Research within MBBS (Honours)

medical students


Introduction

The Research Project program is an optional program that is offered to provide research training opportunities to students enrolled in the MBBS degree. The program is undertaken concurrently with the rest of the course and allows students to develop a more complete understanding of an area of medical science or clinical medicine under the supervision of an academic member of staff or adjunct staff (e.g. staff of our hospitals who hold academic appointments with the University). The Research Project will be assessed by a thesis (called “report” till now - typically shorter than the usual ‘thesis’) and a research seminar and will be graded to reward and recognise academic achievement; high achieving students may be awarded Honours.

Objectives of the program:

  1. To provide training in the core research skills required to undertake future clinical or basic medical research.
  2. To recognise high academic achievement throughout the MBBS course.


When to apply to undertake research:

Students can apply to undertake a Research Project any time from the end of Block 4 in Stage 1 up until 31 March of Stage 3, Year 3.
Research is undertaken from the time of acceptance into the Research Project stream until 30 June in Stage 3, Year 4 when the thesis is submitted. The Research Project is a Unit of Study (UoS) known as GDMP4110 Research Project. Though students may have commenced their project from the end of Block 4 in Stage 1, students are enrolled in GDMP4110 in Stage 3 Year 4 Semester 1 (pre-enrolment in Year 3).

Students enrolled in the Medical Program part-time are not eligible to enrol in a Research Project.


Resolutions

To be eligible for the award of Honours within the Research Project, a student must meet the following criteria:

  • Pass all written and clinical summative assessments for all themes on the first attempt in Stage 1 and Stage 2
  • Achieve at least 75% in the combined final mark for Stage 2
  • Achieve an average mark of at least 75% in the 3 Units of Study completed in Year 3 (Medicine 3 and the 2 Specialty Blocks)
  • Achieve an average mark of at least 75% in the remaining 5 Units of Study completed in Year 4 (3 Core and 2 Specialty Blocks)
  • Pass the Long Case in Year 4 on the first or second attempt
  • Pass the Units of Study in Year 3 and Year 4 for all themes (Basic & Clinical Sciences, Patient & Doctor, Personal and Professional Development and Population Medicine)
  • Complete the course in the minimum allotted time (deferrals may be accepted subject to extenuating circumstances)


If a student does not satisfy this criteria but successfully completes a Research Project , their academic transcript will show that they have completed a 12 credit points Research Project.

Students who fail the Research Project will be required to undertake an Elective at the end of the program as an additional unit in order to achieve the correct number of credit points required for the award of MBBS.


Projects

Students will be encouraged to participate in research projects in a wide range of areas including clinical research, medical sciences, rural and public health, and medical education. Students are encouraged to use the research studies as an opportunity to undertake research in international settings. The Research Project must address one of the themes of the Medical Program (Basic and Clinical Sciences, Population Medicine, Patient-Doctor and Personal and Professional Development). Of course, these themes overlap and a project could encompass aspects of more than one theme.

Selection of a Project

The selection of each Research Project is an individual choice for the student. The student should identify an area of interest and seek an appropriate supervisor for the project. In many cases, students will be able to identify potential projects and supervisors based upon their own knowledge of the activities with the Faculty.

It may be possible for more than one student to work on a research project. In this case, however, the supervisor must ensure that each student performs or analyses a different aspect of the project and that each student writes an individual research report.

The individual Research Project should not be an overwhelming additional burden on the student. It must be remembered that these projects are additional to the required self-directed learning of the Medical Program. Supervisors should be aware of this and realise that the workload expected from the students could not be the same as that from full-time research students. Accordingly, it is suggested that a student spend an average of 6 hours per week on the project. The anticipated duration of a project is between 6 and 12 months of work. A wide variety of tasks are suitable for Research Projects.

Some suitable tasks are:

  • Participation in one aspect of an ongoing research project
  • A survey and analysis of results obtained
  • A critical writing review of a research or clinical topic
  • Participation in special patient clinics and review of ancillary basic and/or clinical science data
  • Development and evaluation of educational materials, evaluation tools or analysis of educational issues


These examples are suggestions and it is anticipated that students and potential supervisors will formulate a wide variety of research projects. Students should not be expected to set up large new research projects nor should they serve simply as research or clinical assistants. The project application and final report should make clear the student's intellectual input into the work.

How to apply for a Research Project

Once an area of interest and a potential topic has been selected, the student should prepare a 1200 - 1500 word proposal to attach to the Research Project Proposal Form. Students should arrange an interview with their home Clinical School Coordinator to discuss their application and project prior to submission. Once completed in full, please return to Research Project/Honours Coordinator (medicine.honours@sydney.edu.au), Student Services, Edward Ford Building A27, University of Sydney, NSW 2006. See Research Project Proposal Form.

