Honours Essay

PSCI 400 or PSCI 499 A/B Special Honours Essay

The Special Honours Essay thesis is designed to focus on developing practical research skills through a more intensive investigation of a research question that interests you. Students will work with a faculty supervisor to develop a research project, complete the research, and present their findings in the form of a traditional Honours thesis. This work is undertaken individually and cannot be a group project.


If you are thinking about graduate school, this is a great way to gain experience writing a longer piece of scholarship. Even if you do not want to pursue graduate studies, an Honours thesis could be your academic capstone, something to be proud of for years to come. When you apply for jobs prospective employers will be impressed to see that you have brought a research project to fruition.

What is the difference between PSCI 400 and PSCI 499A/B and which option is right for me?

Students contemplating writing a special honours essay should take either PSCI 400 or PSCI 499. Both courses are worth 1.0 credit and therefore, students are expected to complete the same amount of work in either course.

The main difference between PSCI 400 and PSCI 499 is the length of the course. The former (PSCI 400) is completed in one semester.  Whereas PSCI 499 is split over two semesters. PSCI 499A is offered in the Fall semester and PSCI 499 B is offered in the Winter semester.

The length of the course has certain advantages which students should consider before enrolling.  If your research design will require you to seek ethics approval or fieldwork, you should consider taking PSCI 499 and dividing your coursework over two semesters.  Another advantage of the two-semester option is that students can simultaneously take PSCI 315 Research Design in Political Design with PSCI 499 A in the Fall semester as they work on developing their research projects.

If you are seeking more flexibility in course selection or if you are a co-op student who is constrained by the work /study term sequence, then the shorter one-semester option (PSCI 400) might be better suited for these circumstances.

Am I eligible to take PSCI 400 or PSCI 499A/B?

Students should be at least level 4A and have a major average of 75% to be eligible for taking either PSCI 400 or PSCI 499.

What are the course expectations?

Both PSCI 400 and PSCI 499 are successfully completed upon the submission of a singular written thesis.  The length, formatting and referencing specifications will be determined by the faculty supervisor depending on the nature of the research topic. As a baseline, it is expected that the project will be at least anywhere between 8,000 to 12,000 words or 30 to 35 double-spaced pages (including references and notes).

How should I find a faculty supervisor?

Students should approach a potential supervisor as early as possible, preferably before the beginning of term in which the course is intended to be taken. Students should discuss their topic and research proposal with the faculty member who will act as supervisor. Consult this list of faculty members and their areas of research and specialization.

Please note that supervision of the Special Honours Essay is a voluntary activity undertaken by faculty members over and above normal departmental responsibilities. This means that although faculty members are generally anxious to assist students in their special projects, their other commitments may sometimes mean that they are unable to provide the supervision. Therefore, planning ahead to find a faculty supervisor is in your best interest.

How should I enroll in this course?

Enrollment in either PSCI 400 or 499 is a two-step process.  First, students should find a faculty member who is willing to supervise their research.  Second, students should complete an enrolment application outlining their intention to take PSCI 400 or 499 and their research proposal.  This application must also include evidence of the faculty supervisor’s approval of the proposed research. The deadline to submit this application is two days prior to the end of the add-drop period of the term in which the course will be taken. If your application is approved, you will be admitted into the course in the first week of classes.

If you have any questions, please contact psciadvising@uwaterloo.ca