Honours Thesis Handbook

This handbook, effective September 1, 2016, is the course outline for PSYCH 499A/B/C (Honours Thesis) from Fall 2016 and onward.

Table of contents

Honours thesis (PSYCH 499A/B/C)

What is an honours thesis?

Psychology is a scientific approach to understanding mind and behaviour. Honours Psychology students all learn about the body of knowledge that exists in psychology as well as the scientific procedures for making new discoveries. The honours thesis course (PSYCH 499A/B/C) is an optional course for those who have a strong interest in conducting original research and wish to gain greater experience in research design, data analysis and interpretation.

Students carry out the honours thesis project under the supervision of a faculty member and present the findings in a scholarly paper. An honours thesis can be an empirical research project or more rarely a thesis of a theoretical nature. For an empirical project, the student develops a testable hypothesis and uses scientific procedures to evaluate the hypothesis. For a theoretical project, the student integrates and evaluates existing evidence to offer new interpretations and hypotheses. The difference between the two types of projects is basically the same as the difference between an article in Psychological Review or Psychological Bulletin, and an article in any of the experimental journals. A regular journal article typically reports the result of some empirical investigation and discusses its significance. A Psychological Review paper on the other hand, offers a theoretical contribution (e.g., suggesting a new theoretical approach or a way of revising an old one and showing how the new approach may be tested). A Psychological Bulletin article usually offers a review of an evaluative and integrative character, leading to conclusions and some closure about the state of the issue and future directions for research.

Students who plan to apply for admission to graduate school in psychology are typically advised to do an empirical research project for the honours thesis. Students who choose to do a theoretical paper should discuss their decision with the PSYCH 499 coordinator (see below) early in the PSYCH 499A term.

The topic of investigation for the honours thesis will be based on a combination of the student's and the supervisor's interests.

Students in year two or three who are considering whether or not they want to do an honours thesis can learn more about what is involved in doing an honours thesis by doing any of the following:

  • attending an honours thesis orientation meeting. The meeting is typically the first week of classes each academic term. The official date and time of the meeting will be posted on the PSYCH 499 website.
  • attending PSYCH 499B oral presentations by other students. 
  • reading a few of the honours thesis samples that are available online PSYCH 499 SharePoint site (site only accessible to students currently enrolled in PSYCH 499) or via our Learn shell (only available when enrolled).

In addition to the student's honours thesis supervisor, another resource is the PSYCH 499 course coordinator. The PSYCH 499 coordinator conducts the thesis orientation meeting at the start of each term and is available to discuss any course-related or supervisor-related issues with potential students and enrolled students. If students have questions or concerns regarding the procedures for doing an honours thesis that cannot be answered by their thesis supervisor, they should contact the PSYCH 499 coordinator.

The honours thesis course (PSYCH 499A/B/C) is worth 1.5 units (i.e., 3 term courses). The final numerical grade for the thesis will be recorded for each of PSYCH 499A, 499B, and 499C.

Who should I do an honours thesis?

Honours Psychology majors are not required to do an honours thesis.

Good reasons for doing an honours thesis include:

  • An honours thesis is a recommended culmination of the extensive training that honours Psychology majors receive in research methods and data analysis (e.g., PSYCH 291, 292, 389, 390,  492). PSYCH 499 is a good choice for students who have a strong interest in, and commitment to, conducting original research and wish to gain greater experience in research design, data analysis and interpretation.
  • An honours degree in Psychology that includes a thesis is typically required for admission to graduate programs in Psychology.
  • Thesis supervisors are able to write more meaningful reference letters for students' applications for further studies, scholarships, or employment.

Prerequisites for admission to PSYCH 499

The prerequisites for PSYCH 499 are all of the following:

  • enrolment in honours Psychology or make-up Psychology
  • successful completion of PSYCH 291, 292, 391, and at least one of: PSYCH 389, 390, 483, 484
  • 60% cumulative overall average
  • 82% cumulative psychology average

*calendar descriptions as well as course outlines

The course prerequisites for enrolment in PSYCH 499A are strictly enforced because the courses provide essential background for success in PSYCH 499, and it is necessary to restrict the number of students enrolling in PSYCH 499. Appeals to enrol in all 3 of the following courses concurrently will not be accepted:

  • PSYCH 391
  • Advanced research methods course (PSYCH 389, 390, 483, 484)
  • PSYCH 499A

In addition to the above formal prerequisites, we assume that all students who are enrolling in PSYCH 499 will have completed at least 4 of the "discipline core courses" (i.e., PSYCH 207, 211, 253, 257, 261) prior to the PSYCH 499A enrolment term.

See "Class enrolment for PSYCH 499A/B/C" below for further details regarding course enrolment, and the PSYCH 499 Application for students without the course prerequisites (e.g., PSYCH average between 81%-81.9%).

