Thesis topics and supervisors available in 2018

Supervisor and student

Find a thesis topic and supervisor. Staff members and their research interests and topic areas are listed below by campus.

Please note: it is your responsibility to ensure that an Agreement to Supervise Postgraduate Research Form (361 KB) is completed and submitted by the beginning of the semester in which you intend to begin your research.

Auckland campus

Heather Buttle

I’m supervising in the area of mindfulness/meditation research and I have both quantitative and qualitative interests in the topic. At the moment I am particularly interested in spiritual aspects of mindfulness, and would be happy to hear from Masters and Doctoral students.

Pete Cannon

My research focuses on the relationship between emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. I’m particularly interested in supervising research relating to food and emotion, and how emotion guides our moral decisions. I can train you to use a range of methods to measure emotion, such as facial muscle activity (electromyography). Unashamed statistics and technology geek. Happy to chat about potential projects.

Stuart Carr

The applied psychology of sustainable livelihoods, including living wages against working poverty, and promoting decent work, potential for co-supervision with Prof. Darrin Hodgetts.

Kerry Chamberlain

I have a substantial on-going supervision load but am always interested to work with keen students who have a critical and qualitative approach to research topics in health and/or material culture in everyday life, especially if they relate to medicalisation, pharmaceuticalisation, medications, media, memory or food in some way, so feel free to make contact, discuss possibilities, and convince me to take you on!

Richard Fletcher

I am interested in research methodology that primarily encompasses quantitative research, although I am more and more encouraging a mixed methods approach.  Areas of interest are psychometrics, sport psychology, group processes, wellbeing and cosmetic surgery.  Generally, I am open to discussions around most subjects being that I am a research methodologist.

Darrin Hodgetts

Topics include urban poverty, issues of work and health, homelessness and social services. Happy to co-supervise with Professor Stuart Carr.

Veronica Hopner

I am happy to supervise honours, masters and doctoral students relating to:

  • Military Psychology
  • The Psychology of Security
  • Psychology of Terrorism and Violent Extremism
  • Effects of prenatal methamphetamine use for infants with a focus on the caregiving relationship

James Liu

My research is in the areas of cross-cultural, political, and social psychology. I have a particular interest in three specific areas, the first being Digital Influence (the impact of information technology, especially the internet, on psychological functioning & social relationships), the second being Identity and History (how social representations of history influence the national psychology of a people), and the third being Action Research (psychological research in collaboration with communities that follows a cyclical process of planning-action-reflection-revision).

In 2018 I am especially interested in an honours thesis around the History and identity issues to do with NZ colonialism, examining the text of the Speeches from the Throne for agency, stereotypes, and prejudice towards tangata whenua and settlers.

Paul Merrick

Unavailable for new supervision in 2018.

Clifford Van Ommen

I will be unavailable for supervising new projects until further notice.

Methodologically, I am keen (if space allows) to supervise students interested in (critical and innovative) qualitative methods, including phenomenology, narrative analysis, and discourse analysis, amongst others. My research and supervision interests include, broadly speaking, Critical Neuroscience and Critical Psychology. These projects seek to understand the consequences of the contemporary neuroscience and psychology for subjectivity and their influence on our understandings of, and engagement with, sociopolitical issues. Research projects that fall within these broad outlines would be of interest to me. Aside from this, I am also interested in the identity processes and sense making of and about South African migrants in Aotearoa New Zealand and the critical historical analysis of Psychology in Aotearoa New Zealand. I would also be interested in supervising projects focussing on poverty, migrant and refugee issues and, within neuropsychology, the problem of concussion.

Matt Williams

I am available to supervise Masters and Honours projects, and to co-supervise DClinPsych and PhD projects. My background is primarily in quantitative research, but I am also open to qualitative work. I am especially interested in projects concerned with statistical methodology and/or climate change. However, I have previously conducted research in a wide range of areas, including psychometrics, criminology, clinical psychology, evaluation research, and health psychology. I’m also an enthusiastic supporter of open science, preregistration, and replication studies. Given that my interests are broad, I’m happy to hear from any student who is keen to push themselves to make a genuine contribution to knowledge.

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Manawatu campus

Health And Ageing Research Team (HART)

Quantitative analysis of existing survey data

Students who choose to study one of these topics are expected to have good quantitative analysis skills, having completed 175.746 (multivariate data analysis) or equivalent.  They will be expected to develop a theoretical basis for the research question and conduct sophisticated multivariate and/or longitudinal data analysis.

