Create a strategy for success

Take the time to prepare your research journey.

Before jumping into your research, you should take the time to create a strategy for your research and the years ahead. This includes:

  • developing an action plan to help you stay on track during your research journey
  • determining the type of thesis you will prepare
  • considering if you need to submit an ethics application
  • preparing your Data Management Plan

Review each tab below for further information about these points.

It is important to prepare an action plan for your study early in your candidature. You and your supervisor should work together to set expectations and prepare a project timeline to guide your research journey.

Setting expectations

Your first meeting with your supervisor is critical in developing an active research relationship. The meeting should establish:

  • some achievable short term goals
  • expectations on the way the supervisors/research team work together
  • how the team will record research decisions and maintain contact for feedback
  • financial expenditure for equipment, conferences etc.
  • publication/co-publication strategies

You may consider using the MQ Graduate Research Setting Expectations Checklist to record your decisions.

Project timeline

To successfully complete your thesis, you will need a clear plan of action. It’s important to establish a timeline in the first month of candidature. While this will often be renegotiated as the project moves on, you should be clear from the outset as to when certain milestones – such as degree requirements, chapter completion or conference presentations – should be met.

In consultation with your supervisor, you should develop a plan that takes into account:

  • the duration of your degree
  • the specific requirements of your discipline
  • your mandatory candidature milestones
  • skill development during candidature
  • wellbeing activities

Every thesis is different, so it's important to craft an action plan that works for you. There are a range of tools you can use to create your plan:

The University recognises that theses or parts of theses may be presented in a variety of formats and media. In such cases, theses must incorporate a written component situated in an academic discourse appropriate to the discipline area. Thesis may include:

  • relevant papers (including conference presentations) published, accepted, submitted or prepared for publication
  • a creative component

Thesis by publication

  • A thesis by publication may include relevant papers, including conference presentations, which have been published, accepted, submitted or prepared for publication and meets the minimum requirement that at least half of the student’s work has been completed whilst an enrolled student in a research degree at Macquarie University.
  • The papers must form a coherent and integrated body of work, which focusses on a single thesis project or set of related questions or propositions. These papers are one part of the thesis, rather than a separate component (or appendix).
  • The thesis must include a critical introduction to the work, sections that link the papers together, and a concluding section that synthesises the material as a whole. In examining a thesis by publication, examiners may apply the same criteria in terms of unity of purpose and coherence of argument as for traditional theses.

Creative component

  • A thesis may include a creative component in a variety of forms including but not limited to music, writing, film, performance, drama, and multi-media.  For the purpose of examination, the dissertation component must be at least 50% of the typical length of the thesis.
  • The creative component of the thesis must demonstrate a high level of proficiency in the chosen genre, and show that informed choices have been made in the design and execution of the work.
  • The creative component in music could be a written score,  a compositional folio containing a number of pieces which might be in different forms, software,  video or audio recording(s); etc. Indigenous candidates may include creative components that reflect their cultural standpoints. This includes, but is not limited to items and objects of cultural significance, such as possum skin cloaks; woven items; etc.
  • The dissertation component may take a variety of forms. It may comprise a theoretical explanation of the subject- matter of the thesis, it may address the genre of the creative work or its historical, social or cultural context, or a combination of these.

Note: The use of Generative AI to wholly generate a research output for examination is prohibited. Text-based Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT fall within the broad definition of contract cheating services according to the TEQSA Act 2011 (Cth), s5. Refer to the 'Using Generative Artificial Intelligence in Research' Guidance Note for further information.

For further information, see the Graduate Research Preparation, Submission and Examination Policy.

At Macquarie University, we are committed to the highest standards of research integrity. It is expected that researchers manage and conduct their research with the utmost professionalism and with respect and regard for humans, animals and the environment, irrespective of their funding situation, research area, experience or working arrangement.

Human ethics

Information about conducting research about people and their data is available on the Human Ethics website.

Before there is any interaction with participants or their data, a human ethics application must be submitted, reviewed and approved by the Macquarie University’s Human Research Ethics Committee.  Information about the application and review process is available on the Applications and Approvals website.

Animal ethics

Information about conducting research on animals is available on the Animal Ethics website.

Before any research on animals is undertaken, an animal ethics application must be submitted, reviewed, and approved by the Macquarie University’s Animal Ethics Committee (AEC). Information about the application and review process is available on the Animal Ethics website.

Need help?

If you have any questions about research ethics, the Research Ethics and Integrity teams provide resources, advice, guidance, and training to support research ethics, quality, and trustworthiness:

All graduate research students are responsible for managing their research data in accordance with the Research Data Management Policy. To ensure proper data management, PhD/MPhil students are required to prepare, submit and receive approval of a Data Management Plan. MRes students are also encouraged to develop a Plan.

What is a Data Management Plan?

A Data Management Plan (DMP) describes the data you will collect during your research and how it will be managed during and after the project. It will typically include the following:​​​​​​​

  • Who is/are data custodian(s)?
  • Who will collect data, and how?
  • What type(s) of data will be collected, and what is the sensitivity level of data?
  • Where will data be stored?
  • Who can access data and under what condition(s)?
  • Where will data be archived?
  • Can data be shared or published? Where and under what terms?

When should you prepare your DMP?

You are required to submit a formal DMP in FoRA and receive approval via a 'lodgement complete' email before you start to collect or access data, but at least a month prior to Confirmation of Candidature (CoC) due date. For information about how to prepare and submit a DMP, including example DMPs, self-help documents, and previous ‘DMP Orientation’ sessions, please visit the Research Data Management website. Online DMP Orientation sessions are run throughout the year. See MyRDC for dates and to register.

Important notes:

  • You will need to complete the Graduate Research Induction unit before completing DMP as you are required to upload the completion certificate to the DMP.
  • You are required to attach a copy of your DMP 'lodgement complete' email with your Confirmation of Candidature documents. The 'lodgement complete' email will not be issued by the reviewer until you address all comments on the DMP and it is judged to meet institutional requirements.

Need help?

If you have any questions about your DMP, contact the Research Data Management team: