Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Welcome to the Faculty of Arts
Welcome to graduate research in the Faculty of Arts. You are about to embark on what I am sure will be an exciting program of research and writing. During your candidature you will acquire specialist knowledge and a range of valuable skills in research, analysis, argument, communication, project and time management with application within the University and beyond. Graduate research is one of the most important areas of activity within the Faculty and the University. Graduate researchers, that is, research candidates like you, account for a substantial percentage of the Faculty's total research output in the form of conference papers, publications and, of course, completed research dissertations. Research undertaken by candidates for the Masters and PhD is an increasingly important part of the University's research effort and contributes significantly to Monash's national and international reputation as a premier research institution.
Faculty staff, both academics involved in teaching and supervision, and administrative staff at School and Faculty level involved in the management of graduate studies, are committed to assisting you in all matters pertaining to your higher degree candidature and research project. Do not hesitate to contact staff in your School or in the Arts Research Graduate School with any questions you may have. The staff see hundreds of research higher degrees through from nervous commencement to successful completion. You will find their expertise and understanding of all aspects of graduate research invaluable. Remember, every successfully completed research higher degree has to begin somewhere, and in the early days the best way to get the information you need is to ask questions, knock on doors and read the information on the web, including this 'Research Survival Guide'.
As you will be aware, the present Federal Government has initiated major changes in higher education, particularly in the area of research, including graduate research. One of the most important of these changes for higher degree research has been the reduction of the period of funding to universities for doctoral research from five to four years full-time enrolment, and for masters research degrees from three to two years (equivalent to eight and four years part-time enrolment). In this changing research environment, greater emphasis than ever before will be placed on the timely completion of research dissertations, while maintaining the excellence of Monash research degrees.
From the first day of your candidature, staff within the Faculty of Arts will work with you to help you plan and manage your research project within the time frame now required and with available resources in mind. Of course, the design and conceptualisation of your research higher degree remains a highly creative, intellectually exciting and demanding task, but one that must be undertaken with time and resources considerations in mind. In these early weeks of 'getting started' on your research, as you are thinking creatively about how exciting it will be to do research into 'XYZ' it is important to balance these ideas with other more practical or strategic considerations, such as 'what approach to the question of 'XYZ' can be completed successfully within the available time and resources?' Professional research, by academics in universities and those working in government and industry is invariably confined by constraints of both time and money. An important part of your research training at Monash will be to work successfully within such constraints, that is, to produce an original work of scholarship of the highest standard within the limitations imposed on us all.
The Faculty of Arts is committed to providing a supportive, stimulating and professional environment for graduate research candidates. While your study and research must remain your first priority during your candidature, I encourage you to participate as fully as possible in the wide range of academic, professional development and collegial activities that take place within your School, the Faculty and the University. In addition to these activities, many of you will have the opportunity to participate in activities beyond Monash, such as conferences and symposia hosted by other universities and discipline-related or professional associations. The Faculty encourages such participation as an important means of academic and professional networking and for the dissemination of research findings. Details of financial support available for such purposes are contained within this 'Research Survival Guide'.
During your candidature, some of you may also have the opportunity to participate in the undergraduate teaching program of your School. Once again, the Faculty supports such professional development opportunities but urges graduate research candidates to discuss the implications of sessional teaching carefully with their supervisors before agreeing to take on the work. As with the decision to deliver a conference paper, contribute a chapter to a book, or take on casual research assistance work, the decision to take on sessional teaching must be made with due regard to any impact it may have on the progress of your research. If you are a full-time research candidate and do take on paid work during your candidature, you should consider whether you should be enrolled on a part-time basis. Such decisions are best canvassed with your supervisor.
This 'Research Survival Guide' is intended to provide you with all the information you will require during your candidature. It is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with its contents. It will prove an invaluable resource and reference on every aspect of your research higher degree candidature, from what you may expect from your relationship with your supervisor to information about travel grants; from grievance and appeals procedures to the requirements for the presentation of your completed dissertation. Of course, if you cannot find the answer to any question you may have in this guide, do not hesitate to ask staff in your School, the Faculty, or Monash Research Graduate School for assistance.
If I may offer a word of advice drawn from my own graduate experience and from supervising many graduate research candidates, one of the greatest disadvantages of the graduate research experience, amongst all the excitement and fulfilment of undertaking your own research project, is the potential for loneliness and isolation. While this is particularly marked for research candidates coming to Monash from other institutions, it is also potentially the case for Monash graduates. To counteract the potentially isolating effects of the solitary work entailed in the research higher degree, I urge you to get involved in activities on campus, attend the many seminars run especially for graduate research candidates and others in fields related to your research, take advantage of the collegial atmosphere in Monash Research Graduate School. If your School does not yet have a cohort support program running, speak to your Graduate Coordinator about setting one up. And, remember that one of the most valuable resources you have are your fellow graduate research candidates. Research candidate-run discussion groups and reading groups are a vital intellectual life sign in the Faculty and Schools and are a tremendous benefit to participating research candidates.
I wish you every success during the coming academic year. Please remember, that the Faculty and Schools and their staff are here to support you through your research higher degree; please do not hesitate to make contact should you require assistance of any kind.
Associate Dean (Graduate Research) Faculty of Arts 2000 - 2006