Summer Scholars Projects

There are a number of summer research scholarships projects available.

Apply for your Summer Research Scholarships quoting the scholarship code

School of English, Film, Theatre, Media and Communication, and Art History

The Auden variations

2023 marks fifty years since the death of the great poet W. H. Auden, and 2022 brings to completion the decades-long project of publishing his Complete Works. The final volumes of this edition, collecting his poems in all their development, revisions, amendments and growth across the decades, offers readers without easy access to Auden's archives an unparalleled opportunity to consider the poet's work as a dynamic whole. Discover the challenges and pleasures of working with a critical scholarly edition of a poet's work as you track the development of Auden's poetics.

Supervisor: Dr Dougal McNeill

Scholarship code: 314

Literary activism in Oceania

This project investigates how authors have expressed literary activism in Oceania since the turn of the millennium. If the Scholar wants to focus on one particular country from Oceania, then this will be encouraged. The Scholar will identify 10 works of literary activism. They will then produce short bibliographic entries for each of these works (150 words each), including justifications for why the Scholar thinks they are literary activist works. The scholar will extend one of these entries by writing a 2,000-word report/ article on one of these works, critically analysing the activist strategies of that work. The Scholar will be guided to write a report of publishable quality. The project could be extended to be a MA or MC thesis on literary activism in Oceania.

Supervisor: Dr Bonnie Etherington

Scholarship code: 315

Exhaling for 425 years: Environmental art histories of a Totara cross-section

In the corridors of THW-VUW sits a Totara cross-section, bought to the University by Harry Borrer Kirk in 1906. It is unusual because we have not only the date the Totara was cut down, but the location. You will develop a timeline of Aotearoa that highlights environmental art histories as read alongside this Taonga. You will learn about how a timeline of a tree can be art history. You will be introduced to new ways to incorporate knowledge from the environmental humanities into contemporary art historical practices. Working in collaboration with Associate Professor Susan Ballard you will develop, and produce, a timeline at the scale of the lifespan of this Totara cross-section. This is a unique opportunity to work closely with a significant Taonga and collections held by VUW, and present new considerations of it in contemporary environmental and art historical contexts. Familiarity of contemporary environmental art history is required, and a basic knowledge of Te Reo Māori is desired.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Su Ballard

Scholarship code: 316

Digital Dickens Notes Project—Exploring serial form

The Digital Dickens Notes Project (DDNP) provides an online platform that allows scholars and students to explore the Working Notes that Charles Dickens kept for his novels. Dickens wrote and published all his novels in weekly or monthly instalments, and he used these notes to plan and record details of individual instalments as well as longer-term developments as his composition of a novel progressed. The DDNP provides detailed transcriptions of these fascinating records of his compositional process and offers scholarly annotations and essays that explore their significance for the completed novels and Dickens's writing process more broadly. You will join the DDNP's international team of collaborators and work with the project supervisor to develop scholarly content for the online platform--such as an interactive timeline of Dickens's life and career or annotations of a novel such as Hard Times. The ideal candidate will have proficiency in some of the following: Adobe Photoshop, Javascript, HTML, CSS, and/or Markdown.

Supervisor: Dr Adam Grener

Scholarship code: 317

Fantasy short film production

The project will involve the production of a 6-minute fantasy short film about Greek mythology. The film will be realised through a combination of live-action cinematography and CGI. More specifically the CG sets will be designed and rendered through Unreal Engine 5 (UE5). UE5 is a computer graphics 3D creation tool for photoreal visuals and immersive experiences. This project will require 2 students working part-time (students will work 200 hours over the summer and each scholarship will be worth $4000). The ideal candidates will have basic video production and postproduction skills as well as basic experience in compositing and 3D CG creation tools such as Unreal Engine.

