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Honours thesis

Undertaking an honours thesis allows students to conduct a larger research project over approximately eight months (two semesters). Only high achieving fourth-year students with a cumulative GPA of 3.7 (A-) may complete an honours thesis. Successfully completing an honours thesis requires the ability to:

  • Conceive of a thoughtful topic.
  • Conduct independent research.
  • Pay careful attention to detail in organizing and communicating your research findings.

Details about the honours thesis process can be found in the Honours Thesis Handbook (PDF). 

Download the printable version of the Honours Thesis Overview (PDF).

  • What to expect

    An honours thesis is an undergraduate student’s first significant piece of independent scholarly research. The student is responsible for seeing this entire research process through from start to finish with guidance from the Thesis Supervisor (TS). The honours thesis articulates a research question and/or a hypothesis and describes why it is important to answer the question or test the hypothesis. It outlines the methods to be used to measure concepts and how the data will be collected to answer the research question posed. The thesis may involve collection of original data, reanalysis of secondary data, or library research to provide new insights about a problem.

    Both empirical and conceptual/theoretical projects require extended research designed to satisfy students’ intellectual curiosity, develop their research, argumentation, and writing skills, and advance knowledge in a specific academic area of study. Although length varies, an undergraduate honours thesis in the Political Science program shall meet the following criteria in order to fulfil the requirements:

    “A manuscript that is thoroughly researched, well-written, consistently and carefully formatted, which shows sufficient evidence of synthesis, integration, and originality in the analysis. The thesis should also point to future research and, possibly, lay out a research agenda that the student may wish to pursue further in graduate school.”

    In addition, students are required to present their completed project as a poster in the Honours Thesis Showcase.

  • Application process and important dates

    Winter term (third year)

    1. Determine if you are eligible to enrol in the honours thesis course by consulting with the Academic Advising office. They can check your GPA and advise you on the application process.

      To be considered for Honours Thesis I, students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.7, They must apply during their sixth semester (i.e., the end of third year) to begin their Honours Thesis I in their seventh semester (the start of fourth year).

      Please note: Only a limited number of applicants will be admitted to the Honours Thesis. Students must meet the minimum GPA requirement of 3.7, as stipulated in the UOIT Undergraduate Academic Calendar and Course Catalogue. Consent is required from the instructor who will act as Thesis Supervisor and the Dean or Dean’s representative.

    2. Determine your research topic. Your topic may come from something you encountered in a previous course and would like to explore more deeply or it may be something not covered in any of your classes.

    3. Speak with your instructors about your research idea. Based on your conversations with them, determine who you would like to work with (only full-time instructors are able to supervise students).

    4. Meet with the instructor and ask if she or he is willing to supervise you. Remember—instructors may decline if they do not feel like they have the necessary knowledge of your topic or if they are already supervising the maximum number of students. Do this by May 30.

    5. Once you have confirmed your thesis supervisor, complete the application form. You will need to write a brief proposal that includes your thesis question/hypothesis, an overview of your topic, a sample reading list, and so on. Do this by June 30.

      The application must include a detailed statement of intent outlining the topic and research question, methodology, theoretical significance and the projected timelines for completion of the project. To proceed to Honours Thesis II, a student must have successfully completed Honours Thesis I with a minimum grade of A- and have prepared a written statement outlining the projected timelines for completion of the project. After completing an Undergraduate Honours Thesis Application Form, students should meet with their thesis supervisor to discuss the thesis topic and proposal by the end of the student’s third year. 

    Project proposal (to be submitted along with Honours Thesis Application)

    Students who meet the admission requirements must submit a short project proposal to a potential thesis supervisor at the end of their third year. The project proposal, which is about one to two pages long, should accomplish all of the following:

    • Identify the topic of study and a tentative research question/thesis.
    • Provide two or three key sources to start the research.
    • Identify the research method to be used (e.g., quantitative or qualitative or mixed methods).
  • Selecting a topic

    During the third year of study, undergraduate students considering undertaking an honours thesis should begin thinking about potential topics. You will need a focused research topic or question or testable research hypothesis. 

    Although there is an expectation of some level of 'original research' involving data collection and analysis, or a critical review of the literature about a problem which advances the literature on a selected topic, realistic expectations should be maintained; knowledge accumulates incrementally with only occasional leaps, and the thesis should offer an incremental contribution to the topic and the literature the student has selected. 

    Before undertaking an honours thesis, a student should consider:

    • General interests: What are you most interested in?
    • Research interests: Consider your general interests in the context of your coursework and your general interests. How might your discipline guide you towards a particular area of research?
    • Goals: What do you hope to get out of your undergraduate research experience? If your primary goal is to publish a journal article, present at a professional conference, or prepare for graduate school, make your goal clearly known to a potential supervisor.
    • Weaknesses: What are your weaknesses as a student? Is the nature of your weakness academic or general discipline? Consider what you need most out of a mentor and consider how you might rank the various criteria listed in the section below. Be aware that conducting research and writing an extended paper requires self-discipline and strong organizational skills. If you do not enjoy conducting research and writing essays, an honours thesis may not be right for you.
  • Research and writing process

    Summer term (between third and fourth year)

    1. Once you have been approved for the honours thesis course, you will need to start planning for the upcoming academic year. Starting in the Fall term and throughout the Winter term, you should expect to spend six to nine hours per week on your honours thesis in order to be thorough in your research and write a well-organized thesis.

