Last summer, one student investigated how social and political changes influence media portrayal of single mothers
Last summer, one student investigated how social and political changes influence media portrayal of single mothers
17 July 2014

The University of Queensland is seeking students who would like to contribute to research discoveries as a part of the UQ Summer Research program.

Under the program, undergraduate, honours and masters by coursework students from UQ and universities around the world can undertake research in collaboration with leading academics.

Participants are provided with scholarships valued at $300 a week and projects are available across most disciplines, for between six and 10 weeks over the summer vacation period.

Bachelor of Arts/Social Science student Kahlia Vandyk undertook a research project in the UQ School of Social Science last summer to investigate how social and political changes influence media portrayal of single mothers.

“I collected and analysed media sources relating to single mothers from the past two decades,” Ms Vandyk said.

“I was able to successfully pinpoint that government welfare policy adjustments acted as a catalyst for media stereotyping and negative portrayals of single mothers in the media.”

Stereotypes Ms Vandyk found in the media included single mothers bludging the welfare system, using government benefits to fund lavish lifestyles and behaving promiscuously.

“These findings could potentially be used to improve community awareness and support for single mothers,” Ms Vandyk said.

Ms Vandyk said the UQ Summer Research program was a great way to gain hands-on experience in producing academic research.

“At first I was challenged by self-doubt because I didn't have much practical research experience, but my supervisor constantly encouraged me to share my ideas,” she said.

“The more research I did the more confident I felt in my ability to produce something worthwhile.

“I also feel more motivated to study because I can see how the concepts and theories I'm learning in class relate to practical research and the kinds of career opportunities I'm interested in.”

Ms Vandyk said although the experience gave her an appreciation of the difficulty of research, she was now more motivated to consider research opportunities in future.

“Social policy, including the social security policy I investigated in my project, has always been an area of academic interest and I would now consider working in a policy role directly related to social and family policy,” she said.

Ms Vandyk said her Summer Research experience increased her confidence and she recommended that other students should take advantage of the benefits on offer.

“If you’re participating in a research program, don’t be afraid to ask questions, but also don’t be afraid to answer questions – your supervisor and other people that you speak to will be genuinely interested in your thoughts,” she said.

Applications for the 2014 Summer Research Program close on 30 August.

To find out more about undergraduate research at UQ or to submit an application, visit

Contact: UQ Advantage Office, Georgia Mitchell, 07 3346 0626,, Belinda Brear, 07 3365 2929