Honours Program

The Honours Program provides a research-based option for students earning a B.A. in Geography or Urban Systems; a B.Sc. in Geography; or a joint B.A. in Geography and in another subject (if the Honours thesis (6 credits) is written in the Department of Geography). The Honours program in Sustainability, Science, and Society (BASc) is run through the MSE.

Prof. Sarah Turner (sarah.turner [at] mcgill.ca) is the Honours co-ordinator. For any questions about the Honours Program, you may contact her. To discuss admission into the Honours Program, course requirements and degree planning please contact the Undergraduate Program Advisor, Michelle Maillet (advisor.geog [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Honours) ). 

General Information

The Honours program allows students to pursue a research project, with the supervision of a Geography department faculty member, leading to an Honours Thesis. Although an Honours degree is not necessarily required for entry into graduate school, many students find that the process of writing an Honours thesis provides excellent preparation for graduate studies. An Honours Thesis demonstrates that students are capable of organizing and carrying out independent research, and of applying the methods and knowledge they have acquired to a research question.

Normally, students should engage in the analysis of primary materials, such as field or survey data they have collected themselves or as part of a research team; census, survey, climatological, remote sensing, or similar data collected by governments or institutions; archival material or historical documents; or interviews.

The honours thesis is a truly independent work of research. Students, in consultation with their thesis Supervisor and Reader, choose a suitable subject and find an appropriate approach within a geographical framework before starting their research. The honours thesis is clearly distinct from a routine term paper and requires considerable preparation before the actual thesis course begins.

More details can be found on the syllabus for GEOG 491D1 Honours Research and GEOG 492D2 Joint Honours Research (see 'useful links' on the right). Students can complete the Honours program on either a Fall-Winter schedule (typical), or on a Winter-Fall schedule (rare). See the "Schedule" tab above.

You can see the abstracts of Honours Theses since 2008 in the Honours Thesis Abstract Archive.

Eligibility and Requirements

Students must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) and a program GPA of 3.3 (B+) to enter the Honours program, and must maintain these averages through to graduation to earn an Honours degree.

Students typically apply to the Honours program in fall or winter of their U2 year. Once in the Honours program, note that GEOG 381 Geographic Thought & Practice (or equivalent) is a required course and is only offered in winter semester.

During their final year, Honours students must enroll in GEOG 491D1 Honours Research (or GEOG 492D2 Joint Honours Research if doing a joint degree). To be eligible, students must submit a completed and signed Honours Thesis Proposal form to the Honours Thesis Coordinator(s) by April 15 (November 15 for Winter-Fall) of their U2 year.


Students write their Honours Thesis under the primary supervision of a Geography department faculty member, and the secondary supervision of a Reader (who may be from any department). The Supervisor and Reader must approve and sign the Thesis proposal form before submission.

Further, only a tenured or tenure-track faculty member may be a Supervisor. Such individuals are listed as “Faculty” on the department’s People page.

It is vital to approach faculty members during the U2 year to identify one who will supervise an Honours project.

If you experience difficulty in the relationship with your Supervisor, you should contact the Honours Thesis Coordinator. (If your Supervisor is the Honours Thesis Coordinator, or s/he is unavailable, contact the department chair or Undergraduate Advisor.)

Typical Schedule

Fall semester, U2 Year: Discuss the Honours program with the Undergraduate Advisor for Geography and enroll in the program.

Winter semester, U2 Year: Take GEOG 381 Geographic Thought & Practice (or equivalent approved by the department). Contact potential Supervisors and Readers, and develop a thesis proposal in conjunction with the Supervisor once a faculty member has agreed to work with you.

  • April 15: Submit a signed Honours Thesis Proposal form to the Coordinator(s). Students cannot enroll in GEOG 491D1 Honours Research or for GEOG 492D2 Joint Honours Research without this form.

Summer between U2 and U3 Years.

In conjunction with your Supervisor:

  • Complete the development of the research question and design, and review relevant literature;
  • Data acquisition: Conduct fieldwork or labwork, compile data, visit archives, administer surveys, conduct interviews, etc.
  • If necessary, obtain an Ethics Certificate before you begin any research involving human subjects.

Fall semester, U3 year. Enroll in GEOG 491D1 Honours Research or [course short 492D2]. Finish research and tasks listed above; begin analysis and writing of thesis.

  • December 3. Submit first draft sections to Supervisor (a complete detailed chapter outline and at least two (2) draft chapters).

Winter semester, U3 year. Enroll in GEOG 491D2 Honours Research or GEOG 492D2 Joint Honours Research. Complete analysis and writing of thesis according to the schedule below. The dates below may vary by a day or two from year to year. 

  • March 10. Submit a complete, final draft to the Honours Coordinator, the Supervisor, and the Reader.
  • Early-April. Presentation of research as poster presentation. (The exact date varies from year to year.)
  • April 11. Submit the examinable copy of the thesis to the Coordinator, the Supervisor, and the Reader with revisions reflecting the comments made by the Supervisor and Reader on the final draft.
  • Late April.The Supervisor and Reader submit grades for the thesis to the Coordinator, who then enters that as your grade for GEOG 491 or 492.
  • May 16. Students should submit a complete, archival copy of their thesis and a one page abstract with up to one photo, diagram, etc., to the Coordinator for inclusion in the Honours Thesis Abstract Archive. Both should be .pdf files


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