Honours Handbook 2017

Download the 2017 Honours Handbook here (PDF) [372 Kb]

What is Honours?

Honours is an extra year of study, usually following immediately on from a Pass degree, that combines aspects of undergraduate study with aspects of post-graduate research. It introduces advanced research training through the completion of a 15,000-word research thesis or of a practice-based research project. Students who undertake Bachelors degrees in Australia typically have the opportunity to complete either a Pass degree or an Honours degree. A Pass degree, the standard program followed by most students, is structured around coursework and is usually completed in three years. An Honours degree is available only to students who have achieved a grade average of 70% within a particular discipline of study, involves both coursework and advanced research training, and involves an extra year of university study.

Undertaking an Honours year will give you your first real glimpse of what being an academic involves. Your thesis or practical project will be of your own devising. It will involve developing your own research questions and answering them through original investigation, practice, analysis and reporting.

Why do Honours?

You should consider undertaking Honours:

  • if you have achieved good results in the School’s programs of study, have a serious interest in furthering your understanding of one of its disciplines, and/or can see yourself undertaking higher-degree research at some stage of your life;
  • or if you are an ambitious person who likes to think independently and critically about the world in which we live, who seeks an active and ongoing engagement with real-world developments in social, political and cultural arenas, and who wants to be well prepared for a job that will continue to extend your capacities through your working life;
  • or if you want to work within the cultural industry as a teacher, writer, filmmaker, journalist, arts practitioner, performer, researcher or arts entrepreneur. The advanced knowledge and skills developed in Honours provide an ideal basis for exciting and rewarding employment. An Honours degree will give you demonstrated experience in research and project management, and is a passport to higher-degree research. If you aren’t yet quite all of these things, but would like to develop in these ways, then you should think about undertaking Honours.

Completing an Honours degree brings many rewards. Some particularly notable ones are:

  • obtaining a much deeper understanding of your academic discipline (Dance Studies, English, Creative Writing, Film Studies, Media, Music, or Theatre and Performance Studies);
  • working one-on-one with your supervisor and receiving instruction on reading, writing and critical thinking at an advanced level;
  • developing a sense of collegiality with a select group of Honours students who will be your peers and with whom you will share all the excitement, interests, aspirations and insights that come with a period of intensive study.

SAM Honours Plans

Students are encouraged to take Honours in one of the major streams that they have completed in the course of their undergraduate degree. However, in some circumstances students can apply for joint supervision in two areas. Honours can be taken as one-year full-time study or two-years part-time study.

The School of the Arts and Media (SAM) offers Honours plans in:

  • Creative Writing
  • Dance Studies
  • English
  • Film Studies
  • Media, Culture and Technology
  • Media (media production, communication & journalism, screen & sound, public relations & advertising)
  • Music
  • Theatre and Performance Studies

Prerequisites of the Honours Plans

Students wishing to apply for entry into one of the Honours plans offered by the School of the Arts and Media must meet the following entry requirements:

  • successful completion of a relevant undergraduate degree;
  • a Weighted Average Mark (WAM) of 70 or higher in the major stream or depth component to be studied;

If you have any questions about the SAM Honours prerequisites, please speak to the SAM Honours convener: Dr Sean Pryor (s.pryor@unsw.edu.au).

Structure of the Honours Plans

With the exception of Honours in Music, each Honours plan consists of 48 units of credit (uoc) consisting of two components:

(a) 30 uoc of thesis/practical project. This involves either an original piece of research extending throughout the year and the submission of a 15,000-word thesis based upon it; or a year-long research project comprising a practical project and the submission of a written thesis of 7,000 to 10,000 words.

(b) 18 uoc of coursework. Students take two courses:

  • ARTS4100 Research Methods and Thesis Writing (6 uoc);
  • ARTS4201 Uses of Theory (12 uoc).

The Music plan consists of 48 uoc consisting of two components:

(a) 36 uoc of the thesis/creative project. This involves either an original piece of research extending throughout the year and the submission of a 15,000 word thesis based upon it; or a year-long research project comprising a creative project (20 minutes of composition or 40 minutes of performance) and the submission of a written thesis of 7,000 to 10,000 words.

(b) 12 uoc of coursework. Students take two courses:

  • MUSC4101: Critical Investigation in Music (6 uoc);
  • MUSC4102: Critical Practice in Music (6 uoc).

Applying for Honours

How to apply:

Step 1: Contact the SAM Honours Convenor, Sean Pryor (s.pryor@unsw.edu.au), to discuss your eligibility, research topic, and Honours programme options.

Step 2: All applicants (current UNSW students and external) are to submit an online application via UNSW Apply Online: https://applyonline.unsw.edu.au/login.

