrolment
  • satisfactory completion of a structured first year as determined by the Associate Dean (Research) in consultation with supervisors in disciplinary areas
  • a recommendation from the candidate's supervisor, on the advice of the candidate's committee, that the probationary requirements have been met

Supervision committee

A supervision committee is established for each candidate during their probationary year and consists of your supervisor and one or more other members of the academic staff selected by your supervisor in consultation with you.

The role of the committee is to act both as a resource concerning candidature and as an assessment committee for your probationary requirements. As part of the committee you need to select an associate supervisor, if one has not already been appointed.

Guidelines for your research proposal

The first year of the MPhil and PhD is probationary. You need to demonstrate that you are capable of carrying out doctoral or master’s-level research at the University of Sydney and to satisfy the probationary requirements listed in the faculty resolutions and set by your supervisor. During this year students are expected to demonstrate the capacity to undertake research at a doctoral or master's degree level. This is done through the development, submission, presentation and assessment of a formal research proposal. The thesis research proposal is presented to your supervision committee. It is on the basis of your research proposal that your committee makes a recommendation concerning your continuing candidature.

The research proposal should be 7,000 to 12,000 words long (15-25 pages) and include the following:

  • the area and focus of the proposed research, along with a set of aims and objectives and the importance of the research;
  • a critical literature review that establishes the background of the proposed research and identifies gaps that this research proposal will address;
  • an indication of ability to make progress with the research;
  • a research plan including research design, details of methods, management plan and time lines tied to the objectives; and
  • potential outcomes if the research is successful.

Your formal research proposal should demonstrate adequate English language skills and your ability to successfully complete such a program. Research proposals will be presented at a public research seminar.

Criteria used to evaluate research proposals

The general criteria used to evaluate student research proposals are as follows:

  • Are the aims and objectives clearly stated, feasible and consistent with the faculty's research interests?
  • Does the student demonstrate knowledge of the key areas of the research literature?
  • Is the research plan viable?
  • Is the proposed methodology sound and feasible?
  • Do the potential outcomes merit the research proposal?
  • Are there adequate resources available to enable the candidate to complete the proposed research?
  • Do the proposal and its written and oral presentation indicate a satisfactory command of English, sufficient to enable the applicant to undertake MPhil or PhD research at the University of Sydney?

The major part of the research must be completed within the University, although a period of six months leave may be granted by the Associate Dean (Research Graduate Studies) to enable fieldwork to be completed.

Annual progress report and interview

You are required to submit a progress report annually (usually in October), regardless of when you commenced your candidature. This is reviewed by your supervisor and the Associate Dean (Research Graduate Studies) and you will be notified of the result of this review, when any problem areas or training needs are identified. Around the time of your first annual progress review, you will be interviewed by the Associate Dean (Research Graduate Studies) to discuss your general progress, facilities, resources and supervision.

Suspension of candidature

If you need to suspend your candidature, you should put your request in writing (stating the reasons) to your supervisor, who will then make a recommendation via the Student Administration Centre to the Associate Dean (Research Graduate Studies) for approval. A form for this purpose may be found on the Current Students page of the faculty website. You will receive written confirmation of the suspension. Suspension of candidature is by semester, and except with the approval of the Associate Dean (Research Graduate Studies) you may suspend your candidature for a total of two full-time semesters only. For domestic students, during suspension your RTS (Research Training Scheme) entitlement will be suspended, as will any scholarship payments. You will be granted an extension to your candidature equivalent to the length of the suspension. International students may be required to leave the country while their candidature is suspended and should seek advice from the International Office before taking any action.

Leave of absence

If you need to take a break from your research for less than a semester, a leave of absence may be granted. You should follow the same procedure as for suspension (see above). You will not be granted an extension to your candidature for a leave of absence but you may, if not quite finished by the due date, apply for an extension equivalent to the length of absence.

Extension of time

If, as your latest submission date approaches, it becomes obvious that you need more time, you are urged to discuss this with either the Student Administration Centre or the Associate Dean (Research Graduate Studies) at the first available opportunity. Late submission of theses is a serious concern for the faculty and the earlier we know about it the easier it will be to take action to help you and us.

Coursework for research students

Students in research degrees may include up to 24 credit points of coursework in their studies, including Modes of Inquiry.

Students who require some background in a particular area that is of relevance to their research may, with the approval of their supervisor, request to enrol in other undergraduate or postgraduate units of study offered by this or other faculties.

The unit of study listed below is a probationary requirement for all MPhil and PhD students in the Faculty.

ARCF9001 Modes of Inquiry: Research & Scholarship

Credit points: 6 Teacher/Coordinator: Prof Richard de Dear Session: Semester 1,Semester 2 Classes: Four hours average class time per week, activities comprise, lectures seminars workshops and tutorials Assessment: written research proposal (50%), oral research proposal (50%) Mode of delivery: Normal (lecture/lab/tutorial) Day Faculty: Architecture, Design and Planning
Note: Permission required unless enrolled in a research degree. This unit is a probationary requirement for all MPhil and PhD students in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning.
Content: The unit is a seminar with mini-lectures, presentations by members of the academic staff about research and scholarship methods in which they are most expert, critical review of readings, and discussions based on the seminar material, readings and research pre-proposals.
Objectives & Learning Outcomes: To provide newly admitted research students with a fundamental understanding of the nature of inquiry through research, the philosophy of scientific research and interpretive scholarship and a range of fundamentally different epistemologies or 'modes of inquiry.' The modes of inquiry explored includes (1) empirical, field-based epistemology used heavily in architectural science urban planning and other field-based research, including experimental, quasi-experimental, survey, naturalistic, ethnographic and case study methods; (2) text-based, interpretive epistemology used heavily in architecture and the allied arts and other humanities, including archival, historical, theoretical, interpretative, discourse analysis and other text based methods; (3) computationally-based epistemology used heavily in design computing and other IT-based disciplines, including axiom and conjecture based, simulation, virtual reality, and prototype development methods; and (4) policy-oriented, communication-contingency and modelling epistemologies used heavily in urban and regional planning and other policy-based disciplines, including archival, strategic and evidence-based policy research, communications and morphological analyses and quantitative modelling; as well as (5) interdisciplinary combinations, triangulations and mixed modes.