Available PhD projects - humanities, education, psychology, music & social sciences

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Chief Investigator

Project title

Project description

Preferred educational background

Dr Francisco Perales


Sexual orientation and life chances in contemporary Australia

The Australian Government is committed to equality of opportunity by sexual orientation through anti-discrimination legislation, but there is an alarming scarcity of information about the extent of socio-economic disparities between heterosexual and non-heterosexual people in Australia. This DECRA aims to deliver critical policy-relevant quantitative evidence to monitor outcome gaps by sexual orientation. Using a minority stress framework and leveraging innovative survey and administrative data, its goal is to provide first-time systematic Australian evidence of social stratification by sexual orientation across a diversity of life domains, and identify mechanisms driving the associations between sexual-minority status and life outcomes.

Students will enrol through the Institute for Social Science Research.

This project is suitable for students with experience in quantitative data analysis and who come from a social science background (e.g. sociology, economics, psychology, demography, public health).

Associate Professor Shuang Liu


Ageing well in a foreign land: Identity, social connectedness, well-being

This is an ARC linkage project with Diversicare, a division of Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, as the partner organisation. The project advances knowledge of how to best harness and develop identity resources as concrete assets for enhancing well-being among older people from diverse cultural backgrounds. A mixed methods approach are used to: (a) identify the factors that contribute to social isolation and low well-being; (b) understand when and how engagement in ethnic and mixed cultural activities run by Diversicare enhances social connectedness and well-being; and (c) evaluate and determine key principles underlying effective identity-based interventions. The expected outcomes will lead to training programs for immigrant communities and aged care professionals.

Students will enrol through the School of Communication and Arts.

Communication, Sociology, Social psychology, Language & culture

Associate Professor Eliabeth Stephens


Understanding collaboration between the arts and sciences

This project undertakes the first cultural history of the experiment, from early modern science to contemporary experimental art. It focuses on the importance of collaborations between the art and sciences to this history.

Students will enrol through the School of Communication and Arts.

Honours in any relevant area of the humanities.

Dr Aude Bernard


Understanding the long-term decline in internal migration

Internal migration rates have declined continuously since the 1970s in most advanced economies, including Australia. This decline in human mobility has potentially profound implications for the functioning of the economy and for individuals’ aspirations, but remains poorly recognised and understood. This project aims to establish the onset and pace of the migration decline for a global sample of countries. It also seeks to identify the causes of this change by identifying linkages between the drop in migration rates and the broader socio-demographic transitions of the past 30 years in countries of interest to PhD students involved in this project.

Students will enrol through the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Social science, economics, geography, sociology, demography.

Professor Bob Lingard


The Commercial Provision of Schooling and its Implications for Australia

The integration of public schooling and corporate investment has become relatively commonplace around the world, yet there is no academic research on how this phenomenon could impact Australia. The aim of this project is to identify modes of private provision of schooling around the globe and the policy networks and changing forms and practices of the state that facilitate this provision. The project will provide new knowledge on how private provision of schooling is creating new relationships between governments and private companies and the implications of this commercial provision for equitable and democratic schooling in Australia.  There has been no academic research on the likely impacts of private provision of schooling in Australia. This project will identify enabling conditions for, and possible effects of, private provision of schooling. This will benefit policymakers and education advocacy groups. The project contributes to the fields of comparative education and policy studies through applying multi-modal methodologies to study, and generates empirical knowledge of, new forms of commercialisation in education.

Students will enrol through the School of Education.

Interest in one or more of the following areas in relation to education: Economics, Legislative frameworks, sociology, policy, forensic accounting, statistics, comparative analysis

Associate Professor Katie Makar


Developing classroom norms of inquiry based learning in mathematics

This project aims to create new knowledge about inquiry norms in primary mathematics classrooms, including expert teachers’ signature practices, how norms are developed and their impact on learning. Classroom norms dictate the learning environment in school mathematics; these norms can engage students in productive social interactions, improve their mathematical knowledge as well as their interest, valuing and capacity to solve complex problems.

Students will enrol through the School of Education.

A background in education is preferred. Prospective candidates with a background in mathematics, humanities, social sciences or psychology will also be considered.

Associate Professor Elizabeth Stephens


Understanding collaboration between the arts and sciences

This project undertakes the first cultural history of the experiment, from early modern science to contemporary experimental art. It focuses on the importance of collaborations between the art and sciences to this history.

Students will enrol through the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry.

Honours in any relevant area of the humanities.

Dr Gary Osmond


Sport, Stories and Survival: Reframing Indigenous Sport History

This project aims to investigate the links between sport, community and identity in Aboriginal Settlements that were created and controlled by the Queensland Government during the twentieth century. A focus will be on how and why settlement inmates, both individually and collectively, engaged with sport, and the meaning of sport in communities.

Students will enrol through the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

An Honours degree in sports history, or sports studies with a sports history focus, with grade 7. Applicants must have written an Honours thesis in a related area.

