School of Environmental Studies


Environmental Studies


Environmental Studies

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ENSC 501

Independent Environmental Study

Course Description

Independent study of an environmental topic by individuals or inter-disciplinary groups. 

Course Coordinator:

Dr. Diane Orihel
Office: Rm 3127 Biosciences Complex

General notes

This course is intended for a self-motivated student with an established record of undergraduate performance, i.e. cumulative GPA of approximately 3.0.  It is the responsibility of the student to secure a supervisor prior to registering in the course.


Open to students in the final year of an honours program in any discipline, and with permission of the instructor of the course and of the Department of the student's Plan. 

Workload Expectations

Because the course is worth 6.0 units, students are normally expected to devote approximately 20% of their academic time to ENSC 501 over the fall and winter terms.

Course Schedule
Date ENSC 501 Description of Activities


Introduction to the course; Review of requirements and marking scheme; Review of topic selection, sources of information; Selection of examiners.

November 16

Submission of 501 report proposal (to supervisor, examiner, course coordinator)

March 1st

Submission of report draft (to supervisor, examiner, course coordinator)

April 1/20

Report presentation during ENSC 501/502 Symposium. To be arranged by Karen Depew.
April 27/20

Submission of final ENSC 501 report. Based on comments on your final report by your examining committee, corrections should be made and approved by your supervisor.

May 7

You will then submit a PDF of your report  to QSpace at ( Your name and netid will be forwarded to Qspace by the ENSC office so you can register and upload your file.  Name your file according to the following convention: ensc_501_lastname.pdf

Please ensure that you have accepted all changes and comments on your document prior to creating your pdf file.  Otherwise these may show up in your submission. The course coordinator will be notified via Qspace to approve your submission.

You are to submit to the Environmental Studies Collection for Undergraduate Theses.   Do not submit to the Test Collection.  The course coordinator is not contacted regarding these submissions.

Contact if you encounter a problem.

Final marks will not be released until your file has been submitted and the course coordinator notified.

ENSC 501 Marking Scheme

Report proposal and outline (10%) - Evaluated by your supervisor

The proposed subject of the report must be discussed in an approximately 700 word summary that indicates the environmental issue at the heart of the paper, the aspect of interest to the student, the specific question(s) that will be addressed, and why it is important.  Following the summary, an outline should include a working title, a detailed table of contents that provides the main subject areas, the sources of information (bibliography), and the name of the professor who will act as a supervisor and the name of a second examiner.  If you elect to have co-supervisors, a second examiner is not necessary.  The quality of the proposal will be judged on the logic and strength of argument behind the question to be answered, the clarity of the summary (i.e. how easily understood is the proposal), the quality of the writing, and the thoroughness of the outline and bibliography. The proposal should use 12-point Times New Roman font, black ink, 8.5x11 paper, 2.54cm margins, and use consistent referencing (you may check with your supervisors to see if they have a specific referencing style they would like you to use). Submit an electric copy of your proposal unless the recipients elect to receive your proposal in a different form.

Rough Draft (15%) - Evaluated by your supervisor

The rough draft should be at least 80% complete.  The majority of information and literature citations should be in place, figures and tables should be roughed out, the majority of text should be written, and the student should have made several iterations of revisions.  It is not necessary to have completed abstracts or summaries, acknowledgments, and all details in the bibliography, and figures and tables may be hand drawn or in rough form.  The text should be typed and relatively free of typographical errors, but some footnotes or sections of the discussion might be missing.  Where information is missing, a note should be inserted indicating what is to come (e.g. "insert 2 paragraphs here discussing the significance of x to y").  However, ‘80%’ means that the report should be substantially complete, so that the supervisor and examiner understand the main message and conclusions, and can appreciate what the report will look like when complete.  If entire chapters are missing, significant marks will be deducted!

Oral presentation (30%) - Evaluated by supervisor and examiner

The student must present a 10 minute talk (plus 5 minutes for questions) that introduces the subject of the report, defines the question to be answered, summarizes the main literature or data under review, and presents results of research and conclusions.  Students may use overheads or computer slides (i.e., powerpoint).  The presentation will be marked according to the logic and technical content of the talk, the clarity and style of the talk (voice quality and volume; confidence; body language; engaging the audience), the quality of slides and visual aids (neatness; conciseness; information value), and the ability to answer questions, clearly, concisely, and informatively.

Final Report (45%) - Evaluated by your supervisor and examiner

The final report must be no more than 50 pages (and no less than 30 = 10-15,000 words), including all figures, tables and bibliographies.  Where there is extensive data, these can be presented as Appendices on additional pages.  The report must be typed, double spaced in Roman 12 pt. on 8.5 x 11 inch paper (double-sided encouraged) with 2.54 cm margins.  Figures should be no more than one-half page and tables no more than one page each.  References should be cited in the style of your discipline, following commonly used journals or books (check with supervisor).  The report should include the following elements:

  • Page 1 - Title, your name, ENSC 501, Year, 300-500 word Abstract
  • Page 2 - Table of Contents
  • Page 3 - Introduction - what is the issue and the specific question; why is it important?
  • Methods - sources of information, etc.
  • Results/Discussion - what did you find, what does it mean, what are your   
  • Conclusions
  • Summary of main points (bullets)
  • Acknowledgments
  • References

Role of the Course Coordinator:
To meet with students in mid-September and introduce the course, review requirements, marking scheme, and timelines. Plus review student topic selection and sources of information. Encourage students to select examiners with assistance from supervisors.
To offer guidance through course requirements and timelines.
To attend all presentations and examinations, and to review all written submissions as per the marking scheme assignments.

Choosing a Supervisor

The choice of a supervisor should be based on the topic of the project that you wish to pursue. Supervisors or co-supervisors are normally chosen based on their expertise in an area from faculty within the School of Environmental Studies (joint, seconded, or cross-appointed faculty), or from willing supervisors from other relevant departments.  We have cross-appointed faculty with many departments and schools here at Queen’s.  

Supervisory Responsibilities

Your supervisor(s) will be responsible for:

  1. advising and directing you in the formulation of your initial report proposal, as well as ensuring that the literature that you are covering is appropriate and exhaustive;
  2. providing feedback and grading your initial research proposal;
  3. giving advice and grading your oral presentation;
  4. reading, commenting, and grading your rough draft; and
  5. grading your final report.

It is the student’s responsibility to set up meetings with their supervisors.   These meetings will vary in length depending on their overall involvement and expertise.  It is strongly suggested that meeting(s) take place prior to handing in your report proposal, as well as after your proposal has been graded.   These meetings allow for informal feedback on the quality of your work and the direction that your project is taking.  It is also suggested that you meet with your supervisor(s) on a relatively regular basis (e.g., monthly, or at a minimum bi-monthly) to discuss your progress, and to provide a mechanism for intellectual discussion.   

Choosing an Examiner

The second examiner should be chosen for their expertise and should be a faculty member in the School of Environmental Studies, or another appropriate department.  This person should be selected based on discussions with your supervisor or the course coordinator.  If you are being co-supervised, there is no need for an additional examiner.

Examiner Responsibilities

The role of the examiner is to:

  1. attend your seminar; and
  2. provide a grade and comments on your final report.