Selecting a topic for the honours thesis

The topic of the honours thesis will be based on a combination of the interests of the student and his/her thesis supervisor. One approach for selecting an honours thesis topic is for the student to first find a thesis supervisor who has similar interests to his/her own, and then for the student and the thesis supervisor to develop an honours thesis proposal which compliments the faculty member's current research. Alternatively, some students have more specific research interests and will seek an appropriate thesis supervisor. Students are advised against developing an honours thesis project in too much detail before securing a thesis supervisor.

Review some of the honours thesis titles recently supervised by our faculty members.

See research interests of individual faculty members in the next section.

Finding a thesis supervisor

Each student who enrols in PSYCH 499 must find their own supervisor for his/her honours thesis project. A thesis supervisor must be finalized by the eighth day of classes for the PSYCH 499A term.

Full-time faculty members in the UW Psychology Department, and the four Psychology faculty members at St. Jerome's are all potential thesis supervisors. Think carefully about what you want to tell faculty members about yourself before making contact (think 'foot-in-the-door'). For example, inform a potential supervisor of the following:

  • for which school terms you are seeking a thesis supervisor
    (If not planning to do PSYCH 499 over back-to-back school terms, please explain why, e.g., co-op work term).
  • why you are interested in doing an honours thesis
  • the program that you are enrolled in
    (e.g., BA versus BSc, co-op versus regular stream)
  • your year of study and target date for graduation
  • when you will complete the prerequisites for enrolment in PSYCH 499A
  • your cumulative overall and psychology average (highlight improvement if applicable)
  • your grades for research methods and statistics courses
  • your educational and career goals
  • your volunteer/work experience that you have had previously and with whom
  • why are you interested in doing your thesis under his/her supervision e.g.,
    • Did you work in his/her lab as a volunteer or paid research assistant?
    • Did you take a course with him/her previously?
    • Have you read articles that he/she wrote?
    • Do his/her interests relate to your interests for studies at the graduate level and/or future employment?
    • Were you referred by someone and why?

The search for a thesis supervisor will be easier if you establish rapport during second and third year with faculty members who are potential thesis supervisors. Ways to network with faculty members include the following:

  • get involved in the faculty member's lab. See 'Research experience' on the Psychology undergraduate website for further details
  • seek advice from faculty members regarding your educational and career goals. For example:
  • be an active participant in the class discussions for the advanced research methods courses (PSYCH 389, 390) and honours seminars (PSYCH 453-463).
  • enrol in a directed studies course (PSYCH 480-486) where you will receive one-on-one supervision from a faculty member. See the course application form for further details
  • read articles that the faculty member has written and discuss the material with him/her
  • attend departmental colloquia and divisional seminars where students can engage in discussions with faculty members about the material presented. Postings appear on the right sidebar of the Psychology Department home page

You may find that some faculty members that you approach will have already committed to supervising as many honours thesis projects as they feel able to handle for a given year. Be persistent in your search for a thesis supervisor and do not feel discouraged if you need to approach several (i.e., six or eight) people.

If you are unable to obtain a thesis supervisor, please speak to the PSYCH 499 coordinator.

Faculty members other than the thesis supervisor can also be very useful resources during the course of the thesis project. Feel free to discuss your thesis work with any relevant faculty (or graduate students).

Research interests of the faculty members in the Psychology Department and recent honours theses supervised

For research interests of faculty members please refer to the "Our People" page in the main menu and click on the faculty member's name.

You can sort the list by "Name" or "Area of Study".

Note that faculty members may not be available to supervise honours theses during sabbatical dates indicated on the web site.

For recent honours theses supervised by individual faculty members please refer to the honours theses supervised website.

Class enrolment for PSYCH 499A/B/C

Refer to the course enrolment information/instructions on the PSYCH 499 website.

The honours thesis (PSYCH 499A/B/C) is worth 1.5 units (i.e., 3 term courses). Students may not enrol for all of PSYCH 499A/B/C in one term. Students should consult with their thesis supervisor regarding the appropriate class enrolment sequence for PSYCH 499. Students can spread the class enrolment for PSYCH 499A, 499B, and 499C over three terms beginning in the 3B term or over two terms beginning in 4A. Those choosing to do the honours thesis over two terms will enrol in PSYCH 499A/B in 4A and PSYCH 499C in 4B. Alternative sequencing (e.g., 499A/B/C over three terms) should be discussed with the thesis supervisor. Although students can start an honours thesis in any term, the Fall term is typically recommended.