Dr Joanne Allen

Social support and wellbeing
•    An investigation of the influence of pet ownership on health and wellbeing for older adults

Professor Christine Stephens

Social Networks

  • The relationships between social network types, housing, and health of older people across time.
  • Developing a measure of social networks among older people.
  • The relationship between chronic health conditions and loneliness

Professor Fiona Alpass

Caregiving and Wellbeing

  • Combining work and caregiving: the impact on health and wealth over time .


  • Cross-country comparisons of reported loneliness in older adults.

Older Workers

  • The impact of work –family conflict on health.
  • Flexible work opportunities and job satisfaction

Dr Juliana Mansvelt

Place and Wellbeing

  • Geographical and place based differences in relation to loneliness, quality of life and wellbeing.

Leisure and Retirement

  • Changes in leisure experiences (recreational activities, life engagement, voluntary work) after retirement.       

Dr Joanne Taylor

Driving Cessation

  • The process of driving cessation over time.

Dr Polly Yeung

Aging and Disability

  • Using the ICF-based Framework to develop a model of Functional Components and Contextual Factors.
  • The relationship between visual impairment, mobility, loneliness, social/community engagement and quality of life

Dr Andy Towers

Drug and Alcohol Consumption

  • Factors predicting change in alcohol consumption in older New Zealanders.
  • The relationship between alcohol consumption, health, and healthcare utilisation in older New Zealanders.  
  • Drug use in older adults (medication use, illicit drug use)
  • International comparisons of older adults drinking patterns

Mr Brendan Stevenson (unavailable)

Students who choose to study one of these topics are expected to have good quantitative analysis skills, having completed 175.746 (multivariate data analysis) or equivalent.  They will be expected to develop a theoretical basis for the research question and conduct sophisticated multivariate and/or longitudinal data analysis. This team can provide access to a large sample of older Māori who have provided data on a range of aspects of general health and wellbeing, as well as an extensive set of Māori-specific identity, cultural-participation, marae roles, language, and whānau. The HART team are able to provide assistance in the development of research questions, analytical strategy, and writing supervision around these data.

Qualitative Research Topics

Students interested in pursuing these topics must have a sound background and interest in qualitative methodologies. They will be expected to develop a sophisticated methodological basis for their research question and may choose one of the following topics which are listed with potential supervisors.

Professor Christine Stephens

Housing Preferences for Older People

  • Older people’s social connections or isolation in relation to housing arrangements.
  • Older people’s views of neighbourhood quality.

Dr Juliana Mansvelt

Ageing in Place

  • The role of mundane commodities, objects, and commodity practices in shaping experiences and meanings of ageing in place (including through shifts in dwelling circumstance).
  • Experiences of dwelling in rural and other places


  • Contribution, productivity and pleasure in daily activities (including shopping).


  • The uptake and use of ICT technologies by older people

Dr Mary Breheny

Experiences of Ageing & Ageing in Place

  • Experiences of ageing
  • Social identity for older people
  • Working in older age – especially for financial necessity
  • Work and care for older people
  • Ageing in poverty

Don Baken

I am part of a team that is involved in applied psychological research in the health setting. Investigating both adults and children affected by illness as well as the health professionals associated. Our main illness groups include cancer, diabetes, cardiac, respiratory, and renal reflecting the clinical work carried out by the Health Conditions and/or Cancer Psychology Services.

Current specific projects for next year include:

1)      Look at DNA patterns in Clinic Database
The Psychology Clinic at the Manawatu campus runs a number of services for the MidCentral and Whanganui DHBs. As part of this our database collects a large amount of data on our activities. Anecdotally, we can see a lot of variation in our DNA rates. Obviously DNAs are an important factor in therapy and so it is important to understand causes so that we can reduce their rate. We have an honours project using this existing data to look for patterns in DNA. Factors that can be explored include location (rural vs urban), health condition (e.g. diabetes vs cancer, clinic vs home etc), distress level, time between sessions, rating of rapport with clinician.

2)      Validation of the DT for IBD
The Distress Thermometer is well validated and extensively used in cancer but it has not been used with other health conditions. This honours or masters project would look to adapt and validate the Distress Thermometer for used with people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

If you have other research ideas in similar areas we would be happy to discuss those with you.

Leigh Coombes

Full supervision load in 2018.

Aaron Drummond

I am a cognitive psychologist undertaking research in the area of media and communication psychology. I have a broad range of interests in this area, ranging from how various forms of interactive and passive media use influence people’s thoughts and emotions to the most effective methods for communicating information to others. I use both correlational and experimental methods coupled with a range of cognitive and behavioural measures in my research.