Current UNSW students are not required to pay the application fee.

Admission to Honours is subject to approval of the Head of School, and the availability of appropriate supervision. Candidates should therefore note that the minimum qualifications for entry to the various plans will not guarantee automatic admission. Please also note that SAM does not take mid-year Honours enrolments (except for some Music dual degrees).

Students from institutions other than UNSW who wish to undertake Honours in Music may be required to attend an audition if their proposed program includes music performance, or to present a folio of compositions if their proposed program includes composition. This should be discussed with the program convenor for Music, Associate Professor Manolete Mora (m.mora@unsw.edu.au).

Patterns of Enrolment

The Normal Pattern

The Honours degree is normally taken full-time in Semester 1 and Semester 2 of the year immediately following the completion of the undergraduate program but without the student taking out the Pass degree.

The Honours courses will run in Semester 1; thesis and project work will extend over both semesters. Students who are enrolled in Honours must be prepared to work on their thesis or project and on seminar coursework on a full-time basis (meaning, at the very least, the equivalent of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday) throughout the full year of enrolment.

Students will not be permitted to commence the program at the beginning of Semester 2.

The School endorses the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences policy of not permitting Honours students to suspend enrolment for a semester or more during the Honours program, other than in exceptional medical circumstances.

Variations on the Normal Pattern

(a) In special circumstances a student may be permitted to enrol in an Honours program on a part-time basis. In such a case, the program must be completed within a period of no more than four consecutive semesters.

(b) In special circumstances, and with the approval of both the School and the Faculty, students who studied Honours full-time in Semester 1 can change their enrolment to part-time in Semester 2.

(c) In special circumstances, and with the approval of both the School and the Faculty, a student who, at the beginning of the Honours program, is still up to 6 units of credit short of the number required for entry into Honours, may be permitted such entry and allowed to complete the 6 units concurrently with the Honours program. These units of credit may be in subjects within the School, elsewhere in the Faculty or in General Education. Permission for this concurrent study is rare and given with great reluctance, since the additional burden of study it involves is highly likely to prejudice a student’s Honours result. Students should therefore be careful to plan their degree progression so as to have completed all the requirements for their Pass degree before beginning Honours.

What is Honours Research?

The Honours year exists to provide students with the opportunity to engage in modest but substantially independent research on a topic largely of their own choosing within their discipline. Academic research, whatever its approach, generally involves three main activities or, as in the case of a research project, ‘strands’, which tend to run concurrently. These can be summarized as reading, questioning and arguing.


When you apply to undertake an Honours year, you will already have identified a topic area of interest to you. This topic may grow out of your previous undergraduate coursework studies in the discipline or it may take you into areas new to you. After meeting with your supervisor early on, you begin your Honours research by generating a reading list through wide reading in this general area. Initially this reading may be in the nature of a survey of the field in which you are interested. If you are preparing a practice-based research project, this would include a survey of related creative works and practices. In the preliminary stages your reading will be carried out with the aim of identifying precisely what work has already been done and what have been the approaches taken by researchers in that field to date. This will help you to define your own particular interest in the field, and it will take you most of first semester. If you are working on a practice-based research project, you will need to begin to devise early forms of the final presentation piece, refining your project prior to its presentation approximately halfway through Semester 2. Reading of secondary material will also continue throughout the Honours year.


The second component of your Honours thesis or project involves posing questions and proposing hypotheses based on the reading not simply of secondary material but also of the primary sources which will come to form the basis of your project. Such sources will, as the project progresses, almost certainly change and their number and nature expand; they might include films, videos, visual artworks, computer animation, scripts, musical scores, performances and their archival documentation, printed texts, manuscript sources ranging from literary texts to diaries, account books, public records, oral material such as recorded interviews, pictorial records, or multimodal material, and so on. What you study and the questions you ask of those materials will be entirely the result of your own observations, hunches, questions, ideas and hypotheses. It is this combination of questioning, comparing, reading, thinking and discussing which constitutes research. In both research theses and practice-based research projects, this process will normally be concurrent with your reading. This work will be supported and extended by assessment tasks in your Honours seminar courses.


The third component or strand of your Honours research process occurs as you begin to construct an argument which will answer the questions you have raised, drawing on textual or other sources as evidence. In the case of a practice-based research project this argument takes its first form in the practical presentation. The argument is eventually shaped into a written document, the thesis, which makes available to the academic community your position and your reasons for it. Research is thus almost entirely self-generated. Because it involves forging an original idea by asking and answering questions which are of the utmost importance to you, it cannot be merely a follow-up to suggestions put by a supervisor or by your peers. It involves your constant and active intellectual engagement with the relevant materials. Your supervisor will of course have pertinent questions to ask about, or suggested additions to make to, your hypotheses and ideas: this questioning and suggesting is what supervision is for. But the hammering out of a thesis or argument is naturally, and can only be, your work alone.

