Last Updated S012019


Unit Code MXX501/601
Unit Duration 1 Term (online) or 1 Semester (on-campus)

Graduate Diploma of Engineering (all sub-disciplines)
Duration: 1 year

Master of Engineering (all sub-disciplines)
Duration: 2 years  

Year Level 1st
Unit Creator / Reviewer Dr Hylton K J Macdonald
Core/Elective: Core
Pre/Co-requisites None
Credit Points


Grad Dip total course credit points = 24
(3 credits x 8 (units))

Masters total course credit points = 48
(3 credits x 12 (units) + 12 credits (Thesis))

Mode of Delivery Online or on-campus. 
Unit Workload 10 hours per week:
     Lecture - 1 hour
     Tutorial - 1 hour
     Practical / Lab - 1 hour (where applicable)
     Personal Study recommended - 7 hours (guided and unguided)

Unit Description and General Aims

This Unit focuses on good engineering practice and research methods commencing the history of engineering, the continual evolution of the art and science of engineering, and the definition and practice of engineering.
There is an exploration of the qualities which the Chartered/ Professional Engineer requires to develop in his/her critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, leading to the development of ‘thinking one’s way through a problem to a solution’ and then communicating that solution in an effective and efficient manner.
The role which the Chartered/Professional Engineer needs to undertake in the process of Risk Management, the legal aspects of a Contract, the Engineering Design Process and how this should be controlled, are also examined.
Furthermore, consideration is given to the requirement that Chartered/Professional Engineers act ethically at all times, are accountable for their actions, are required to consider the social implications of their actions, and practice Continuous Professional Development to ensure that they remain abreast of best practice at all times.
The Unit also addresses the key areas that need to be considered in conducting research, including the evaluation of the research proposal, requirements, literature surveys, model development, analyses, assessment, and the required methodologies to clearly communicate the research outcomes. The research knowledge and skills gained here will be invaluable in the Thesis unit.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this Unit, students are expected to be able to:

  1.  Debate what Engineering is and assess the ethical role and accountability of the Chartered/ Professional Engineer in industry.
    Bloom’s Level 5
  2. Devise and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills and develop the ability to communicate solutions effectively to others.
    Bloom’s Level 6
  3. Evaluate a risk management process and have a broad understanding of Contract law to reduce project challenges and improve project outcomes.
    Bloom’s Level 5
  4. Facilitate the Engineering design process and the critical need for judgment evaluations within the design process.
    Bloom’s Level 6
  5. Hypothesize the necessity for continuous professional development and the social responsibility of Engineers to the community.
    Bloom’s Level 6
  6. Propose and conduct engineering focussed postgraduate research and development.
    Bloom’s Level 6

Student assessment

Assessment Type

(e.g. Assignment - 2000 word essay (specify topic) Examination (specify length and format))

When assessed

(eg Week 5)

Weighting (% of total unit marks) Learning Outcomes Assessed

Assessment 1

Type: Practical [Presentation]

E.g. Prepare and present a 5-6 slide presentation on an engineering research problem. This will include: a description of the problem, a research question, a literature review, and a research proposal.

After Topic 8 25% 1, 2, 5, 6

Assessment 2

Type: Report [A research proposal suitable for a Master’s level engineering research project. This will include: introduction, literature review, hypothesis, methodology, risk analysis, and conclusion]

Word length: 4000

Example Topic: “A Neural Network based Motor Bearing Fault Diagnosis Algorithm and its Implementation on Programmable Logic Controllers”.

After Topic 10 50% 1, 2, 3, 5, 6

Assessment 3

Type: Report

Word length: 2000

Example Topic: “Design an automatic coffee making machine. Do your research to come up with an applicable set of attributes. Prioritize the attributes, propose different alternatives and recommend one. Discuss the environmental impact of the machine”.

After Topic 12 20% 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Attendance / Tutorial Participation

Example: Presentation, discussion, group work, exercises, self-assessment/reflection, case study analysis, application.

