About the Winter and Summer Research Scholarship Program

Each year the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) participates in the UQ Summer and Winter Research Scholarship Program.

Scholars are expected to actively participate in an ongoing research project or to undertake a substantial piece of supervised research work by way of an internship during either the Summer or Winter holiday periods. The Program offers scholars practical research experience and a chance to discover the type of research undertaken at ISSR by working on actual projects. 

By participating in undergraduate research programs, students gain valuable academic and professional skills, have an opportunity to develop links with industry and academic contacts, and are able to test drive research before embarking on further research studies or higher degree research projects.

ISSR aims to provide its students with a distinctive study experience which is characterised by applied research, teaching and commercial opportunities. To support this, the Institute requires our students to sign a Student Intellectual Property and Confidentiality Agreement (SIPCA) as a condition of enrolment, pursuant to UQ’s policy on Intellectual Property for Staff, Students and Visitors. Independent legal advice is available to prospective students free-of-charge through the UQ Student Union (see http://www.uqu.com.au/legal). ISSR will provide further information on the IP assignment process at the point of application and induction.

For information about the program please refer to the UQ Summer Research Guidelines or contact Lisa Pope via email  or by telephone on +617 3365 1298.

Please see below for available projects.

Applications for the 2017-8 Summer Research Program are now open. Apply here


ISSR Contact,  Lisa Pope, l.pope@uq.edu.au

Population ageing and family dynamics in Australia

Project duration: 10 weeks 

Description: Population ageing is changing family structures and processes, producing the possibility of longer marriages and intergenerational ties.  As people are living longer, it also means that our family relationships could increase in duration, and take on greater significance.  Spouses may be together for a longer period of time, parents and children age together, and multi-generational families become increasingly common.  This project will examine these factors, and consider responses to meet the needs of elderly family members, considering topics including intergenerational transfers, differences in the type and level of transfers, and potential gender differences.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars will gain a better understanding of how to carry out academic research.  They will have the opportunity to gain skills in preparing a paper for publication in an academic journal. They will also gain skills in literature review, and/or data analysis.

Suitable for: This project is open to undergraduate and postgraduate applicants with interests in applied social research.  Students with interests in the research topics, and/or with data analysis skills including experience with STATA are encouraged to apply

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Jack Lam and Prof. Janeen Baxter.

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Jack Lam at j.lam@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not mandatory.

Changing families, rising inequality? Towards an understanding of temporal and contextual variation in the effects of maternal age at first birth across Asia

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description: South- and Southeast Asian nations have experienced dramatic changes in patterns of family formation over the past half-century. This includes declines in the total fertility rate from around six children per woman in 1970 to between 2 and 3 children per woman in 2010, accompanied by substantial increases in the mean age at marriage over the same period. While these changes have been well documented, substantially less effort has been devoted to understanding the consequences of Asia’s demographic transition for health and socio-economic inequalities. In particular, it is unclear whether changing family patterns have given rise to new dimensions of inequality within South- and Southeast Asian societies, and how this may differ across national and regional contexts.

This project draws upon a biosocial life course approach and multilevel modelling framework to investigate temporal and contextual variation in the effects of a key marker of family formation: maternal age at first birth. Maternal age at first birth is a well-established risk factor for a wide range of child and maternal outcomes in low and middle income countries. In short, the project aims to identify when and why maternal age is most important as a determinant of mothers’ and children’s wellbeing.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Depending on the student’s experience and interests, the project may involve completion of a literature review, preparation of datasets, and/or descriptive data analysis. In any case, the student will prepare a report containing the results of the work, which may subsequently form part of working papers or refereed journal articles.

Suitable for:  Ideal: 

  • Experience with Stata
  • Database/literature review skills

The project would potentially suit a student from a sociology, public health/epidemiology, or economics background

Primary Supervisor: Dr Martin O'Flaherty

Further Information: If you want to ask questions about the project you can email: m.oflaherty@uq.edu.au

How discrimination affects the lives of LGB people in Australia

Project duration: 10 weeks 

Description: Findings from international research indicate that people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) are more likely to experience pay discrimination, material deprivation or homelessness, become the victims of bullying and violence, suffer from poor health, and have more strained relationships with their families. These findings and the ‘minority stress’ framework strongly suggest that discrimination and stigmatization remain a ‘lived reality’ for many LGB people. Today, about 500,000 individuals in Australia identify as LGB and this number is on the rise. Yet, we have comparatively little Australian evidence on the life chances and life outcomes of individuals within these collectives.