Dr Annie Pohlman


How does torture become normal? Indonesia’s New Order regime, 1965-1998

This project aims to find out how torture became normal under the New Order military regime in Indonesia (1965 – 1998). By mapping the experiences of men, women and children, the research will investigate when, how and in which contexts torture was perpetrated, in order to map the historical spread and evolution of torture.

Potential PhD projects would focus on one of a range of in-depth case studies on torture and other grievous human rights abuses during particular periods or in selected locations, such as:

  • The ‘Petrus’ murders (mysterious killings/shootings) of suspected criminals during the early-to-mid 1980s;
  • Torture and ill-treatment against detainees held for criminal offences throughout the New Order;
  • Interrogation of political and criminal suspects under the Indonesian occupation of Timor Leste (1975–1999); 
  • Interrogation of political and criminal suspects in Aceh, particularly during the DOM (military operation region) periods of the 1980s and 1990s.

Students will enrol through the School of Languages and Cultures.

Indonesian studies or any of the following: Southeast Asian history/ human rights/ international relations/ history/ law.

Requires reasonably advanced Indonesian language skills; Tetum language skills an advantage (but not required) for a Timor Leste-based project. 

Previous study or time spent in Indonesia an advantage.

Dr Philip Gillingham


The use of digital technology in social welfare agencies

Digital technology, such as information systems, have been implemented in social welfare agencies with detrimental effects on frontline service delivery. New designs and ways of using digital technology are required to develop tools that will support front line practice. This may include predictive risk modelling, decision support systems, big data approaches and information system design.

Students will enrol through the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.

Sociology, Computer science, Business, Social psychology, Social work
The evaluation of practice frameworks

Practice frameworks, such as Signs of Safety and Solution Based Casework, are being implemented in child welfare jurisdictions across the world. There is however a paucity of research about their effects on outcomes for children and families. This project will design and conduct evaluative research in possibly multiple jurisdictions to evaluate the impact of practice frameworks.

Students will enrol through the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work.

Bachelor/Master of Social Work

Professor Julie Henry


Social cognitive change in late adulthood

The ability to perceive and interpret social cues is a critical predictor of social competency and wellbeing. This project aims to develop and test a model of how normal adult ageing affects this fundamental capacity, and identify the most important determinants of any age-related changes. Because a key prediction is that those older adults who have the greatest difficulties perceiving and interpreting social cues will also have the poorest social function and well-being, a better understanding of the mechanistic factors that drive resilience and risk for these difficulties will have direct and important implications for Australia’s growing older adult community.

Students will enrol through the School of Psychology.

Honours degree in psychology, or related discipline.

Professor Matthew Hornsey



Associate Professor Nicole Gillespie



Professor Karen Healy


Behind a moral shield: Responses to trust breaches in mission-based groups

Trust breaches among mission-based groups like churches and charities impact Australia’s most vulnerable populations. By highlighting the psychological and organizational factors that lead to inaction in the face of allegations, the proposed research has the potential to defeat organisational cultures of corruption, abuse and neglect. This project will also shed light on the ways that trust between mission-based groups and the community can be restored after a transgression. Finally, the project will generate new theories and models that account for how people respond when they are presented with disturbing information about a group that they care deeply about.

Students will enrol through the School of Psychology.

Applicants are preferred from one of the following backgrounds:

(1) Psychology (Organizational or Social Psychology);

(2) Organisational Studies/Organisational Behaviour;

(3) Management studies.

Dr Kim Peters


Inequality: Consequences for societies' social and political vitality

The student will work with K. Peters, J. Jetten and F. Mols to understand the way in which inequality affects what people talk about (e.g., gossip, rumour and conspiracy theories) and how this in turn affects social cohesion and trust.

Students will enrol through the School of Psychology.

Honours in psychology, with strong quantitative methodological training.

Associate Professor Paul Henman


Government Web Portals as New Government Actors

Government web portals provide the entryway to online government, yet their effectiveness and role in contemporary government is unknown. This study examines the architectures, rationales, effectiveness and power effects of government web portals. The study uses new digital research methods (hyperlink network analysis and web experiments) to comparatively assess 10 hi-tech countries.

Students will enrol through the School of Social Science.

Multidisciplinary. Social studies of technology; public administration; media and communications; computer science.

Associate Professor Adrian Cherney


Optimising illicit dark net marketplace interventions

UQ PhD scholarship in illicit dark net marketplace interventions ($26,288 per year). This ARC Linkage project is a collaboration between the University of the Sunshine Coast, the University of Queensland, the University of Southampton and a range of industry partners that includes the Queensland Police, iDcare, Australia Post, Department of Immigration and Boarder Protection, and the Australian Crime Commission. The project draws on systems based analysis to assess illicit dark net forums and identify how personal information is stolen, bought and sold on the dark net. Outcomes include developing and testing a series of interventions designed to disrupt identify theft activities.  The project brings together researchers, practitioners, theories and methods from human factors, sociotechnical systems, criminology, and cyber security. One aim of this PhD is to examine the semantic and organisational structure of illicit dark net forums. The project is led by the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) in partnership with iDcare (https://www.idcare.org/) and it is expected the PhD student will need to spend at least 2 days week at USC working with the project team. 