Guidelines for a Research Thesis Project

The 15,000-word research thesis is the largest single component of work you will complete in Honours. Students often begin thinking about their thesis topic in the year prior to enrolling, and it is expected that by the time you enrol you will have an idea of the topic you want to investigate. You should make an early start on the research thesis by conducting a literature search and some preliminary reading. By the end of your first semester you are expected to have completed a full thesis proposal, with a chapter breakdown and a timeline, and to have a solid draft of your introduction. The second semester is devoted entirely to the thesis.

The thesis should be original in the sense that it develops and presents your own perspective on the topic. It should not merely repeat or synthesize the arguments of others. The thesis should demonstrate your skills in three areas: research, analysis and the presentation of findings.


The thesis should engage in any one or combination of the following:

  • historical research, or other forms of contextual research, such as investigating the social background to or reception of a work, or studying its relation to other texts and material;
  • theoretical research, in which you develop a reading of the chosen subject in relation to an area of critical or cultural theory;
  • critical research, in which you engage with a critical controversy or situate your own views on the topic within a tradition or problem in contemporary criticism.


The thesis should demonstrate an ability to perform analytical work on texts, works or objects. This might take the form of close reading, rhetorical analysis, visual or aural analysis or another form of rigorous, detailed engagement with the texture and structure of the work.

Presentation of Findings

This falls into 4 parts:

(a) Argument

You should present your findings as an integrated, coherent and well-structured argument, which uses evidence in an intellectually honest, convincing way.

(b) Writing

The thesis should be written in a grammatically correct and fluent style which conveys the meaning intelligibly.

(c) Documentation

The thesis should correctly employ a standard professional academic mode of documentation.

(d) Presentation

The thesis must be referenced according to approved conventions of academic writing; written in clear, concise and fluent English; and be grammatically correct and correctly spelt. Very importantly, it must be carefully proof-read. Poor proof-reading, poor expression, poor layout, and inconsistent or insufficient references, footnotes and bibliography/ filmography/discography will attract penalties. Failure to take adequate care in these areas will cause you to lose marks.

Thesis Progress Review

It is strongly recommended that you submit a draft chapter to your supervisor no later than the Monday of the week before the start of your second semester.

If you have a new supervisor for the second semester, the draft chapter should also be submitted to the second-semester supervisor. Second-semester supervisors will also receive a short written report on the student’s progress prepared by the first-semester supervisor. If the second-semester supervisor (or the continuing supervisor, where there has been no change in supervision) considers that there are problems with the student’s work, a meeting will be arranged with the Head of School, the Honours Convenor, the supervisor and the student to discuss ways to help the student bring their thesis work up to standard.

Length of the Thesis

The length of the research thesis is 15,000 words. This applies to the text of the thesis only, and does not include abstract, footnotes, references or bibliography.

Thesis Due Date

The date of submission of theses will be Thursday, 26 October 2017. This submission date applies to all Honours students.

Thesis Examination

The examination of the research thesis is a test of the plausibility of your argument by others with an already established reputation for research in your field. The thesis is assessed by two examiners, neither of whom is the supervisor. Each examiner writes a report on the thesis. One copy of each of these reports will be sent to you, together with one copy of the thesis after the examination process has been finalised.

All Honours research theses should demonstrate competence in all the areas outlined in the guidelines above.

A first-class Honours thesis should represent an outstanding achievement in research, analysis or both. While an examiner may not necessarily agree with the interpretation offered, she or he should feel that the argument is well organised and based on a valid use of evidence. A first-class thesis should not contain any significant or pervasive problems in writing, documentation or presentation.

To receive a mark of 90 or more a thesis must represent an outstanding achievement in all the areas, and an exceptional achievement in either research or analysis, or both. Occasionally an Honours thesis will be ‘original’ in the sense of making an original contribution to knowledge in the field, according to international standards of professional achievement. However, it should be noted that this is no longer a requirement for the PhD thesis at all institutions, and is not here imposed as a standard upon Honours theses. If a thesis were ‘original’ in this sense it would certainly warrant a mark of 90 or more, providing that it were also outstanding in all the areas outlined above.

