Course Guide for Graduate Certificate


Format of your assignments, SAP, SPP



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Format of your assignments, SAP, SPP


Produce your assignments, SAP and SPP in Microsoft Word. These must be 1.5 spaced, with a 2.5 cm (1 inch) margin on the top, bottom, left and right margins. Use either Arial or Times New Roman. This must be in 12 point.

Print your assignments, SAP and SPP single-sided in black and white format (apart from any graphics that may need to be printed in colour). Avoid the excessive use of graphics, except maps (which are very useful in academic works), charts and tables.

It is not good academic style to use photos. While these may be interesting, aim to produce an academic document with a strong argument, not a journalistic one with pretty photos that actually lessen or detract from your argument.

Photos also take up a lot of space and memory. Based on past experience, these could make it difficult to email documents from the CDSS system.


Assignments 1, 2 and 3


The requirement for each piece of written work will be briefed to all CMs by either the Block Coordinator or the Academic Advisor at the appropriate time in the Course. The CDSS’s document titled ‘Defence and Strategic Studies Course Deliverable Submission Details’ provides relevant details for assignments 1, 2 and 3. Each written assignment must meet the academic requirements and standards as detailed above in the section ‘Academic Requirements for Assignments, SAP and SPP’ below.

Assignment 1 requires you to write a 2500-word essay in which you must ‘Analyse two key security challenges facing your organisation at the strategic level in the next ten years’.

Assignment 2 requires you to write a 2,500-word essay on a topic that relates to the core elements of Block 2. You can select this topic from a list provided during the Assignment brief or devise your own and have it cleared by the relevant SD.

Assignment 3 requires an individual 2,000-word essay on a strategic management issue arising from Block 4. You can select the topic from a list provided during the Assignment brief or devise your own and have it cleared by the relevant SD.

In writing these three assignments, you must seek to answer the question set and try to fulfil the criteria given in the table above. Also, you should assume that your reader or assessor knows little or nothing about the subject (even if you know that they do - your assessor particularly wants to know what you know about the subject). You should therefore seek to define your terms, mount an argument and provide analysis that explains why things are the way they are (rather than simply detailing what or how things are). In relation to these matters, see ‘Academic writing and the argument’ below.


Choosing and submitting your SAP topic


Select one topic; advise these in a signed Minute.

You need to start thinking about the theme - or topic - for your Strategic Assessment Paper now. (To find out what an SAP is see ‘What is a Strategic Assessment Paper (SAP)?’ below.) You are welcome to discuss your SAP topic and the scope of the paper with the Academic Adviser, Dr Claude Rakisits.

Once you have determined your SAP topic, put this information into a signed Minute addressed to the Academic Adviser and the Home Syndicate Director. You will also need to send them electronic copies of this minute. Appendix A provides an example of an SAP Minute. Your Minute must not be more than a page. It must nominate the topic that you will write about and why you have chosen it. The Minute must also include your name and email address. You will not be held rigidly to the title of the topic provided in the Minute, although you must stay in the same subject and/or geographic area. If unsure, see the Academic Adviser.

To submit your Minute, see ‘Submission of documents’ below.

In selecting the topic for your SAP, bear in mind that the aim of the paper is to display that you are able to understand and synthesise some of the issues and their implications that you have examined in ‘Block 2: The Contemporary Strategic Setting’. Hence, the topic for your SAP should involve issues or drivers that come out of the discussion of this environment. Your SAP must also attempt to project 10 years into the future for each chosen issue.

As an example (only!), some of the issues that you could think about investigating in your SAP are (in no particular order):



  • major security themes occurring in, or impacting on, the Asia-Pacific region or a nation or nations within this region, e.g. the impact of globalisation on Indonesia/Malaysia/Vietnam; weapons proliferation in North Korea; development and/or potential use of weapons of mass destruction in Pakistan/Singapore/Iran; the response to terrorism in Pakistan/the Philippines/Indonesia/Australia/Fiji; resource politics and rivalry over gas, oil, water, minerals; ethno-nationalism in the Philippines/Indonesia/India; health and demographic/population issues and their impacts; environmental and other trans-national issues and their impact on Australia (or any other nation); peacemaking and peacekeeping.

  • strategic developments in a particular region, e.g. the growing strength of China in Northeast Asia; Iran’s development of a nuclear capability and its impact on South and Southwest Asia; China’s or India’s development of a ‘blue-water’ navy; instability and state ‘failure’ in the Pacific Islands; the impact of the isolation of North Korea or Myanmar; the diminution (or otherwise) of New Zealand’s strategic and military capability.

  • developments - or lack of developments - in bilateral/trilateral/multilateral relations, e.g. the Australia-Indonesia relationship; the increasingly volatile China-Japan relationship; the role of the US in the China-Japan relationship; the functioning (or non-functioning) of ASEAN in Southeast Asia; the inability of the United Nations Security Council to enforce its will; the role and future of OPEC.

