Extended Investigation Units 3 and 4


VCE Extended Investigation at Virtual School Victoria is an individualised research subject aimed at academically able students wanting to engage with university level research. Self-motivation and resilience are essential for successfully completing this yearlong research project. Over the duration of the study, you will have the opportunity to formulate your own research question, engage with relevant academic literature, design an appropriate methodology, collect and analyse data, and finally, report on findings.

A key focus of VCE Extended Investigation is to develop your ability to think critically. In order to complete this subject successfully, you are not expected to have an extensive knowledge of a field of study. The aim of the study is to provide you with the analytical skills and abilities to critically engage with expert knowledge in an area of your choosing.

In Unit 3, students will develop the skills needed for construction and designing of research, explore the nature and purpose of research, identify a specific research question and develop critical thinking skills.
Students use their Extended Investigation Online Journal to record the progressive refinement of their selected area of interest. Students will not be able to achieve a satisfactory result in this subject if they have not regularly contributed to their research and recorded their progress throughout the year.

In Unit 4, students will shape their research findings into a presentation format. They present their investigation to a non-specialist panel that will ask questions and challenge their choices made in the project. The student will need to be able to reflect on their research and the methods they used to reach their conclusions. They will be able to justify their methodology, that is, explain how they conducted their research and why it is that they chose to conduct the research at each particular stage.

In completing this subject, you will have an understanding of the nature of research and an understanding of the complexities involved in university level research.

Who is it for?

If you are an independent thinker who would like to develop your knowledge and understanding of an area of research then this subject is for you.
If you enjoy working independently and you are self-motivated then you will find this subject gives you the opportunity to engage in inquiry-based learning, pursue an academic interest and focus on a problem for an extended period of time. As such, it requires a degree of passion, self-motivation and self-organisation to sustain and manage their research interest.

This course aims to provide you with the skills needed for success at the tertiary level. The VCAA Study Design has been developed in consultation with various Australian universities and is intended to develop academic thinking and research skills.

What do you do?

Critical thinking: In this course you will have the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of texts. You will need to continually develop your critical thinking skills in order to differentiate between kinds of arguments and research. You will develop your ability to analyse kinds of evidence used to support a view, and distinguish a weak from a strong argument.

Research methodology: A key component of the course is to establish appropriate research methods that are relevant to the research you are undertaking. A research method defines the structure or the types of activities you will undertake to generate an answer to your research question.

Your chosen area of research: Based on the area of research you have chosen you will read extensively on the topic using a wide range of resources. You will be asked to complete a literature review, through which you will develop your understanding of the subject area and refine your research question.

Collect and analysis data: Depending on your chosen area of research and methodology, data collection and analysis will form the middle section of your research project, e.g. making observations, conducting interview, conducting questionnaires or searching databases.

Present your research and findings: Ultimately, the outcome of the VCE Extended Investigation is a written report of 4000 words and an oral presentation in defence of the research findings.

Students are required to present the findings of their Extended Investigation research to a non-specialist audience. The language of both the written report and the oral presentation used to explain the nature and significance of the investigation therefore must be accessible to an educated adult audience. This audience does not necessarily have specialist knowledge in the area of investigation that is the focus of research.

What skills do you need?

To be successful in this subject you need a degree of curiosity, passion, self-motivation, self-organisation and academic vigour is much encouraged.

What skills do you develop?

You will develop skills including:

  • the ability to independently develop and construct a rigorous research question
  • understanding and applying research methods
  • exploring a chosen area of investigation in depth
  • developing as independent, critical and reflective learners
  • developing research project management knowledge and skills
  • analysing and evaluating findings and results
  • developing your skills in written and oral presentation of research findings.



Students seeking to enrol in Extended Investigation at VSV will first need to complete and submit a Letter of Recommendation with their enrolment application.You must have access to the internet in order to access this course. All weekly work will be completed and submitted online.

There is no compulsory text for Extended Investigation, however VSV recommends purchase of the following text for supporting material and research guidance:

Writing a Successful Research Paper, Chodorow, S. (2011). Hackett Publishing Company: Indianapolis.

Things to think about

You can begin with brainstorming and refinement of your research topic and research question:

  • define the topic – whether your focus is on youth suicide, environmental degradation, secularisation, etc
  • define the nature of the research endeavour – whether your aim is to discover, explore, explain, describe, or compare
  • define the questions you are interested in – whether you are interested in what, where, how, when, why
  • do you foresee a relationship between concepts you are exploring – whether you are looking for impacts, increases, decreases, relationships, correlations, causes etc.

Please note that all research undertaken at the VSV must be considered low risk, or negligible risk, under current NHMRC guidelines.
You can familiarise yourself with the rules that govern this type of research in the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. The values, principles and themes that must inform the design, ethical review and conduct of all human research are set out in Sections 1 and 2 of this document.

Things you can do now

The State Library of Victoria is an excellent place to start for Extended Investigation research. Online collections are available through the SLV online catalogue.

When you are a registered user of a library service, you can also access online databases and journals they subscribe to.

For Victorian residents, you can access hundreds of databases for free from home by joining the State Library of Victoria.

To find out more about how to access articles online from SLV, watch this video on Finding articles.

More generally, you can begin your research with a search in Google Scholar or Google Books

Go to the VCAA website for more information about this subject.





Things to have a look at

Extended Intro

Useful brainstorming activities to complete in initially developing your general research area and question.

SLV Catalogue

Guidelines to using a simple keyword search on the State Library online catalogue.

The Research Process

Helpful overview in developing your approach to research