Currently I am undertaking research into the psychological effects of violent and non-violent videogames on cognition and behaviour, the effects of reinforcement structures in interactive media, and effective methods for the communication of science to the public.  I am happy to supervise students in these areas, or in media and communication psychology projects more broadly.

Ross Flett

If you can find an honours level topic in any of the following areas I will listen to it: 

  • gratitude, kindness, forgiveness.

(but multiple commitments in 2018 mean limited opportunities for supervision)

Dianne Gardner

I am interested in a range of topics related to industrial/organisational psychology, especially wellbeing at work. This can include the positive and negative outcomes of work demands, work-life balance, coping, resilience/ cognitive hardiness, the role of individual and organisational factors in work-related wellbeing, learning from errors, and the effective management of hazards at work. My overall approach is that of positive psychology: the focus on human strengths and resources in the workplace.

Jocelyn Handy

Relatively committed for 2018.  Will listen to particularly interesting topics.

Shane Harvey

I am part of a research team (Community Health in Practice and Service, CHiPS) based at the Massey University Psychology Clinic, Palmerston North. We are predominantly interested in applied research involving 1) practitioners’ emotional skills, practice techniques, treatment outcome research, mindfulness based therapies (Acceptance and commitment therapies, DBT), and 2) psychological practices with physical health conditions. I am able to supervise 2-3 students in the following areas for 2018:

Emotional skills in practice

  • The emotional skills required by therapists, physicians, NZDF officers/trainers, teachers, parents, ministers, and coaches, and how these emotional skills are linked to outcomes important to each group.
  • Profiling ruptures in therapy
  • The emotion regulation behaviours of children

Applied Psychological Practice

  • The application of mindfulness-based and transdiagnostic therapies. By way of example, we currently have two projects underway investigating the use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in AoD services and the military.
  • A priority project for 2018 is the creation of a statistical map of trans-paradigm psychological strategies
  • The application and efficacy of Focused Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (FACT) in primary health
  • Electronic psychological screening in primary health care or Police
  • eHealth therapies: Application and efficacy

Psychological practices with Health Conditions

  • A series of projects have been drawn up in collaboration with MidCentral Health DHB focusing on therapies with health conditions

Stephen Hill

There are three strands to my current research interests that I’d be happy to provide supervision in:

  1. Embodied and distributed cognition
  2. Cognition (particularly executive function) and environmental stressors
  3. The psychology of global climate change

I have three ready-to-go projects available for research students (particularly for Honours or Masters). These projects will need to be conducted in the labs on the Manawatu campus and the second and third projects involve the use of eyetracking equipment. No experience using an eyetracker is required or expected – we’ll provide training. Both projects are tied to existing research programmes in the school.

I have two ready-to-go projects available for research students (Honours, Masters, or PhD). Both projects will need to be conducted in the labs on the Manawatu campus as both involve the use of eyetracking equipment. No experience using an eyetracker is required or expected – we’ll provide training. Both projects are tied to existing research programmes in the school.

Cognitive Biases in Map-based Navigation
This project examines the ways in which cognitive biases affect people’s ability to make sensible decisions about their location given visible landmark information and a map of the local area. We will use an eyetracker to establish how people use the maps when making decisions about their likely location. This research has practical applications to aviation psychology.

Dynamics of Distributed Remembering
Most memory research requires people to remember lists of words presented on a computer monitor. We’re interested in whether memory phenomena established using mainstream methods can be replicated when people are given the opportunity to exercise their memory capacities in a more ecologically valid ‘shopping’ context. We’ll use a mobile eyetracker to find out how people explore and use the environment whilst searching for remembered items.

The psychology of global climate change
Lauren Hewitt and I have a research project ready to go that explores whether beliefs about climate change are influenced by how easily we can process climate information. This research forms part of a larger climate change cognition project we are carrying out with an international collaborator.

Barbara Kennedy

Unavailable in 2018.

Ute Kreplin

I am interested in how emotions influence biological processes (e.g. brain activation, EMG, sleep, HR) of all aspects of our lives. I have a particular interest in positive emotions, mental health, food and mood, and loneliness but have also worked with mindfulness, emotions and art, and physiological computing.

Mandy Morgan

Unavailable for new supervision in 2018.

