Postgraduate research topics

If you’re unsure what your research topic could be, find out about the research our academics are working on that you could help with.

You can do postgraduate research at the Wellington School of Business and Government towards an Honours, Master of Commerce, and PhD degree. As part of these degree pathways you are embedded in the research culture at the faculty, bring in your personal experience and interests, and choose to work on something that really matters to you.

If you’re still unsure about what research topic you could work on, get inspired by some of the research Wellington School of Business and Government academics are already working on as listed below. We encourage you to contact the listed academics directly or the academic programme leader to learn more and discuss your individual circumstances.

If you already have your own research topic in mind, we want to hear about it! Contact us so we can make sure you get all the support you need.

If you are interested discussing the research you can pursue as a PhD candidate, please contact the relevant academic area.

How can an organisation protect its reputation during a crisis?

During a crisis, organisations need to take decisive action to protect their reputations. What can they do to minimise the damage? A former Master of Commerce student examined this issue and found that when a company donates employee time during an earthquake, its reputation is enhanced more when compared with donations given by a company not adversely impacted by an earthquake. This ‘helping when hurting’ phenomena provides insights to other organisations facing different types of crises as well. There are many interesting areas to explore related to protecting a reputation during a crisis, and effectively managing crises is an area of great interest around the world.

Contact: Associate Professor Dan Laufer

How does digital work shape our daily lives and our society—and vice versa?

COVID-19 and the related lockdown has shown the importance digital work plays in our daily lives. During the lockdown, many office workers began to make sense of a new range of benefits, but also challenges, of digital work tools. Many questions are still open, such as:

  • What rules and policies do we need for remote work?
  • How can we support employees in maintaining their wellbeing and productivity?
  • How will expectations towards the professionality of work from home change?

Contact: Professor Alex Richter

Crisis is in the eyes of the beholder: How cultural backgrounds influence perceptions of crises and uncertainty

In Mandarin language, the term crisis (wéi jī) is comprised of two characters: danger (危) and opportunity (机). This topic will explore how national culture, generational values, and personal culture orientations influence our perceptions of crises and our attitudes to uncertainty. This topic combines international business with social psychology and is especially relevant in the current COVID-19 landscape.

Contact: Dr Matt Raškovic

How do algorithms influence our daily lives?

Google and co. are our regular assistants when we search for the best restaurant or when we gather information as part of our job. But do the algorithms inside these systems hide content from us? What do we see that others might not and vice versa? How does that impact our personal and professional development? Investigate these and other questions on the impact of algorithmic biases and filter bubbles.

Contact: Associate Professor Markus Luczak-Roesch

Bouncing back stronger: The socio-cultural determinants of social resilience in New Zealand

Unlike personal and organisational resilience, the concept of social resilience is less understood and has been most often confined to studies of disaster management. New Zealand is believed to be one of the most socially resilient societies in the world, which has undoubtedly helped it to effectively address the COVID-19 pandemic and receive widespread international recognition for it. This topic will explore the dimensions and factors of social resilience in New Zealand.

Contact: Dr Matt Raškovic

From adjusting to thriving: Determinants of well-being of highly skilled migrant employees in New Zealand

The existing international HRM literature assumes a rather narrow perspective on expatriate adjustment which has remained unchanged since the 1990s. This topic applies a holistic concept of well-being to expatriate adjustment and ask which determinants and antecedents of expatriate well-being are most important in a New Zealand context, marked by high levels of high-skilled migrant employee turnover.

Contact: Dr Matt Raškovic

How can we understand global health emergencies by combining genomics and case metadata?

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has shown in unprecedented ways how scientists try to rapidly understand the characteristics of a new disease in order to support the design and application of effective countermeasures. Phylogenetic analysis is a standard tool for this but only allows us to look at the genomic properties of a pathogen. We work on methods that combine genomic data and case metadata (e.g. severity of illness, travel history of a patient) using complex network approaches. Novel questions that arise in this context range from very applied to more mathematical ones. For example: How do we best visualise large complex networks for decision and policy makers who work in crisis response? Is there a measurement that may help decide whether a disease outbreak is under control in a country?

Contact: Associate Professor Markus Luczak-Roesch

How can we formally understand change?

Change happens everywhere and all the time—in biological systems, in social systems, in the economy, and even in basic everyday situations. Sometimes we can anticipate or predict change because we understand the likelihood of the underlying events happening. But there are events that are rare and have potentially never happened at the same time as other events. These events change the overall system significantly and persistently. This property of most so-called complex systems is also known as emergence. We look at questions like: What are the unifying mathematical properties of emergence? Does emergence happen similarly across different systems we can find in our world? Can we improve resilience and response to changes when we gain a better formal understanding of emergence?