Supervisor: Dr Alfio Leotta

Scholarship code: 318

The discourse of terror: Carceralism, border politics, and security in Aotearoa/New Zealand

‘Terrorism’ is a contested term hindered by ideological baggage and an excess of meaning. By declaring an individual or group as a terrorist, a range of practices, procedures, and modes of intervention against them become possible and preferable to nation-states. Yet, common understandings of terrorists and terrorism are largely constructed by the media. This project investigates media and state discourses of terrorism in Aotearoa New Zealand. Using the 2021 Lynn Mall terror attack as a case study, it examines the national security apparatus as it was constructed in national news media and deployed by state agencies to produce the perpetrator as two kinds of the excludable subject: refugee and terrorist. In doing so, it sheds light on the mutually reinforcing yet contradictory discourses of carceralism and border politics that inform contemporary security practices.

Supervisor: Dr Lewis Rarm

Scholarship code: 319

Help-seeking and family harm: Conversation analysis of calls to police

Domestic violence or family harm is a pernicious problem that is widespread but under-reported. Research has identified factors that inhibit or facilitate help-seeking. For example, one recurrently identified barrier is glossed as ‘social stigma’ which includes fear of blame or retribution (Lelaurain et al., 2017). However, most of this work uses self-report data and pre-conceived common-sense notions about people’s reasons for not seeking help for violence. This project investigates help-seeking as it naturally occurs in a sample of 200 calls to New Zealand police classified as family harm. Using conversation analysis, the project will investigate barriers to help-seeking as they manifest in the moment's people are seeking help. Understanding the communicative challenges of help-seeking is essential to develop evidence-based training and contribute to better delivery of social support.

Supervisor: Dr Emma Tennent

Scholarship code: 320

Intimate sound for large-scale outdoor performance

The project explores options for live mixing and streaming of aural elements for a large scale outdoor production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest that I will be directing for Wellington Summer Shakespeare. Is it possible to achieve a level of cinematic intimacy and control through the use of microphones, mixing, and broadcast for an audience experiencing the collective outdoor event?

Supervisor: Dr Megan Evans

Scholarship code: 321

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations

Epistemologies of the language-dialect dichotomy

This project examines the politics of the language-dialect dichotomy by looking at how participants justify their claims in what might be called “dialect arguments,” that is, debates concerning the status of a given variety as either a full-fledged “language” or a mere “dialect.” The summer scholar and the supervisor will jointly select a Slavic dialect case study (e.g. Serbian-Croatian, Russian-Ukrainian, Bulgarian-Macedonian), gather sample texts in which the controversial variety is specified as either a “language” or a “dialect,” and compare the various justifications offered in support of the various classifications. Some background in Slavic and/or linguistics may be helpful, but the successful candidate will above all have a background in intellectual history and/or the politics of nationalism

Supervisor: Associate Professor Alexander Maxwell

Scholarship code: 300

War survivors: A life sentence or fortunate fate?

Was the plight of wounded and chronically ill soldiers in the mid-19thC a life sentence of debility and poverty, or did the post-Crimea regime of improved attention to the health of soldiers act as a stroke of fortune for men of largely labouring class origins? Explore archives of the War Office, and related materials, to analyse the chances of survival from wounds and chronic sickness in colonial conflict. Take part in historical research with a contemporary currency.

Supervisor: Professor Charlotte Macdonald

Scholarship code: 301

School of Languages and Cultures

The Rage of Achilles: The Influence of Homer's Iliad in novels about the Trojan War

Do you like reading science fiction, fantasy, YA fiction, and retellings of myth? Are you familiar with the ancient Greek mythical saga of the Trojan War? Do you read quickly? Can you work independently with an eye for detail? If so, this may be the project for you: a survey of modern novels (written in English) on Trojan War subjects; the aim is to quantify and qualify the influence of Homer's Iliad in these novels and produce a clear visual representation of that influence. Among other texts, you will read Natalie Haynes's A Thousand Ships, Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and more. No knowledge of Greek or Latin is required. A background in Classics (especially familiarity with Homer's Iliad) and/or English is preferable, but not required. Experience with design or digital humanities would be icing on the cake.

