BIOL 449 – Honours Thesis Information

BIOL 449 Application Form: (Fillable PDF)

*BIOL 449 applications are due by Sept 11, 2024!

All Honours students in Biology are required to take Biology 447 and 449.

For Biology 449, “Directed Biological Research,” students are expected to complete original research under supervision. The scope of the project will be decided between each student and their supervisor. It is anticipated that students will emerge from the program with basic skills in formulating and testing hypotheses, experimental design, data analysis and presentation, critical evaluation of published work and scientific writing; all of the skills required of a good graduate student. The project serves only as a specific focus on which to develop these skills. It is not essential that the project produce positive results leading to clear, definitive conclusions. Projects may yield negative results or no clear results at all. This is the nature of scientific research. It is expected, however, that each project will address a clearly defined hypothesis/research question and that students will learn much about the scientific method in the process of completing the project. The mark in this course will be assigned based on the Final Thesis defense Examination.

For the Final Examination, students are required to submit a written thesis. This must be submitted at least one week prior to the Final Examination. The Final Examination will consist of a short (15 to 20 minute) presentation by the student of the major findings of their work, followed by a round of questioning by the Committee members. The Committee Chair will not normally ask questions and the Supervisor will be allowed to ask questions last. The exam duration ranges from 60 to 90 minutes in length, and not to exceed 90 minutes. All final examinations will be held between April 2nd and 30th. The actual date of the examination will have to be negotiated based on the schedules of all Committee members once the Committees have been set up.

Committee members will assign a number grade to the Thesis based on:
1) the written thesis
2) the oral presentation
3) the defense
The Chair will not normally assign a grade but will participate in discussions on the final grade.

Evaluation of the Honours Thesis and Defense is based on not only the ability of the student to master technical skills and perform the mechanical work of data collection but also the extent to which the student has mastered the basic skills required of a scientist.

Thus, all Honours students should be prepared to 1) submit a well-written thesis in the appropriate scientific format, 2) walk the committee through a well-organized presentation on the research findings, and 3) answer questions of both a general and specific nature pertaining to their research project.

Biology 447, “Principles and Methodology in Biological Research II” is a companion course for Biology 449. It is designed to assist students during their research projects and to prepare them for their Honour’s Thesis Defense. A separate grade is given for this course based on a variety of assignments and on class participation.

Suggested timelines for BIOL 449 during September – December of 4th Year:

At this point, all students should be thinking of specific deadlines for the various stages of completion of their Honours Thesis. These include:
– Completion of literature review
– Completion of experiments and/or data collection
– Completion of data analysis
– Preparation of data for presentation (graphs, tables, etc.)
– Completion of the first draft of the thesis (submit to supervisors)
– Completion of the final draft of the thesis (submit to examining committee)

For students only beginning their Thesis projects in September of their 4th year, a realistic appraisal of these deadlines is even more critical.

The Examining Committee for each student will consist of the Thesis Supervisor, one Nominee chosen by the Student and Supervisor (with an in-depth knowledge of the student’s research area), and one or two Members chosen from the Botany or Zoology Departments. The members chosen to sit on any given committee will not necessarily work in the student’s research field, but will be chosen simply to assess the overall scientific ability of the student). One of the course coordinators for Biology 449 will serve as the Chair of the Examining Committee.

– If a student has a co-supervisor they may also be on the committee, but they may not act as the Nominee chosen by the student and supervisor, because the Nominee must be impartial to the thesis.

Guidelines for BIOL 449 Thesis Writing:


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