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 more information about UQ Undergraduate research opportunities click here  or email ISSR Contact Lisa Pope, l.pope@uq.edu.au  or by telephone on +617 3365 1298.

Please see below for available projects.

Applications for the 2019 Winter Research Program are now closed.  

Applications for the 2019/2020 Summer Research Program will open in late July 2019.  Apply here


Measuring sleep environments

Project duration: 4 weeks 

Description: We have a number of ongoing projects relating to sleep in society and are developing studies that examine and quantify aspects of sleep environments. This involves the review of existing literature, the development of survey items, and pilot testing of equipment to monitor the physical environment.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars who take part in this project can gain skills in literature review, survey development, and gathering pilot data. Students may be asked to produce a summary report at the end of their project.

Suitable for: Students should have an interest in sleep and would benefit from a background in psychology, social science or public health. Students should be in year 3 or 4 of their degree.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Alicia Allan and Associate Professor Simon Smith

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Alicia Allan at alicia.allan@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not mandatory.

Early Childhood Educators’ perspectives on children’s sleep, rest and relaxation

Project duration:  4 weeks 

Description:  It is a legislative requirement that educators in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings provide for children’s sleep, rest and relaxation. Yet, until recently few educators have had access to research literature and professional development to inform their practice. It is anticipated that the scholar will analyse interview data to investigate educators’ perspectives on children’s sleep, rest and relaxation.

This project is nested under a larger study, The Choosing Rest study, which Is funded by an Education Horizon Grant from the Queensland Government, Department of Education.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: 

The winter scholar will:

  • receive training in qualitative methodologies
  • consolidate training by analysing educator interviews
  • contribute to a co-authored paper on educators’ perspectives about children’s sleep, rest and relaxation.
  • be included as a co-author as appropriate for their role

Suitable for: An education or social sciences scholar who is interested and has knowledge of qualitative research methodologies and is familiar with NVivo.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Sandy Houen

Further Information: Prospective summer scholars can contact Dr Sandy Houen at s.houen@uq.edu.au  to discuss their application, but this is not essential.

Inequalities in education and labour market outcomes among Australians from different socioeconomic backgrounds

Project duration:  4 weeks

Description: Family socioeconomic background has long been found an important contributor to inequalities in individuals’ education and labour market outcomes in industrial countries (Blau & Duncan, 1967; Breen & Goldthorpe, 1997). Research has shown that disadvantage from low socioeconomic background persists over the life course and across generations (Fishkin, 2013; Smeeding et al., 2011). Understanding the process through which family background produces and reproduces educational and labour-market inequalities is therefore critical to policymaking aimed at breaking the cycle of disadvantage.

This Winter Research Project will feed into a broader program of work exploring Australia’s educational and labour market disadvantage associated with low socioeconomic background. The winter scholar will have the opportunity to contribute to a range of topics, including (but not limited to) educational aspirations, student engagement and achievement, equity in higher education and income inequality. Much of the work 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: The scholar will have the opportunity to work within a dynamic research team in a multidisciplinary, research intensive environment. Through involvement in this project, the scholar will gain a comprehensive understanding of research process and develop a wide range of transferrable skills that are highly desirable and sought after in the job market. These skills include analytical skills, academic writing skills, communication skills and presentation skills. A likely expected outcome will include a concise literature review and compiling a database of existing evidence on the topic. Research undertaken by the scholar will have the opportunity to feed into academic conferences and 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 an advantage. Candidates are also encouraged to demonstrate their capabilities of team work and attention to details.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Yangtao Huang and Dr Wojtek Tomaszewski

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

Life course outcomes for young parents: when is early parenthood a problem?

Project duration:  4 weeks 

Description: Becoming a parent during teenage years and early twenties is seen as ‘mistimed’ in relation to other important life events, such as finishing education, establishing yourself on the labour market and other milestones in the process of transitioning from adolescent to adult. In many contexts, it is upheld as a societal concern, with detrimental effects on future life chances for parents and children.  Previous research has indeed shown that young parents and their children are worse off than normatively age parents.