Factors that students should consider when deciding which terms to enrol for PSYCH 499A/B/C:

  1. When will the prerequisites for PSYCH 499 be completed? For example, Honours Psych & Arts and Business Co-op students will not enrol in PSYCH 499A until the 4A term because the prerequisites for PSYCH 499 won't be completed until the 3B term.
  2. Will the thesis supervisor be available to supervise the project during the terms that the student proposes to enrol for PSYCH 499A/B/C (e.g., is the supervisor planning a sabbatical leave or to retire)?
  3. For co-op students, how will the work/school sequence interfere with the project?
  4. The amount of time necessary to obtain ethics clearance varies depending on the participants required and research design.
  5. When is the optimal timing for data collection? For example, if PSYCH 101 students will be participants for the study, one has to consider the ratio of PSYCH 101 students to researchers that are available in a given term. The Fall term is typically the best time to collect data from this population, Winter term second best, and the Spring term the poorest.
  6. What other responsibilities does the student have (e.g., course selections, personal circumstances) in a given term?
  7. The thesis supervisor requires a sufficient amount of time to get to know the student before he/she is asked to write the student reference letters (e.g., for applications for graduate school, scholarships, or employment).

Details are provided in the next 3 sections regarding the course requirements for each of PSYCH 499A, 499B, and 499C.

Students should be diligent about their responsibilities for the honours thesis. Procrastination leads to delays in firming up the research proposal, doing the oral presentation, obtaining ethics clearance, and beginning data collection. Ultimately procrastination can lead to poor quality work and/or a postponement of graduation.

Warnings regarding a decision to discontinue PSYCH 499

Students should consult with their thesis supervisor and the Psychology undergraduate advisor before dropping any of PSYCH 499A, 499B, or 499C.


  1. If a student wants to drop any of PSYCH 499A, 499B, and 499C in the current term, the individual course requests are governed by the same course drop deadlines and penalties (e.g., WD and WF grades) as other courses. Refer to important dates on Quest.
  2. Dropping PSYCH 499B and/or PSYCH 499C in the current term does not remove PSYCH 499A or PSYCH 499B from earlier terms.
  3. If a student does not complete the honours thesis, any INC (incomplete) grades for PSYCH 499A/B/C will be converted to FTC (Failure to Complete = 32% in the average calculations). Further, any IP (In Progress) grades for PSYCH 499A/B/C will be converted to FTC (=32%).
  4. Honours students with INC and/or IP grades will be unable to graduate (e.g., with a General BA in Psych) until those grades are replaced by a final grade(s) (e.g., 32%) and the grade(s) has been factored into the average calculation. In such cases, the student must meet all graduation requirements, including overall average, Psychology average and minimum number of courses required.
  5. Those who want any grades (e.g., INC, IP, WD, WF, FTC, 32%) for PSYCH 499 removed from their records are advised to submit a petition to the Examinations and Standings Committee. Before doing so, they should consult with the Psychology undergraduate advisor.

Course requirements for PSYCH 499A - progress report and thesis reviewer nominations

Students should attend the honours thesis orientation meeting during the PSYCH 499A term even if they attended a meeting during second or third year. The meeting is usually the first week of classes each academic term. The official date and time will be posted on the PSYCH 499 website. At the meeting, the PSYCH 499 coordinator will describe what is involved in doing an honours thesis and answer questions. Students will also receive information regarding library resources and procedures for obtaining ethics clearance.

Students must report the name of their thesis supervisor to the PSYCH 499 course administrator in the Psychology Undergraduate Office by the eighth day of classes for the PSYCH 499A term. During the PSYCH 499A term, students must

  • conduct background research on the thesis topic (e.g., formulate a research question, review relevant literature, formulate major hypotheses)
  • nominate potential thesis reviewers
  • submit a progress report to the PSYCH 499 coordinator.

Progress reports

Progress reports are due the last day classes for the PSYCH 499A term. The thesis supervisor must sign the progress report before it is submitted to the PSYCH 499 coordinator. Submit the progress report directly to the course coordinator's mailbox in PAS 3021A or via email, cc'ing the course administrator and your supervisor to give confirmation that they have "signed off" on your progress report (this can pose as the signature). Students should keep a copy of their progress report because the reports will not be returned. The PSYCH 499 coordinator will contact individual students by email if there is a problem with their progress report.

The progress report should be about 5-10 pages in length and include the following information:

  • a title page identifying the document as a "PSYCH 499A Progress Report", with the proposed title of the project; student's name, address, telephone number, and email address; the student's ID number, the name of the honours thesis supervisor; and the signature of the supervisor indicating that he or she has read the report and approved it;
  • a statement of the general topic of the proposed research;
  • a brief account of the background literature the student has read, together with a brief explanation of its relevance for the project;
  • a clear statement of the research questions and/or the major hypotheses that the study will address;
  • a brief statement of the further steps that will be necessary to complete (e.g., settling on a research design, etc.) before the student will be ready to submit a research proposal and do an oral presentation.

PSYCH 499A students who are not concurrently enrolled in PSYCH 499B typically do not have a fully developed research proposal by the end of the first term of PSYCH 499. The progress reports should be submitted on time and should include as much detail regarding the research proposal as possible (see next section for further details).

Some PSYCH 499A students who are not concurrently enrolled in PSYCH 499B will firm up their research proposals earlier than expected and will want to do, and are encouraged to do, the oral presentation of the research proposal in the first term of PSYCH 499 (see next section for further details). In these cases, the IP (In Progress) grade for PSYCH 499B will be applied to the academic term in which the student formally enrols for PSYCH 499B.