The Summer Scholar will contribute to a project which aims to:

  • Develop the Australian evidence of differences in life outcomes between LGB and heterosexual people across life domains.
  • Understand the mechanisms that produce the associations between LGB status and life outcomes.
  • Investigate how the use of new data sources, including administrative data, can enhance the quality of research findings about LGB populations in Australia.
  • Inform the development of Australian policy on timely topics such as gay marriage and child adoption by homosexual couples, homophobic school bullying and workplace harassment, and hate crime.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars will gain a thorough understanding of the research process, enhance their analytical skills, learn how to prepare materials for publication, and gain experience in working as part of a team. The skills and knowledge gained by participation will be useful for subsequent research degrees, including Honours and PhD.

Suitable for: This project is open to undergraduate and postgraduate applicants with an interest in applied social research. Experience with research methods and an interest in understanding how social processes affect equality opportunity by sexual orientation are desirable.

Primary Supervisor:  Dr Francisco Perales (Professor Janeen Baxter will be an adjunct supervisor)

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Francisco Perales at f.perales@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not essential.

Money talks: How Australian couples plan, organise, manage and perceive household finances

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description: Early research into within-couple household finances assumes that couple members pool economic resources to maximise the utility of the family as a single unit. Such unitary household model has been widely criticised and recent research consistently shows the unequal distribution of economic resources between couple members. This has important implications for couples’ financial planning, financial behaviours, financial decision making and financial wellbeing. It is therefore of scholarly interest to examine the complex relationships between various aspects of household finances among contemporary Australian couples.

The summer scholar will contribute to a research project aimed at examining a wide range of household finance measures, including couple’s financial planning, saving and spending behaviours, financial organisation, financial decision making, and financial wellbeing. The project focuses on critical links between these measures and theoretically informed factors, such as economic resources, household circumstances, gender role attitudes and family background of couple members. Much of the work in this project involves quantitative analysis of large-scale, longitudinal survey data in Australia.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars will have the opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary, research intensive environment and to work on real-life social issues that are of societal value, scholarly interest and policy relevance. Through involvement in this project, scholars will gain a comprehensive understanding of research process and first-hand experience working on large-scale, complex social survey data. In doing so, scholars will develop a wide range of transferrable skills that are highly desirable and sought after in the job market, be it in higher degree research, in government agencies and in private sectors. These skills include (but not limited to) analytical skills, academic writing skills, communication skills and presentation skills. Research undertaken by scholars will have the opportunity to feed into academic conferences and/or publications.

Suitable for: This project is open to undergraduate, Honours and postgraduate students from social sciences background. Motivated and organised candidates with an interest in applied social research are particularly encouraged to apply. Experience with quantitative data analysis is desirable, and knowledge of and experience with using Stata is a distinctive advantage. Candidates are also encouraged to demonstrate their capabilities of team work and attention to details.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Yangtao Huang

Further Information: Prospective summer scholars can contact Dr Yangtao Huang at y.huang3@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not essential.

Educational and labour-market trajectories of disadvantaged young people

Project duration:  10 weeks (flexibility possible, if required)

Description: Even in a highly developed country like Australia, a young person’s chances in life are still largely determined by the characteristics of family they are born into and raised in. There is a wealth of international evidence showing that family background affects a range of educational and labour market outcomes in young people, which in turn have knock-on effects on a range of other outcomes later in life.

This Summer Research Project will feed into a broader program of work exploring Australia’s educational and labour market disadvantage in young people associated with low-socioeconomic background. Key themes in this program of work include the inter-relationships between disadvantaged background and educational outcomes, including academic achievement in primary and secondary school, participation in Higher Education, and post-school and post-university destinations. Much of the work in the program is based on quantitative analysis of secondary datasets. The work is aligned with, and feeds into the research agenda of the Australian Research Council-funded Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (the Life Course Centre): http://www.lifecoursecentre.org.au

Expected outcomes and deliverables: This is a unique opportunity for a Summer Research Scholar to get hands-on experience of participating in a major, high-profile research project. The Scholar will join one of the existing projects in the research program, which will be selected with them based on their interests, skills and experience. A likely expected outcome will include a concise literature review, and compiling a database of relevant papers and documenting existing evidence on the topic. It is expected that the work that the Scholar undertakes will feed into research publications, including the Life Course Centre Working Paper series, or conference presentations.

