Honours Thesis (HSTR 499)

Timeline for the Honours Thesis

Many students who are contemplating applying to the Honours Program are curious about the thesis. There is no need to have decided, at that early stage, who you might ask to be your supervisor or even what area you would like to study. Normally, these are questions you would begin to think about in the early months of the spring term prior to enrolling in HSTR 499, although of course you can always discuss your interests with your instructors or with the Honours Advisor.

By the summer prior to your thesis year, you should have selected an area of interest and found a supervisor. Starting in September, you will meet with your supervisor on a mutually agreed-upon schedule (perhaps once every two weeks); you will discuss assigned readings, locate primary source material, and narrow down your topic.

From October/November to February of the following year, you will normally be researching, reading widely, and writing your thesis, submitting pieces of writing and analysis and, eventually, chapter drafts to your supervisor at regular intervals. You will be helped along in this process by preparing for the Colloquium (see below). The deadline for the first draft of the complete thesis is typically the end of February. In March, you will make revisions based on your supervisor's feedback, and submit a final copy in early April.


In January, students enrolled in HSTR 499 are asked to give a brief presentation of their works-in-progress at the annual Honours Colloquium. The Colloquium is a friendly, supportive event, attended by other students and faculty members, who will ask questions to learn more about that year's thesis projects.

Oral Examination (Defense)

The last stage of 499 is the defense, or oral examination, which will be scheduled during the April exam period. The exam will be conducted by an examination committee composed of the faculty supervisor, a second reader from the department who will have read the final copy submitted in early April, and the Honours Advisor. Honours students give a brief (10-minute) presentation of their work, which is followed by a question session in which the supervisor and second reader ask the candidate to clarify or elaborate on aspects of their research. The grade for HSTR 499 is based primarily on the written thesis, but the result of the oral examination is taken into account.

Length and Formatting of the Honours Thesis

The word limit for the Honours Thesis is 7,500-10,000 words (approximately 35-40 pages).

In many ways, honours theses resemble a research paper (title page, typed, double-spaced, with footnotes or endnotes and a bilbiography). Owing to the greater length of the thesis, students should consider breaking the thesis into segments (Introduction, 1-2 sections or chapters, conclusion) and including a table of contents. More detail and guidance will be available to thesis writers as they near completion.