ENSC 501/502

Course Description

In ENSC-501 and -502, students work on their own independent research projects under the supervision of a faculty member in the School of Environmental Studies. In this course, students gain experience in the full range of activities involved in doing research, including project design, data analysis and interpretation, literature review, scientific writing, oral presentation and interactive collaboration with colleagues. 

ENSC-501 Independent Environmental Study Units:6.00

Independent study of an environmental topic by individuals or inter-disciplinary groups.
NOTE 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.
LEARNING HOURS 228 (48I;180P).

Requirements: Prerequisite 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 Degree 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.

ENSC-502 Research Project in Sustainability Units: 12.00

This is an interdisciplinary research project related to environmental sustainability, with supervision and training in appropriate research methods by faculty members of the School of Environmental Studies. The course includes supervised research including a research proposal, a seminar, a poster presentation and a final thesis and oral defence.

Requirements: Prerequisite 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 Degree Plan. 

Workload Expectations. Because the course is worth 12.0 units, students are normally expected to devote approximately 40% of their academic time to ENSC-502 over the fall and winter terms.

Note: The deliverables and deadlines are the same for ENSC-501 and ENSC-502. However, ENSC-502 projects are much larger and more in-depth than ENSC-501 projects. Students need to work closely with their supervisors to ensure that their projects are an appropriate size and scope for the course they are enrolled in. 


Each student in ENSC-501 and -502 will have one supervisor and one examiner (or one supervisor and one co-supervisor) on their committee.

Your 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.

Your supervisor(s) will be responsible for:

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;

Providing feedback and grading your proposal and annotated bibliography;

Giving advice and grading your oral presentation;

Reading, commenting, and grading your draft report; and

Grading your final report.

Students are responsibility for setting 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 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. You should meet with your supervisor(s) on a relatively regular basis to discuss your progress, and to provide a mechanism for intellectual discussion.

Your 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.

The role of the examiner is to:

Grade your proposal;

Attend and grade your oral presentation; and

Provide a grade and comments on your final report.


Proposal & Bibliography (20%)
[Proposal evaluated by supervisor and examiner; bibliography evaluated by supervisor]


A research proposal should identify what you propose to do and how you propose to do it. It should also review what is already known about the topic and identify why the research is important. 

The text of the proposal must not exceed 6 pages, double-spaced, 12-pt font (approximately 1500 words). References and figures/tables are in addition to this page limit but the entire proposal must not exceed 10 pages.

Proposals can be structured in several ways and you should work with your supervisor to identify an appropriate outline. However, as a guide, you should consider the following:

Research Goal/Question (~0.5 pages) – What is the purpose of your research? What is it you aim to do? Often this can be expressed as a research question or set of research questions, but it can also be written as a goal and set of objectives. If you are testing a hypothesis you should state what that is.

Background Information/Literature Review (~2 pages) – Use the current literature to set the context for your research question or goal. Show how your research question builds on the current literature and how your project will fill gaps in the field.

Plan of Research/Methods (up to 3 pages) – Describe what information and/or data you will collect and how you will collect it (e.g. experiments, laboratory analysis, interviews, questionnaires, mapping, etc.). The reasons for choosing these methods should be evident and sampling procedures should be explained where appropriate. Consideration of data analysis and interpretation should also be provided. If your research is place-based then a brief description of the study area should be provided.

Expected significance (0.5 page) – Why is the research important? You may also consider including anticipated results and how they would contribute to the project’s significance.

This proposal will be evaluated based on: quality of writing and clarity of the proposed research; logical development and organization of proposal; feasibility of proposed research; originality; significance of the proposed research. 

Annotated Bibliography

You must compile an annotated bibliography comprised of 15 entries from literature relevant to your topic. These are sources that are important in your field or study or highly relevant to the issue you are working on. At least 10 of the entries must be original, peer-reviewed studies from the academic literature.  Up to five entries can be books, government reports, or other significant works.

The annotation for each paper should be no more than 200 words. The citation for the paper must precede the annotation. The annotation itself should be a very brief summary of the paper that encapsulates what the authors did, how they did it, and what they found. This should be followed by a statement of relevance to your project (i.e. a rationale for including it in the bibliography) along with any evaluation or critique you may want to provide. 

The annotated bibliography will be evaluated based on: (1) Your summary of each paper (Is it sufficient enough to understand the main point of the paper and is there a clear rationale for including the paper in the bibliography?); (2) Your choice of papers (Are they appropriate and applicable to your project? They should also be sufficiently distinct from each other.); (3) Structure, clarity, grammar, and presentation.