Guidelines for a Practice-Based Research Project

As an alternative to the research thesis, Honours students in SAM may undertake a practice-based research project. It is important to note the vital respect in which a practice-based research project and the research thesis are similar: both are research programs and, in undertaking them, the student must demonstrate a capacity to proceed to further, postgraduate work. That is, the student must show that she or he has mastered the research skills required of a candidate for a higher degree.

Regardless of the discipline in which it is undertaken, a practice-based research project will normally have two components: a written thesis component of between 7,000 and 10,000 words and a practical component. The type of practical component will depend on the discipline and might be, for example, a piece of creative writing, a film, a dance choreography, a performance, a music recital, musical compositions, an animation, a website, a feature article, an advertising campaign or other practical work. The same research question will drive the practical and thesis components of the project. The thesis component should, therefore, be considered a further stage in the research process, rather than a summary, recapitulation or exegesis of the finished practical component.

It is expected that by the time you enrol you will have an idea of the topic you want to investigate through your practice. You should make an early start on your practice-based research project by conducting a search of related creative works and practices and by doing some preliminary reading. Once you commence your Honours year, your topic will be developed into a well-defined practical project with guidance from your supervisor. By the end of your first semester you are expected to have completed a full research proposal, have prepared substantial work towards your practical component and have a draft of the introduction to your thesis component.

The practical component may be undertaken in any medium for which facilities are available in the School or the University, and for which supervision can be arranged with the School. The School’s technical/production staff will provide whatever help they can in trying to accommodate students’ needs. However, resources are limited, so all exercises must be conducted in a minimalist frame of mind. No special credit will be given for practical work enhanced by a large expenditure.

Each candidate needs to be the primary researcher/artist and so must take a lead role in the proposed project. This means, for example, that you will be the performer, director, dramaturge, composer, choreographer, and/or writer. If you work with other practitioners you need to ensure that they have the appropriate skills and an understanding of your aims necessary to best assist your process as researcher, and that they are able to offer you sufficient time to undertake the project you have outlined.

It is crucial to recognise that practical projects at Honours level are investigative. They are research exercises and, as such, are process- rather than product-oriented. In this way, the student is never undertaking practical work for its own sake. Rather, it should always constitute a practical or physical investigation of theoretical issues. Research and background reading, a clear theoretical framework and cogent analysis are essential components in the realisation of the practical component, as well as the thesis component of a practice-based research project.

Length of the Practical Component

The size of the practical component must be negotiated with the supervisor in consultation with the Discipline and Honours conveners before the project is approved. As a general guide it should aim to match the thesis minimum and be roughly the equivalent of 7,000 words. This guide is not easily translated for those students whose projects are time-based. However as a maximum, a music recital would usually not exceed 40 minutes, a composition portfolio would not exceed 20 minutes, a live theatre or dance performance would not exceed 20 minutes, and a video or media production would not exceed 15 minutes. These maximums are not presented here as figures to strive for. It is worth emphasising that the value of your practical component does not come from its length but rather from the strength of the research thinking that it represents. The length of each project will vary depending on the complexity of the given medium and the research questions that are being addressed.

Length of the Thesis Component

The thesis component of practice-based research projects will be between 7,000 and 10,000 words, and may be accompanied by supporting material. You should discuss with your supervisor the ideal or required length for your thesis and have this confirmed in writing by the start of your second semester of research. This total does not include abstract, footnotes, references or bibliography.

Practice-Based Research Project Examination

In assessing a practice-based research project, both the practical and the thesis components are taken into account. Both components are assessed by two examiners, neither of whom is the supervisor. Each examiner writes a report on the thesis and a copy of these reports is given to the student.

The thesis component will be examined with the same rigour and at the same level as any research thesis project, and the practical component must be of an appropriate level of technical competence, as well as contribute to the intellectual field of the thesis component.

In all disciplines except for Music, the two components are of equal weight, and the student receives a single mark for the whole project.

In Music Honours, the practical component is worth two thirds (24 uoc) of the mark for the practice-based research project, and the written component is worth one third (12 uoc).

Further Guidelines for Projects in Dance, Film, Media and Theatre and Performance

All students need to meet with the staff of the Creative Practice Lab early in first session and arrange access to suitable resources. Production components will need to finish being developed and rehearsed, written and designed or shot and edited, in the early part of second session and so be available for presentation and examination in Week 7. Theatre and Dance performance projects have been performed in Io Myers and Studio 1, and media installations, interactive works and video projects have similarly been screened in appropriate, available venues. This will remain the standard pattern for most projects. Specific deadlines and dates will be determined at the beginning of each year.

