Humanities, Arts and Social Science (HASS) research

Notre Dame supports research activities in all its Schools and Research Institutes across its Campuses in Fremantle and Broome in Western Australia, and Sydney in New South Wales. It recognises the value of scholarly research in Humanities, Arts and Social Science (HASS) and appreciates that the project advice provided for high quality research in the general sciences may not always apply to various HASS-specific research approaches.

The research advice provided here is intended to reach out to anyone interested in HASS-specific research:

  • To assist HDR-students and research staff in HASS, when considering discipline specific research aspects other than listed under ‘Things to consider’ and ‘Good Practice Guidelines’ for research in the general sciences.
  • To inform future students on what to expect when considering a HASS-research project.
  • To provide insight HASS-related research aspects to a wider audience and multidisciplinary research teams.

HASS research designs can be both quantitative and qualitative. Our information provided under ‘Project advice – general’ is considered applicable to quantitative research designs in HASS. On the other hand, information on this page is considered helpful specifically when qualitative approaches suit HASS research to discover themes of real-world phenomena, experiences and thoughts in the applied sciences and HASS.

The Research Offices at Notre Dame recommend all HDR-students to clarify the research aspects relevant to their HASS project with their research supervisors.

General advice for HASS-research at Notre Dame

Irrespective of the type of research conducted by staff and HDR students in HASS, there is an obligation to adhere to the University’s Code of Conduct for Research and Research Integrity policies.

HDR-students in HASS are encouraged to browse the Postgraduate Research Students section and inform themselves on general HDR-related advice and support by the Notre Dame Research Offices in Fremantle and Sydney.

If a research project requires the recruitment of any number of study-participants, researchers are strongly advised to inform themselves of research ethics requirements at Notre Dame. Having a nationally regulated research ethics approval process in place meets the University’s obligation to safeguard voluntary assistance to research by human participants of any age.  Alternative professional ethics organisations with discipline-related codes of ethics and/or conduct should be considered where appropriate, for example the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) Journalist Code of Ethics for journalism and media research projects.

Many aspects of research funding and project management are similar across academic disciplines at Notre Dame. General details on how to find and apply for research funding can be found in the Funding & Contracts section. Consider the opportunity to apply for internal funding at Notre Dame through the Research Funding Scheme or for external funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), among others. Specific recommendations or strategic advice for funding applications to support HASS-specialised research may come from academic peers or your Schools and Research Institute at Notre Dame.

Selected HASS-research designs, methods and funding bodies

Designs

HASS-type of research studies clearly differ per academic discipline and field of research and it is impossible to capture the range of HASS research projects on this page; only a broad impression of the diversity is highlighted here as a starting point for a better understanding of research in this field.

Qualitative research tools like interviews, surveys and focus group can be applied across HASS when focused on the exploration and contextual analysis of events, issues and justice in society.

Likewise, a theoretical research design to study concepts and believes can suit various HASS- research questions, while doctrinal research is a specific approach designed for legal research aimed at law reform.

International standards of research have been developed for the diverse range of qualitative study designs in HASS. Consensus guidelines in the form of checklists (freely available via from the EQUATOR Network) present as helpful tools to guide and enhance the quality of research projects and the comprehensive consideration of their design and performance.

The guidelines raise awareness of deliberations to be made at the initial development stage of a research project as well as how to report the study with sufficient detail and transparency for publication when finalised.

Specific guidelines for various qualitative research designs can be used by HASS-researchers in non-theoretical research projects based on specified research methodologies. The Equator GoodReports tool can help you find the most appropriate checklist to be useful upfront to develop your project as well as at the end when writing up research outcomes for dissemination.

For other types of useful research support, a list of professional HASS-organisation may be helpful to direct you to a few key links (among others), where resources and tools are offered to support your research activities. Please note that these recommendations are just a starting point.

Methods

The common qualitative nature of research in HASS tends to include a descriptive analysis of data. Knowledge and insight regarding societal aspects of interest can be achieved by:

  • Phenomenology – describing the ‘lived experience’ of a phenomenon,
  • Ethnography – describing a specific cultural or social group,
  • Historical research – describing past events to explain the present and anticipate the future, or
  • Grounded theory – describing the development of a theory as information is collected.

These research approaches most often use observations, narrative or semi-structured interviews, focus groups or discourse for data collection and analysis.

Recommended resources for general qualitative research methods:

Initial qualitative research is sometimes further enriched by the integration of quantitative aspects to a research study, which allows for analytical investigation of hypothesised differences between groups within a data base.  A mixed methods approach combines the collection of descriptive information and numerical data for more complex research analysis.

Recommended resources for mixed methods:

More information on research methods is provided in the Research Development section of the RESEARCH pages at Notre Dame.  Specific expert knowledge and advice on HASS-research methods and analysis may be best obtained from your supervisor, mentor or your School at Notre Dame. Additional expertise in qualitative research design and data analysis may come from the team of biostatisticians at Notre Dame’s Institute for Health Research.

Grant funding bodies

Funding for HASS-specific research in media and the arts may come from grant funding bodies that are not included in PIVOT, the recommended search tool for a broad spectrum of external research funding opportunities around the globe but possibly more suitable for the general sciences. Some examples of key organisations for specific HASS-funding within Australia beyond the Australian Research Council (ARC), are Australian Academy of the Humanities, Australia Council for the Arts, Myer Foundation, Screen Australia and Screenworks, among others.