The following sections should be included in the written proposal:

  • Project Title
  • Aims - Describe the aims of the Project including a clear statement of the hypothesis to be tested.
  • Background - Provide a brief review of progress in the field of research. Include reference to relevant publications.
  • Research Plan - Describe the experimental design techniques to be used and methods of statistical analysis.
  • Timeline - Provide a draft timeline with details of when the various phases of your research will be carried out.
  • References - Include a list of all references sited in the application (References are not included in the word limit).


Statistics

It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure the appropriate support is provided in the use of statistical analysis. If this support is not available within the supervisor's research group then it may be necessary for the supervisor to provide funding for the student to attend a training course.

Ethics information

Please note that research cannot be commenced, whether human or animal based, until formal approval for the project is obtained from the relevant ethics committee.
Please see link for Ethics information: http://sydney.edu.au/research_support/ethics/

In addition to your external ethics approval you may need to acquire recognition by University of Sydney HEC, protocol is outlined on website below:
http://sydney.edu.au/research_support/ethics/human/external_approval.shtml

Campus and Clinical School Coordinators
Main campus: Dr Luke Henderson

Tel: +61 2 9351 7063

Northern: Dr Ben Harris

Tel: +61 2 9926 7703

Central: Dr David Bowen

Tel: +61 2 9565 6264

Concord: Dr Martin Gallagher

Tel: +61 2 9993 4552

Westmead: Prof Nick Manolios

Tel: +61 2 9845 6305

Nepean: Prof Jack Wall

Tel: +61 2 4734 2613

Children's Hospital at Westmead: Prof Dianne Campbell

Tel: +61 2 9845 3366

dianne.campbell@sydney.edu.au

Orange: Dr Catherine Hawke

Tel: +61 2 6392 8730

Dubbo: A/Prof Tony Brown

 Tel: +61 2 5809 9410

Sydney Adventist Hospital:

Dr Stephanie Phillips

Tel: +61 2 9351 3130

Sub Deans
Dr David Bowen Tel: 9565 6264
A/Prof Rebekah Jenkin Tel: 9351 2068


Supervision

Students can have more than one supervisor if required. At least one supervisor must have a University of Sydney appointment. It is the responsibility of the primary supervisor to nominate 2 appropriate examiners for the project.

Depending on the nature of the research project, supervisors and students should meet regularly to review the student's progress.

List of Research Projects and Supervisors

Review of progress

It is the student's responsibility to complete a Progress Report form from the MPAU 6 months after enrolment in the program. For students who enrol in the Research Project at the end of Stage 1, progress will be reviewed 6 months and 18 months after enrolling. A copy of your ethics approval MUST be submitted with the 6 Month Progress Report. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that all parties complete the progress report before submission to the MPAU. Students who fail to complete and return the report may be asked to show cause as to why they should be allowed to continue in the Research Project program.

For Medical program Research Project students, the 6 month progress report form and review process are mechanisms whereby the Faculty can be assured that satisfactory progress is being made. It should not be the first point at which a supervisor and candidate discover there is a problem and identification of difficulties on the form will not in itself make them go away. However, the report form is the place to put on record any difficulties which may or may not have been unavoidable including, for example periods of personal illness or misadventure. The report form should also be an instrument for advising the Faculty that the student's performance has been satisfactory from the supervisor's point of view.

Following review of this report by your Clinical School's Research Project Coordinator, you will be asked to attend a 10-15 minute interview to discuss your progress. On the basis of the evidence provided in the report form and the interview, the Research Project Coordinator recommends to the Faculty the conditions of candidature to apply for the remaining duration of enrolment in the Research Project. The Chair of the Medical Program Research Project committee then either (1) approves the progress based on the evidence provided or (2) may require the candidate or supervisor to provide further evidence of progress or the provision of satisfactory resources after a period considered appropriate. See Research Project Progress Report Form.


Time commitment

The Research Project Unit of Study is worth 12 credit points and equivalent to a load of 312 hours.


Final thesis

All students should be familiar with the University of Sydney Plagiarism Policies.

