Honours program

The Honours program is open to outstanding students and is intended for students who want to undertake independent research on a topic of interest to them. This can be helpful as preparation for graduate study, but is also useful to students wanting to deepen their understanding of a single topic in the study of religion. Admission to the Honours program is by permission of the Honours Program Coordinator for the Program in the Study of Religion (PiR) and requires that students demonstrate a strong overall performance in RGST courses and courses that are included in the list of approved courses for credit towards a Major in the Study of Religion (e.g., ASIA, ANTH, AMNE, PHIL). For a list of approved courses in each of the four program Areas, please see the Program in the Study of Religion website. Students are expected to maintain a 76% average in the program.

Lower-level Requirements

As for the Major in the Study of Religion.

Upper-level Requirements

Students must complete 48 credits at the upper level:

  • RGST 300 (3) Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
  • RGST 400 (3) Advanced Seminar in the Study of Religion
  • RGST 499 (6) Honours Thesis
  • 6 credits in Area A (Religion in the Contemporary World)
  • 6 credits in Area B (Religious Cultures and Expressions)
  • 6 credits in Area C (Religious Histories)
  • 3 credits in Area D (Theory and Method)
  • 15 additional credits in any of the four Areas


Should I Do Honours in RGST?

When trying to decide whether you want to do an Honours degree in RGST, you need to begin by doing a critical self-assessment and asking yourself a few key questions. These might include:

  • Have I maintained a GPA of 76% or higher, and am I confident I can continue to maintain it through my final years of study?
  • Have I completed at least 50% of the requirements for the major, and am I able to take on an additional 21 units necessary for the Honours degree (6 units of RGST 499 + 15 units of electives)?
  • Do I have a specific topic in the study of religion about which I am passionate, to which I am willing to devote a year of in-depth study?
  • What are my strengths?
  • What skills would I like to develop?
  • What skills do I need to develop?
  • How much independent work do I want to do?
  • What scholarly expertise do I need during the research and writing process?


Finding a Thesis Advisor/ Supervisor

It is essential to find a professor who can supervise your Honours thesis. This person will guide you in every stage of your research, approve your proposal, and grade your thesis once it’s finished. Think about the classes you have taken and the professors whose expertise includes your specific question or topic. These are the professors you should approach to discuss your topic and ask whether they might be interested and available to supervise your Honours thesis. You might even write up a preliminary proposal (see below) and submit it to a professor for further discussion.  This will give both of you a better idea of how well-suited you are to working together. It’s a good idea to get a commitment from the professor in the spring before your final year of study. If you don’t know a professor specialized in your area, consult the Program Chair; they can help you find faculty working on related topics.

Your thesis advisor will play an important role in your Honours program. Problems in the advising relationship can happen due to misunderstandings about expectations between the faculty advisor and undergraduate researcher, including but not limited to: the amount of contact hours; deadlines for work; or what qualifies as an acceptable draft or thesis submission. It is important to discuss these expectations openly with the professor(s) with whom you are hoping to work before formalizing the relationship and applying for Honours.

In addition to your thesis supervisor, you will also need a second reader who will evaluate your completed thesis along with your advisor. You will no doubt have developed relationships with other professors who are experts in your area. Consult with your thesis advisor about which of these professors might be a good choice to be your second reader, and make sure to approach them ahead of time – preferably in the first term of your final year, once you have a completed and approved proposal.

If your planned research will involve interviewing and/or observing living human subjects, please consult your thesis advisor early in the process for information on ethics and special permissions you will need.



1. Choosing a Thesis Topic: Spring Term of Year 3

A good time to begin planning your Honours thesis is in the second term of the year before you plan to graduate. So, for example, if you plan to graduate in May 2024, you should begin planning your thesis in the spring of 2023. Begin by formulating a question or topic you want to explore in depth. It should be something that captures your interest, as you will be working on it for an entire year.


2. Finding a Thesis Advisor: Spring Term of Year 3

See Finding a Thesis Advisor/ Supervisor for recommendations on how to do this.