Suitable for: This project will suit a highly-motivated, well-organised student with an interest in research on educational and labour market disadvantage. Good research and analytic skills are required, including the ability to understand, collate, compare and summarise the results from previously published research. Good communication and writing skills are essential. Social science background will be an advantage, although is not formally required. Some familiarity with, and the ability to understand, the outputs from quantitative research projects (such as regression tables) will also be an advantage.

When preparing your application, please highlight your skills and experience with working on research projects, and in particular give examples of work when you summarised or synthesised existing evidence, including from quantitatively-oriented research, to produce a written output.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Wojtek Tomaszewski

Further Information: w.tomaszewski@uq.edu.au

Effective strategies to engage parents from disadvantaged communities in student learning

Project duration:  10 - 12 weeks 

Description: A parent’s educational aspirations for their child and the extent to which they engage with their child’s learning have a significant impact on child outcomes - both academic and socio-emotional. Increasing levels of parent engagement may be of particular benefit to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who tend to have poorer outcomes in these regards than their more advantaged peers. Schools, and in particular school leadership, have an important role to play in building partnerships with parents in order to support their engagement.

This Research Project will use qualitative and quantitative data collected from disadvantaged primary schools in Queensland to identify effective strategies to engage parents in student learning. These strategies will be developed into resources to create a parent engagement toolkit (PET) that will be used by schools to improve the ways in which they engage with parents in their school community.

Working on this project, you will have the opportunity to help create these resources (e.g. videos, vignettes, tip sheets, infographics), be exposed to working in a team, have the opportunity to co-author a paper using the data collected, and the opportunity to analyse both qualitative and quantitative data. Some of the topics that may interest you are: How are schools using virtual classrooms to engage parents? How are schools working with the community to support disadvantaged families?

If you have an interest in education, parent engagement, social policy or improving outcomes for children, apply for this great opportunity.

In addition to this project, Dr Jenny Povey’s team is engaged in various commissioned research activities and this is an invaluable opportunity to get exposure to the environment of commissioned research. Professor Janeen Baxter is the Director of the Life Course Centre and exposure to this centre of excellence and its research fellows would be a valuable opportunity to build research networks.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars would develop the following practical skills by participating in this research project: literature review skills, analytical skills (quantitative and qualitative), and writing skills. The development of these skills will be useful if you are considering undertaking Honours or further research. The experience and the skills learnt will also provide an employment track record for any future research assistant roles you may apply for.

The potential deliverables would be contributions to: peer reviewed publications and resources for the PET. Substantial contributions to these outputs could result in co-authorship which would make you more competitive for future scholarships and job opportunities

Suitable for: This project is open to undergraduate, honours and postgraduate students with interests in applied social research. 

This project is suited for someone who wishes to gain invaluable experience in the real world of social research within the context of a dynamic, multidisciplinary research institute.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Jenny Povey and Prof. Janeen Baxter.

Further Information: If you wish to contact Dr Jenny Povey prior to applying for this Scholar position, please feel free to email j.povey@uq.edu.au or call 07 3346 7474

Mealtimes Matter: Childcare as window into food insecurity and food socialisation in low-income communities

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description: Childhood nutrition is intricately tied to trajectories of health and wellbeing across the life-course and is a window into broader levels of disadvantage. In the Logan community, 15.7 % of 5-year-olds attend school tired or hungry (AEDC, 2015) with ongoing effects on their learning and life chances. Many more children experience poor nutrition quality and are at a higher risk of food insecurity. Childcare services (i.e., kindergarten and long-day care) provide an opportunity to engage food insecure families as well as early childhood educators to foster the development of healthy eating habits in low-income communities. The aim of this study is to undertake intensive observation of feeding practices in childcare services in Logan to document nutritional and behavioural factors associated with poor nutrition as a basis for the development of interventions.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: This project will allow the scholar to be immersed in multiple aspects of a complex research project, including conducting a literature review, secondary data analysis, writing research protocols and preparing research materials for data collection.