However, the processes that gives rise to these detrimental effects are unclear, as many of those who become young parents are already in disadvantaged position to begin with. This project investigates the labour market and educational outcomes of young- and teenage parents, with a special attention to how the impact of early parenthood might differ depending the young person’s situation prior to parenthood, asking not only if young parenthood is a societal issue, but for whom? These questions are key, in order to develop social policy that properly identifies and targets those who needs support, without stigmatising young parents for their chosen life path.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars will gain a better understanding of how to carry out academic research, and gain valuable insight into a collaborative international research project.  They will also gain skills in literature review, and/or data management and quantitative data analysis depending on interest and availability.

Suitable for: This project is open to undergraduate and postgraduate applicants with interests in applied social research, with a special interest in the topic of young parents, disadvantage youth and/or quantitative analysis. Students with experience in- or interest in trying out and developing skills in R, are encourage to apply.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Sara Kalucza and Professor Janeen Baxter

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Sara Kalucza at s.kalucza@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not mandatory.

Transition to young parenthood and impact on educational and employment aspirations

Project duration:  4 weeks 

Description: Teenage parents are likely to experience material disadvantage and may lack the necessary life and parenting skills to adequately support their children. Restricted education and employment, poorer parenting skills, and limited family and public support are some of the conditions driving multiple and persistent sources of disadvantage often observed among teenage parents and their children. In particular, teenage parents in Australia have been observed to have lower educational attainment, earnings, health, and relationship stability compared to their counterparts. Nevertheless, the transition to parenthood may also be a turning point and may prompt parents to pursue further opportunities, in order to better life chances for themselves and their children.  This project will consider existing evidence on whether the transition to parenthood changes the education and employment goals and aspirations of young parents.

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 interests or experience with qualitative research are encouraged to apply.

Primary Supervisor: Professor Janeen Baxter and Dr. Jack Lam

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

Multi-country analysis of domestic and family violence among adolescents in low and middle income countries

Project duration:  4 weeks 

Description: The research project involves assessing trends in prevalence and association of domestic and family violence (DFV) with adolescent fertility. Using these estimates would provide one of the first pieces of international evidence about DFV among this vulnerable population. This project will use Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) from approximately 89 countries to analyse trends and understand factors associated with DFV among adolescents.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

  • Review of tools used to assess DFV in different DHS
  • Generate a methods paper for publication
  • Gain experience in analysing multi-country datasets

Suitable for: 

  • Scholars with Public Health, Epidemiology or Social Science backgrounds
  • Scholars with experience handling survey datasets, and using Stata for analysis
  • Scholars interested in quantitative research methods and data analysis

Primary Supervisor: Joemer Maravilla and Dr Caroline Salom

Further Information: Please email Joemer Maravilla at  j.maravilla@uq.edu.au  for further information.

How Discrimination Affects the Lives of LGB People in Australia

Project duration:  4 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 Winter 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 and (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.

Effective strategies to engage parents from disadvantaged communities in student learning

Project duration:  4 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 Scholar position offers flexible working arrangements and is open to all students who are:

  • currently completing or who have completed third year;
  • currently completing or about to commence their honours year; or
  • currently completing or about to commence their masters.

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 Professor 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

Analysis of illicit substance use in a regional setting

Project duration: 4 weeks

Description:  This research involves analysing data from a regional pilot of illicit drug use surveys; comparing drug use and associated harms with that from capital city, national and international datasets

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

  • Learn about national and international drug use surveys
  • Work with a team to analyse data and understand findings
  • Contribute to a report on findings from regional surveys
  • Contribute to journal article contextualising regional substance use issues

Suitable for: 

  • People with Public Health, Epidemiology or Social Science backgrounds
  • People with experience handling survey data, and using Stata or SPSS for analysis
  • People interested in quantitative research and data analysis

Primary Supervisor:  Dr Caroline Salom

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Caroline Salom at c.salom@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not essential.

Investigation of legislations and strategies for improving sleep in young adults in Australia

Project duration: 4 weeks

Description: Young adults’ mental and physical health and daytime performance are known to be significantly related to their sleep duration. However teenagers are chronically sleep deprived (in average one hour) per school night. As such understanding the current legislations and strategies to improve sleep in teenagers in school time is vital to determine necessary areas for further improvement of their sleep.