The final Research Project thesis should not be more than 10,000 words (indicative only). It should include or represent a piece of work that is of a potentially publishable standard. It should also include a review of the methods used in the project and the findings of the project against what is already known in the field. The critical review should include suggestions for further study which might advance the field and which could in turn entail, where appropriate, an examination of the wider implications of the findings for community and individual health concerns. It is of course possible that the project report can be presented in a format (such as a submitted paper) that is briefer than 10,000 words. Similarly, if the project is presented in other than written format (e.g. web-based project), it should represent a similar amount of work. Experienced supervisors/examiners will naturally exercise their discretion in this matter. The final report should clearly identify the student's intellectual input into the work. Considerable flexibility in the final major theme reporting is encouraged, but examples might include:

  • A written report of no more than 10,000 words, including a critical review of methods used in the project and the findings of the project against what is already known in the field
  • A draft of a paper that will be submitted for publication. If jointly authored the student must be either first or last author and have written the majority of the paper. A cover letter from the student should explain the Theme goal addressed, the title of the journal where the paper is being submitted for publication, the date of submission for publication and any other details relevant to the publication. A letter from the supervisor explaining the student's contribution to obtaining the data and to writing the paper must be included. The University of Sydney MUST be listed as an institution on your publication.
  • A Web document or CD-ROM. A covering letter should explain the Theme goal addressed.


The due date for submission is 30 June in Stage 3, Year 4. If 30 June falls on a weekend, then the due date is the following business day.

There are three steps to submit the final Research Project thesis:

1) Submit only the thesis/report through Turnitin via Blackboard Learn (exclude bibliography/references and any forms). See Blackboard for more information.

2) Submit your COMPLETE digital copy of your thesis/report via Blackboard Learn. PDF preferred format. See Blackboard for more information. The complete digital copy will include IN ORDER:

  • A cover letter from the student explaining the Theme goal addressed and if applicable information about the publication (journal title, date, etc.) and a brief explanation of the context of the work undertaken
  • A letter from the supervisor explaining the student's contribution to obtaining the data and to writing the paper
  • A Permission to Publish form
  • The final report (including bibilography/references, etc)


3) Submit your COMPLETE thesis/report as TWO bound paper copies to Honours Coordinator at the MPAU, A27 Ed Ford Building, University of Sydney 2006, including all of the necessary documents IN ORDER (there is no particular binding format specified):

  • A cover letter from the student explaining the Theme goal addressed and if applicable information about the publication (journal title, date, etc.) and a brief explanation of the context of the work undertaken
  • A letter from the supervisor explaining the student's contribution to obtaining the data and to writing the paper
  • A Student Plagiarism Compliance form
  • A Permission to Publish form
  • The final report (including bibilography/references, etc)


The MPAU will then distribute one copy of the report to each of the nominated examiners. Once the theses have been marked, both examiner reports should be forwarded to .

Extensions will ONLY be given in cases of illness or misadventure. In this instance, a special consideration form must be submitted. If your supervisor goes away for an extended period of time it is the student's responsibility to find a temporary supervisor if necessary. A rural placement is also not a valid reason for requesting an extension.


Assessment and grading

If Research Project students meet the described Resolutions, they may be awarded Honours. If eligible for Honours, the Honours mark (HWAM) will be derived 2/3 from the Research Project (90% thesis, 10% oral presentation) and 1/3 from the average of the best six of the eight Stage 3 Core and Specialty Block marks.

The classes of Honours that may be awarded are:

(i) First Class (HWAM 80-100)
(ii) Second Class/ Division 1 (HWAM 75-79)
(iii) Second Class/ Division 2 (HWAM 70-74)

Students who achieve an HWAM of ≥90% may be awarded a University Medal.

The overall criteria for award of each class of honours are as follows:

Mark 90-100
Outstanding first class quality, of clear Medal standard. The student demonstrates a comprehensive knowledge of the subject area and has made a significant contribution to the field. The thesis work could be published in first-rate academic journal. The thesis has no or very minor shortcomings. There is strong evidence of originality and a high level of intellectual work.

Mark 80-89
Clear First Class quality- the student demonstrates a high level of scholarship showing a very good command of the subject matter. The study has made a significant contribution to the field and requires little work to reach a publishable standard. The student demonstrates clear evidence of some independence of thought in the subject area.

Mark 75-79
Second class honours, first division - the student demonstrates a good command of the theory and practice of the discipline. They have a good understanding of the background literature. There are some identifiable deficiences in logic and presentation of the thesis.

Mark 70-74
Second class honours, second division - the student shows adequate but limited understanding of the topic. The thesis demonstrates a satisfactory level of scholarship but has major deficiencies in logic and presentation.

Mark <70
Standard of thesis does not meet honours criteria. The student's understanding of the topic is extremely limited and they have shown little or no independence of thought or performance.