Contact: Associate Professor Markus Luczak-Roesch

How do you manage personal information and documents about your life, family history, and cultural heritage?

Data, documents, and artefacts in our personal collections tell a story about us, our life and work, our history and identity. Join us to explore how people organise, preserve, present and share information and documents from their personal collections. Research in this area (called information behaviour, personal information management and cultural heritage preservation) can help people develop better information management skills and inform libraries, archives, museums and other information institutions that provide relevant service to the society. So far, we have studied how writers, artists, civil servants, and other significant individuals manage their personal collections. We have also explored how immigrants and their descendants manage personal multicultural heritage.

Contact: Dr Maja Krtalic

What is public sector innovation and why does it matter?

Innovation is a big buzz word in the public sector, but what does it really mean? What makes some governments more innovative than others? Is innovation always a goal to pursue or are there any unexpected and unintended consequences of it? Is there such a thing as too much innovation? Where should we draw the line?

Contact: Dr Flavia Donadelli

How does the law impact our access to pharmaceuticals?

There has been a lot of commentary stating that patent law negatively impacts our access to pharmaceuticals. But to what extent might the regulatory review system that checks the safety of human medicines inhibit such access? Examine the relationship between patent law and the regulatory regime, and their interrelated impact on the access to pharmaceuticals.

Contact: Associate Professor Jessica Lai

How do laws relating to innovation reflect a gender bias?

The feminist movement has slowly revealed that the law is built upon gendered constructs. How is it that law relating to innovation might be gendered, for example, copyright, trademark and patent law? How is it that they have come to be gendered? Investigate these questions and the deeper issue of what de-gendered laws relating to innovation might look like.

Contact: Associate Professor Jessica Lai

What do product marks and labels signal to consumers and how should that shape our law?

Producers have incentives to use marks and labels to sell their products. This is often through signalling that a product is healthy, environmentally friendly or socially ‘woke’. For example, through the use of an image of a dolphin or the word ‘organic’. Marketers and behaviour scientists are keenly aware of the signal effects of such marks and labels. Investigate whether and how the law reflects these insights. For example, examine the signals from the packaging of real-life product and their legal compliance.

Contact: Associate Professor Jessica Lai

How could the law better protect mātauranga Māori?

New Zealand protects innovation through various laws, such as patent law and copyright law. But, are these western laws suitable for protecting mātauranga Māori? Examine the diversity of Māori interests and concerns, how existing laws might be used by or against Māori, and some possible legal changes required for the Crown to fulfil its Treaty of Waitangi obligations. For example, undertake a case study of a Māori business.

Contact: Associate Professor Jessica Lai

How can tourism provide high value offerings to visitors?

Today’s visitors are looking for products and services that are individualised, authentic, interactive, and unique. Many are less attracted to cookie cutter travel—they want experiences that represent them and their values, that are unique, and that have an impact. Research on value co-creation (the creation of value through active participation and interaction) can help you understand how visitors engage with not only their experiences but also host communities and other social actors, identifying potential to design services that are personalised and unforgettable while providing benefits to destinations.

Contact: Dr Ina Reichenberger

What’s the big deal about Hobbiton?

Nearly 20 years after the release of the first Lord of the Rings movie, film-related tourism offerings in New Zealand are still going strong. For a while, Dubrovnik was at risk of losing its World Heritage status due to Games of Thrones fans invading the city by thousands per day. And the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has even expanded to Japan, not losing its global appeal since the first book was released in 1997. Research on popular culture and tourism will allow you to understand the increasing importance of popular culture for contemporary society, its relevance for and impact on the tourism industry, and contribute to a worldwide phenomenon that spans music, books, movies, tv series, comics, cosplay, and more.

Contact: Dr Ina Reichenberger

Busting myths about famous management theories

Many of the best-known theories that appear in management textbooks bear little resemblance to what those theorists actually came up with. For example, Maslow did not create that pyramid that represents his hierarchy of needs theory, Kurt Lewin's foundational three-step change management model 'unfreeze–change–refreeze' was developed by others after his death and Irving Janis was not the first to develop the concept of 'groupthink'. How did these myths come about and why do they endure? How might we teach foundational theories of management differently? Join me and let's bust another management theory myth.

Contact: Associate Professor Todd Bridgman