The aim of the project is to explore current legislations/ strategies in Australia to improve sleep in young adults. 

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars will gain skills in literature review and summarising their findings, strategic searching databases and government websites. They will also gain presentation skills by presenting their data at the end of their program and might have an opportunity to publish their findings.

Suitable for: This project is open to applications from students with a background in psychology and social sciences, 2-4 year students, UQ enrolled students only.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Shamsi Shekari and Dr Sally Staton

Further Information: I am happy to be contacted by students prior to submitting an application via email or phone. Email: s.shekarisoleimanloo@uq.edu.au   T: 07 3346 8209

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

Project duration:  4 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. Childcare services are potential sites for intervention prior to school entry. 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: The winter scholar will:

  • receive training in fieldwork and data collection with young children (aged 3-5 years)
  • support the research team in conducting observations in childcare services
  • work with the researchers to manage project data and conduct analyses using qualitative and quantitative methods

Suitable for: A psychology, education, social science, dietetics, or public health scholar with an interest in research into children’s health and behaviours, disadvantaged communities, and/or early childhood education.  It is a requirement that the scholar holds a current Positive Notice Blue Card.

Primary Supervisor:  Dr Sally Staton

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Sally Staton at s.staton@uq.edu.au to discuss their application.

How growth mind-set can bridge the gap in academic achievement among highly disadvantaged students: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Project duration: 4 weeks

Description: Growth mind-set, a belief about intellectual abilities are malleable (Dweck & Leggett, 1988), can matter even more than cognitive factors and other non-cognitive skills for student’s academic performance. Existing studies have reported growth mindset, together with other non-cognitive skills, offers promising levers for raising the achievement of underprivileged children and, ultimately, closing achievement gaps based on race and income (Dweck, et al., 2014). Other researchers have also indicated growth mindset is a pathway to close the achievement gap and increase the achievement of African American students in comparison with non-African American students (Dixson, et al., 2017). Previous studies, however, have reported inconsistent results across studies with some studies found no associations between growth mindset and academic achievement (Dixson, Roberson, & Worrell, 2017). Although several studies have reviewed the impact of growth mindset on student’s academic achievement (Costa & Faria, 2018; Gorey, 2001; Huang, 2012), no study to date has attempted to systematically collage and synthesise the evidence of growth mindset on highly disadvantaged students’ academic achievements. This work is pivotal synthesis, as it is a fist kind of study addressing the gap in current systematic review work.

By collecting and evaluating relevant works published across eight databases (ERIC, Education Database, PsycINFO, Social Science Database, SCOPUS, Dissertation Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, and Web of Science), this study aims to:

  1. systematically review and examine the relationship between growth mind-sets and academic achievements among disadvantaged school-aged students.
  2. explore the mechanism influencing relationship between growth mind-sets and academic achievements.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: A guidance, hand on training and feedback from a supervisor will help a winter scholar to understand the principles and process of systematic review and meta- analysis. Since then, he/she is able to do the work as well as prepare a manuscript based upon the results of systematic review and meta-analysis for a peer reviewed journal.

Specifically, a scholar will work closely with the team to do following research activities but are not limited to:

  • Review search strategy and inclusion and exclusion criteria.
  • Use EndNote to update and manage published works in eight existing databases over the last 10 years.
  • Review the title, keywords, and abstracts to select eligible articles for the full text assessment.
  • Apply STROBE criteria to extract standardised dataset from each report and assess report quality.
  • Employ appropriate statistical technique to conduct meta-analysis.
  • Summarise and/or synthesise findings
  • Prepare manuscript for publication.

Suitable for: This project is open to applications from students with a background in education, psychology, and sociology, 2-4 year students, UQ enrolled students only.

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Nam Tran and Professor Mark Western

Further Information: Students can contact Dr. Nam Tran, at n.tranthanh@uq.edu.au or Tel: +61 7 344 31041 to discuss their application.

Population ageing and family dynamics in Australia

Project duration: 4 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 Professor 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.