Tracy Morison

I am available to supervise (critical) qualitative projects, especially those using thematic, narrative, and discursive methods, to research topics such as (but not limited to):

  • sexual and reproductive health issues (e.g.,  pregnancy; contraception; abortion; sex education; decision-making)
  • gender, sexuality (especially LGBTI issues), and marginalised identities
  • gender-based violence (e.g. intimate partner violence, sexual violence)
  • LGBTI families and caregiving

Michael Philipp

I conduct research in the areas of social cognition, emotional expressions, and social psychology. I mainly supervise projects that investigate the underlying processes that help humans function in a social world. Students that I supervise use experimental and correlational methods in conjunction with cognitive, behavioural, and biological measurements in my research.

I am happy to discuss research supervision on topics including: ➔  how social marginalisation affects our thinking about other people (i.e., social cognition) and ➔ how people use mimicry and nonverbal gestures to facilitate social interactions.

I particularly expect my Honours and Masters students to align their project closely to my own strengths; a familiarity with social psychological theory, cognitive science, and/or biological psychology will be helpful along with strong quantitative analysis abilities. Due to the time pressures associated with Honours and Masters research, students should begin planning their projects with me well in advance of undertaking their research.

I am looking for motivated students who want to do well and are willing to put in the time and effort to do so. I provide structured guidance throughout the research process, and I expect my students to attend regularly scheduled meetings throughout the year. My supervision focuses on professional development and growth rather than merely “surviving the degree”.

Kirsty Ross

My area of specialty is children, young people and families, with a focus on clinical psychological issues and the psychological impact of health conditions, including cancer. I am involved currently in a number of topics including the impact of high needs health conditions (such as diabetes, cancer, ASD) on families, parents and siblings, strengths based interventions with young people, and supporting parents to enhance their children's mental health. I have a full supervision load for next year, but have two projects that organisations have shown an interest in being done – the first is around anxiety resulting from adverse interactions with dogs and the second is looking at an intervention currently being used for people with obesity using ACT principles. I am involved in a national project for children with cancer and their families and there are likely to be opportunities in this area as part of this work in the future.

Chris Stephens

Studies using existing longitudinal data with a large population sample (Quantitative).

  1. The relationships between social network types, housing, and health of older people across time.
  2. The relationship between chronic health conditions and loneliness (mediated and moderated by environmental variables and depression).
  3. The effects of housing characteristics on social participation among older people.
  4. The relationships between dietary quality and social networks and social support among older people.

Studies involving data collection (qualitative or quantitative). For example:

  1. The experiences of older renters.
  2. Older people’s views of the quality of their neighbourhood.

Natasha Tassell-Matamua

I have two projects, both with a Kaupapa Māori focus, available to co-supervise with staff from the psychology clinic:

  1. We have a qualitative Masters or Doctoral project to explore the acceptability of providing psychological assistance via skype type technologies for Māori. It can be difficult to get psychologists to remote areas but technology like skype can make this more achievable. International research has found this to be effective but little of this has been focused on indigenous people and none on Māori.
  1. Funders are increasingly requiring services to show that their interventions are effective. Research has shown that measuring outcomes is good for clients. Hua Oranga is a measure of Te Whare Tapa Whā developed by Professor Te Kani Kingi. This research project will involve interviewing clients who have used the Hua Oranga to explore its suitability as an outcome measure for Māori with physical health problems. The project would suit a Honours or Masters project.

Jo Taylor

I am a member of HART and have data on driving anxiety and driving cessation in the various study waves. There are a few possible projects using this data which would be best suited to a student with strong quantitative research skills, and mostly likely for an Honours or Master’s thesis. I am developing a new research programme on consumer perspectives and recovery in psychology generally but clinical psychology more specifically, although am already supervising students in this area in 2018 so scope for additional supervision may be limited.

Hukarere Valentine

Unavailable for new supervision in 2018.

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Wellington campus

Simon Bennett

John Fitzgerald

I am interested in supervising projects focusing on clinical psychology and professional practice. I am particularly interested in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicide, adolescent depression, family resilience, and mental health and sensory impairment (particularly vision impairment). My professional practice interests include monitoring change and measuring outcomes in therapy, barriers to evidence-based assessment and practice, professional ethics, and  provision of clinical psychology services in primary care settings. I tend to employ a mixed-methods approach.

Ella Kahu

I am a social psychologist and am interested in supervising keen students planning qualitative research projects. My current work is in higher education researching and theorising student engagement with a particular focus on the first year experience. I would be keen to supervise projects related to education but am also open to other social psychology topics.

