General Information about an Honours Degree
As an Honours student you become a member of the School and a valued colleague. You will spend most of your time as part of a research group sharing goals, triumphs, disappointments and all of the other things that are part of the adventure of scientific research. For the first time, you become responsible for the outcome of your own scientific work. Honours students also partake in all aspects of the social life of the School. You will form friendships and professional associations that could last a lifetime.
The Honours degree gives students a thorough training in scientific method and a detailed insight into the area of research that they pursue. The scientific approach to problem solving, maturity and self-discipline gained during the Honours year equips them for a wide variety of careers. Many of our students elect to continue in the research domain by enrolling in the School's PhD programs. However, the analytical and communication skills that our students acquire have led other Honours graduates into a range of different fields.
The Honours course consists of a research project and coursework. The aims of the course are:
- to provide advanced training in the principles of scientific research and in the current state of knowledge and techniques used in your chosen area of study, and
- to develop the skills required for a successful career in scientific research or related activities.
Thus, students learn to search and understand literature relevant to their chosen discipline, to formulate and assess research proposals, to design, evaluate and present scientific experiments, and to develop written and verbal communication skills.
In the first weeks of your Honours year, you are:
- introduced to administrative and safety aspects of work in the School, and
- starting your research project, reading literature relevant to the project and becoming familiar with the research environment.
Each discipline specific Honours course involves course work and research project components. Performance in all parts of the course will be assessed. A poor performance in one component cannot easily be overcome and students should ensure that they balance their efforts in the project and course work.
Time management is an important issue. At certain times of the year, formal study as part of the course work takes precedence, while at other times the student will be involved full-time in research and thesis preparation. The deadline for submission of project reports is firm, and students need to plan and pace their progress in the latter part of the year to meet this deadline.
Each student carries out a research project. At the end of the year the project is written up as a report using a form similar to that required for publication of research data.
As one of the goals of the course is developing expertise in scientific writing, supervisors assist students with report planning and writing at early draft stages, but the final preparation and finished product is the sole responsibility of the student.
Assessment is based on how the student defines the problem, designs and carries out relevant experiments and interprets the results.
The Honours grading system is not like the one used for under-graduate courses. It ranges from First Class (I) through Second Class Division A (IIA), Second Class Division B (IIB) and Third Class (III). The greatest rewards in assessment are for originality, insight, clear thinking and technical competence. These things will come through hard work and dedication, and with the guidance of your supervisor.
Your research supervisor is someone with enough expertise in your field of interest to be able to advise you about techniques, literature and so on.
Supervisors know from experience that student's inclinations and abilities differ, and they adjust their contribution accordingly. Your relationship with your supervisor is important. They should be someone you find easy to talk with and, most importantly, someone you feel you could work with and learn from.
Finally, it is your responsibility to maintain close contact with your supervisor and work out problems immediately when they arise.
The Coordinator will want to keep in touch with the progress of each student and, in particular, to offer advice and support if needed. The coordinator is there to direct the course as a whole, to oversee assessment of components, to organise and sit on all marking committees, and to assemble final reports so that the academic staff can decide on final marks and rankings. They can also help with any problems that might arise between student and supervisor.