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QUESTIONS ABOUT THE HONOURS PROGRAM

Submitted by darmstro on Fri, 09/16/2016 - 10:40am

The application form asks me to identify up to three supervisors. Do I really need to identify more than one supervisor?

Although you are not required to list more than one research supervisor, you are strongly encouraged to do so. We try to match students with their first or second choice in most cases, but if you do not list more than one potential supervisor, this option is not available for you. If you list only one supervisor and are not matched, your application to the program effectively ends. For this reason, it is important that you identify more than one supervisor.

Note: A student who cannot secure a thesis supervisor cannot be admitted to the honours program.

 The list of potential honours thesis supervisors willing to take on new students each year can be found on our Supervisors page.

Note: Supervisors must be either Psychology faculty or hold an Adjunct appointment with the Department of Psychology (see below for a definition of ‘adjunct’).

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How does the student-supervisor matching system work?
All applicants to the honours program who meet the admission criteria will be put into the honours applicant pool. Supervisors will be invited to look through the applicant files of students who have indicated an interest in working with them.

Before they make a decision, supervisors will likely want to talk with you if you have not spoken to them prior to applying. Students who are matched with a supervisor will then be admitted to the honours program.

Although the Department will try to find honours thesis supervisors for all applicants who meet the admission criteria above, we cannot guarantee that all interested students can be accommodated.

What do I look for in a potential supervisor?

Most important is mutual interest. The ideal supervisor is working in an area that is of sufficient interest to you that you can imagine yourself spending at least 8 months working intensively on a research project in that area. Three important points:

  1. Your honours thesis does not have to be directly related to the specialization you hope to pursue as a graduate student. We have found that many applicants to the honours program are interested in pursuing graduate studies in applied areas of psychology, such as clinical, counselling, and industrial-organizational. Consequently, many honours applicants are interested in completing an honours thesis in one of these fields. However, if you look at the list of potential supervisors, you will quickly realize that less than half of the applicants in any given year will be able to complete a research project in these areas. In thinking about alternatives, consider your interests in psychology and what you know about related areas of psychology. For example, social psychology is relevant to all of the three "top" choices. 

    Research in basic cognitive processes can be relevant to applications such as cognitive-behaviour therapy, which is a common psychotherapeutic method emphasized in many clinical psychology graduate programs. Alternatively, you may have a keen interest in visual perception and seek a supervisor in this area and plan to apply to graduate programs in Clinical Psychology. Any of these three scenarios is acceptable and a legitimate way to prepare for graduate studies in psychology.

  2. It is important that you carry out a well-designed project that makes some contribution to knowledge in the field of psychology. It is also important that you do this in a competent fashion, while learning new skills and expanding your knowledge of the discipline. This is most likely if you work with an expert in the field.
  3. The quality of the relationship between you and your supervisor is important. This is a one-to-one mentoring relationship and obviously your learning will be enhanced if you work well together. Also, the reference letter from your supervisor is the most important reference letter you will need for your application to graduate school, medical school, law school, etc. The better the work you do together, the better that letter will be.

I've identified a potential supervisor, what do I do now?

We strongly encourage you to contact potential supervisors and arrange to meet with them to discuss the possibility of their supervising your honours thesis prior to submitting your application. Contact information is included on our Potential Supervisors page

Your initial email should be brief. Remember that you are simply asking to set up an initial meeting to discuss the possibility of working with them on an Honours thesis. When you meet with a potential supervisor in person, be prepared to provide them with the same information you are required to provide in your application, namely: a copy of your university grades, a statement of intent, and your Curriculum Vitae.

 When you meet with a potential supervisor, you can tell them about yourself and why you'd like to work with them. It is important to read some of their recent publications so that you are knowledgeable about their area(s) of research and are able to ask questions. In most cases, you will be able to find a listing of recently published articles on a faculty member’s home page, which you can access from the People page. If they do not list any, you will need to do some independent research or contact them directly. During your meeting, be sure to inquire about the kinds of projects they are willing to supervise, and their expectations for honours students (e.g., do they expect you to work regularly on Saturdays or Sundays, or during evenings?). Note, however, that you should not expect your supervisor to simply provide you with a ‘ready-made’ thesis project. You should come prepared with ideas of your own.

Lastly, feel free to ask them about the likelihood of your working with them (i.e., do they have so many potential honours students contacting them that your chance is 1/100?). You should, however, not expect them to commit to working with you on the spot.The purpose of the meeting is to get acquainted with one another. Either one of you may decide, upon reflection, that this is not the best supervisory arrangement.

The person I wanted to work with isn't on the list. Why not?

There are a number of reasons why a particular professor, who normally supervises honours students, is not on the list this year. They may be planning to be away on sabbatical leave or have too many graduate students or other work commitments to commit the time needed to supervise an honours project. Unfortunately, if you intend to graduate at the end of Winter 2010, you will have to find an alternative. If you're planning ahead and reading this a year or more before you need to apply for honours, then you may be in luck. By the time you apply, the professor may once again be on the list of potential supervisors.

Some potential supervisors have "adjunct" or "emeritus" in parentheses beside their names. What does this mean?

Adjunct professors have a formal, professional relationship with the Department of Psychology but are not regular members of the Department. Generally, this means that they are employed outside the University of Calgary or in another department at the University of Calgary. Nevertheless, they are psychologists, usually teach in the Department of Psychology and have been approved as honours thesis supervisors.
Emeritus professors have retired from the University of Calgary, but continue to contribute to the University on a volunteer basis or in contract positions. This usually means that they continue to teach certain courses and/or to engage in research. As in the case of adjunct professors, you should discuss with them their availability for consultation and where you will meet with them and conduct your research. 
Emeritus professors have retired from the University of Calgary, but continue to contribute to the University on a volunteer basis or in contract positions. This usually means that they continue to teach certain courses and/or to engage in research. As in the case of adjunct professors, you should discuss with them their availability for consultation and where you will meet with them and conduct your research. 

If your supervisor is an adjunct professor, you may or may not be doing your research on campus, and you may or may not be meeting with them on campus. Of course, their availability to you will be determined by their work commitments. This is something that you need to discuss with them in that initial get-acquainted meeting. It is important to feel comfortable with the degree of contact that you will have with your supervisor and the context in which you will meet and do your research.