Students will enrol through the School of Social Science.

Background in criminology and cyber security /information technology

Preventing terrorism through community-based approaches

UQ PhD scholarship on countering violent extremism. This project aims to investigate the development, implementation and impact of policies and programs aimed at preventing terrorism through community-based approaches. This project expects to generate new knowledge about counter-terrorism policing and the prevention of violent extremism by examining policies adopted in Australia and abroad. Expected outcomes of this project include identifying models of best practice and ascertaining how community partnerships against terrorism can be improved. This PhD is part of broader program of research being undertaken by Associate Professor Adrian Cherney that comprises part of an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. The successful candidate will also have the opportunity to work on other counter-terrorism/CVE related projects being completed by Associate Professor Cherney. Please contact Associate Professor Adrian Cherney for more information on 7 3365 6663 or a.cherney@uq.edu.au.

Students will enrol through the School of Social Science.

Criminology, or associated social science discipline.

Associate Professor Derek Arnold


Why does time seem to drag and fly?

People often note that the passage of time seems fluid, sometimes to crawl and sometimes to fly past. As yet it is unclear if this happens because of functional adaptations, that for instance allow you to process information faster when facing disaster, or if these sensations are inferred after the events in question. Nor is it clear if people experience time similarly, or idiosyncratically. This project will answer these questions, with long-term potential to inform artificial intelligence systems that rely on temporal sensitivity, to provide insight into conditions associated with impaired time perception, and to match people to suitable work-place roles based on how they experience the passage of time.

Students will enrol through the School of Psychology.

You should have a highly-scored 1st class honours degree in experimental psychology, experience in planning, programming and analysing the results of human visual timing experiments. 

Preference will be given to applicants who also have experience in conducting EEG experiments.

Associate Professor Timothy Carroll



How do past actions and rewards bias goal directed movement?

It is often possible to perform the same physical task with movements that have very different characteristics. Current theories of sensorimotor control assume that the brain chooses from the abundance of possibilities by actively seeking the most accurate or economical way to move. By contrast, human movements tend to resemble previous actions, even if this results in inaccuracies or inefficiencies. This project uses innovative timing methods and brain recordings to test how the history of movements we have executed in the past, and the rewards associated with those movements, interact to affect subsequent movement execution. In so doing, the project should advance our basic understanding of how the human brain controls movement.

Students will enrol through the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

Psychology, Exercise Science, Physiotherapy, Engineering, Biology.

Professor David Copland


Stimulating aphasia recovery after stroke with daily music exposure

In this project, participants with aphasia (language impairment) will have MRI scans and language assessments at 2 week post-stroke. They will then receive either usual care alone or will listen to music daily (minimum 1 hour) for 2.5 months in addition to receiving usual care. All participants will then be scanned and re-tested at 3 months and 6 months post-onset. We will determine whether the addition of daily music listening to usual care has a clinically significant impact on aphasia recovery and measure effects on cognition, mood, and depression. Neuroimaging will determine how music listening impacts on language-related brain activity, brain structure and connectivity.

Students will enrol through the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Background in one or more of the following: Speech Pathology, Music Therapy, Clinical Linguistics, Psychology, Cognitive Science, NeuroImaging, Cognitive Neuroscience

Professor Sara Dolnicar


Triggering pro-environmental behaviour in pleasure-seeking contexts

This project aims to reduce the environmental harm done by the 5th most polluting industry – tourism – by
triggering environmentally friendly behaviours in tourists rather than relying on government or industry action. Using field experiments, the effectiveness of newly developed theory-based measures to reduce plate waste at hotel buffets will be tested, resulting in: (1) a new theoretical understanding of pro-environmental behaviour in pleasure-seeking contexts which challenges current theories; (2) practical measures hotels can use to reduce plate waste. Given one billion tourists travel each year, such measures can substantially improve sustainability of tourism globally, regionally and locally.

Students will enrol through the UQ Business School.

(experimental) psychology

Professor Annemaree Carroll


Improving Student Outcomes: Coaching Teachers in the Power of Feedback

Recent data from the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) demonstrates Australian students are falling behind in reading, mathematical and scientific literacy (Thomson, De Bortoli, & Underwood, 2016). In response, Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) Chief Executive, Geoff Masters (2016) states that to improve student performance, teachers must be: knowledgeable of content, skilled in diagnosing learning needs and capable of implementing highly effective teaching strategies (Masters, 2016).  Acknowledging these recommendations, this ARC Linkage Project, aims to improve student learning outcomes through building teacher capacity in the teaching of writing.  A coaching model is used to coach teachers and school leaders in the highly effective strategies of feedback and formative assessment.  Participants comprise Year 3-5 students, teachers and school leaders from 13 Brisbane Metropolitan schools.  Mixed methods are used to measure the effect of the feedback coaching upon teacher practice and student learning.  

Students will enrol through the School of Education.

Bachelor of Education (Hons) or equivalent; Master of Educational Studies or equivalent; Master of Philosophy; Background in educational psychology