Graduating with a BA or BSc Honours signals to future employers and/or graduate admissions committees your ability to work in close contact with supervisors, to take individual initiative in problem-solving and research, to organize information into a logical and critical presentation and finally to express yourself in an eloquent and persuasive manner both orally and in writing.
All Honours students must write a thesis and register for the Honours Thesis course (either GEOG 491 or URBS 491). The Honours thesis can be considered as a "trial run" for a graduate thesis.
Applying for Honours
An application for transfer into an Honours program is typically made in May, and the Honours Thesis course begins in September. Admission into Honours requires a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 on a 4.3 scale, no grade lower than a C, and the agreement of a full-time or affiliated assistant professor to supervise the Honours thesis research. An undergraduate advisor submits an electronic application on the applicant's behalf once the academic year is complete at the end of April, and the transfer to Honours is decided by a committee in the Faculty of Arts and Science administration. Once the transfer has been made, the student should seek academic advising for changes to their registration. Usually they will take the 6-credit Honours course, GEOG 491 or URBS 491, beginning in the fall of their final academic year. Some students are given automatic admission into an Honours program, but they must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 to enroll in GEOG 491 or URBS 491.
In the second-to-last year of your program, you should start thinking about what research topic you would be interested in investigating, and which full-time or affiliated assistant professor could supervise your project. One good way to start is to look at the web pages of the faculty members in the department (http://www.gpe.concordia.ca/research/). You will be able to see the type of research conducted by your professors, and you will see their latest publications. Some professors have already thought of projects that they would like Honours students to investigate, so you can also ask professors if they have ideas for you.
Summer Work To Get You Prepared
One great way of getting to know what type of research is undertaken in the Department is to work as a research assistant during the summer. If you have a strong GPA and you are in the B.Sc. program (or if you are interested in working on a natural science project), you can apply for the Undergraduate Student Research Scholarships (USRA) from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). Note that the professor needs to hold a grant from NSERC in order to supervise your USRA. In addition, there is a new pilot program at Concordia that is the equivalent of NSERC USRA. Otherwise, you can approach your professor either in class or by e-mail and ask if he/she has research funds to hire an undergraduate student for the summer. In many cases, Honours students have used their summer work in the Department to start collecting their data for their Honours thesis.
Honours Thesis Course
In the Honours Thesis course, students are expected to complete original research under supervision. The scope of the project will be decided between each student and his/her supervisor. It is anticipated that students will emerge from the program with basic skills in formulating and testing hypotheses, experimental design, data analysis and presentation, critical evaluation of published work and scientific writing; all of the skills required of a good graduate student. It is not essential that the project produce positive results leading to clear, definitive conclusions. Projects may yield negative results or no clear results at all. This is the nature of scientific research. It is expected, however, that each project will address a clearly defined research question and that students will learn much about the scientific method in the process of completing the project. The mark in this course will be assigned based on the quality of the two oral presentations and the written thesis which is evaluated by the instructor of the course, the supervisor and an external reader from the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment.
Thinking about graduate studies
Early in your final year in the BA or BSc Honours program, you may wish to start thinking about graduate studies. There are several external scholarships available for research-based Master's programs both in social science (Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) at the federal level, and Fonds de Recherche Québec Société Culture (FRQSC) at the provincial level) and natural science (Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) at the federal level and Fonds de Recherche Québec - Nature et Technologies (FRQNT) at the provincial level). These scholarships are highly competitive (minimum GPA of 3.7/4.3), but they offer a minimum level of funding of $15,000 per year. The deadline to submit your application is usually in October for a scholarship starting the following academic year. More information on these scholarships can be found at the following sites:
Who to contact
If you have questions about the Honours program, you should make an appointment with the Undergraduate Advisor (contact firstname.lastname@example.org). For more specific questions on research projects that interest you, you should make an appointment with the professor(s).