Students who submit progress reports will receive an IP (In Progress) grade for PSYCH 499A; those who do not will receive an INC (Incomplete) grade for PSYCH 499A. INC and IP grades for PSYCH 499 do not impact on average calculations and students with either of these grades can be considered for the Dean's honours list. However, students with INC grades are not eligible for scholarship consideration. Note that INC grades convert to FTC (failure to complete = 32%) after 70 days.

Thesis reviewer

The thesis reviewer is due by the last day of classes for the term for students who enrol in PSYCH 499A only and they are due by the end of the third week of the term for students who enrol concurrently in PSYCH 499A/B. You will work with your supervisor to decide who would be a strong reviewer and will plan this out with that reviewer. Once your reviewer is determined, please email the course administrator. The thesis reviewer’s duties will include reading the thesis proposal and attending the oral presentation in the PSYCH 499B term and reading and grading the final thesis at the end of the PSYCH 499C term.

Full-time faculty members in the UW Psychology Department and the four Psychology faculty members at St. Jerome's are all potential thesis reviewers. (Note: the student’s thesis supervisor cannot be the thesis reviewer). Students may consult with their thesis supervisors for advice about which faculty members to request as potential thesis reviewers. Several types of considerations might guide whom students seek as potential reviewers. For example, a student may seek a reviewer who has expertise in the topic they are studying, or they may seek breadth by requesting a reviewer with expertise in a quite distinct area of study, or they may seek a reviewer who has expertise in a relevant type of statistical analysis. It is up to the student, in consultation with their supervisor, to determine what factors to prioritise in selecting potential reviewers.

Course requirements for PSYCH 499B - oral presentation of the thesis proposal

During the PSYCH 499B term, students must finalize the research proposal for their honours thesis project and present this information orally to their thesis reviewer and the student’s thesis supervisor. Although the presentation is not graded, it is a course requirement that must precede the completed thesis. The presentation gives the student an opportunity to discuss their research proposals with a wider audience and to receive feedback regarding their literature review and the scope, design, testing procedures, etc., for their projects.

It is also essential that students who are doing an empirical research project involving human or animal participants formally apply for ethics clearance, and that they receive ethics clearance before beginning data collection (see 'Obtaining Ethics Clearance for Research with Human or Animal Participants' for further details).

Students should contact the  PSYCH 499 course administrator in the Psychology Undergraduate Office early in the PSYCH 499B term to book the date and time for their oral presentation. When booking, students are asked to indicate if they will be presenting virtually, or in-person and should mention if the presentation is open to other students to attend. Students are asked to book their presentation as early as possible to ensure space is availableThe thesis reviewer will attend and conduct the presentation. Presentations occur during the first three months of each term (available dates/times and current presentation schedule are posted on the PSYCH 499 website). The presentation should be 25 minutes in length followed by a 25 minute period for discussion and questions. Students are encouraged to attend other students' presentations when available.

A written version of the research proposal must be submitted to the mailbox or email of the thesis reviewer at least two business days prior to the scheduled date of the student's oral presentation of the proposal (meaning no later than 4:30pm Thursday for a Tuesday presentation). For empirical research projects, the proposal must include the following: a title page identifying the document as a "PSYCH 499B Research Proposal"; a brief review of the relevant scientific literature; a clear statement of the research question and major hypotheses to be examined; the planned method, including the number and types of participants, the design, the task or tests to be given, and the procedure to be used; the statistical tests and comparisons that are planned; and the expected date for beginning data collection. For a theoretical research project, the proposal must include a clear review of the issues, theories, or constructs to be analyzed; a description of the scholarly database to be used (including a list of important references); and a clear account of the intended contribution of the work (i.e., how it will advance understanding).

The research proposal must be approved and signed by the student's thesis supervisor before the proposal is submitted to the thesis reviewer. Students can get a better idea of the content and format required for the research proposal by referring to the methods section of completed honours theses. Students should keep a copy of their research proposal because the copy that is submitted to the thesis reviewer will not be returned.

All PSYCH 499 students must complete the 'TCPS 2 Tutorial Course on Research Ethics (CORE)' before the research ethics application on which they are named is submitted for approval. In addition, all PSYCH 499 students must complete a "Researcher Training" session with the REG Coordinator.

Students who have completed the oral presentation requirement will receive an IP (In Progress) grade for PSYCH 499B; those who have not will receive an INC (Incomplete) grade for PSYCH 499B. INC and IP grades for PSYCH 499 do not impact on average calculations and students with either of these grades can be considered for the Dean's honours list. However, students with INC grades are not eligible for scholarship consideration. Note that INC grades convert to FTC (failure to complete = 32%) after 70 days.

Students who enrol in PSYCH 499A and 499B in the same term and satisfy the oral presentation requirement that term will not be required to also submit a progress report.