Assessment of the thesis (90% of project mark)

Each thesis will be assessed by two examiners, chosen by the project supervisor. The examiners need to be experts in the project area but otherwise unconnected to the research project. See Research Project Thesis Assessment Form.

The examiners will have the task of determining whether or not the project is of a sufficient standard to merit award of Research Project. The criteria for assessment will include the following:

  1. Did the submitted project address the original goals of the project proposal?
  2. Did the project adequately address relevant aspects of the nominated theme?
  3. Does the project represent a sufficient body of work for the time available to the student?
  4. Is the final submitted project work of satisfactory standard?


Assessment of the seminar (10% of Research Project mark)

Students need to present their research work to their Supervisor's Department/Discipline. It is the responsibility of the supervisor(s) to organise a time for the seminar, but students should liaise with their supervisor(s) to organise a suitable time. The seminar should be given shortly before or after the date that the thesis is submitted. Seminars must be completed by July 31 of year 4 at the latest. The supervisor(s) should decide the appropriate duration of the seminar, the recommended time is 15 minutes.

The seminar needs to be assessed by at least 3 people, who are either affiliated with Sydney University or external, who have experience in the field of research or other relevant research experience. The supervisor(s) is responsible for distribution and of assessment sheets to appropriate examiners at the beginning of the seminar and then their collection at the end of the seminar. Students should liaise with their supervisors to ensure their seminar is assessed. Assessment sheets should be returned to the Medical Program Administration Unit. See Research Project Seminar Assessment Form.

A student has the right of appeal against the assessment of the Research Project. The grounds for an appeal shall include difficulty with supervision, unforeseen circumstances affecting the execution of the project, major disagreement with the assessment grading by the student and his/her supervisor. Students must read the Student Appeals against Academic Decisions in the Medical Program Policy before submitting an appeal. Student must ensure they follow the stages and procedures in the policy if they are to progress with an appeal. Please note also that at the first stage of appeal, discussions should be had with the Sub-Deans Medical Program Research Project, Dr Rebekah Jenkin and Dr David Bowen. Appeals must be lodged with the Medical Program Administration Unit (MPAU) in the Edward Ford Building in the timeframe set out in the policy.

Prizes

Work submitted may be eligible for the determination of Prizes awarded by the Dean of the Faculty on recommendation of the Heads of Department. There is information on Prizes on the Medical Program website under Course Information.

Timeline of completing a Research Project

Before submitting Research Project application Before submitting Research Project application From the end of Block 4 in Stage 1 up until 31 March of Stage 3, Year 3 6 Months after Research Project application is approved 18 Months after Research Project application is approved (*For students who enrol in the Research Project at the end of Stage 1)
Choose a topic of interest and choose a Supervisor Meet in person to discuss your project with your Clinical School Coordinator Submit your Research Project application 6 Month Progress Report due 18 Month Progress Report due
14 February of Year 3 31 August of Year 3 31 March or next business day of Year 4 30 June or next business day of Year 4 31 July or next business day of Year 4 1 August or next business day of Year 4
Interview + application form due to undertake OGH/Hoc Mai Elective placement while completing Research Project Interview + application form due to undertake Elective Term Placement while completing Research Project Appointment of Examiners Form due Thesis due Seminar Assessment Forms due Thesis Assessment Forms due from Examiners

Forms

Please ensure that all forms used for the Research Project are downloaded directly from this webpage. The most recent version of all forms related to the Research Project must be used. Please use the most current forms.

Research Project Proposal Form

Research Project Progress Report Form

Research Project Appointment of Examiners Form

Student Plagiarism Compliance Form

Permission to Publish Form

Research Project Thesis Assessment Form

Research Project Seminar Assessment Form

Elective While Doing a Research Project Form

Frequently asked questions regarding the Research Project program


  • Can I undertake both a Research Project and an Elective?

  • What happens if I enroll in both the Elective unit of study and the Research Project unit of study?

  • If I choose to undertake the Elective whilst formally enrolled in the Research Project, will I be required to undertake my Research Project in the same area of study?

  • Do I need to complete the assessment tasks associated with the Elective Term if I am formally enrolled in the Research Project?

  • Who do I need to get permission from in order to undertake the Elective experience whilst formally enrolled in the Research Project unit of study?

  • How do I apply to undertake the Elective experience?

  • Can I still apply for scholarships that are offered for the Elective Term if I have formally enrolled in the Research Project unit of study rather that the Elective unit of study?

  • What if I decide to not continue with my Research Project or I don't think I will be able to submit it by the 30 June deadline?