Supervisor: Dr Simon Perris

Scholarship code: 322

Culture and obligation

Do you consider yourself an empathetic and patient human? How do you relate and respond to obligation? Are you interested in exploring how linguistic and cultural differences translate into different experiences and expectations? Are you keen to step out of your comfort zone and step into an interpersonal space poised between immediacy and intimacy where patience is explored, embraced, and enacted as behavioural key to unlock how we negotiate, communicate, and execute obligations?

If you recognize yourself in this description you are the ideal summer scholar for my project.

Supervisor: Reader Marco Sonzogni

Scholarship code: 323

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

The evolution of basic colour terms within the Austronesian language family

All languages have basic colour terms - the fundamental categories of colour that are irreducible. The number of basic colour terms ranges from two to twelve, and languages have been shown to differ in the number of basic colour terms available in their system (Berlin & Kay 1969; Saunders 2000). This project will be the first attempt to look at the development and change of basic colour terms within the Austronesian language families. Drawing on data available from two online databases - the Austronesian Comparative Dictionary (ACD) and Polynesian Lexicon Project Online (POLLEX), the summer scholar will be comparing and analysing the distribution of different cognate sets of colour terms within Austronesian and explore the distribution and decay of different colour terms in the language family.

Three special foci will be placed on (i) the similarities and differences of colour systems in different Austronesian languages of Polynesia, (ii) the expansion of basic colour terms throughout Austronesian expansion, and (iii)  the decay and replacement of certain colour terms and the implications of such changes.

The summer scholar will learn to examine raw linguistic data independently, co-write journal articles and conference papers with the PI, and develop critical thinking and analytical skills throughout this process.

Supervisor: Dr Victoria Chen

Scholarship code: 302

Learning to Talk and Play: Language socialisation in early childhood education

This project will examine how children at Māori and Samoan early childhood education centres learn how to talk and how to play to match social expectations of their peers and caregivers. The summer scholar for this project will learn to conduct discourse analysis to dig deeply into how language is used and the impact it has on socialisation. This project will result in a co-authored paper submitted for publication.

Supervisor: Dr Corinne Seals

Scholarship code: 303

Isn't it ironic?

You might have heard that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. Quotes such as this belie the complex relationship between pragmatics and semantics that underlies the motivation for every ironic quip and sarcastic jab you might hear. It may come as a surprise, but a number of researchers have focused their careers on exploring sarcasm and other forms of verbal irony. This project is a chance for you to contribute to that area.

In this project, you will first explore core research defining and exploring the semantic and pragmatic components of verbal irony. You will then review the existing research explaining how hearers understand verbal irony as a means to inform the next step: designing a study to test the production of verbal irony. You will gather data from people in New Zealand as a means to answer a set of original research questions which we can refine and test as the project proceeds. You will develop skills crucial research skills related to experimental design, data collection, and data analysis. Students with an eye towards employing a psycholinguistic or computational approach are particularly welcome to apply.

Supervisor: Dr Stephen Skalicky

Scholarship code: 304

The evolution of a leader: A longitudinal case study of workplace discourse

Most research projects offer isolated snapshots of participants’ lives. Just occasionally we get to follow people over longer stretches of time. For this project, you will work with naturally occurring workplace talk involving the same leader over a 25-year period.

Your analysis will create a longitudinal case study of “Greg” who recorded his everyday workplace interactions for us in 1996, 2005, and 2021. Over that time he has progressed from manager to senior leader and now CEO. Greg identifies as Māori and recognises the varying impact this has on his interactions with his teammates. This does not mean that he explicitly enacts Māori values when he leads in every context.  In some contexts, as Winiata notes, he may just be “a leader who happens to be Māori” (2017, p. vii). By analysing his workplace talk you have a chance to explore the impact of his various identities on his talk (leader, teammate, Māori male), and importantly the significance of time, both in his data and in the field more widely.

You will be researching alongside the Language in the Workplace project team and the discourse analysis community within the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies. Although experience in discourse analysis is preferred, there will be training in methods of data collection, transcription, and analytic approaches to support your project. The ideal candidate will have a background in (socio)linguistics and favour collaborative approaches. A good understanding of tikanga and te Ao Māori is a bonus.