On-line surveys

Honours thesis students who require assistance regarding research software and the development of on-line surveys, beyond advice from the honours thesis supervisor, may wish to seek advice from Bill Eickmeier (Computer Systems Manager and Research Programmer; PAS 4008; ext 36638; email bee@uwaterloo.ca). Students are expected to manage much of this process independently and will be given access to a self-help website. Most students will be able to work independently using a Qualtrics account provided by the thesis supervisor, or using the web form template notes Bill has posted on the web. However, Bill is available to provide additional guidance if he is given at least three to four weeks advance notice.

Caution regarding off-campus data collection

If you are planning to collect data off-campus, please read carefully the "Field Work Risk Management" requirements provided by the University of Waterloo Safety Office. "Field Work" refers to any activity undertaken by members of the university in any location external to University of Waterloo campuses for the purpose of research, study, training or learning.

We assume that insurance for private vehicles is up to the owners and that insurance for rental vehicles, if applicable, would be through the rental company. Further details of University of Waterloo policies regarding travel.

Please discuss your plans for off-campus data collection with your thesis supervisor and the PSYCH 499 coordinator in advance to ensure that all bases are covered with regards to waivers, insurance, etc.

Course requirements for PSYCH 499C - completing the thesis and submitting it for marking

In the PSYCH 499C term, students will complete the data collection for their project (see the previous paragraphs if using on-line surveys or doing off-campus data collection), analyze/evaluate the data, and finish writing the honours thesis. The honours thesis must be written in the form indicated by the American Psychological Association (APA) Publication Manual (available at the Bookstore), but may be more abbreviated than a regular journal article. Sample honours theses can be found in the Learn shell.

For an empirical research project, the following sections are required in the thesis:

  • abstract
  • introduction (literature review and the hypothesis)
  • methods (participants, design, task or test to be given, testing procedures, measures)
  • results
  • discussion
  • references

It is not necessary to append ORE application forms to the completed honours thesis. However, a copy of the formal notification of ethics clearance is required.

The sections and subsections required for theoretical papers will be slightly different than for empirical research projects, and will vary according to the topic being studied. If possible, students should plan the layout for the theoretical paper in the PSYCH 499B term because the plan may guide their literature review. Students should consult with their thesis supervisor and the PSYCH 499 coordinator about the layout.

Normally students will receive feedback from their thesis supervisor on at least one or two (and often more) drafts of the thesis before the final paper is submitted for marking. Be sure to leave adequate time for this process.

Submitting the thesis for marking

The final version of the thesis is due the last day the class period for the PSYCH 499C term. However, due dates do change each term dependent on grade submission deadlines held by the registrar’s office, so it is important to follow the due date on our official due date page. See 'Extensions on the thesis submission deadline' below regarding requests for extensions.

In order for the Psychology Department to track theses that are submitted for marking and ensure that marks are forwarded to the Registrar's Office as quickly as possible, students must submit an electronic copy of the honours thesis to the PSYCH 499 course administrator who will coordinate grading by the thesis supervisor and the thesis reviewer, and will submit PSYCH 499 grades to the Registrar's Office. The honours thesis does not need to be signed by the thesis supervisor. The marking process is as follows:

  1. Receipt of the thesis will be recorded and an electronic copy of the thesis will be forwarded to the student's thesis supervisor and reviewer with a grading form for comments.
  2. The thesis supervisor will return the grading form with comments and a grade recommendation to the PSYCH 499 course administrator and the thesis reviewer.
  3. The thesis reviewer will be responsible for assigning the final grade and will return the completed grading form to the PSYCH 499 course administrator.
  4. The PSYCH 499 course administrator will notify the student and the Registrar's Office of the final grade. The final numerical grade for the thesis will be recorded for each of PSYCH 499A, 499B, and 499C.
  5. Page 2 of the grading form will be returned to the student.

Extensions on the thesis submission deadline

We will do our best to ensure that students graduate at the preferred convocation date; however, we cannot guarantee that students who submit honours theses for marking after the deadline will be able to graduate at the preferred convocation date.

Students should refer to the PSYCH 499 website on a regular basis for information regarding PSYCH 499 deadlines that may affect the target date for submitting the honours thesis for marking (e.g., for getting one's name on the convocation program, for sending transcripts and/or letters regarding completion of the degree to other schools for admission purposes, to be considered for awards, etc.).

We strongly advise that students submit the thesis for marking at least four to six weeks prior to the date of convocation. Further, they should confirm that their thesis supervisor will be available to grade the thesis within a few days following submission of the thesis.