    2. Read key books/scholarly articles on your topic over the summer.

    3. Create a detailed reading list on your topic. You will discuss this reading list with your supervisor at your first meeting in the Fall term.

    4. Determine your methodology for data collection. You will discuss this with your supervisor at your first meeting in the Fall term. If applicable, submit Research Ethics approval application.

    5. Create a proposed timeline for completing your thesis. Remember to be realistic in what you can accomplish. A detailed timeline that outlines which articles/books you will read each week and when the parts of your thesis will be due will help you to stay on track.

    Fall term (of fourth year)

    1. Meet with your TS during the first week of classes to confirm your timeline, due dates and meeting schedule.

    2. Meet with your TS regularly—once a week, every two weeks, or monthly—as agreed upon between you and your supervisor. Ask questions, bring your research notes, and be prepared to explain the work accomplished as you go.

    3.  Do your readings every week and meet your deadlines. Doing so not only keeps you on track for completing your thesis, but also demonstrates to your supervisor your commitment to the process.

    4. At the end of the term, submit a literature review (or other assignment) as agreed upon with your supervisor.

    Approval of thesis proposal (to be completed in Honours Thesis I)

    A thesis proposal should be completed during the Fall semester of a student’s fourth year in the program. The proposal will be submitted to the TS when ready for evaluation. Within 14 days of submission of the proposal, the student shall meet with his/her TS. The TS must approve the proposed research project before a student begins the data collection process. A progress report must be signed by the TS approving the thesis proposal. Faculty will forward written comments to the student at the end of the meeting.

    Winter term (of fourth year)

    1. Meet with your TS during the first week of classes to confirm your timelines, due dates and meeting schedule during the second term.

    2.  Continue to meet with your TS regularly, do your readings and meet your deadlines.

    3. Complete your first draft of your thesis by mid-February; ensure you allow time to receive feedback, rewrite and edit your thesis. You will rewrite/edit your thesis several times before it is completely finished. At the end of the term, you will hand in your thesis.
  • Research Ethics Board approval

    All research involving human or animal subjects must receive Research Ethics Board (REB) approval before proceeding. Approval requires completion and submission of the REB Application for Ethical Review. The review process can take several weeks so it is important to plan accordingly. 

    For more information, visit the Research involving human participants page on the Office of Research Services website.

  • Components of the thesis

    Roughly speaking, the thesis will include similar components to a standard research article. Depending on the type of research being done, the body of the thesis may include the following sections:

    • Introduction: This section will include a brief statement of the problem and its significance. Students must clearly define a research question, argument, or hypothesis to be tested. This is where you will tell the reader why your topic, research and argument matters and who should care about it. In other words, answer the questions 'so what?' and 'who cares?'

    • Review of the literature/theoretical framework: This section summarizes the existing body of knowledge on a given topic, and provides a critique of the literature in its broader scholarly context so that the student’s current work is logically justified.

    • Methodology: This section articulates in detail the methods used to collect data, such as:
      • sample
      • measures
      • data collection technique
      • theoretical foundations or framework
    • Results/analysis: This section includes a report of the findings of the data collection process, relevant tables and figures. This section may not be necessary if your research uses primarily secondary sources. Sometimes, the findings and discussion are intertwined to create a coherent and logical narrative that supports your argument and answers your research question(s).

    • Discussion: Your discussion provides a narrative of what your results mean and what implications come out of your findings.

    • Conclusions: This section provides an overview of your results and what they mean, the limitations of the results, what your conclusion is, and possible avenues for future research.

    • Front matter (e.g., title page, abstract, table of contents)

    • Back matter (e.g., references, tables, appendices, glossary)
  • Finding a supervisor

    Each undergraduate honours thesis student has a Thesis Supervisor (TS) who provides guidance throughout the duration of the honours thesis process. The job of the TS is to advise the student on research-related matters.

    TS selection process

    The TS must be a core faculty member or a full-time teaching faculty. The relationship between the student and the thesis supervisor is important to the student’s successful completion of the honours thesis. The student should review the program’s list of faculty members who are eligible to serve as TS and identify a potential TS whose area of research and topic is consistent with the student’s own interests. The student should contact the faculty member and determine if he or she is willing to supervise a student. The burden of selecting a TS falls squarely on the student.

    Students should keep in mind that a potential TS should be selected carefully since it is difficult to change a supervisor once a student begins his/her thesis project. Here are some general guidelines to consider as you begin the process of selecting a potential thesis supervisor.

    • Begin by learning as much as possible about the faculty members in your program. Go to the faculty website, read through faculty members’ research statements and browse through their curricula vitae. If possible, read the publications of faculty members you think align most closely with your own interests.
    • Talk to other students to get a sense of how different faculty members mentor and deal with students in general. You may find out the person you thought is most compatible with your expectations might not be the best candidate for your purposes.
    • If possible, set up a meeting with a potential faculty member to discuss his/her scholarship as well as your own interests.
    • Finally, be advised that just because you have selected someone to be your potential TS does not mean the faculty member will agree to be your supervisor. She or he may not have the time to be your supervisor, or may feel that your project is best supervised by someone else.

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