Near the end of the project, there will be an opportunity to present your ideas at a practical discourse analysis workshop and to check your analysis with other experts.

Supervisor: Professor Meredith Marra

Scholarship code: 305

New Zealand School of Music—Te Kōkī

Cataloguing and analysing intersections of jazz, hip-hop, and other Afrodiasporic musical forms in popular music of Aotearoa

In this project, the student will work under the supervision of Dave Wilson to build a catalogue of Aotearoa popular music that intersects with jazz and other Afrodiasporic forms of music. The student will also conduct archival research, undertake musicological analysis, and create an annotated bibliography that addresses the musical (self-)representation of subjugated minorities in Aotearoa via musical styles of the African diaspora. The ideal candidate will have strong research skills and experience with musicological analysis

Supervisor: Dr Dave Wilson

Scholarship code: 324

School of Social and Cultural Studies

Solitary confinement: Where do we currently stand in Aotearoa/New Zealand

The use of solitary confinement, or the isolation of a person in a cell for 22-24 hours per day, has come under considerable international and domestic criticism. We are looking for a critically minded emerging scholar who can help examine the use and effects of solitary confinement in New Zealand prisons. It will require the researcher to produce a detailed annotated bibliography about solitary confinement, its effects on imprisoned people, and the extent of its usage in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Supervisor: Ti Lamusse

Scholarship code: 306

Planetary Justice and Predator Free New Zealand 2050: Enlightened environmentalism or selective theriocide?

Predator-free New Zealand 2050 is the ambitious project to eliminate five introduced mammal species from Aotearoa New Zealand by 2050. Although it has been praised by some as a textbook case of ‘enlightened environmentalism’ because it involves the selective large-scale killing of non-human animals (what Beirne calls ‘theriocide’) it raises ethical issues that some consider have not been fully explored. The primary aim of this Summer Scholar Project is to utilise the emerging concept of ‘Planetary Justice’ to critically evaluate the literature on Predator-free New Zealand 2050.

Specific tasks will include the following:

  • The development of an approach to the systematic review of the relevant literature drawing from PRISMA guidelines for systematic reviews;
  • The development of a coding framework for reviewing the articles based on a Planetary justice framework;
  • Reading and coding of relevant literature identified in the literature search; and
  • Contributing to the writing of an article based on the research

This research project promises to contribute to both a more detailed analysis of the ethical ramifications of the predator-free 2050 project while highlighting some of the difficult trade-offs that emerge within the planetary justice approach. The project would ideally suit a student with a background in psychology, the social sciences (especially green criminology), and/or humanities and an interest in the topic.

Supervisor: Dr Russil Durrant

Scholarship code: 307

Understanding social harm: Annotated bibliography project

Are you interested in social justice and understanding the range of harms that can occur in society? Do you have an interest in the concept of social harm and its value within the discipline of criminology? This project involves producing an annotated bibliography on social harm, and related case study topics.

The successful candidate will have an excellent academic record (A range grades strongly preferred), strong writing and analytical skills, enthusiasm for social justice, and an interest in the concept of social harm and how it can be applied. They will also be very well organised, proactive, and able to work to deadlines.

Supervisor: Dr Lynzi Armstrong

Scholarship code: 308

Providing redress and accountability for the State’s abuse of children?

Critical scholars have long explored how state agencies can seek to deny, ignore and even normalise state violence and abuse. In these circumstances, victims’ needs for repair or justice can be undermined. This project seeks to explore the concerns of redress and accountability in relation to how NZ’s state agencies communicate and engage with the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care.

The summer scholar will critically evaluate the nature of official talk and actions across a range of Commission submissions and hearing transcripts. Working alongside the supervisor, they will co-develop a written piece on how official responses develop or downplay redress and accountability. This work will also consider the position of Te Tiriti and mātauranga Māori in official responses. The successful applicant will have great critical analysis skills, an ability to write well, and a strong commitment to justice.

