HLTH432 Honours Thesis information guide

What is HLTH432A/B Honours Thesis?

According to the calendar course description, HLTH432 is:

“An independent research project on an approved topic, supervised by a faculty member. Includes an approved proposal and completion of -- introduction, review of literature, methods, data collection, data analysis and presentation of results in thesis form. Recommended for students planning graduate studies.”

Generally, an Honours thesis is a research project in which you choose a topic, review all relevant literature, collect and analyse data and then report your results. If there is an area of health sciences or public health that you find particularly interesting and if you feel that you understand statistics and research design, you may want to consider completing the honours thesis, which may require either Social Science (non-lab based) or a Biohealth (lab based) research. The research may involve:

  1. Original field or lab research (pending finances);
  2. Secondary analysis of existing data;
  3. Historical or archival analyses;
  4. Systematic Review or meta-analysis.

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Why complete a thesis?

The main objective of the Honours Thesis (HLTH 432A/HLTH 432B) is to provide you with an opportunity to gain experience in formulating and evaluating research ideas, but even more importantly, completing a thesis will allow you to consolidate your thinking about the many aspects of health you have studied during your undergraduate career.

How will that happen? You will:

  • review, evaluate and interpret information from a wide range of relevant disciplines that are relevant to a specific area of health science / public health.
  • integrate and apply that information to identify and address a specific health problem.
  • consider the ethical issues specific to your research.
  • apply your knowledge of methodologies, at least in one type of research.
  • hone and supplement skills that will be vital to you after you graduate, whether you go on to graduate, or professional schools or enter directly into the work force. For example,
    • you will have the opportunity to polish your written communications, and
    • in your meetings with your supervisor, you will have the chance to practice communicating your ideas orally in a one-on-one situation with a scientist-mentor; moreover,
    • you will have the opportunity to enhance your information literacy skills and your data collection and analysis skills.

The thesis is an exciting way to cap off your undergraduate career. It provides huge opportunities for you to consolidate what you already know, and to learn about a specific topic in-depth. It also provides you with invaluable preparation for whatever path you take after your undergraduate studies. Finally, it is a really amazing experience to actually create new knowledge!

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Who is eligible to enroll in HLTH432A/B?

The following prerequisites apply:

  • Department Consent Required: please submit HLTH432 Honours Thesis Pre-approval Application online.
  • HLTH 204 or approved equivalent statistics course and HLTH 333; Level at least 4A School of Public Health Sciences (SPHS) students.
  • Normally, minimum 75% major and overall averages are recommended to enrol in the course but 80% major and overall averages are preferred.
  • A faculty member must agree to act as your supervisor. Because of limited faculty resources, enrolment in HLTH 432A/B is not guaranteed.

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Contact potential supervisors

You will be notified via email once your HLTH432 Honours Thesis Pre-approval Application is approved. The email will also include a course outline for HLTH432. If you have received this material, you have indicated an interest in taking HLTH 432A and have received Department Consent. Your next step is to:

  1. Review this package completely.
  2. Create a WORD document (250 words or less) that provides details of any research or other relevant experience that a potential supervisor might be interested in knowing about you.
  3. Create a WORD document (250 words or less) that provides details of any specific research interests or research questions you might wish to investigate, including support for your questions (if you have considered the area in greater depth).
  4. Review and update your resume.
  5. Review the SPHS Faculty members’ areas of research interests and decide on one or two potential supervisors. If you already have a research question, try to select a potential supervisor whose area of interest is most closely related to that question. See the list of SPHS faculty members by area of focus.
  6. Email the professor or professors whose area of research is of interest to you, requesting an appointment for an interview to discuss the possibility of completing a thesis under their supervision. Use the template below if you need help crafting an email.
    1. DO NOT approach faculty members without emailing first to make an appointment.
    2. If at all possible use your @uwaterloo.ca email. This email is less likely to end up in Junk mail.

Email template

Dear (Use proper title and full name),

I am writing to express interest in working on an honours thesis under your supervision. I have reviewed your research interests and would be very excited to work on an aspect of your research, or to develop independent research that is consistent with your work. I am attaching a recent resume, a statement of my experience and a statement of my research interests for you to review.

I am available on (state days of the week) at (state hours of availability) to see you. Would it be possible to book an appointment at any of those times? I look forward to meeting with you to discuss your research, and whether there is a way in which I can contribute to it with an honours thesis.

Yours truly,
(your name)
(contact email and telephone)

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Tips for the interview with your potential supervisor

  1. Be punctual
  2. Be respectful
  3. Sell yourself.
    • Highlight any experience you have.
    • Highlight your academic strengths
  4. Demonstrate your organizational skills: Collect the materials you will need for the interview in a binder or folder. During the interview you will easily bring these materials to hand when your potential supervisor wishes to review them. These include:
    • your unofficial transcript
    • your resume
    • your statement of research interests and/or another sample of your written work
    • the Thesis Requirements (Appendix A in the course outline) so that your potential supervisor can review the expectations for the thesis
    • FORM 432A - Agreement to Supervise.

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External supervisors

On occasion, students may be permitted to work with a supervisor from outside the School of Public Health Sciences. There are two separate categories of external supervisors:

  1. Category B supervisors are UW professors from other Departments in the Faculty of Health or are one of our adjunct faculty members. In such cases, the research thesis and the supervisor must be approved by the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, who is the coordinator of HLTH 432A/B. The thesis will be approved if it meets SPHS standards for learning objectives.
  2. Category C supervisors may be professors from another faculty at the University of Waterloo (e.g., Science, Arts), or the supervisor may be someone who conducts research outside the University of Waterloo. In such cases, the research thesis and the supervisor must be approved by the Associate Director, Undergraduate Studies, who coordinates HLTH 432A/B. The thesis will be approved if it meets SPHS standards for learning objectives and the HLTH 432A/B coordinator can arrange for an SPHS faculty member to co-supervise the thesis.

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Complete HLTH432A/B enrollment process

My supervisor has agreed! What’s next?

  • Submit HLTH432 Honours Thesis Enrollment Form for HLTH432A online no later than one week prior to the last day to add courses for the school term. Note you will need to upload a signed copy of Form432A (PDF) in order to complete the online submission, so please allow plenty of time for yourself to gather your supervisor’s signature.
  • At the end of your HLTH 432A term, you need to submit another HLTH432 Honours Thesis Enrollment Form for HLTH432B. You will not be enrolled in HLTH 432B until your supervisor has agreed to supervise you for a second semester. The procedure and deadline is similar to HLTH432A enrollment: the HLTH432 Honours Thesis Enrollment Form for HLTH432B needs to be received no later than one week prior to the last day to add courses for the school term. A signed copy of Form432B (PDF) will need to be uploaded at the same time to complete the online submission.

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How am I graded in HLTH432A/B?

Separate grades are submitted for your work in 432A and 432B and the nature of the term products that will be evaluated will depend upon the type of thesis you are completing (Social Science/non-lab or Biohealth/lab –the course outline). Due dates for term products for each of 432A and 432B are specified in the course outline. Normally these are the final day of classes for the term in which you are enrolled in the course. Your supervisor must submit final grades to the Course Coordinator at the very latest by the end of the examination period, and you must submit your term products before this to give your supervisor time to read and grade it. A number of drafts should be submitted early so that your supervisor can read them and provide comments. This will allow for revisions to be made before the final submission of materials for grading. Remember to provide the Course Coordinator with a final copy of your thesis. Note that you will also have to give a poster presentation on your proposal towards the end of the HLTH 432A term and a Powerpoint presentation on your final thesis project during the 4th year Honours Thesis Colloquium at the end of the HLTH 432B term.

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