Melbourne Law School - PhD Probationary Candidature and Confirmation: Policy and Guidelines
PhD candidates are first admitted as 'probationary' candidates, except those who have converted from a Masters by Research, or in some cases, have transferred from enrolment in a Graduate Research program at another institution.
Confirmation is a key point in candidature. Its purpose is to determine whether or not work to date on the PhD research proposal indicates a strong likelihood that it will result in a high quality thesis, completed in the required time.
The purposes of confirmation are to:
- assess progress to date and the academic preparedness of the candidate to complete,
- determine whether the candidate has developed a clearly defined, coherent and feasible research project and contribute suggestions for its improvement and successful completion,
- determine that any specific requirements for confirmation of candidature have been met,
- provide an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate written and oral presentation skills appropriate to PhD level study, and
- publicly acknowledge a major milestone in the project and inform others about the research project.
The Confirmation Committee
A Confirmation Committee of three or more persons is nominated for each candidate by the Associate Dean (Research), in consultation with the supervisor(s). The Associate Dean (Research) or a Graduate Research Coordinator will act as the Chairperson of the Confirmation Committee. The Committee will comprise the Chairperson, supervisor(s), other academic members of staff and external persons (as appropriate). The Office for Research (Law) will advise candidates of the composition of their Confirmation Committee prior to their oral presentation and Confirmation meeting.
The Confirmation Process
Probationary candidature is normally for a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 12 months (or 12 and 24 months for part-time students) ending once the candidate is confirmed.
The confirmation process commences after 6 months (full-time) enrolment when the MLS Office fo Research sends a Confirmation Report Form to the candidate to prompt them to commence preparation for the confirmation process (which includes a confirmation meeting and presentation).
For confirmation, each PhD candidate in the Melbourne Law School is required to:
- complete the Confirmation Report form for PhD Candidates, in consultation with the supervisor(s). The candidate must attach to this form a report on the proposed program of research. The report should be approximately 3,000 words in length and must include:
- a concise statement of the research question(s);
- an explanation of the methodology or conceptual framework to be used;
- an explanation of the way in which the thesis will fit into the existing literature and an explanation of the significance of the study (i.e. what the thesis will add to the existing literature);
- a detailed thesis plan, including an explanation of the way in which the research questions will be answered, chapter-by-chapter;
- a summary of progress to date;
- a proposed schedule and timeline for completion of the study, and
- a list of publications produced or presentations made during probationary candidature (including details of the oral presentation required for confirmation);
- attach to the Confirmation Report form a sample of written work prepared in the first year of approximately 7,000 - 10,000 words, plus a bibliography;
- make an oral presentation on the project of 20–30 minutes duration (allowing time for questions);
- attend a meeting with the Confirmation Committee;
- show that they have met any special requirements noted at enrolment as necessary for confirmation, and
- return the confirmation report form to the MLS Office for Research by the due date.
At the meeting with the Confirmation Committee the candidate is expected to discuss the project with the Committee. During the meeting, the Confirmation Committee will assess the feasibility and significance of the project, and will offer suggestions towards its successful completion. At the completion of the Confirmation Committee meeting the candidate will meet with the Chairperson to discuss:
- whether the candidate is satisfied with their supervisory arrangements;
- whether the candidate has been given sufficient opportunity to become involved with the activities of the Faculty; and
- whether the candidate has been provided with adequate facilities to complete the project.
In assessing the candidate's progress the Confirmation Committee will consider the following questions:
- Are the research questions clearly identified?
- Has the candidate developed a clear plan for the research project?
- Is the chosen research method suitable for addressing the research questions and clearly linked to the research questions?
- Is the project feasible?
- Is the project appropriate in scope and size?
- Are the outcomes of the project likely to be significant?
- Has the candidate demonstrated adequate writing skills?
- Has the candidate demonstrated an adequate grasp of the broader field within which the research is situated?
- Has the candidate convincingly situated the project within the broader field?
- Has the candidate demonstrated well-developed analytical skills?
- Is the thesis title still appropriate to describe the project?
- Is the supervisory panel still appropriate for the project?
- Are adequate resources available to allow the candidate to complete the project?
The Confirmation Committee will make a recommendation to the Head of Department to:
- confirm candidature;
- extend probationary candidature to a specified date;
- recommend conversion to a Masters degree, or
- terminate candidature.
If a recommendation to confirm candidature is not received by the Melbourne School of Graduate Research, the candidature and any scholarship held may be terminated at the end of the probationary period.
For further information, please contact the Office for Research (Law)
Telephone: (03) 8344 8946