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Unit outline_

ENVI5504: Environmental Research Project C

Semester 1, 2020 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

A valuable opportunity to apply some of the knowledge gained from earlier coursework, ENVI5502, ENVI5503 and ENVI5504 consist of a research project as arranged between you (the student) and an appropriate supervisor. The project topic may contain a field or laboratory component, or may be entirely literature-based, but it must include an integrated analysis of an identified environmental problem. Potential topics range from ecotourism to pollution detection and monitoring, erosion to solar power, environmental law to conservation biology. The topic must be able to be completed within the timeframe of 32 weeks (two semesters) of investigation, including the literature survey, sample and data collection, analysis of data and results, and write up of the report. This unit is not conducted by way of a number of contact hours per week for a semester. Instead, the student will work on the project full-time (aside from other study commitments) in a continuous manner. This unit of study is only available to students in the Master programs who have completed 24 credit points of study with a distinction average or better.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Geosciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
Distinction average or better in 24cp of Environmental Science/ Environmental Science and Law core units
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Jeffrey Neilson,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Research Abstract
Abstract submitted along with 3 potential examiners
0% Week 11
Due date: 15 May 2020 at 23:59
500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Assignment Environmental Science Research Report
Supervised Research Report
100% Week 13
Due date: 29 May 2020 at 23:59
Up to 8000 words (excluding references)
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2

Assessment summary

Following the period of research, the student is required to submit a research report in the form of a journal article, as appropriate to the specific topic area, and as recommended by the supervisor. The indicative length of this report is 6,000 to 8,000 words (excluding references and appendices). Students are encouraged to include detailed methods as an appendix to the research report.

Report Requirements

  1. The exact word length will vary, depending on subject matter and disciplinary norms, but is unlikely to exceed 8000 words,
  2. The use of tables, plates and figures are strongly encouraged,
  3. The report should be appropriately referenced and formatted in accordance with the requirements of a relevant academic journal.
  4. The format and structure of the report will vary (consult with supervisor), but many reports will include a title page, acknowledgements, an abstract, introduction, report structure and aims, literature review, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and a methods appendix.

Report Assessment

The project will be independently assessed by two examiners, not including the supervisor, with a final mark to be determined by the Program Director. The same grade will be awarded for both ENVI5503 and ENVI5504.

Assessment criteria

Result Mark range Description
High distinction 85 - 100

Projects in this category demonstrate significant originality and are rated as having been independently executed in most areas.

  • Writing is clear and concise, with very few or no grammatical, referencing or spelling errors;
  • There is a clear theoretical framework and a thorough, well organized, insightful review of the literature, resulting in an original hypothesis or research question;
  • Research applies a carefully considered methodology and demonstrates a high degree of competence in applying analytical methods;
  • Results are discussed in an analytical manner with skillful treatment of any unexpected or inconsistent results;
  • Original findings are effectively integrated within the conceptual framework and related to an existing academic literature;
  • Report makes effective use of graphics (tables, figures, plates etc)
  • The report is likely to be accepted for publication in an academic journal with minimal further editing. The student is strongly encouraged to pursue subsequent doctoral research.
Distinction 75 - 84 Research projects in this category present a thorough and clear treatment of all aspects of the problem and generally have no serious flaws in knowledge, comprehension or application. They are rated at least moderately well on most HD criteria. They will have demonstrated their ability to conduct work at an independent level and complete tasks in a timely manner, and have an adequate understanding of the background factual basis of the subject. There is, however, less evidence of originality of thought or independence of execution than required for an HD, OR evidence of originality or independence is undermined by some other minor flaw. With some additional effort and editing, projects in this category could be accepted for publication in an academic journal. The student is probably capable of undertaking subsequent doctoral research.
Credit 65 - 74 The student is proficient in the theory and practice of their topic but has not developed complete independence of thought, practical mastery or clarity of presentation. The report shows some initiative but suggests high reliant on other people for ideas and techniques and the project is dependent on supervisor’s suggestions. The report does not satisfy most of the HD criteria. The project demonstrates a satisfactory command of the theory and practice of the discipline but will contain one or more flaws, eg misconceptions, inconsistencies, or omissions; poor organization; misinterpretation of results; inadequate literature coverage, some referencing problems, failure to recognize the limitations of the methodology. Projects in this category are unlikely to be accepted for publication in an academic journal without major revisions. The student is generally NOT encouraged to undertake subsequent doctoral research.
Pass 50 - 64 The Research Project meets the basic requirements for the conduct and reporting of research and demonstrates the minimal level of understanding expected of a Masters level student. The report is likely to be undermined by some misconceptions, inconsistencies, omissions, or unrecognized deficiencies in methodology, or a misinterpretation of the analysis and lack of integration with the theoretical framework. The student’s understanding of the topic is more informed than a lay person, but is otherwise weak or extremely limited in an academic context. The literature review may be simplistic, and the report may be poorly written or with a poorly articulated research problem. There may be inconsistencies or mistakes in the referencing.
Fail 0 - 49 The project report does not demonstrate research competence and suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of the project topic. It is not of an acceptable standard for a postgraduate student

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Ongoing Supervised research activity Project (150 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. apply advanced research principles and skills to interpret existing data and formulate and test research hypotheses to address novel environmental science problems.
  • LO2. justify, interpret and effectively communicate expert disciplinary knowledge and technical research findings to an environmental problem in a written, scholarly format.
  • LO3. investigate, critically evaluate and review the latest scientific knowledge regarding a particular environmental problem or area of current research.
  • LO4. work effectively and responsibly in an individual context under the supervision of an academic researcher.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered.

What is the Environmental Science Research project?

ENVI5502/5503/5504 is a modularized research project conducted under the supervision of an academic member of staff at the University of Sydney. The Environmental Science Research project is conducted over approximately 30 weeks by students on a part-time basis (ie. 18 credit points over two semesters, or 0.375 of a full-time load). The project topic may contain a field or laboratory component, or may be entirely literature-based. Either way, the project should involve some original research.

What is expected from the student?

The student is expected to identify an appropriate research question, demonstrate a familiarity with the relevant literature, design a research plan and methodology, undertake semi-independent research, and then present their findings in the form of a written report. The indicative word length is a maximum 8,000 words, although the student (in consultation with their supervisor) is encouraged to submit their report in the format of a journal article, the length of which will vary depending on the subject matter. The student is, however, generally expected to make use of appropriate tables, figures and plates in the report and to apply standard referencing techniques.


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