Students who do not submit an honours thesis for marking by the end of the examination period for the PSYCH 499C term require approval for an extension from their thesis supervisor. After speaking with the thesis supervisor, the student must report the revised date of completion to the PSYCH 499 course administrator. They will be given an IP (In Progress) grade for PSYCH 499C if they have done the oral presentation for PSYCH 499B and if they are making reasonable progress on the thesis. Otherwise, an INC (Incomplete) grade will be submitted for PSYCH 499C. INC and IP grades for PSYCH 499 do not impact on average calculations and students with either of these grades can be considered for the Dean's honours list. However, students with INC grades are not eligible for scholarship consideration. Note that INC grades convert to FTC (failure to complete = 32%) after 70 days.

1. Honours students with INC and/or IP grades for PSYCH 499ABC will be unable to graduate (e.g., with a General BA in Psychology) until those grades are replaced by final grades (e.g., 32%) and the grades have been factored into the average calculation. In such cases, the student must meet all graduation requirements, including overall average, Psychology average, and minimum number of courses required.
2. If IP grades for all of PSYCH 499ABC remain on the record for 12 months following the PSYCH 499C term, the Registrar's Office will convert the IP grades to FTC (failure to complete = 32%). If this occurs, consult with the Psychology undergraduate advisor regarding your options.

Capture your thesis on video!

As of Fall 2012, we are asking honours thesis students if they'd like to take part in a voluntary "video snapshot" of their work. This is a great way to tell others about your thesis, and your experience at the University of Waterloo.

Upon completion of your thesis and submission of your 499C document, we are asking students to arrange for someone from their supervisor's lab to take a short 1-2 minute video clip of you the student.  In that video, we'd like to hear a 'grand summary of what you researched, and what you found out'. We'd also love to hear about 'what you learned in the honours thesis course'.

These video clips can be taken with a smartphone (or other video camera), then emailed to the PSYCH 499 coordinator or the PSYCH 499 course administrator. Alternatively you can arrange a time to be videotaped by the course administrator (ideally when handing in your 499C final thesis document).

Completing a video is optional, and should be done ideally within two weeks of submission of your thesis. Whether or not you choose to capture your thesis on video will in no way affect your grade in the 499 honours thesis course. Once we have reviewed the video we will upload it to our Psychology website for general viewing by the public. Permission forms to release your photo/video on the Department of Psychology’s website will be available from the PSYCH 499 coordinator. The Model Release Form can also be found on Waterloo's Creative Services website.

Convocation awards

Each year the Psychology Department nominates a student(s) for the following awards: Governor General Silver Medal (university level), the Alumni Gold Medal (faculty level), and the Psychology Departmental convocation award. These awards are only given at the June convocation. Typically, only honours students who have final grades for all course work, including the honours thesis, by the first week of May can be considered for these awards. Students whose overall and Psychology averages fall in the 88-100% range are strongly encouraged to adhere to the thesis submission deadlines noted above.

Obtaining ethics clearance for research with human or animal participants

The Office of Research Ethics (ORE) at the University of Waterloo is responsible for the ethics review and clearance of all research conducted on and off-campus by University of Waterloo students, staff, and faculty that involves human and animal (live, non-human vertebrates) participants.

Research involving human or animal participants must not begin until notification of full ethics clearance has been provided by the ORE.

Information regarding the application and ethics review process for research involving human participants is available on the Office of Research Ethics web site. However, specific information regarding the ethics application process for Honours thesis research is provided below.

Information regarding the application and ethics review process for research involving animals is also available on the Office of Research Ethics web site.

For individual contacts in the ORE, see 'Contacts' in this handbook.

Ethics Application: Once the rationale and hypotheses for the thesis project have been formulated and basic design and procedures have been determined, the student may submit the project for ethics review and clearance.

In order to ensure that students have a good understanding of the ethics review process and guidelines they are required to complete the TCPS2 -2022 CORE Tutorial (described below) prior to preparing your ethics application.

Upon completion of the CORE Tutorial, the student may begin the ethics application by signing onto the Kuali System for Ethics located at UWaterloo Ethics either starting the application on their own, or having the Thesis Advisor begin it. Please note that the student will need to have accessed the Kuali system in order for the Advisor to add them to the protocol. The advisor should be listed as the Principal Investigator and the level of research should be Senior Honours Thesis.

All Thesis projects require new ethics unless alternative arrangements have been made to make use of a currently running project. This should be discussed with the thesis advisor and approval should be obtained from the department to create an amendment for the project.

Upon receipt of Full Ethics Clearance, and if the student and supervisor are sure that there will be no revisions to the design or procedures, then data collection may begin. Whenever possible though, we encourage you to complete the Research Proposal and Oral Presentation before you begin data collection.

Note that procedures for applying for ethics clearance vary according to the type of sample -- for example, university students versus children in the Early Childhood Education Centre, etc. Further details are provided below.

Study Modifications: Based on feedback provided at the student’s Oral Presentation, the student and thesis supervisor may decide to make some modifications to the research plans. If the ethics application has not yet been submitted for review, then the changes can be incorporated into the application. If you have received ethics clearance, then you will need to submit an amendment by logging into Kuali and selecting the amendment option from the right hand side.

