Honours Program

Honours Program

Biology is an empirical science that advances our understanding of the living world through application of the scientific method in experimental and observational studies.  Accordingly, the Biology B.Sc. Honours program is designed to enable undergraduate students to gain exposure to original field and laboratory research, including the design of an investigation, data collection and analysis, and formal presentation of the findings.  Research which students undertake during the summer may be appropriate for inclusion in the thesis, but it must not be the sole source of thesis content.  It is intended that all students, whether they are able to work with faculty during the summer or not, shall have equal access to the Honours research experience.
Second Year

  • 1 April: Apply for admission to the Honours program (as mandated in Calendar).

Third Year

  • 1 March: Biology Chair advertises the 31 March deadline for selection of an advisor and supervisory committee.
  • 31 March: student must have agreement of a faculty member to act as thesis advisor and the supervisory committee must be struck. In a joint program, a member of the Science B department should be asked to serve on the supervisory committee.

Fourth Year

  • 30 September: research proposal must be approved by supervisory committee.
  • 1 December: deadline for submission of Biol 475: Draft Introduction to Thesis.
  • Late January or early February: oral presentation of the research to Biol 491 class and faculty (12 minutes plus 3 minutes for questions).
  • 31 January: Biol 475 draft introductions returned with comments and provisional grade.
  • 4 February: deadline for submission of Biol 475 final essays.
  • Monday after reading week: deadline for submission of first draft of thesis to supervisory committee.
  • 1 April: deadline for submission to Chair of the final copy of the thesis.
  • Last day of exams: deadline for awarding a grade to the thesis by the Supervisory Committee and Chair.

After formal acceptance into the Honours program (after second year) students must identify a faculty member who will supervise the research program before 31 March of the third year. Faculty members who agree to supervise a student must inform the Chair of their commitment to that student. A faculty member who has committed to supervising a student may decline to supervise additional students. In cases of difficulty in associating students with suitable supervisors, it is the responsibility of the Chair to resolve the situation.
It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure the student has regular contact and adequate technical and strategic advice to proceed safely and successfully in the project. The research supervisor will work with the student to develop the research project and to complete the experiments.
A supervisory committee must be struck by March 31 of the third year. The committee will be composed of the supervisor, a second faculty member from the Biology Department or a member of a cognate department or governmental agency who is familiar with the research area, and the Chair of the Biology Department. If the Chair is supervisor, a third member will be appointed. In the case of a joint Honours program between Biology and a second department the supervisor and the Chair of Biology will be members of the supervisory committee with the co‑supervisor of the Science B department. It is the responsibility of the supervisory committee to monitor the progress of the student through the research program and to assist as needed.
Immediately after the start of classes (third and fourth weeks of September), each student will make a verbal presentation to the Biol 491 class summarizing the goals of the proposed research and the approach to be taken. A brief (maximum 500 words) proposal must be submitted to the supervisory committee for review by the last day of September. The proposal should outline the background, rationale, specific goals, and the methods of the proposed research.
In general, the thesis will follow a format similar to that of manuscripts for the Canadian Journal of Zoology, Botany, or Canadian Journal of Microbiology. Students should consult recent volumes for details of appropriate formatting. Finished theses normally vary between 20 and 70 pages in length. A minimum of four copies of the final thesis are required (one for the student, supervisor, Biology Department and University Library)
The thesis is to be double-spaced throughout, including references, tables, and figure legends. Standard fonts set in 12-point type must be used, and the document should be of letter quality or better. Margins should be 2.5 cm on top, bottom, and right side, and 3.0 cm on the binding side. Tables should be numbered consecutively and be on separate pages either singly, or as part of a group of related tables. Figures and tables are to be numbered consecutively and may be single or grouped on a page. Legends may appear on the same page as the figure or on the facing page. Both Tables and Figures may be interspersed among text, or they may appear as a group after References.
Theses will often take the following form:
Opening Pages

  • Title Page ‑ unnumbered ‑ including (in order) title, author, degree and University, year, and approval signatures of the supervisory committee.
  • Page ii ‑ copyright permission
  • Page iii – Abstract
  • Page iv ‑ Table of Contents
  • Page v ‑ list of Figures (optional)
  • Page vi ‑ list of Tables (optional)

Body of Thesis

  • Introduction
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgements
  • References
  • Appendices (optional) 

The format shown above is a traditional format which may not always be the most suitable for efficient and clear presentation of the work. Therefore, it is expected that some theses will depart from this model, for example, with amalgamation of some of the sections or with subsections within sections. The specific structure of the thesis should be determined in consultation with the supervisor.