Honours Program

An Honours program is an alternative version of the undergraduate degree, which involves more intensive—and extensive—coursework within the discipline of Political Science, and requires students to maintain higher grades in relevant courses. It is thus generally seen as a more demanding and prestigious program of study. The Department offers a thesis-based Honours program, which involves independent research chosen by the student, in consultation with their supervisor. Thesis-based honours degrees are designed to teach students how to plan and execute a focused research project, working closely with the supervisor of their choice. Honours students in the Department are given special instruction, both individually and collectively, on methodologies, research design, data collection, ethical issues, and cutting-edge debates in the discipline. They work closely with other Honours students in sharing ideas and experiences as they pursue their respective research projects. The Honours degree is generally chosen by students planning to pursue graduate studies or a professional degree, but it can be a good choice for any student with good preparation, a strong work ethic, and a desire to produce original research. In terms of career development, Honours degrees are useful as they signal that an individual is capable of performing to high standards, can work independently, can think rigorously and creatively, and can express complicated ideas clearly and coherently.

In most cases, students apply to the Honours program at the end of their third year, and, if accepted, are formally enrolled in the program at the start of their fourth year. It is, however, never too early to be thinking about the Honours program, and early attention to program requirements can help ensure successful applications and timely completion. Students considering an Honours degree in Political Science are encouraged to meet with the Honours Coordinator and the Undergraduate Advisor, who will be happy to assist in selecting classes and addressing any administrative questions that may arise.

The deadline each year to apply for the Honours program is August 31st.

Program Requirements

The requirements listed below are just for admission to, and completion of, the Honours program in Political Science. Honours students must also complete the relevant requirements for the College of Arts and Social Sciences (“General Degree Requirements”).

As part of a 120 credit hour degree, the Honours program consists of not less than 54 credit hours, and not more than 60 credit hours, in Political Science above 1000 level. The program requires students to take some specific courses, and to choose some other courses from a list of designated courses, to ensure that they acquire the necessary preparation in “core” areas of Political Science. Exceptions to the requirements stipulated below can only be obtained through written petition to the Undergraduate Committee, which reserves the authority to determine admission into the Honours program in these cases.

Required Courses and Grades

To gain admittance
into the Honours program, students must have:

  1. B grade average in their last 60 credit hours of coursework;

  2. B+ grade average in a group of 24 credit hours in Political Science, which must include:
    • One of the following pairs of 2000-level core courses, representing one of the other subfields of Political Science:

    • The two research methods courses: POLI 3492.03 and POLI 3493.03;

    • 6 additional credit hours at the 3000- or 4000-level in Political Science.

Students in the Honours program must complete all of the following courses by the end of their program:

  • 1000 level: minimum of six and a maximum of nine credit hours at the 1000 level in Political Science or the Foundation Year Program (with a final grade of B-or higher)
  • 2000 level: POLI 2410.03 and POLI 2420.03, plus at least 6 additional credit hours from the 2000-level core courses listed above (i.e., POLI 2210.03 and POLI 2220.03, or POLI 2301.03 and POLI 2302.03, or POLI 2520.03 and POLI 2530.03);
  • 3000 level: POLI 3492.03 and POLI 3493.03, plus at least 12 additional credit hours of 3000-level or 4000-level Political Science courses;
  • 4000 level: POLI 4601.03 and POLI 4602.03.
  • An additional 18 credit hours in Political Science above the 1000 level.

Honours Essay and Honours Seminar

In addition to the courses above, students in the Political Science Honours program will complete an Honours thesis, under the supervision of a faculty member in the department. The Honours thesis is normally undertaken in the fourth year of the program (after admission to the Honours program), and is completed during the academic year.

The Honours thesis is an opportunity for the student to undertake a more sustained scholarly project, featuring theoretical analysis and/or systematic, empirical research. It normally takes the form of a formal essay of approximately 40 double-spaced pages.

Students undertake the Honours thesis with guidance and support from a designated faculty mentor (the Honours thesis supervisor). Students admitted to the Honours program should consult with the Honours Coordinator—usually early in the fall semester—to identify a suitable faculty mentor and make arrangements for supervision. Each student should expect to meet with his or her supervisor regularly in the second half of the Fall and through the Winter term, to report on progress and receive advice on the project. When the Honours thesis is completed (usually in March of the Honours year), the student will sit down with the members of his or her committee—the supervisor, another faculty member (the examiner) and, in most cases, the Honours Coordinator—to answer questions about the Honours project and its results (the oral “defence”).

The Honours thesis is associated with a formal course, led by the Honours Coordinator: the Honours Seminar (POLI 4601.03 and POLI 4602.03), which counts for 6 credit-hours toward the degree. At the conclusion of an honours program in Political Science a student's record must show a grade which is additional to the grades for the courses taken, the Honours Qualifying Examiniation, for which a pass/fail will be awarded.