Human Participants in Research

Honours Thesis students must read and be familiar with the University of Waterloo guidelines and procedures for conducting research with human participants before submitting their applications for ethics clearance to conduct research.

The following is an excerpt from the guidelines:

“The ethics review process is intended to offer a level of assurance to research participants, the investigators and the University that research participants will be involved in ethically sound and well-designed research, and will be engaged in a prior consent process that is fully informed and voluntary. The ethics review process also ensures adequate protection of individuals’ privacy as well as confidentiality of information they provide. In addition, the ethics review process increases the probability that all known and anticipated risks associated with the research are identified and adequately communicated to participants prior to participation. Moreover, it ensures that the known and potential risks are judged to be outweighed by potential benefits from conducting the research. Procedures used to recruit participants are examined to ensure they are free of explicit or implicit coercion and enable participants to withdraw their consent at any time without fear of reprisal.”

Research conducted in the Psychology department follows the ethical guidelines set out in the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, 2nd edition (TCPS 2 - 2022).

Please note that effective January 1, 2024 you will need to be up to date with your TCPS to include the 2022 version. If you have only completed the TCPS2 you will need to renew your certification.

Associated with the TCPS 2-2022 is an online tutorial called Course on Research Ethics (CORE). CORE is comprised of 9 modules, is self-paced and includes interactive exercises and multi-disciplinary examples. A certificate of completion is provided. CORE replaces and updates the earlier TCPS Tutorial. In order to ensure that you have a better understanding of the ethics review guidelines you are required to complete the CORE Tutorial prior to submitting your ethics application. Please note that if you have already completed the CORE Tutorial as an RA for example, you are not required to complete it again. Upon completion of the CORE Tutorial please send a copy of the Completion Certificate to the DERC Officer. The link to CORE is: http://pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/education/tutorial-didacticiel/

The particular procedures for applying for ethics clearance for research with human participants depends on the population from which participants are obtained; however, all projects require the submission of an application form to the Office of Research Ethics (ORE).


Step 1: Submit an ORE ethics application electronically using the ORE online application system. (Kuali System)

Step 2: Ensure that you have completed all of the required sections and that all information forms are uploaded including

  • Recruitment, Information-Consent and Feedback materials - all labelled
  • Survey materials, including Mass Testing Scales, and stimulus appendices - all labelled
  • Research Proposal (if available),reviewed and approved by your faculty supervisor

The review process takes approximately from 3 weeks depending on the nature of the research and the volume of applications already under review. Notification of Full Ethics Clearance will be emailed to you and your supervisor. A signed copy of the Full Ethics Clearance Certificate is sent by regular mail to your supervisor.

Further details about the REG can be found on the REG website.

To observe children (no interaction); or to interact with the children, the children’s parents, and/or the teachers in the ECEC in the Psychology Department at UW the following steps must be completed.

Note: Step 1 must be done before submitting the application.

Step 1: The project must receive initial approval by the ECEC Director (PAS 1039; Ext. 43904). The student researcher should arrange a meeting with the ECEC Director to discuss the details of the project and to obtain a copy of the 'Early Childhood Education Centre Guidelines for Researchers'.

Step 2: If the ECEC Director approves the researcher's request, the researcher then completes and submits a research ethics application using the ORE application system, and also submits a signed paper copy directly to the DERC office.

Expect delays in the school board approval process since the meetings to review and approve school-based research typically only occur 4 times per year (e.g., September, November, January, and March). Deadlines for application submission are listed on the web.

The dates and links to the school board guidelines and application requirements can be found at:

Note: All research ethics applications must include:

  • Ethics Application submitted through Kuali Systems
    • Recruitment Materials
      • REG (Sona Description), PSYCPool (email/phone scripts), SLC (Flyer/Poster)
    • Information/Consent Letter (+ Post-debriefing Consent if deception)
    • Feedback/Appreciation Letter (+ Oral Debriefing if deception)
    • Survey/Questionnaire/Interview items/Stimulus Appendices
    • Research Proposal

Evaluation of the honours thesis

Thesis supervisors and reviewers are given the following guidelines when they are asked to recommend a final grade for the honours thesis:

96-100% An unusually superb thesis, one of the best you have seen in years, involving rare dedication and a tremendous amount of independent work, at the level of a strong graduate student.
93-95% A truly excellent thesis, representing an impressive level of achievement all round (e.g., clear and effective writing throughout; illuminating, correctly reported data analyses; probing, well-informed introduction and discussion sections), and unusual independence. Should be considered for a thesis award.
90-92% An excellent thesis, representing a high level of achievement all round (e.g., clear and effective writing throughout; illuminating, correctly reported data analyses; probing, well-informed introduction and discussion sections), and unusual independence. Not quite thesis award quality.
85-89% A strong thesis, representing a high level of competence overall, but having some specific, nontrivial shortcomings that the student could have rectified; with a fine level of independence.
80-84% A good thesis overall, but one that has more major shortcomings than we would typically expect in a strong honours thesis; usually with a modest level of independence.
70-79% A just satisfactory thesis, clearly below the level we would typically expect, with serious shortcomings; typically with a relatively low level of independence.
60-69% Just barely acceptable as an honours thesis, far below the level we would typically expect, with lots of serious shortcomings and a low level of independence.