Supervisor: Professor Elizabeth Stanley

Scholarship code: 309

NZ media framing of the March 15 Terror Attack

Are you interested in understanding the NZ media's framing of terrorism, identity and belonging? Do you want to develop your research skills? This project is an exploration of the New Zealand media coverage of the March 15 Terror Attack and its aftermath. The aim is to collect media articles as data, which will form the basis of findings on discourses of identity, belonging and terror articulated in the Media. The Summer Scholar should have an interest in and understanding of this topic through previous study. The successful applicant will have qualitative research skills, the ability to navigate news websites and digital archives, as well excellent analysis and writing skills. The successful candidate will develop their qualitative research skills as well as expertise about the NZ terrorism context.

Supervisor: Dr Sara Salman

Scholarship code: 310

Breaking up with Blackboard: A survey of Learning Management Systems in Aotearoa New Zealand

What is the landscape of Learning Management Software in Aotearoa New Zealand? This project involves undertaking a search for scholarly and other material to produce a database and annotated bibliography on Learning Management Software. This project will contribute to research on the changing social and technological infrastructures of education. The summer scholars will be invited to develop their work into a co-authored journal article for possible publication.

Skills required:

  • Research skills for searching electronic databases, government and education institutions’ websites, and corporate data.
  • Critical reading and evaluation
  • Ability to identify key themes emerging from the literature and data
  • Clear and concise writing
  • Competence with bibliography management software, Excel, or similar.

Supervisor: Dr Grant Otsuki and Dr Lorena Gibson

Scholarship code: 311

The detainee experience of police custody

Police legitimacy and the related concept of procedural justice continue to be a key focal point for police scholars.  However, much of the extant research has focused on immediately visible 'street policing'. An equally important, but much under-explored aspect of police legitimacy involves the non-visible aspects of policing and particularly perceptions of police legitimacy among those detained in police custody. This project is the first to examine the lived experience of being detained in police custody. It is focused in particular on the experience of police custody among Māori, Pasifika, and Transgendered communities and their perceptions of legitimacy and justice

Supervisor: Dr Trevor Bradley

Scholarship code: 312

A History of St Peter's, 1900-1950

St Peter’s Anglican Church on Willis St is one of Wellington's oldest institutions. In the first half of the twentieth century, the urban landscape in which it is located changed dramatically. The emergence of modern New Zealand unfolded during decades that were marked by war, economic fluctuation, technological change, industrial action, and social campaigning over a range of substantive issues. All these factors contributed to the changing contours of religion and society. This project captures sources relevant to the story of St Peter's during these years as part of a larger project on the story of this historic church and community.

Supervisor: Dr Geoff Troughton

Scholarship code: 313

Te Kawa a Māui

Tikanga and Local Government

How is tikanga Māori understood by local governments throughout Aotearoa? This research will examine the use of tikanga Māori across 78 local governments in Aotearoa New Zealand. There are ongoing debates about relationships between Māori and local governments, part of which stems from a lack of consideration and understanding of tikanga Māori. Māori expertise is often required (as per legislation such as the Resource Management Act 1991, and the Local Government Act 2002), yet Māori are not always consulted appropriately or paid for their expertise pertaining to matauranga Māori. The summer scholar will analyse plans, policies, and statements from all 78 local governments throughout Aotearoa and create a detailed stocktake of the current references and understandings of tikanga Māori. This is vital information needed to inform how better relationships, representation, and structural changes might take place at the local government level.

Supervisor: Dr Annie Te One

Scholarship code: 326

Te reo o te kāinga

This research aims to explore the ways in which Māori parents are supported to use te reo Māori in the home. The research would include interviews with Māori who are either Māori speaking, or learning te reo Māori, and have children enrolled in Māori medium education (kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa/kura-ā-iwi). This project would also focus on how whānau Māori are finding having their children in Māori medium education and the support that they need in order to fully participate in their child's education. The student would be involved with literature reviews, potentially sitting alongside me in interviews, transcribing interviews, and potentially writing a short report to explore some of the findings.