The practical component will be judged on its

  • significance and innovation of form with respect to the work’s chosen research parameters;
  • evidence of thoughtful experimentation with stated research questions within the creative work;
  • demonstrated awareness (i.e. through formal strategy, dramaturgical decisions, design, etc.) of theoretical, historical and practical contexts that may inform the work;
  • evidence of thoughtful and appropriate consideration of production components and design, as appropriate to the stated research aims and within budgetary guidelines.

The written component should be a clearly and coherently structured document with advanced academic standards of writing and presentation. It should demonstrate

  • an understanding of, and innovation in, the conceptual and aesthetic basis for the creative work, with respect to the work’s chosen research questions;
  • an awareness of connections between theoretical, historical and practical contexts as appropriate to the stated aims of the work;
  • an evaluation of the effectiveness of the creative work, and its practical methodology, with respect to its relevant disciplinary context and research aims;
  • a clearly and coherently structured exegesis;
  • advanced academic standards of writing and presentation (correct grammar, punctuation, referencing, bibliography).

Further Guidelines for a Creative Writing Project

A Creative Writing project will comprise two parts: the creative project and the critical component. It is expected that the two will be linked so as to constitute a single thesis. Alternatively, the student can produce a single fictocritical piece.

Creative project

The creative project will be a complete and finished piece of creative writing. It may take the form of fiction, discontinuous prose, poetry, a script or screenplay, writing for performance, or a compilation of fragments linked thematically or structurally.

Apart from displaying a professional standard of presentation (i.e. proof-read for syntactical, grammatical and spelling errors, with appropriate layout), the creative project should demonstrate competence in literary technique and structuring.

The concept of ‘publishable quality’ is not applied at Honours level, but the creative project should be able to sustain critical scrutiny. In other words, the project should demonstrate an attempt to explore, subvert or expand upon the genre, style or discursive regime in which it is working.

Critical component

The critical component should demonstrate a critical awareness of the genre in which the creative dissertation is working, of the discursive or cultural field in which the creative project is situated, or of the theories which inform the project. It may take the form of a direct commentary on or discussion of the creative writing project; it may theorise the genre (and the student’s mobilisation or reworking of it); and it may investigate an area of literary or cultural theory which relates to the creative writing project.

The critical component and the creative project should be read as two complementary elements of the overall Honours submission. However, there should not be a hierarchical relationship between primary creative text and secondary critical explanation. The essay should be more than a supplementary justification or explanation of the creative dissertation.

The relationship between these two components can take a variety of forms at the discretion of the student and supervisor. This relationship should be envisaged in dialogic rather than hermeneutic terms.

The same scholarly expectations for academic dissertations (relating to referencing, footnoting, bibliographies and critical insight) should apply to the critical component.

Fictocritical theses

The thesis may consist of one component only if the methodology is fictocritical and incorporates an investigation of theoretical issues within the creative project. Such theses may make use of non-essayistic conventions, authorial modes, narrative and poetic devices and linguistic registers. The student will need to provide adequate explanation or signposting of their methodology.

Further Guidelines for Projects in Music

All students need to meet with the staff of the Creative Practice Lab early in first session and arrange access to suitable resources and performance spaces including Io Myers Studio, Clancy Auditorium, Webster 334. Specific deadlines and presentation dates will be determined at the beginning of each year. In Music, the practical component is most usually a performance recital or original composition project with performance if practical. Other practical projects may be approved. Practical projects in music will usually be linked with the topic of the thesis.

The practical component (usually in performance or composition) should demonstrate high level technical and stylistic competence and awareness (through musical decision and execution) of theoretical, historical and practical contexts that may inform the work. Performances should demonstrate evidence of appropriate consideration of performance production requirements and appropriate skill in performance presentation.

The written component, a thesis of 7,000 to 10,000 words, should follow the requirements for a research thesis outlined above.

An Honours project in composition will demonstrate the student’s awareness of compositional techniques, and their ability to create a portfolio of compositions that represent the student’s own personal musical style (or at least the beginnings of a development of a personal musical style).

The Composition portfolio for Honours projects can be comprised of any number of works, although the total duration of the portfolio should be approximately 20 minutes. It is expected that the student will organise a recital performance of the original works in the portfolio.

The Honours thesis can be linked to the Honours project in that students could complete an analytical paper examining selected works of a particular composer, detailing the methods and techniques used by that composer. Subjects (composers) and works to be analysed must be discussed with the student’s supervisor.

Practice-Based Research Project Due Dates

Practical Component

Dance, Media, Film, Theatre and Performance Studies

Live performances, screenings and installations will take place in Week 7 of Semester 2, (Tuesday 6 - Thursday 8 September 2017). Those students whose practical component can be submitted in electronic form must do so by 4:00 p.m. of the Monday of Week 8 in Semester 2 (Monday 11 September 2017). Any documentation of live works must be submitted at the same time as the thesis component, by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, 26 October 2017.

