2015 research projects for postgraduate students

The following is a list of possible projects available for Bachelor of Health Science (Honours) and Master of Health Science in Psychology students. Other topic areas may be considered.

For further information, please contact:
Sonja Goedeke
Postgraduate Programme Leader

1.    Experiences of cross border reproductive care: A qualitative study
Cross border reproductive care (CBRC) refers to a growing phenomenon where patients dealing with infertility cross international borders in order to obtain reproductive treatment outside their home country (Shenfield et al., 2011). For example, patients may seek overseas egg or sperm donors, surrogates, or treatment unavailable or prohibited in their home country (e.g. pre-implantation genetic diagnosis for ‘gender balancing’ purposes). This qualitative study will seek to explore the experiences of those who have undertaken CBRC.

2.    Understandings of surrogacy: A discourse analysis of guidelines and policy, media and online forums
Surrogacy in New Zealand is regulated under the HART Act and must follow guidelines set by ACART (Advisory Committee Assisted Reproductive Technologies). There has been much recent debate in the media following the case of Baby Gammy in Western Australia. Debates in surrogacy centre around issues such as parenting assessments for intended parents, exploitation of surrogates, and commercialisation. In this study, guidelines and policy documents as well as online information and forums will be analysed to identify some of the main discourses surrounding this practice.

3.    Attitudes towards rights and responsibilities in Assisted Reproductive Technologies –with secondary supervisor Dr Daniel Shepherd
Since the birth of Louise Brown in 1978, there has been a proliferation of assisted reproductive technologies that seek to offer those struggling with infertility further options to have children. The field of ART is however, fraught with ethical and psychosocial issues and dilemmas. This quantitative study will involve the design, administration and analysis of a questionnaire investigating public attitudes towards a range of contentious areas in ART, including: commercialisation of donor sperm/eggs/surrogacy, open identity versus anonymous donation, gender balancing, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, and social egg freezing, among others.

4.    Perceptions of embryos
IVF seeks to create embryos that may be transferred to the woman in an attempt to achieve pregnancy. However those embryos that aren’t transferred ‘fresh’ may be frozen for subsequent use. When an individual or couple has completed his or her family or no longer wishes to use the embryos a dilemma may arise as these embryos are then ‘surplus’, and decisions must be made as to their fate (most jurisdictions have storage limits). In New Zealand, under the HAFRT Act of 2004, a ten year storage limit applies. In this study public attitudes towards embryos and their appropriate use will be explored.

5.    Constructions of marriage
Constructions of marriage have changed over the centuries and more recently also in the New Zealand context. In this project, understandings of marriage – its functions, protocols and eligibility for marriage, will be explored via focus group discussions.

6.    Adjustment to parenting subsequent to infertility and IVF/ART
Infertility and the use of IVF or other assisted reproductive technologies have been described as stressful experiences, the impact of which may persist even after having children. It is possible therefore, that these experiences may have an effect on adjustment to parenting (Cox et al., 2006; Fisher et al., 2005; Golombok et al., 2001; Hjelmstedt et al., 2003). In this qualitative study, women who have experienced infertility and have subsequently gone on to have children will be interviewed to explore their experiences of parenting after infertility.

7.     Embryo donation or embryo adoption? A discourse analysis of embryo donation blogs and forums
Embryo donation (ED) is the donation by a couple who have surplus embryos following IVF to other infertile individual/s. While ED may offer hope to those struggling with infertility, and may constitute a solution for those with ‘surplus’ embryos in storage, ED is also a controversial practice, portrayed alternatively as a cost effective, viable option or a potentially dangerous social experiment. There is also much debate as to whether ED constitutes a practice aligned with egg/sperm and organ donation, or if it is more akin to adoption practice. In this study, online blogs and forums will be analysed to explore understandings (constructions) of ED.

8.     Prevention! Learning from discipline of psychologists to prevent future misconduct
Registered psychologists who engage in misconduct may be disciplined by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal. Inter-disciplinary research on the conditions and triggers of misconduct may be used to teach, and thereby avert, such conduct in the future. This involves analysing and comparing decisions of the HPDT, in conjunction with integration of international scholarship on professional discipline. Predictably, many cases involve inappropriate relationships and boundary issues. The resulting research may aid those in practice.

9.     Best practice for our ageing population
New Zealand’s population is growing and people are living longer. How can the profession anticipate the issues that older people face and prepare for best practice? This dissertation will draw upon domestic and international scholarship to understand the common, and unique, psychological issues that older people encounter. Of particular note, many New Zealanders are immigrant, refugees and migrants, facing particular challenges as they age on “foreign soil”. How should the future New Zealand prepare for optimum psychological services for older people?

10.    Living without Violence programme for men: Study the processes and outcomes of the programme
Project co-supervisors Dr Jackie Feather and Dr Phil Carter have been collecting quotes from men who finish and what they say about the programme. Most relate to hearing others' stories, being heard, really looking at their lives, being caring, being supported, waking up and so on. We need solid research to perceive these things and have them valued so that they don't disappear, the programme descends into compliance and a handful of techniques. There is a lot going on that is of enormous value.

11.    Living without Violence programme for men: The impact of Maori members in mixed groups
The impact is huge. When we lost Maori, the quality of caring, emotional intelligence, conscience, and humour went down. Then the courts started referring again. This is a good news story about Maori. That even when traumatised, addicted, harassed, there is this cluster of deep abilities honed in generations of adversity, that shines and contributes hugely to groups and therefore society.

12.    AUT is committed to sustainability
This research project is a qualitative study of the effects of environmental change caused by human activity on mental health and wellbeing - could be 2-3 studies focused on different age groups.

13.    Industry Advertisements – psychological manipulation of advertising - impact on consumers
Method: Media content analysis + focus groups

14.    Effective education / communication – what does psychology have to offer to increase impact of problem gambling public health messages
Suggested method: Literature review + media content analysis.

15.    Media reporting of gambling and problem gambling – how these are framed? Impact on consumer perceptions?
Suggested method: Media content analysis + focus groups.

16.     Any other research related to problem gambling/gambling addictions (including gambling behaviours, problem gambling treatment/counselling).

17.    Meta-analysis of casual sex research (qualitative and quantitative).

18.    Administering a survey on sex and relationships in NZ (quantitative).

19.    Programme evaluation of Youth Empowerment Aoteraoa: a New Zealand-based positive youth development programme (qualitative).

20.    Men’s use of Tinder  (qualitative).



Last updated: 20-Oct-2015 3.11pm

The information on this page was correct at time of publication. For a comprehensive overview of AUT qualifications, please refer to the Academic Calendar.