About research degrees

A research degree at Deakin will help you develop the skills and qualifications that will help you thrive in any environment and enable life-long success. This is your opportunity to begin a rewarding and meaningful research career in a multi-award winning university performing research that is of world standard.

What is a research degree?

While many organisations engage in research, universities also have a unique responsibility to provide research training. This is done in research degree programs including PhD and Masters degrees (more formally, these are called higher degrees by research, or HDR).

The award of a research degree requires the student to satisfactorily complete an approved program of research under the guidance of a supervision team within a prescribed time period. The results of the research are incorporated into a thesis which is submitted for examination at the end of the program. The thesis must be a self-contained, integrated, and coherent body of work which constitutes a substantial original contribution to knowledge as judged by independent experts.

Students enrolled in a research degree program will develop research skills which include:

  • the ability to formulate a significant research problem
  • the ability to relate the research to the broader framework of knowledge in the area
  • the mastery of appropriate skills to tackle the problem
  • the ability to describe the new knowledge that is gained in exploring the problem.

Undertaking a research degree requires a greater commitment of time than a coursework degree: full-time at least 36 hours per week for 48 weeks of the year is the expected commitment of supervisors and the University.

Types of research degrees

Deakin offers three types of higher degrees by research:

  • Masters by Research
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Doctor of Psychology (DPsych)

A Masters by Research degree is awarded for an original contribution to knowledge achieved in up to two years of full-time candidature (or two to four years of part-time candidature). Usually a written thesis of not more than 50,000 words is submitted, although the thesis may be presented in several formats.

Doctoral degrees are awarded for a substantial original contribution to knowledge achieved in the expected completion time of 3 years, with a time limit of 4 years. The thesis may be presented in several formats and is ususally limited 100,000 words.

In the case of both Masters by Research and PhD degrees, the program may include some coursework, but the focus of the degree is on research.

The School of Psychology also provides the following specialist professional doctorate programs: Doctor of Psychology (Clinical), Doctor of Psychology (Forensic), Doctor of Psychology (Health) . These combine a research project, coursework and structured research tasks which are specifically related to professional practice and are often carried out in the workplace.

Deakin also offers four higher doctorates:

Higher doctorates may be offered where a student already has a PhD. Higher doctorates are awarded on the basis of a collection of works that have been published or accepted for publication. Typically a person seeks a higher doctorate in mid-career, having held a doctorate such as a PhD for 15 or 20 years. A higher doctorate usually involves upwards of forty or fifty peer reviewed publications. Please contact the Higher Degrees by Research office for further information.


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