Supervisor: Dr Awanui Te Huia

Scholarship code: 327

Precedents for pest control in te Ao Māori

Is there a precedent in te ao Māori for selection based on sex? If it really is impossible to eradicate mammalian predators using traditional methods, could single-sex selection techniques provide new solutions? In this project, the student will help review the extent to which exotic pest species (rats and/or wasps) are a problem for taonga, tangata whenua and te ao Māori. The student will also explore traditional mātauranga to help identify novel approaches to a "predator-free" 2050

Supervisor: Associate Professor Ocean Mercier

Scholarship code: 328

Wai-te-ata Press

Tinui and Castlepoint Community Trust

Tinui Village, 48km east of Masterton, was the first place in the world to hold an ANZAC ceremony. Building on this success, the Tinui, and Castlepoint Community Trust has a vision to transform the village into a compelling destination for locals and tourists with refurbished buildings, heritage trails, interactive exhibitions, and artists-in-residence. Join us to kickstart this vision by researching the local history, photographing and cataloguing artifacts from around the district, and collaborating with the Wairarapa Archive to showcase these objects on their Recollect web platform.

This project is in conjunction with Tinui and Castlepoint Community Trust

Supervisors: Reader Dr Sydney Shep and Patrizia Vieno, Tinui Village Rejuvenation Project Chair

Scholarship code: 325

Faculty of Education

Reducing procrastination in learning settings

Procrastination is a key challenge that students face when learning. This research project will advance understanding of the key factors that contribute to procrastination and will develop a set of strategies that will help reduce student procrastination. Work for this research project involves conducting a review of the current literature focusing on procrastination in learning settings and synthesizing its major findings. Subsequently, the work will involve developing a set of strategies that help reduce procrastination of secondary-school students. A key outcome of this research project is to write and submit for publication an article that presents these strategies and explains how they could be effectively used in real-world learning and teaching settings.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Flaviu Hodis

Scholarship code: 400

What makes a goal a high priority? Parent, professional and autistic adult perceptions of learning goals for young autistic children

We do not know why certain early learning goals for autistic children are seen as a high priority by the autistic and autism communities. For this project, a student will analyse existing written qualitative responses from a total of 326 parents, professionals, and autistic adults living in Australasia. Specifically, thematic analysis will be used to understand the reasons why each group of participants perceived certain goals to be a high priority and to identify any similarities or differences in these reasons across groups. An understanding of the reasons why goals are a high priority will help professionals and whānau when selecting goals during the provision of support to young autistic children.

Supervisors: Dr Hannah Waddington

Scholarship code: 401

How kind is too kind? Exploring experiences of giving and receiving support in higher education.

Changes in course delivery since 2020 have meant that students may have experienced more flexibility around deadlines and participation than in previous years. In this project, we will be exploring the effects of this flexibility on students’ learning experiences and on professional and teaching staff. We invite applications from scholars interested in both qualitative and quantitative data gathering and analysis who would be keen to explore the idea of kindness in higher education. The project will focus on students and staff from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences programmes. Scholars will be involved in interviewing university staff and contract staff and collecting survey data from students as well as analysing and writing up findings. Experience with qualitative data analysis, and basic descriptive statistics would be preferable. The project will begin in November with data collection, with analysis and writing concluding in mid-February. There will be an opportunity to participate in preparing materials for staff and writing up the project for publication.

Supervisors: Dr Sandi McCutcheon and Dr Amanda Wood

Scholarship code: 402

How to use lecture video capture technology

The use of lecture video capture technology has been available for a number of years and became standard practice during the Covid-19 pandemic.  The summer scholar will carry out a small research project to provide insight into the metacognitive practices of successful students from across faculties as they use video capture technology for learning. The project will involve summarising literature, interviewing students, analysing data, and writing a report which could be published, presented, and shared in Higher Education. The report will focus on two areas: metacognitive strategies that are effective from a student perspective and what lecturers can do to enhance the usefulness of the videos.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Louise Starkey

Scholarship code: 403