The thesis is a key component of the honours program. During their final year of study, honours students write a thesis and present it before their peers and faculty in a department seminar. Because this degree is the prerequisite for graduate work in sociology, and because it is our highest degree, we expect the thesis to be of substance. See examples of theses from previous years (housed in the Sociology main office, Annex 112C).
To prepare your thesis, you will work with an advisor to define an area of special investigation where you can demonstrate your ability to think sociologically. The thesis provides you with an opportunity to explore in greater depth some aspect of sociology that particularly interests you.
While enrolled in SOCI 400, you will work independently, but under supervision, to produce an original work which draws upon what has been learned in your courses. The project usually takes the form of collecting and analyzing your own data but some students build a thesis by reinterpreting or extending the analysis of data already collected by someone else. It is even possible to analyze critically or extend some aspect of theory to interpret a specific topic in either discipline.
A typical Honours Thesis is between 50 to 80 pages (these are to be understood as guidelines rather than as strict limits.) The grade that you receive for the SOCI 400 reflects the work you have done on the thesis: some proportion may be for the process (getting drafts in on time, responding to direction, etc.), but most will be on the final product (grades will be determined by your advisor in collaboration with your second reader). This thesis is worth 6 credits. (SOCI 400 on your transcript).
Choosing an Advisor and Second Reader
The thesis advisor will help to guide you through your thesis by stimulating ideas and discussion, directing you to relevant literature, helping you to express your ideas in writing and setting targets and deadlines for the various stages of your research. The advisor should be knowledgeable in the field of your research, preferably someone who has also done research and published in that area. The advisor must also be someone who is able to inspire and motivate you. For this reason you are the best judge of who your advisor should be. Look through the list of faculty for people with expertise in your specialty, then meet with, and talk to more than one potential advisor before you decide.
You will also need a second reader. This is also someone familiar with the field of study in which you are doing research. The second reader does not get involved in process of advising and directing you. The role of the second reader is to provide a second opinion on the quality of the honours thesis. The thesis advisor, in collaboration with the second reader, will determine the final grade of the honours thesis. In cases where disagreement is protracted, the Chair shall mediate. If the advisor and second reader cannot agree, they must refer the decision to the Chair.
Students should be thinking about their topic and choosing their advisor during their third year. At the beginning of the fourth year each student will be asked to complete a Student/Advisor Agreement Form which includes the signatures of both the student and the advisor. The advisor and the student will confirm the second reader when the proposal is officially submitted. The Student/Advisor Agreement Form (from the department office) is to be submitted to the department Chair by the last Friday of September of your senior year.
Note that faculty members are limited in the number of students they can supervise in any one year, and so may not be able to supervise all of the students who ask them. For this reason, the earlier the potential advisor is contacted, the better the chances are of securing the agreement. In the event that a student does not have an advisor at the start of their final year, the Department Chair or the professor teaching the Senior Seminar (SOCI 491) should be contacted for assistance in finding one.
The Honours Thesis Proposal
The proposal is an outline which describes what you plan to study, presents related issues, and gives a fairly detailed description of how you plan to set about the work that needs to be done. The proposal is developed in consultation with your advisor. You will have an opportunity to share ideas and gain feedback from the instructor and other honours students in the Senior Seminar, but the proposal will, in the end, be submitted to and approved by your advisor.
A proposal for a quantitative project usually consists of an introduction, sections on procedure and data analysis, a timetable and a bibliography. The introduction introduces your study and can include some history surrounding the main issues. The procedure/ methodology section describes how the data is to be collected, from whom and over what period of time and finally, what you will do with the data once it has been collected. The bibliography will list the books and articles you will use in your study. The proposal can also include a description of any equipment needed and how you will gain access to it, what people you need to speak to and how you plan to arrange this. Finally a timetable you plan to follow, including specific dates for the completion of the various sections and tasks is important for keeping both student and the advisor on track towards the successful and timely completion of the work.
For a qualitative or theoretical study, the format is basically the same as above except that more emphasis will be placed on the statement of the question or issue being examined. It is also useful to outline the important sub-issues related to the main question. This will break down the study into discrete tasks and assist in the establishment of a timetable. In addition, the procedures/methodology section can indicate how you plan to ensure that all the relevant sources have been read. This may include contacting other libraries, speaking with a range of informed individuals, and arranging for inter-library loan services.
The proposal is to be completed and submitted to your advisor no later than the end of September of the final year. It can be started during the third year or as soon as you have a advisor to work with. Consult the department guidelines for the format of your proposal and thesis. Consult your advisor on the style for your bibliographies and references. Normally students will follow the ASA (American Sociology Association) Style Handbook.
If your research involves human subjects, you will be required to fill out a Student Research Ethics form (two copies to be submitted to the Department Administrative Assistant by November 15 of the final year).
Presentation of Honours Thesis
Part of the thesis requirement includes the presentation of the work to the department at the end of the second term. These presentations will be arranged by the Student Liaison (usually the instructor of SOCI 491). Guidelines and coaching on presentation technique and content will be available through the Senior Seminar and from your advisor. Presentations normally take place in mid-March of the final year.
Grading of Honours Thesis
The advisor, in collaboration with the second reader, will determine the final grade for the thesis. The grade must be submitted to the chair for final review by April 25 of your senior year.
Important Dates for Honours Thesis:
- Second term: Choose thesis topic and advisor
- Second term: Begin reading in your topic area.
September: Thesis advisor and second reader chosen. Thesis topic must be approved by advisor. Develop proposal in consultation with advisor.
- September 30: Student /Advisor agreement form must be submitted
- September 30: Completed Proposal must be submitted to the Advisor
- November 15: Submit Ethics Approval form
- December 1: First two chapters of thesis submitted to advisor via SOCI 491 supervisor.
- December: Interim grade submitted to Registrar.
- February 15: First draft of thesis submitted to advisor and returned with comments. Most theses go through many drafts.
- March 1: First full draft completed and submitted to advisor.
- Mid-March: Presentation of Theses to the Department.
- March 31: Final Draft must be submitted to the advisor and second reader via the SOCI 491 supervisor.
- April 15: Submit 3 copies of thesis to Department Administrative Assistant for binding.
- April 25: Last date for Advisor and the Second Reader to submit grades to the Chair.
Advanced Major Papers
Your advanced major paper must be written in a senior level course of your choice in this program. By September 30 of your senior year you must have chosen your topic and advisor and be enrolled in an appropriate 400 level course taught by your advisor. Your advisor will assign a grade, and give written comments and suggestions for revision. You must revise the paper, and submit it to the Chair of the Department, along with the original draft and advisor's comments, by March 31st of your senior year. The chair will assign a pass/fail (note the department policy on plagiarism).