Honours Thesis

What is the thesis option? The thesis option (POST 4020D) is a double credit course that is designed for students who have a strong interest in investigating a topic in politics in greater depth than is possible in existing Honours year courses.

Students enrolled in the course pursue intensive research during the academic year and are required to submit a written thesis of approximately 15,000 words by the end of the spring term. Their research is guided by a thesis committee comprised of two faculty members. The "first reader" has primary responsibility for the student's work, while the "second reader" has secondary responsibility. Both are responsible for marking the student's work at the end of the year. Students are required to meet regularly (a minimum three times per term) with members of the thesis committee during the academic year to discuss their progress.

How do you register for a thesis? As the calendar indicates, Department approval is required for a student to enrol in Politics 4020D. The Department expects that students applying for a thesis will have at least a B+ average in their courses to date. Click on the link to download the Honours Thesis Registration Form.

The thesis option requires that the student take the initiative to find members of faculty to supervise the project, bearing in mind that a clear rationale must be developed for going beyond or outside of existing course offerings. A student encountering difficulty in arranging supervision should discuss the situation with the Department Chair. Assuming that the student secures faculty agreement to serve on the thesis committee, the student must submit a formal 1-2 page written proposal to the Department for approval. The proposal should include: (1) a brief explanation of why the student wishes to pursue the thesis option; (2) an outline of the issue to be investigated; (3) the signed approval of the faculty members who have agreed to act as the first and second readers; and (4) an outline of a schedule of meetings and breakdown of the grades to be assigned for different components of the project. The Department will respond in a timely fashion to formal proposals.

Students should develop their proposals and seek approval for the thesis option during the spring term, at the time of early registration.

Preparation: Students are strongly encouraged to do preparatory reading for the thesis over the summer. Once spring approval has been granted for the thesis project, students should request the help of their thesis committee in drawing up a list of relevant summer readings.

Students should also be prepared to submit a 3-4 page proposal to their thesis committee by the end of the third week of the fall term. The proposal should include a more extended description of the issue to be investigated, the approach to be used, and the reference works to be consulted.

Should you do a thesis? The Department welcomes student interest in undertaking a thesis project. The foregoing procedures are not intended to deter interest but merely to clear away confusion about how to launch a thesis project. Students should understand, however, that a thesis is a major undertaking and requires a focusing of attention that is not suitable to everyone's interests, especially at the undergraduate level. The key thing in undertaking a thesis is to have a topic that you really want to investigate in a concentrated manner that would not fit with normal course work.

There are, in other words, both advantages and disadvantages to doing a thesis. The advantages include: (1) the freedom to concentrate on a topic in a way and to an extent not possible in a regular course, (2) the opportunity to engage in self-directed work, and (3) the satisfaction that comes from bringing a major research project to completion. The disadvantages include: (1) missing out on some existing Honours Courses (which are the courses most likely to relate directly to Professors' own research interests); (2) working in isolation, without the social contact with other students and faculty that comes with regular course seminars, (3) the high level of risk associated with putting so many eggs (two full courses) in one basket; (4) a final year lacking some of the breadth of subject matter you would otherwise cover.

To conclude, before undertaking a thesis, a student should be able to answer "yes" to each of the following questions: (1) Are you a good student (B+ average or better)? (2) Do you work well alone and in isolated circumstances? (3) Is a thesis the only way you can undertake research on the topic you have in mind (i.e., is it not possible to research the topic through the class assignments of existing Honours courses)? (4) Will the experience of writing a thesis offset what you would miss by not taking two other courses.