Honours Programs: The Value of a Thesis

Honours Programs: The Value of a Thesis

Posted in on February 28, 2020

student writing at a table

Here at Crandall University, we are proud of the high level of academic achievement that our students strive for each and every day. Throughout our history, Crandall has sought to provide programs that enable students to challenge themselves to reach their fullest academic potential. As such, undergraduate students in nearly every department have the option to go beyond their major and complete an Honours Degree.

Pursuing honours is certainly no mean feat – it requires an above average GPA to begin with, often requires more upper level courses, and that’s all without mentioning the Thesis. This project, the defining feature of the Honours program, is the most demanding research project that an undergraduate student can pursue at Crandall.

The Supervisor

Dr. Elissa Rodkey, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Crandall, serves as supervisor to students pursuing Honours in Psychology. When asked what she feels is the benefit of writing a thesis, Dr. Rodkey explained that “Students who write an Honours Thesis get the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a scholar in their chosen discipline…The goal is generally to find a gap in the research literature or an angle that hasn’t been looked at yet, and to contribute something new, so the student’s work has real stakes in a way that a regular assignments often don’t.”

She also stated that writing a thesis can really stretch a student’s academic skills, saying, “Doing a literature review, careful critical thinking, and writing in a formal style—all these are things that the students who qualify for an Honour’s Thesis already can do, but the thesis project really makes them realize just how modest previous assignments have been and how hard they have to work to attain something that is up to disciplinary  standards.”

The Student

Jessica McQuarrie, a fourth year Psychology student, is one of the students working on her thesis under Dr. Rodkey’s supervision. Jessica can speak to these higher academic standards directly as she is currently experiencing them while writing her own thesis. However, while she recognizes the challenges associated with completing an Honours during her undergraduate degree, Jessica feels that the benefits greatly outweigh the obstacles; the main benefit being differentiating herself in her Graduate school applications. An undergraduate thesis, while challenging, has the power to give Jessica the competitive edge that she needs and set her on the best path to achieving her goal of pursuing her Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology.

According to Jessica, taking her Honours will not only provide her with an advantage in the future, but has also had immediate effects on her commitment and work ethic, allowing her to grow as an individual and as a student: “Writing a thesis has taught me the value of research and how instrumental it can be in the process of creating change. Both academic and personal development has taken place as I have learned to work independently, listen well, and evaluate different perspectives… not to mention writing the biggest paper of my ‘career’ to date. This has not only improved my research skills and deepened my confidence in my abilities, but refined my character as well.”

The Payoff

Jessica is not the only individual to benefit from crafting her thesis though; Dr. Rodkey also finds value in overseeing this process. When asked about her favourite part of supervising her Honours students, she explained, “I really love witnessing the student satisfaction at the end of the year, when they have the chance to defend their thesis and can see all their work paying off… It’s an accomplishment that’s worth celebrating and I always feel so proud of my students for persevering through all the hard work and finishing strong.”

All in all, Crandall’s Honours programs have served to provide valuable experience for a great many students in their academic pursuits. Nearly 150 Honours theses sit on the shelves of the George A. Rawlyk Library, with Jessica’s and others soon to be added. It is a process that brings together a student and faculty member in an academic relationship that is sure to be remembered by both for years to come.

Considering Honours?

Second year students should speak to their faculty advisor to see if an Honours degree is right for them and to learn the additional requirements associated with the program. Applications are due March 15 of the academic year prior to writing the thesis.


Crandall University is Atlantic Canada’s leading Liberal Arts University rooted in the Christian Faith, with undergraduate programs in Arts, Business Administration, Science, and Education, and graduate programs in Education and Organizational Management. To learn more, visit crandallu.ca or call 1‑888-968-6228.