Suitable for: This project is open to applications from students with a background in nutrition, psychology, education, medicine, or social sciences.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Holly Harris and Dr Sally Staton.

Further Information: Please email holly.harris@uq.edu.au

Sleep, light, and happiness.

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description: Sleep is one of the ‘three pillars’ of health, alongside exercise and nutrition, with strong influence on metabolic health, social functioning, mental health and wellbeing. Habitual light exposure is the primary signal to the human circadian system (our internal body clocks), which in turn drives sleep-wake behaviours. This project will review literature specifically on the question of the role of the light (including natural environments and artificial lighting) on wellbeing, and will generate pilot data to support naturalistic or experimental approaches to better understanding these relationships.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars may gain skills in systematic review, physical and physiological data collection (e.g. through use of wearable devices), theory and measurement of sleep-wake and circadian rhythms, theory and measurement of wellbeing, and associated analysis methods. Scholars have an opportunity to generate publications or other outputs from their research (e.g. conference presentations).  Scholars may be asked to produce a research report at the end of their project.

Suitable for: This project is suitable for students with a background in psychology, human movement or similar discipline, especially those with an interest in quantitative methods and in the interaction between mind and body. Skills or interest in programming (e.g. R language) would be useful but not vital.

Primary Supervisor: Associate Professor Simon Smith

Further Information: Please email simon.smith@uq.edu.au

Children’s Voices Project: Interviews and observations with children about sleep, rest and relaxation.

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description: Sleep, rest and relaxation represent an important component of early childhood programs and are a legislative requirement for early childhood services in Australia.  Despite this, until recently there has been very little known about how best to support young children’s sleep, rest and relaxation needs within their early childhood services. 

The Choosing Rest study is examining the role of early childhood education and care settings in supporting sleep, rest and relaxation for children. The findings of this study will be used to provide educators, parents and policy makers. This study is being run by researchers at The University of Queensland (UQ) in collaboration with Queensland University of Technology, Crèche and Kindergarten Association and Family Day Care Association Queensland, and is funded by a grant from the Queensland Government Department of Education and Training.

This summer scholar project will examine children’s perspectives on rest-times in early childhood services and how these experiences map onto observed sleep patterns and behaviours of young children. 

Expected outcomes and deliverables: The scholar will receive training in qualitative methodologies, experience in conduct of qualitative analyses of transcripts of children’s voices and involvement in preparation of a journal article for publication.  The scholar will be included as a co-author in publication as appropriate for role.

Suitable for: A sociology student or related field, who has completed an advanced qualitative research course and who is familiar with NVivo and qualitative analysis.

Primary Supervisor: Ms Emma Cooke, Dr Sally Staton and Professor Karen Thorpe

Further Information: Please email s.staton@uq.edu.au

Parenting and inter-generational disadvantage: A population trial of the Triple P system of parenting and family support

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description: The aim of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of targeting a single capability such as parenting skills in a cost-effective way to prevent or reduce multiple risks associated with disadvantage. The specific aim of the project is to determine whether implementing the Triple P Positive Parenting Program System at a population level has the potential to reduce risk factors associated with the intergenerational transmission of deep and persistent disadvantage. The project is a type of quasi-experimental design involving 33 socially disadvantaged communities within Queensland matched to similar communities within New South Wales who have not been exposed to the Triple P Positive Parenting Program System.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: This project involves many elements covering program implementation, data collection from parent surveys and administrative sources, and data analysis. Depending on the scholar’s interests and experience, tasks may involve assistance with data preparation, participant recruitment, a literature review, and/or statistical analyses of data.

Suitable for: This project is suitable for students with a background in the social sciences (e.g., psychology or sociology), especially those with an interest in research topics related to parent training, self-regulation, and population health. Some experience with SPSS or Stata would be desirable.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Denise Clague and Dr Kylie Burke

Further Information: You can contact Dr Denise Clague Dr Kylie Burke if you have any questions.