Continuous 5% 1 to 6

Prescribed and Recommended Readings

Required textbook(s)

  • D. V. Thiel, Research Methods for Engineers, Cambridge University Press, 2014 – ISBN: 978-1107034884
  • Y. Haik, T. M. Shahin, Engineering Design Process, 2nd ed. Cengage Learning, 2010 – ISBN: 978-0495668145
  • T. Meyer, G. Reniers, Engineering Risk Management. De Gruyter, 2013 – ISBN: 978-3110285154 - available on Knovel
  • D. Okes, Root Cause Analysis - The Core of Problem Solving and Corrective Action. American Society for Quality, 2009 – ISBN: 978-0873897648 – available on Knovel

Reference Materials

  • Hugh Ferguson and Mike Chrimes, The Civil Engineers, Thomas Telford, 2013. (ISBN 978-0-7277-4143-1)
  •  Institution of Civil Engineers, Ethics Toolkit,
  • World Economic Forum, Programme Against Corruption Initiative,
  • Institution of Civil Engineers, Continuing Professional Development Guidance,
  • ICE Member Attributes, CEng, MICE, documents/member-attributes.
  • Anthony E Kelly, Richard A Lesh, John Y Baek, Handbook of Design Research Methods in Education: Innovations in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical Learning and Teaching, Routledge, 2008. (ISBN 9780805860597)
  • Other material to be advised during the lectures


Unit Content

One topic is delivered per contact week, with the exception of part-time 24-week units, where one topic is delivered every two weeks.

Topic 1

Why: Understanding the evolution of Engineering and current requirements and practice.

  1.  What is Engineering?
  2. The main Engineering disciplines and branches.
  3. The continual evolution of the art and science of Engineering.

a. The Egyptian, Greek, and Roman era.
b. The Telford Brunel era.
c. The Modern era.

4. Engineering: 

a. Practice.
b. Logic, experience and problem-solving.
c. Knowledge of the Sciences and Mathematics.
d. Modelling and computerization.

Topic 2

Ethics and accountability
Why: Understanding of the professional requirements placed on an Engineer to act ethically at all times.

1. What is Ethics?
2. Ethics and decision making.
3. The role of the Chartered / Professional Engineer.
4. Legal accountability of the Chartered/Professional Engineer.
5. Leadership and communication.
6. Purpose and requirements for a Code of Professional Conduct.

a. Integrity and duty of care.
b. Bribery and corruption.
c. Competency to undertake work.
d. Public, society and stakeholder interests and Health and Safety compliance.
e. Environmental and sustainability requirements.
f. Personal professional development.

7. Rules, procedures and controls.
8. Ethical decision-making.
9. Procedures and actions to militate against potential conflicts of interest.
10. Training and communication to ensure Engineers remain relevant through Continuous Professional Development.

Topic 3 and 4

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Why: Understanding of the critical role in modern Engineering practice of challenging the status quo and developing fit-for-purpose solutions.

1. Recognising that a problem exists.
2. Identifying the problem.
3. Clarifying the key issues critically related to the problem that has been identified.
4. Consideration of techniques to assist in unpacking the problem.
5. Determining the key issues that need to be considered in resolving the problem.
6. Gathering the relevant information and evidence related to the problem.
7. Evaluating and interpreting the information and evidence.
8. Determining biases and information accuracy.
9. Visualizing the problem holistically.
10. Consideration of all perspectives in analysing the problem.
11. Brainstorming and determining several potential solutions to the problem.
12. Consideration of the solutions determined.
13. Evaluation of the solutions and determine the optimum solution.
14. Selection and development of the ‘optimum’ solution
15. Communicating the solution to all interested and affected parties.
16. Implementation of the solution

Topic 5, 6 and 7

Research Methodology
Why: Understanding how to evaluate the research proposal, develop the research proposal, and how to undertake effective and pertinent research, and communicate the results effectively.

1. Overview of Research

a. Preliminary Considerations.
b. Research designs – quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods designs..
c. Survey research methods and case study research.
d. Research Proposal.

2. Research Methodology

a. Engineering research.
b. Literature review.
c. Writing strategies and ethical issues.
d. Writing a research proposal.

3. Designing Experiments

a. Hypothesis.
b. Sampling strategies.
c. Analysis of data.
d. Statistical methods

Topic 8

Research Proposal Student Presentation
Why: Developing and communicating an engineering research proposal effectively.

The students present their research proposal ideas and receive feedback from the lecturer and other participants.

Topic 9

Risk Management
Why: What are the risks faced by the Engineer, analysis and mitigation methods and methods for managing change on a project.