3. Register for 6 units of RGST 499: summer before your 4th or final year of study


4. Complete Your Research Proposal: by the beginning of Term 1 of your 4th or final year

See Research Proposal Guidelines for recommendations on how to do this.


5. Research and Writing: Terms 1 & 2 of your 4th or final year

Typically, you will spend your first term doing research for your thesis under the direction of your thesis supervisor, although a few students choose to begin research during the summer before their final year. Please consult your thesis advisor for specific recommendations regarding how and when to start your research.

If you have not already written a research proposal, you should plan to do so within the first month of the first term of your final year, as a first step in your research. See guidelines on writing a research proposal for more information on how to complete this step.

During the first months of your second term, you will write the first draft of your thesis. Plan to turn it in to your advisor no later than the first week of March of the second term. This allows your advisor to read it (allow at least two weeks) and return it to you for revisions. You can expect to do at least one round of revisions to your thesis before your advisor considers it complete. In some cases, you may need to revise several times. This is a normal part of the research process.

Once your advisor has accepted your revised draft, they will send it to your second reader, who will get back to you with feedback. The entire process should be completed no later than the end of April of your final term. At that point, your advisor will enter a grade for your RGST 499, and your Honours thesis will be completed.

The Program in Religion may ask graduating Honours students to present brief, 10 minute recaps of their research at an open reception for Honours students, RGST majors and minors, and their professors at the end of the academic year. This is an occasion to celebrate your achievement and share it with your peers and professors. It should not be an occasion for stress! Your advisor can guide you on how to put together a short presentation, with or without slides, to showcase your outstanding accomplishment.


Research Proposal Guidelines

The purpose of your research proposal is to clearly identify the topic or question you will be researching, identify a methodology you will use to obtain information, and identify potential theoretical or analytical approaches suitable for your topic. It helps you and your advisor agree on the scope of your project. You should discuss your research proposal with your Honours advisor, and follow their recommendations for writing one. However, research proposals typically share certain features. These general guidelines are provided as a starting point for your conversation with your advisor.

Generally, a research proposal should state:

  • the research question you will be exploring
  • why your research question is significant — why should anybody care?
  • a very brief overview of the background on this question: who are the main scholars who have written on this issue, and what have they said?
  • your research methods: how you will be obtaining data to answer your question
  • your proposed theoretical or analytical approach, if you know it: what theories or approaches will you use to analyze or interpret your data?
  • a timeline for when you plan to complete each stage of your project. As a reminder, you should be spending most of the first term on research, plan to write during January and February of the second term, and turn in your first draft no later than the first week of March of your final year of study. That gives your readers time to give you feedback (at least 2 weeks) and you to revise in time for the final deadline at the end of April.

Your proposal should be about 750 words, or about 3 pages double-spaced including bibliography, unless your advisor gives you different instructions.


Honours Thesis Guidelines

You should discuss your Honours thesis with your advisor, and follow their recommendations closely. However, undergraduate Honours theses typically share certain features. These general guidelines are provided as a starting point for your conversation with your advisor.

An Honours thesis is a piece of original research using primary and secondary sources, as well as analytical literature. It demonstrates an undergraduate’s ability to formulate a research question, develop a methodology for investigating it, conduct research, and interpret results, drawing preliminary conclusions about the research question.  It goes beyond an ordinary research paper for a class in that it usually synthesizes a number of issues and perspectives.

An undergraduate Honours thesis generally ranges between 30 and 60 double-spaced pages in 12-point type, or 7,000 – 15,000 words, including bibliography. It should not exceed 60 pages or 15,000 words. Please consult your thesis advisor for more specific recommendations, as ideal length may vary according to subject and method.

The structure of an Honours thesis typically includes an introduction that lays out the research question and gives background on it, a chapter presenting the data or materials, a thorough discussion and analysis of the data or sources presented, and a conclusion in which preliminary results are discussed. The specific format will depend on the research question you are investigating; you should consult closely with your advisor for their specific expectations and recommendations.