Students making films should submit a preliminary version to the staff of the Creative Practice Lab by the Monday of Week 6 in Semester 2 (Monday 28 August 2017), for the purposes of technical testing before screening in Week 7. Final versions should then be submitted to the Honours Convenor by 4:00 p.m. on the Monday of Week 8 in Semester 2 (Monday 11 September 2017).

Creative Writing

The practical component must be submitted at the same time as the thesis component by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday 26 October 2016.


Music recitals and composition performances will be scheduled after Week 10 of Semester 2. Composition folios must be submitted at the same time as the thesis component by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday 27 October 2016.

Thesis Component

All students undertaking a practice-based research project must submit their written thesis component by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, 26 October 2016.

Examination Procedures

1) If the difference between the two examiners’ marks is 10 or less, the Honours Convenor provides each examiner with the other’s report and mark, and advises them of the average mark. The examiners then have the option of revising their marks. This can take the form of a face-to-face meeting if the examiners wish.

2) If the difference between the two examiners’ marks is more than 10, the Honours Convenor calls a meeting with the two examiners and attempts to mediate. If the examiners are unable to resolve their different views and bring their marks to within 10 marks of each other, a clean copy of the thesis is sent to a third examiner, who is asked to provide a mark and brief justification. The Honours Convenor then averages the two closest marks. If the three marks are separated by the same difference (e.g. marks of 70, 80 and 90), the Honours Convenor averages all three marks.

3) When the examiners have agreed on a final mark, the Honours Convenor sends the mark and reports to the supervisor. The supervisor may raise concerns with the Honours Convenor. If the thesis mark is found to differ by more than 10 from the student’s WAM, the Honours Convenor may appoint a third marker.

4) The Honours Convenor convenes a subcommittee to read and rank any theses awarded 90 or more.


It will help if you have commenced thinking, reading and planning in the area of your thesis topic or practical project over the summer break. You are encouraged to discuss the possibilities of such topics and projects with available staff.

Identifying a Potential Supervisor

It is customary for intending Honours students to approach a potential supervisor directly to find out whether that person will be available to supervise the proposed topic at the time the student is intending to enrol. However, this initial, informal contact does not represent formal acceptance of your application nor does it constitute the formal appointment of a supervisor. Final decisions on applications and on the appointment of a supervisor are made by the Honours Convenor in consultation with Program or Stream Convenors and the Head of School.

Appointment Procedure

Each Honours student in the School is assigned a supervisor from among our full-time staff. If we are unable to offer you a supervisor, we will not be able to accept your application. In appointing your supervisor we take into account the following factors:

(a) which staff member has the most relevant expertise to assist you in research on your stated topic (see the School’s website for staff profiles and research interests);

(b) your preference of supervisor, perhaps based on preliminary contact you have made with the staff member, and that staff member’s willingness to supervise your work in the nominated area;

(c) the availability of a staff member at the time of your candidature;

(d) the number of other Honours students the staff member is supervising.

The Appointment of Two Supervisors

Because of staff leave commitments, you may request or be appointed two supervisors: one for each semester. In this case, the first supervisor will give the second supervisor a short written report on your progress at the end of your first semester of enrolment. This report, along with the full research proposal completed as part of the assessment for the Research Methods course, will ensure that the second-semester supervisor is fully familiarized with your research area and your progress.

Your Supervisor’s Responsibilities

Supervision involves a working relationship between candidate and supervisor, and so involves joint responsibilities.

Your supervisor will endeavour to assist you with every aspect of your research. A supervisor’s specific responsibilities include:

  • having a good working knowledge of the regulations of the degree or program, the conditions of enrolment, and the requirements for the presentation of your thesis or essay;
  • giving you careful advice on the choice of a topic area and the formulation of a specific topic appropriate to the Honours level (in terms of depth, thesis length, etc);
  • offering you bibliographic and organisational advice;
  • arranging with you frequent consultations at mutually convenient times, and devising with you a schedule for the submission of written work;
  • providing, within a reasonable period of time (i.e. three weeks), a written commentary on submitted drafts. Your supervisor will often be obliged, in your best interests, to adopt the position of “devil’s advocate” in order to forewarn you of possible adverse criticism by other readers or examiners. The ultimate decision about editing and revision rests with you, and you should understand the risk involved in ignoring a supervisor’s advice.

