Find a supervisor
Before students are accepted and enrolled as higher degree by research (HDR) candidates, it is essential prospective candidates and their potential supervisors have discussed the proposed topic of the research.
Each prospective candidate will start exploring the possibility of a higher degree by research with a different set of background characteristics and research ideas. At the core of any research is a question that the candidate needs to find interesting if not completely fascinating and that is large enough to be worthy of a research degree and small enough to be managed in the allotted time frame. It is fundamental to the success of your future research to find a senior researcher to support your candidacy, who is also interested in your research question.
In some cases departments will advertise for research candidates to explore a particular topic. If this is normal in your area (often in the experimental sciences), you will need to make an application for the position and outline your current research interest and experience as it relates to the proposed topic. In other departments it is more usual to make an appointment with a potential supervisor to discuss your prospective research question and experience.
To browse the current listing of staff who are eligible to supervise please see our searchable supervisor database.
If you are unfamiliar with the academic staff of the university, you should look carefully at the biographies, research grants and research publications of staff in your area of interest. The Head of Department should also be able to suggest suitable academics to talk with. This initial conversation is not an application for enrolment, nor is it an agreement by the university to undertake the project with you.
The academic who talks with you will probably ask you a series of questions like:
- What is your research interest?
- What experience have you had with research in the past?
- Why do you want to undertake a higher degree by research?
These questions will help establish the suitability of the question, the appropriateness of your research background and if that academic has the capacity to supervise the project. Several things may be suggested at this stage:
- That you work your research question into a ‘Topic’ and a ‘Project Description’ which will form the basis of your application for candidacy through HDRO.
- That you undertake an appropriate Master of Research or other award if your previous research experience is not sufficient for your proposed research.
- That you continue your conversation about candidacy with another academic more suited to your research topic.
- Or that you think more seriously about the scope and nature of your proposed research, undertake some reading surrounding the topic, and then return sometime later for another discussion.
Prospective principal supervisor
Prospective students will often make contact with academic staff to initiate conversations regarding candidacy. At the meeting you should ask the potential student about their research background and interests and consider the suitability of their research plans for a higher degree.
You should provide advice on whether the potential student has a background suitable for HDR, if their topic is manageable and unique, if you have capacity and related research interest to take them on, if someone else in the department is more suitable, if there are any departmental pre-application requirements (such as research methods preparation), and the timelines for application through HDRO and scholarship opportunities.
The discussion with the candidate should also include an exploration of possible associate and/or adjunct supervisors. Please note that it is the responsibility of the Dean of Faculty to appoint supervisors and individual supervisors can only make recommendations to the candidate and not firm promises.