Honours thesis award

Each year, the Psychology Department recognizes the achievement of a small number of students who have produced the most outstanding honours theses. Theses will be considered for a thesis award if the thesis supervisor nominates the student and the thesis receives a final grade of 93 or above. Theses submitted for marking after the second Friday in May will not be considered for a thesis award. Nominated theses will be reviewed to select the award recipients and the recipients will be notified by the Psychology Undergraduate Office.

Annual Ontario Psychology Undergraduate Thesis Conference

The thesis conference is an informal forum for students to present (orally or in poster format) a summary of their honours thesis to a friendly and enthusiastic audience of their peers and to discuss their work with others who have similar interests.

Registration is required. There is no registration fee for presenters or thesis supervisors and lunch is provided. Participants report that the event is very worthwhile and enjoyable. Clearly a great way to end fourth year!

The conference is typically held at the end of April or early May. If you will be presenting at the conference, data collection for the thesis should be completed by March. You are not required to present a complete analysis of your thesis results at the conference.

Further details about the thesis conference

Avoid academic offences

Failing to adhere to established standards in the conduct of research is a serious offence. Please refer to "Obtaining ethics clearance for research" above for further details.

Students should also familiarize themselves with Policy 71 (Student Academic Discipline Policy) as well as the advice from the Faculty of Arts regarding avoiding academic offences.

Computing facilities

Please check the Information Systems & Technology (IST) Department website for information regarding setting up your University of Waterloo computer account, accessing the internet, costs for printing, accessing your account from off-campus, etc. If you are enrolled in the Faculty of Arts, please also check the Arts Computing Office website for information.

The University of Waterloo computer accounts give students free access to applications such as word processing, statistical and graphics packages, spreadsheets, and electronic mail. Students also have access to the internet which allows them to use Waterloo's Electronic Library including the electronic journal article databases. Students are charged for printing and can put money for printing on to their resource account at various locations across campus including PAS 1080 using their WatCard.

It is critical that the University (e.g., administration, instructors, academic advisors, etc.) can reach you reliably by email (e.g., regarding academic standing, degree requirements, deadlines, etc.). If you are using a web email account such as Hotmail or Yahoo, we strongly encourage you to consider using a more reliable email account such as your Waterloo account. Your Waterloo account is just as easy to use from off-campus as other free web accounts but is more secure. You can access your Waterloo account from the "mywaterloo" website.

If you are using an email address other than your Waterloo email address you should do one of the following two things:

  • change the email address that you want posted on the university directory, or
  • activate your Waterloo account and arrange for the email from your Waterloo account to be forwarded to your alternate email address. The alternate email address will not appear on the university directory.


Intent to Graduate Forms and general convocation information is available on the Registrar's Office website. Students who want to graduate in June must submit an Intent to Graduate Form to the Registrar's Office before March 1. The deadline to apply for  October convocation is August 1. Students who apply to graduate, but do not complete their honours thesis in time to graduate at the preferred convocation must submit another Intent to Graduate Form for the next convocation.

Those who submit their thesis for marking beyond the end of the final examination period for the PSYCH 499C term should refer to "Extensions on the thesis submission deadline" for further details regarding graduation deadlines.


Office of research ethics

REG Co-ordinator.  Inquiries about obtaining ethics clearance for studies involving human participants should be directed to:

David McLean
Departmental Research Ethics Officer
Location: PAS 3006
Phone: 519.888.4567 x32690
Email: regadmin@uwaterloo.ca

Inquiries about obtaining ethics clearance for research studies involving animals should be directed to:

Cindy Futher
Animal Research Coordinator
Location: EC 3157 D
Phone: 519.888.4567 x45278
Email: cfuther@uwaterloo.ca


Julie Joza
Director, Research Ethics, Office of Research Ethics
Email: jajoza@uwaterloo.ca
Phone: (519) 888-4567, ext. 48535
Location: EC5, 3151

Psychology department

 PSYCH 499 course coordinator

Dr. Stephanie Denison
Location: PAS 4020
Phone: 519.888.4567 x43409
Email: stephanie.denison@uwaterloo.ca

Psychology undergraduate advisor  Ceylan Enver
Location: PAS 3007
Phone: 519.888.4567 x47190
Email: ceylan.enver@uwaterloo.ca
Psych 499 course administrator

Nick Fuller
Location: PAS 3008
Phone: 519.888.4567 x40757
​Email: nfuller@uwaterloo.ca

Psychology undergraduate website Psych current undergraduate students
Psychology Department Department Fax: 519.746.8631
Department website