1. Definition of Risk Management.
2. The objectives of Risk Management.
3. The need for the Engineer to be a risk aware during the project life cycle.
4. The six key principles of Risk Management.
5. The hard and soft benefits of Risk Management.
6. The risk spectrum, known ‘knowns’ to unknown ‘unknowns’.
7. The risk landscape, internal and external risks and interconnectivity of risks.
8. The generic Risk Management process.
9. Risk Management assessment methodologies, identification of risks, the impact and probability of occurrence, inherent risks, mitigation measures, and residual risks.
10. Risk ownership, communication, control effectiveness and monitoring of key performance indicators.
11. Residual Risk evaluation models; qualitative vs. quantitative, deterministic vs. probabilistic, etc. and the appropriate use of these models.
12. Determination of the risk appetite, stakeholder exposure to and acceptability of the residual risks.
13. Managing change and the impact of change on the risk profile of the project.
14. The barriers to the rational analysis of risk and change.

Topic 10

Contract Law
Why: Understanding the legal implications and requirements of contracts.

1. Legal basis of a contract and what constitutes a legal contract.
2. The formalities of the contract as prescribed by law.
3. Legal requirements for and implications of the offer and acceptance of a contract.
4. The impact of the legal jurisdiction on the contract.
5. Requirements for the contractual capacity of the parties to the contract.
6. Requirements in contract law for the possibility of performance of a contract.
7. Contract interpretation in the event of a conflict or omission in the contract terms and conditions.

Topic 11

Controlling the Engineering Design Process
Why: Understanding how the Engineer must control the design process to ensure effective solutions that are fit for purpose.

1. The Engineering Design process
          a. What are the client’s project requirements?
          b. Development of the design brief.
          c. Type and scope of the works.
          d. Technology maturity.
          e. Process requirements.
          f. Pertinent local and international Codes of Practice and specifications.
          g. Relevance of key parameters in the Codes of Practice and specifications to local conditions.
          h. Constructability.
          i. Computational techniques to be utilized.
          j. Review and validation of the design brief and project requirements.
          k. Design schedule.
          l. Design deliverables.
          m. Detailed design process.
2. Risks and opportunity analysis for the design process.
3. Performance of design work to programme and budget.
4. Design report requirements and the associated benefits in the design review.
5. Design review using experienced ‘gut feel’ and informed order of magnitude based judgments.
6. Quality control and peer review of engineering computations.
7. Review of the designs to ensure the client’s requirements and deliverables are achieved.

Topic 12

Professional Development and Social responsibility.
Why: Understanding how the Engineer is to remain relevant and understand the social imperatives of projects they undertake.

1. Continuous Professional Development
      a. Professional development in a changing environment.
      b. Development of personal Professional Competence.
      c. Benefits of Continuous Professional Development;
      d. Performance and other reviews to determine Continuous Professional Development needs, plans and individual requirements.
2. The social responsibility aspects of engineering;
      a. Economic understanding of the impact of projects.
      b. Understanding of the benefit of a project to the community and society.
      c. Understanding of the benefit of a project to the quality of life.
     d. Ensuring the retention of Cultural and Ethnic Heritage.
     e. Preserving Archaeological finds, artefacts, and antiquities.
     f. Health and Safety requirements and imperatives.
    g. Environmental impacts and preservation of the environment for future generations.
    h. Sustainability of projects.

Engineers Australia

The Australian Engineering Stage 1 Competency Standards for the Professional Engineer, approved as of 2013. This table is referenced in the mapping of graduate attributes to learning outcomes and via the learning outcomes to student assessment.

Stage 1 Competencies and Elements of Competency


Knowledge and Skill Base


Comprehensive, theory based understanding of the underpinning natural and physical sciences and the engineering fundamentals applicable to the engineering discipline.


Conceptual understanding of the mathematics, numerical analysis, statistics, and computer and information sciences which underpin the engineering discipline.


In-depth understanding of specialist bodies of knowledge within the engineering discipline


 Discernment of knowledge development and research directions within the engineering discipline.


 Knowledge of engineering design practice and contextual factors impacting the engineering discipline.


Understanding of the scope, principles, norms, accountabilities and bounds of sustainable engineering practice in the specific discipline.


Engineering Application Ability


Application of established engineering methods to complex engineering problem-solving.


Fluent application of engineering techniques, tools and resources.


Application of systematic engineering synthesis and design processes.


Application of systematic approaches to the conduct and management of engineering projects.


Professional and Personal Attributes


Ethical conduct and professional accountability.


Effective oral and written communication in professional and lay domains.


Creative, innovative and pro-active demeanour.


Professional use and management of information.


Orderly management of self, and professional conduct.


Effective team membership and team leadership.

Software/Hardware Used


  • Software: N/A

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  • Instructions:  N/A

  • Additional resources or files: N/A


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