  • What if I was on track for Honours eligibility, but am no longer, can I still enrol in the Research Project Unit of Study?

  • Where can I get information about preparing for a Research Project thesis?

    • Can I undertake both a Research Project and an Elective?

      Yes. We advise caution however, as this may jeopardise the outcome of your Research Project. If your Research Project is well advanced and you have completed the first draft of your thesis, you may apply for permission to undertake an Elective Term Placement (GDMP3109) as well. See Elective While Doing a Research Project Form.

      The deadline to submit for approval to undertake an Elective Term Placement while completing the Research Project is 14 February of Year 3 for OGH/Hoc Mai Elective Term Placements or 31 August of Year 3 for all remaining Elective Term Placements. PRIOR to the deadlines you must have scheduled a meeting with the Sub Deans and the Elective Term Placement Chair. No forms or expressions of interest will be accepted after this date. NO EXCEPTIONS.

      The indemnity and insurance cover afforded to students on approved Elective Term Placements will be in effect. Students without formal approval to undertake an Elective Term Placement will not be covered by insurance.

      If you have approval to undertake both Research Project and an Elective Term Placement you will only be enrolled on MyUni in GDMP4110 Research Project, though you will be expected to complete all requirements for both the Elective Term Placement and the Research Project. Remember, if you are enrolled in a Research Project the period of the Elective Term (Term F) should be used towards completing your project.


      What happens if I enrol in both the Elective unit of study and the Research Project unit of study?

      You must seek formal approval to undertake both an Elective and a Research Project. If you have formal approval to undertake both you are only required to gain 12 credit points from either of these areas of study in order to complete your degree requirements. Your transcript will list you as enrolled in the GDMP4110 Research Project only and you may, on request, receive a letter verifying that you have undertaken an Elective.


      If I choose to undertake an Elective Term placement whilst formally enrolled in the Research Project, will I be required to undertake my Research Project in the same area of study?

      No. There is no requirement that you do this.


      Do I need to complete the assessment tasks associated with the Elective Term placement if I am formally enrolled in the Research Project?

      Yes. Students who are granted permission to undertake an Elective Term placement, whether formally enrolled or not in the term, are required to complete all assessment tasks related to the Elective Term unit of study.


      Who do I need to get permission from in order to undertake the Elective Term placement whilst formally enrolled in the Research Project unit of study?

      You will need to get permission from your

      a) Research Project Supervisor
      b) Clinical School Research Project Co-ordinator
      c) Research Project Sub-Dean

      For more information see the Elective Term Blackboard website.


      How do I apply to undertake an Elective Term placement?

      Students complete an online application.


      Can I still apply for scholarships that are offered for the Elective Term placement if I have formally enrolled in the Research Project unit of study rather than the Elective Term unit of study?

      Yes. As long as you have been granted formal approval to undertake an Elective Term placement you are eligible to apply for relevant scholarships.


      What if I was on track for Honours eligibility, but am no longer, can I still enrol in the Research Project Unit of Study?

      Yes. If you have been working on a Research Project that you wish to finish, you may enrol in the Research Project Unit of Study. At the end of your degree you will be awarded the MBBS with a Research Project, but not Honours.


      What if I decide to not continue with my Research Project or I don't think I will be able to submit it by the 30 June deadline?

      If you don't think you can continue with your Research Project and/or won't submit it by 30 June, then you must

      a) Change your enrolment to the Elective Unit of Study (GDMP3109)
      b) Complete the Elective Term placement during Term F in Year 4
      c) Complete the Elective Term assessment tasks

      To avoid paying for both units of study your change of enrolment needs to take place before the Semester 1 HECS census date (31 March in Year 4). You must ensure that you have previously applied to undertake the Elective Term placement as explained above.

      The question of whether to discontinue the Research Project should be discussed with your

      a) Project Supervisor
      b) The Sub-Dean Honours
      c) The Chair of the Elective Term

      The above people must be informed of your decision to discontinue. This decision should be made as early as possible and delay will make resolution more complex.


      Where can I get information about preparing for a Research Project thesis?

      There are several sources of information available to students, but the Sydney University Post-graduate Representative Association (SUPRA) have recently revised their Thesis Guide (PDF).

      You can also get further guidance from your Research Project supervisor(s), Clinical Coordinators and/or the Research Project Sub-Deans.

      NB: Local and International students who wish to take an Elective term and a Research Project are strongly advised to commence their research projects as early as possible.


      A/Professor Rebekah Jenkin and Dr David Bowen
      Sub-Deans, Medical Program Research Project