Ruth Gammon

Emma Hudson-Doyle

Unavailable for PhD supervision (full supervision load). Available for undergraduate and Master's supervision.  Areas of interest include: decision making in disasters, uncertainty, science advice, science provision, understanding of science, risk communication, uncertainty communication. Particular undergraduate and Masters thesis topics available include: the relative understanding of probabilities and time windows in forecasts; the effect of advisory group vote proportions on decision making; visualising uncertainty for decision making.

Lauren Hewitt

The Misinformation Effect, Social Media and Fake News

I can supervise an honours student in a project examining the misinformation effect in social media or online news. It is well established that when people are exposed to new or misleading information they can come to falsely remember seeing things they never saw. The majority of this research focuses on eyewitness memory reports and the obvious implications for the legal system. In this era of fake news, I want to extend misinformation effect research to examine how people’s memories are shaped by information and misinformation they encounter online. Depending of the student’s interest, this project can focus on social media, news stories, or another relevant avenue. If you enjoyed the section on memory errors in 175.206 and you are reasonably confident with research methods, this project could be the one for you.

David Johnston

Linda Jones

Unavailable in 2018.

Janet Leathem

Raj Prasanna

Jane Rovins

I am interested to supervise/co-supervise (undergrad through PhD):

Wellington Campus @ the Disaster Hub / JCDR

Topics include (but open to others along this theme)

  1. International disaster risk management
  2. International emergency management
  3. Policy and planning for development and disasters
  4. Sustainable development, specifically links to disaster and emergency recovery
  5. Private Sector role in disasters
  6. Quality review of training and impacts on practice
  7. Role of military in disasters and development

Tatiana Tairi

My research interests have been in the theory and practice of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, particularly in the associations between dysfunctional cognitive processing and psychopathology in youth, including diverse cultural groups, as well as in the characteristics of adolescents who have attempted suicide. I am also interested in supervising projects focussing on professional ethics and practice. I am open to ideas in these areas, and willing to discuss potential projects (mainly applying quantitative analysis) with students.

Ruth Tarrant

Human responses to disasters or adverse life events. For example, community or school programmes for people who have experienced adverse events (e.g., earthquakes or floods). I’m interested in studies related to how people prepare for an adverse experience, cope with it, or recover from it.  I’ll also consider a range of topics related to children and schools. There will be other topics I’ll consider, so please feel free to ask.

Ian deTerte

My main focus is how people in high-risk occupations behave in stressful situations or in response to traumatic events. In particular, my research interests are psychological resilience, posttraumatic stress, occupational trauma, occupational mental health, and risk communication, but my main focus is psychological resilience. However, I argue that the term resilience can be misconstrued and should be conceptualised as protective factors. I view psychological resilience/protective factors from a multidimensional perspective that includes the constructs of optimism, social support, self-care, posttraumatic growth, motivation, stigma, sports participation, self-belief, humour, values, humility, self-compassion, mental toughness, coping mechanisms, physical exercise, and survival behaviour. I am also interested in techniques or training packages that will enhance an individual’s psychological resilience/protective factors. Included in these training packages would be components like mindfulness, mental imagery, and behavioural techniques. The scientific approaches that I utilise are single-case design, moderation analysis, meta-analysis, systematic reviews, and theoretical frameworks. I prefer to supervise at the doctoral level and thesis with publications. If this interests you please get in touch with me and we can discuss.

Keith Tuffin

I have supervised a diverse range of topics in the area of social psychology including: the language of racism, emotion, leadership, sperm donors, recovered memories, occupational choice, coping, attitudes to aging, deviance, burglary, gay cops, friendship patterns, community care, premenstrual change, discrimination and trans-sexuality, grief, suicidal bereavement, clinical psychology, sex workers, retirement villages, adolescent fatherhood, cardiovascular reactivity, anger, male violence, political occupation, infanticide, disabled people online, understandings of alcohol and alcoholism, non-suicidal self-injury, media constructions of sexual abuse, sexuality and religion, social psychology of selecting flatmates, intergenerational debates about ageing and resources, accounting for terrorism, parental abuse, ritual abuse, men’s talk of separation, adolescent fatherhood, suicidal contagion, dialectical behaviour therapy groups, fears of fist time parents, shared custody and responsibility, and siblings of Down Syndrome children.

I will look at proposals to undertake qualitative research with students who are keen to work hard and complete high quality theses. In 2018 I am keen to discuss any ideas that may develop into a good thesis topic.

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