Your Responsibilities as an Honours Student

You should certainly regard the supervisor as an information resource, but you must accept final responsibility for knowledge of the requirements of the degree or program, and for the content and presentation of the thesis or production and written components that form the end-product of the research undertaken. Some of the candidate’s specific responsibilities include:

  • familiarizing yourself with the regulations of the degree or program, the conditions of enrolment, and the requirements for the presentation of your thesis or essay;
  • undertaking initial, broadly based bibliographic work and regularly updating that work (though of course the supervisor will make useful suggestions);
  • choosing (in consultation with the supervisor) a topic area and formulating a specific topic appropriate to the Honours level;
  • keeping appointments with your supervisor for frequent consultations, making relevant preparation for those consultations and, according to a schedule worked out with your supervisor, regularly submitting to your supervisor drafts and other written material in hard copy (not email attachments);
  • most of all, appreciating that you will not benefit fully from supervision until you begin to organise your thoughts on paper and to reflect on the supervisor’s written responses.


Any student or supervisor who is unhappy about a supervision relationship may at any stage approach the Head of School or the Honours Convenor for mediation. A candidate who is not satisfied may also consult or be referred to the School’s Grievance Officer.

For further details on supervision, see the University’s Higher Degree Research Supervision Guidelines (PDF). These guidelines are equally applicable to Honours Research supervision.

Format and Submission of Thesis

Number of Copies

Two copies of the thesis must be submitted in hard copy, and a third, electronic copy must be emailed to the Honours Convenor by the thesis due date. One copy of the thesis will be retained.

Where a thesis requires illustration (e.g. photographs, sketches, charts, plans, etc.), both copies must contain the necessary illustrations. The ‘top’ copy, i.e. the copy retained by the School, should contain the best possible reproductions of this material. It is sufficient that the second copy contains photocopies of the original material.

Format and Order of Parts of the Thesis

The thesis should be printed or typewritten on A4 paper (297mm x 210mm), 1.5 or double-spaced. Font size shall be not less than 11-point (and 10-point for footnotes) in a legible font and printed using a high quality laser printer or equivalent. The margins on each sheet shall be not less than 40mm on the left-hand side, 20mm on the right-hand side, 25mm at the top and 20mm at the bottom.

1. Title-page: This must contain the title of the thesis, the full name of the student, the degree for which the thesis is submitted and the date of submission (month and year). See the sample title-page that follows.

2. Abstract: This should be a concise and accurate summary of the argument of the thesis. It should consist of 200-250 words of continuous prose.

3. Table of contents and list of illustrations: Titles must agree exactly with their wording in the main text. The listing of subdivisions within chapters is not normally necessary. A list of plates, charts, diagrams, etc. should follow the table of contents and also give page references.

4. Acknowledgements: This is optional. General assistance of the kind inevitable in any academic work (from librarians, supervisors, etc.) may go unacknowledged in an unpublished work.

5. List of abbreviations: Abbreviations (of titles, etc.) regularly used in the text should be listed, with a key, immediately before the first page of the main text.

6. Text: Page numbers should begin on the first page of the main text and continue to the end, and should be placed at the top of each page.

7. Notes and references: The School does not stipulate which system of referencing a student should use, but it is vital that the treatment of notes, references and bibliographies be consistent and of an approved scholarly standard.

8. Appendices: Material such as lists, tables, copies of documents, and other supporting information, which would constitute too great an interruption of the main text and is too extensive to be included in foot- or end-notes, may be offered in one or more appendices. Proliferation of appendices, however, and the inclusion of material of doubtful relevance is to be avoided.

9. Bibliography: This should include all works referred to or cited in the text. It will normally be in alphabetical order of the authors. Some degree of subdivision within the bibliography is frequently desirable, e.g. the separation of manuscript from printed material, primary from secondary sources, general works from special studies, etc.

10. The following statement should be included at the beginning of the thesis:

I hereby declare that this submission is my own work and, to the best of my knowledge, it contains no material previously published or written by another person, nor material which to a substantial extent has been accepted for the award of any other degree or diploma at UNSW or any other educational institution, except where due acknowledgment is made in the thesis. Any contribution made to the research by others, with whom I have worked at UNSW or elsewhere, is explicitly acknowledged in the thesis.

I also declare that the intellectual content of this thesis is the product of my own work, even though I may have received assistance from others on style, presentation and linguistic expression.



Style Guides

Some manuals which may be useful are:

  • Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, 6th edn (Milton: John Wiley & Sons, 2002).
  • Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1998).
  • Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th edn (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2003).
  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edn (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).
  • Harry Teitelbaum, How to Write a Thesis, 4th edn (New York: Macmillan, 1998).
  • Jonathan Anderson and Millicent Poole, Assignment and Thesis Writing, 2nd edn (Milton: John Wiley & Sons, 2001).