  • the regional policies of a major power and their actual and potential impacts, e.g. the role of the United States in Northeast Asia; the role of China in East Asia; the role of India in South Asia; the role of Indonesia in the ASEAN region; the growing role of Australia (or New Zealand) in the Southwest Pacific; China’s strategic rivalry with India.

  • particular points of conflict, e.g. potential conflict over the Taiwan Strait; territorial rivalry in the South China Sea; instability in the Korean Peninsula; the ongoing Kashmir dispute; security of sea lines of communication and the transportation of energy; piracy in the Malacca Strait; the Palestinian issue; territorial disputes.

The above (non-exhaustive) list is a guide only. Decide yourself the issue that you wish to research and write about. However, in deciding your SAP topic, ensure that:

  • the topic that you select interests you - it will be hard to research and write a 3,000-word paper if you find the topic uninteresting, meaningless or irrelevant;

  • there is sufficient English-language material available for your topic. You will need to do some preliminary research in a library database (e.g. the Vane Green Library at Weston Creek) to quickly determine this. If a search on your potential topic returns few ‘hits’, it may be too obscure or too narrow.

  • the topic is achievable; that is, one on which it is feasible to write convincingly and cogently for approximately 3,000 words. This means that a broad topic such as ‘China and its future’ will need to be refined and narrowed down.

SAP Outline


A plan that details how you intend to complete your SAP.

You must submit a plan to your Home SD and the Academic Adviser that informs them of how you intend to complete your Strategic Assessment Paper. Do this in a document titled ‘SAP Outline’. It is also a prerequisite to completing your Strategic Assessment Paper and obtaining your Graduate Certificate (Strategic Studies).

Your SAP Outline needs to provide a research and writing plan that shows how you intend to undertake the completion of your SAP. It must briefly and clearly:


  • identify your intended argument/s for your topic (even though you may not have fully determined these argument/s at the time of submitting your plan, writing it will start you thinking about these vital matters);

  • show the possible sections of your SAP; and

  • provide a proposed timetable for writing the various sections of your SAP.

More specifically, your plan must include a synopsis of the main argument/s for your SAP topic, along with four or five proposed section headings, each with a (brief) paragraph summarising the contents.

At this stage, it is important to have thought out - or at least to have started to think about - the main points of your proposed argument/s, the key theories and analytical concepts that you will employ, and how you intend to develop these in your sections. However, your outline is a guide only. It is designed to get you focusing on what is needed to complete your SAP. You will not be rigidly held to the details provided in it.

To submit your SAP Outline, see ‘Submission of documents’ below. Your SD will return the plan to you soon after you submit it. It will be marked as ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’. He/she may also provide some feedback on it and may suggest modifications, additions, etc.

What is a Strategic Assessment Paper (SAP)?


Discusses one challenge; needs 10-year projection.

For CMs undertaking the Graduate Certificate (Strategic Studies), the Strategic Assessment Paper is a written piece of 3,000 words. It is also one of the major requirements needed to obtain your Graduate Certificate.

Each SAP must be fully referenced, preferably using footnotes at the bottom of each page. You are free to determine the structure of your SAP, although this would best be done in consultation with your SD or the Academic Adviser.

Your Strategic Assessment Paper must explore a current or future challenge to national or regional security. It may be written from the perspective of Australia or another nation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Your Strategic Assessment Paper is an analytical document. It must critically analyse, assess and interpret the political and strategic dynamics of the topic that you have chosen to explore. Put differently, it must examine the impact of the topic you have chosen on inter-state relations. Most importantly, its focus is strategic (big picture), not tactical (in the weeds). It must also include some theoretical or conceptual discussion of the descriptive and analytical approaches of your analysis. That is, you must discuss what the issue is, why it is important, and where it sits in the prevailing political, strategic and intellectual framework. Furthermore, this must be done analytically and critically. That is, you must offer an argument that provides compelling reasons or proof as to why the situation is the way it is, why it is important, the ramifications of the situation, and why it may or may not change in the future.

Hence, the requirement is for a factually-grounded, well-reasoned and well-structured paper, with a clearly-stated central argument (or arguments) that informs your reader - who, in this case, will be your assessor - why the situation you have chosen to analyse is the way it is and, based on your research and/or the theoretical approach that you have adopted to inform your argument, what is likely to happen in future.

You must therefore demonstrate a sound knowledge of the subject and employ a wide range of source materials both for your research and in your supporting references.

It is also a requirement that you must attempt to project 10 years into the future for each chosen topic. That is, you must offer a prognosis (or forecast) and some informed suggestions and/or analysis as to the likely future and/or prospective future developments in relation to the issue or topic that you have chosen to examine.

You are encouraged to develop and present your own ideas on your topic. Wherever possible, these must be supported with evidence from the sources that you have used. (See the section ‘What is Evidence?’ below.)




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