Associate Professor James Harland's work centres on the relationship between computation and logical reasoning, particularly in the areas of mathematical logic and proof theory.
His early work focused on logic programming and automated reasoning, which involve the interpretation of concepts of logic for programming applications. This was particularly concentrated on resource-sensitive logics such as linear logic.
More recent work has extended this direction into reasoning methods for intelligent agent systems, such as those which control robots. This uses the beliefs and goals of the agents to reason about the most appropriate action to take. This work has also been applied to intelligent narratives.
He is also interested in computer science education, and together with some colleagues from RMIT and others from UTS, QUT, Monash and Newcastle, he was a key contributor to the BABELnot project, funded by a grant from the Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT), from 2011 to 2013, which developed an epistemology of competency in computer programming. This work has continued at RMIT with the development of a database of exam questions based on the outcomes of the BABELnot project.
A further interest is Turing machines and similar automata. In particular, he has worked on the busy beaver problem, which centres around the maximal outputs that can be generated from machines of a limited size, and methods to recognise universal Turing machines.