Exploring the transition: Coursework to research-based study in the geography honours year

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Journal Article
Geographical Research, 2006, 44 (1), pp. 52 - 62
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The transition from coursework study to independent research is a component of many geography Honours programs in Australian tertiary institutions. Despite being canvassed at the 2003 annual meeting of the Australian Heads of Geography Units, it is a topic that has, to date, received relatively little academic attention. This paper developed from a review of the Geography Honours program at the University of Sydney, conducted by the authors in early 2004. The paper aims to help address the perceived deficiency of research into Honours study. Three topics, related to the Honours year transition, are discussed. These are: the rationale for the Honours year transition from undergraduate coursework to research-focussed study; the composition and rationale behind coursework programs for geography Honours students, and student-supervisor relations and their impact on independent Honours research. In the process of examining these issues this paper offers suggestions as to how tertiary geography schools can look to develop their Honours year programs. These recommendations are made with the understanding that all tertiary Honours programs are unique and that issues such as staffing levels and departmental structure will influence what suggestions are appropriate for individual institutions. It is hoped that this paper will encourage more discussion about the nature of the Honours year. It is through such communication that the value of the Honours year in student development can be enhanced. © 2006 Institute of Australian Geographers.
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