Research output

Traditional scholarly publications

Traditional academic research outcomes in HASS tend to be shared and disseminated through written publications in the form of a journal article, book (chapter), conference proceeding or referenced written work featured on a scholarly platform or in a peer-reviewed context.

To learn more about the expectations of modern-day scholarly publishing, you are advised to browse the Research Development section of the RESEARCH pages for more insight into contemporary publication practices, how to be more successful in publishing with impact and what questionable practices (like plagiarism) to avoid.

While some aspects of scholarly publishing apply to research across all disciplines, views on authorship of HASS-publications may deviate from the practice of multi-authorship common in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-related publications:

Authorship

“Authorship within the humanities, law, and theology is still very much a product of the writing process, and usually by a single individual. Any other form of contribution such as generation of ideas, commenting on a draft, or technical assistance is listed in the Acknowledgments.”

What constitutes authorship? COPE Discussion Document,

COPE Council 2014 (p3)

The internationally recognized Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) recommends a similar approach to authorship on postgraduate degree-related research papers in the humanities and some social sciences. It is a generally accepted tradition in the reporting of HASS-research that students are the sole author on their research output in writing, while supervisors receive credit for their supervision and mentorship in the Acknowledgements. A supervisor’s claim for authorship in these circumstances may constitute a type of gift authorship, which has evolved into an unacceptable concept in research publishing.

If more than one author is justified, the order of authors tends to be discipline specific. It is common in the social sciences to list authors in alphabetic order if there are only a few. This approach reinforces that all authors contributed equally to the research described. Any other order is indicative of differences in research contribution and responsibility. Irrespective of the research discipline, transparency on each author’s contribution and position is recommended when submitting a multi-authored research manuscript for publication.

Non-traditional research outputs

HASS-research is characterized by its diversity of approaches and output shapes and forms. Notre Dame encourages research of creative practices in the fields of film, media, visual art, creative writing and theatre, leading to non-traditional research outputs like film, live or recorded performances, digital interactive installations and curated or rendered events and exhibitions.

These types of research outputs are guided by field and type specific rules of engagement and scholarship. Since there is a no insightful common denominator for the wide range of non-traditional research outputs, useful guiding information on the development of such research outputs is most likely to come from your supervisor, mentor, School or Research Institute at Notre Dame.

Similarly, recommendations and advice on how to successfully search and apply for funding of non-traditional research project requires a good understanding of the field-specific interests and applications of research output, and strategic thinking of investment and support opportunities. An example of a productive industry engagement in HASS is sponsorship of a postgraduate film director at Notre Dame by Screen Australia.

A few examples of non-traditional research projects at Notre Dame are showcased here :

Research reporting and storage of primary sources/data

At Notre Dame research activities and output are managed through the research management system referred to as IRMA.

Irrespective of what type of research you undertake, IRMA enables research staff and HDR-students to stay on top of their research activities: viewing their research outputs, submitting funding applications, tracking the progress of grants and contracts, and accurately reporting on research outputs.

For HASS-research it is important to note that research output required to be reported on through IRMA includes traditional scholarly publications (journal article, books, book chapters, conference papers) AND non-traditional research outputs (a diverse range of written, live, recorded and curated creative works, interviews and various types of reports).

More information on traditional and non-traditional research output categories and required data for IRMA can be found in the Reporting and Data section of the RESEARCH pages.

It is important to note that IRMA is different to Notre Dame’s repository for research output:  ResearchOnline @ND.  The repository facilitates access to written scholarly publication content by research staff and HDR-students at Notre Dame. Unlike IRMA though, the repository is not suitable for the inclusion of some non-traditional research output and cannot feature creative works.

Notre Dame has developed a Policy: Research Data Management and Procedure: Research Data Management to guide researchers on data management.

The Policy applies to all research data relevant to approved research activities at or in collaboration with the University, irrespective of data type or format. The Procedure features a helpful summary (Section 12, page 9) covering the process from the development of a Data Management Plan to long-term retention and/or disposal of data, including primary sources of specific HASS-projects. For more information see Research Data Management at Notre Dame under Ethics and Integrity.

Research quality and impact

If a HASS research output is featured as a written scholarly publication, the same research quality metrics apply as the measures of impact for peer-reviewed journals, books and authors of academic research in evidence-based sciences.

However, many facets of HASS-research may meet the interest of the broader community and the internet easily facilitates communication among the public about HASS-research in its wide range of traditional and non-traditional shapes and forms.

The wider publicising of new research (often by others, like journalists) in print and online (social) media can nowadays be captured and tracked as a measure of impact with the Altmetric Attention Score. This research metric for a broader awareness, interest and sharing, could serve some types of HASS-research better than the traditional measures, such as journal impact factor, author H-index or publication citations. You can learn more on alternative measures of research impact through the Library.

News coverage by the media can help to draw attention to HASS research outputs. It is possible for University staff and HDR-students to have a media release issued or be approached by journalists for an interview. More information on how to seek and deal with media attention to your research is available in the Research Development section of the RESEARCH pages.