Draft Report (10%)
[Evaluated by supervisor]

Your draft report should be structured around a detailed outline of the final project report (see module titled "Final Report"). Some sections will not yet be completed, or will just contain a few sentences about what they will eventually contain in the final report. Still, there should be some sections that are near completion and these should be well developed for the draft report. Where sections are missing or incomplete, a note should be inserted indicating what is to come (e.g. "This section will present the results of the Phase 2 data analysis”, or “I will insert 2 paragraphs here to discuss the significance of x in relation to y", etc.). Figures and tables should also be drafted, even if incomplete.

Students should use this milestone as an opportunity to begin the process of writing their final report and for getting feedback from your supervisor. Individual circumstances will vary, but it is expected that more than half of the final report would be complete at this stage.

Oral Presentation (20%)
[Evaluated by peers, supervisor, examiner and course coordinator]

A virtual symposium will be organized by the course coordinator in late March (date to be determined) where all ENSC-501 and -502 students will deliver a 15-minute presentation (plus 5 minutes for questions) on their project. Presentations will introduce the subject of the report, define the question to be answered, summarize the main literature or data under review, and present methods, results and interpretation of research results. Students should use an appropriate platform for delivering their presentation (e.g. 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 Project Report (50%)
[Evaluated by supervisor and examiner]

The final report must be no more than 50 pages, including all figures, tables and references.  Where there is extensive data or supplemental information, these can be presented as appendices on additional pages.  The report must be double spaced in 12 pt font.  References should be cited in the style of your discipline, following commonly used journals or books (check with your supervisor).  References may be single spaced if you wish, but they should each be separated by a space between them.

For many projects, and certainly those where original data was collected and analyzed, the final report will follow the format of a scientific paper except that that it should have a more developed introduction and literature review. In these cases, your report should include the major headings as described below. However, there are frequently projects (especially in ENSC501) where the subject matter or research methodology does not lend itself to this organization. Students should work with their supervisors to identify the best approach to structuring their report.

Title Page - The title page should include the title of your thesis, your name, a statement about the thesis being submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a BSc (Honours), and the month and year.

Abstract - This should be a single page in which you describe the results obtained and the conclusions reached. It should contain only brief description of methods. It should not contain references. 

Acknowledgments - Be concise but remember to thank everyone who contributed to your work. It is usual to separately thank those who assisted with the data collection, those who read and commented on the manuscript and those who helped in the final preparation of the thesis. You should also thank any granting agencies that supplied funds (usually to your supervisor) for the project.

Table of Contents - the main sections and subsections and give their page numbers.

List of Figures - Provide a short title for each of your figures with associated page numbers

List of Tables – Provide a short title for each of your tables with associated page numbers.

List of Common Abbreviations - Any non-standard abbreviations you use should be defined when first used in the text. Do not use unnecessary abbreviations especially if you are only going to use the term 2-3 times.

Introduction and Literature Review - This section should carefully and critically review all of the subjects that are pertinent to your thesis. The Literature Review should demonstrate that you have read and understood the background material for the question being asked, and for the methods and analysis used if these are in any way complex. You should describe the work that let up to the question or hypothesis that you have posed. It is essential not to just describe a list of references but to develop some theme so that this section is interesting and cohesive to the reader. Constantly be aware that you are trying to enlighten the reader as to the framework in which you have performed the research for your thesis. Once the background has been explained, the reader can appreciate the questions you posed or the hypothesis you tested.

Materials and Methods (or Methods) - You must state where you obtained the materials used in your thesis and in sufficient detail to enable someone else to obtain identical materials. Similarly you must describe the methods you used so that other people could repeat them exactly. If you are using a procedure developed by someone else, you should reference it. Specific details can always be appended as an appendix.

Results - Describe the data you obtained. Well-organized figures really help. Depending on the nature of your project this section may actually be quite short.

Discussion - In many ways this is the most important part of your thesis. The discussion should follow logically from the previous sections and you should be constantly aware of the previous sections when you write it. It should also suggest further research that could be performed in this area. It may also include a critique of the project indicating how it could have been planned better.

References - Please be sure to follow a commonly used format in the discipline for which you are writing.

 Appendices - Appendices are a good place to put raw data or complex analyses that are important for references but not critical to the development of the thesis itself. For example, if you have taken dozens of photos to document a particular point, put them in an appendix. Similarly, if you (or your supervisor) feel that a summary of raw data could be useful to future researchers, this is a good place to put such a summary. NOTE, however, that your examining committee is not required to look at the Appendices in assigning a mark for your thesis. Make sure, therefore, that everything needed to develop the ideas in your thesis is included in the main text.

Each member of your examining committee will receive the final copy of the thesis along with an evaluation form. The thesis will be evaluated with respect to the writing style, analysis, interpretation of results and overall organization. Each committee member will assign a grade and make comments on the aspects of the thesis. A final grade will be determined by the coordinator based on performance and input from your examination committee.

2023/2024 Course Coordinator:
Dr. Geof Hall

Take the next step!

 Apply Now!