Thesis Binding

The School does not insist that theses be bound in boards. However, the thesis must be securely held together. For this a firmly sprung ring binder is adequate. This also provides a wide spine, upon which the student should indicate her or his name, the title of the thesis and the year of submission.

Extensions and Late Penalties

Please note that the School of the Arts and Media has strict guidelines for the submission of work in the Honours program. This is both to provide equity for all students and to ensure effective administration of the program.

With the exception of work that has been officially granted an extension (this means that an extension has been granted formally and in writing either by the Honours Convenor or the course convenor) for a specified period, the following penalties shall apply:

  • late work shall attract a penalty of 5% of the highest possible mark for the piece of work for each day overdue;
  • work submitted more than three weeks after the deadline, without appropriate, officially granted extensions, may not be accepted. That is, the mark for such work will be entered as zero.

Extensions for the Submission of Work Granted for Illness or Misadventure

Staff and students should note that extensions, if granted on the basis of documentary evidence, are for a specified length of time. After this length of time the same penalties will be applied for the late submission of work as above (i.e. 5% of the highest possible mark for the piece of work for each day overdue, and the possibility that work submitted more than three weeks late will not be accepted). Any additional extensions shall require documentation of further instances of illness or misadventure. Again, this is in the interests of equity and practicality.

Honours Grades

Your final grade is a combination of the results from your 6-uoc List A seminar, 12-uoc List B seminar and 30-uoc research thesis or practice-based research project. Although the research thesis or practice-based research project has the highest credit-point weighting, you will need to achieve strong results in all three areas to do well in Honours.

The grades awarded in Honours are:

Hons. Class I (85 or higher)
Hons. Class II division 1 (75-84)
Hons. Class II division 2 (65-74)
Hons. Class III (50-64)

As a guide to your expectations for Honours, consider your overall WAM and your third-year average for your discipline subjects. If your third-year average is at a high credit level and you have maintained this level of performance throughout your three years of study, it would be reasonable to expect to achieve a distinction level in Honours (75-84) provided that you work hard and maintain a high standard in all aspects of your work.

Academic Misconduct: Plagiarism

Plagiarism consists of appropriating the words and ideas of someone else and presenting them as your own. It is intellectual theft. It can take many forms, ranging from reproducing published material without acknowledgment and documentation, to submitting an essay written by someone else as your own work. Generally, we do know when we are indulging in some form of deceit such as this, but there may be cases when, because your own thoughts coincide closely with those of someone else, you are unsure of where you stand on the matter. In such circumstances, discuss the dilemma with a member of staff. Plagiarism is regarded very seriously as a violation of the objectives of a university education. It carries heavy penalties, including failure of the course and possible exclusion from Australian universities.

A full explanation of plagiarism, with examples of correct and incorrect procedure, can be found on the Learning Centre’s website.

Ethics Approval

Students whose research involves human participants must meet the requirements for ethical research. Activities which may require ethics approval include conducting interviews, taking surveys, accessing others’ personal documents, and observing and recording others’ behaviours. In the first instance, students should discuss the issue of ethics permission with their supervisor as early in their candidature as possible.

The university’s Human Ethics Team is available to guide students in deciding whether or not to apply for ethics approval, and in lodging an application. Further information can be found online, or by contacting the Human Ethics Team at humanethics@unsw.edu.au or on (02) 9385 6222 or (02) 9385 7257.

Students whose research involves working with animals, whether alive or dead, must obtain animal ethics approval. Click here for further information.


Cultural Protocols

Students whose research involves working with materials from particular cultures and traditions may find that specific protocols govern the writing, performance, and dissemination of those materials. This can be the case, for instance, when working with Indigenous Australian materials or with Maori materials. Students should discuss the issue of cultural protocols with their supervisor as early in their candidature as possible.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies provides information about ethical protocols. Click here.

Screen Australia provides information about working with Indigenous people, culture and concepts. Click here.

The Australia Council provides protocols for working with Indigenous artists. Click here.

When to see the Honours Convenor

We trust that your year will be a happy and productive one. If, however, you are confronted by genuine obstacles to your study, notification of illness or misadventure should be made in writing both to the Honours Convenor and to UNSW Student Central, and be supported by a medical certificate or other proper evidence. This is a crucial process if you wish to apply for an extension for the late submission of work.

SAM Honours convener:

Dr Sean Pryor

School Research Seminars

You are encouraged to attend the School’s staff and postgraduate research seminars in order to help develop your understanding of and familiarity with research protocols and practices. Details will be provided to students during the year.

Visit the SAM Seminars page for the calendar of events.