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Queen's University

Biology 537 - Honours Thesis Format

Queen's University Department of Biology

1. Organization

Your thesis should follow the format of a scientific paper, except that you will also include a literature review.  You may also include preliminary or unsuccessful work because you may not have had time to complete all your experiments.  It should be organized as follows:

*1. Title Page
*2. Abstract
*3. Acknowledgements
*4. Table of Contents
*5 List of Figures
*6. List of Tables
*7. Introduction and Literature Review
*8. Materials and Methods (or Methods)
*9. Results
*10. Discussion
*11. Literature Cited (or References)
*12. Summary

NOTE: Do not number these sections in your thesis.  They are numbered only for your convenience.

Sections marked with an asterisk (*) should each begin on a new page.  Each numbered section should have a heading in CAPITAL LETTERS.  Subheadings can be in lower case, or underlined, or numbered, but the structure of subheadings should be absolutely clear.  You may either centre or left-justify all major headings (i.e. 1-12) but subheadings should be either left justified or indented, as needed.  Here is an example:


Study Areas

Lake Opinicon

Lake Ontario

Figures and Tables:  These may be either Roman or Arabic, (i) inserted at appropriate places in the text or (ii) gathered together after the Literature Cited.  If (i), then each Figure and Table should appear immediately after the page on which it is first mentioned, and Figure captions should generally go on a page facing the figure.

If (ii), put the Tables and Figures in the order referred to in the text.  Again, it would be most useful if Figure captions faced the figures.  Be sure the Figures and Tables are numbered with Arabic numbers (1-10 etc.) and are referred to in numerical order in the text - i.e. you must refer to Figure 3 before Figure 4 etc.  If you wish you may put all of the Figure captions together on a page preceding the actual Figures.

2. Content

(i) TITLE PAGE.  (See example below)for the correct format.  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.

(ii) ABSTRACT.  This should be a single page in which you describe the results obtained and the conclusions reached.  It should not contain methods unless your objective was to develop methods.  Nor should it contain arguments or references.

(iii) ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.  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.  Also you should thank any granting agencies that supplied funds (usually to your supervisor) for the project.

(iv) TABLE OF CONTENTS.  List the main sections and subsections and give their page numbers.

(v) LIST OF 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.  There is a list of standard abbreviations that do not need definition (e.g. ATP, DNA, ml, yr, etc.) which appears on the Journal of Biological Chemistry website. 

(vi) LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES.  Provide a short title for each of these and indicate their page numbers.  These are really Tables of Contents for figures and tables in your thesis and are included so that the reader can find particular items interspersed in the test.

(vi) 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.  Introduction and Literature Review sections are < 10 pages.

(viii)   MATERIALS AND 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.  However, there is no need to describe laboratory procedures in detail.  If you are using a procedure developed by someone else, you should reference it.  Methods that were used generally through your work would be described here. Methods should not be written up as recipes eg. the 25ml reaction contained 1 ml of water, 2 g NaOH, 5 ml oil.

Please note: use µg not ug

Materials and Methods sections are usually less than 5 pages long. Extra methods/recipes can be put in an appendix.

(viii) RESULTS.  Describe the data you obtained.  This section may be quite short (often less than 5 pages).

(ix) 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.

(x) LITERATURE CITED.  We encourage you to use refworks and write-and-cite. These are free from Queen's web and will avoid errors and missing references in the text. Also if a reference needs to be removed it will quickly reformat your text citations.

Use the form that is accepted by the leading journals in your field.  A common form is:

Bendena, W.G., Newcomb, W. and Hodson, P.. (2009) Learning patience through watching undergraduate thesis seminars. Can. J. Heroes, 63: 43-53.

With this format you must include the title and inclusive page numbers.  The Reference List should have references in alphabetical order and refer to the authors in the text; eg. (Smith and Jones, 1968) or (Bendena et al.,2008 if more than 2 authors..note et al. is italicized and the period is after al.) have shown. For manuscripts in the reference list that have more than four authors use et al.after the fourth author cited..  You can also number the references so that they can be referred to by number in the text, but this may take the addition of a last minute reference in the middle of the text more problematic since many of the numbers in the text will have to be changed.

Do not use unnecessary references and never use a reference that you have not read.  If you must refer to something not read by you, (perhaps unavailable at Queen's) use cited in with the reference you did read.  The page limit on these will restrict the total number of references you use to 2 or 3 pages at most.

Write out all author's names even when several papers in a row are by the same author.  Do not use lines as shown in this example:

____________, Newcomb, W. and Arnott, S. 2008...

If two papers have the same authors and year then distinguish as 2008a and 2008b


(ix) SUMMARY.  Summarize your results and conclusions in 1-2 pages by using short numbered paragraphs or sentences.

(xii) 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 workers, this is a good place to put such a summary.  Since you are limited to 10 figures and tables in the body of your thesis and you may wish to place additional material here.  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.

3. Page Limit

Maximum 40 pages of text for sections 1-12 inclusive.  If you have interspersed Figures and Tables in these sections, number them as instructed above, but do not count these pages in this total.  You are limited to a total of 10 Figures and/or Tables.

4. Thesis Format

You may use the style of any major journal in your field.  When preparing the final copy, please follow these instructions:

(i)  WORD PROCESSING.  Double space everything (including Tables and figure captions) except Literature Cited (= References) which may be single spaced with a double space between each reference.  Use 12 point type only.

(ii)  MARGINS.  Minimum 3 cm on top, bottom and each side.

(iii)  UNITS.  Use SI (System Internationale) units throughout with correct abbreviations for the common units (e.g. h for hours).

(iv)  PAGE NUMBERING.  Begin numbering with the Title Page as Page 1 and continue numbering every page right through to the end of the appendices.  Numbers should be in the top right corner of each page.


5. Writing Style

Sometimes journals (and supervisors) insist on the passive voice, third person - double check before you begin writing.  Write simply and concisely.  Be precise and not verbose or pompous. Use spelling and grammar checkers.

6. Tables

Captions must be above each table and should virtually allow the Table to be understood without reference to the text. 

7. Figures

Drawings should be of a professional quality.  Consult with your supervisor to find the most appropriate software for your illustrations. Be warned that downloading pictures from the web may not be of professional quality. Make sure you reference where you obtained pictures if not your own! Where possible figure legends should be on the same page as the figure. Otherwise, place figure legends on the page facing the figure. Note that figure legends should be able to explain the figure without reference to the text. Make sure all microscope pictures have magnifications.

8. Number of Copies to Submit

One for the chair of your defense , one given to your supervisor and copies for one or more committee members. These do not need to be bound!

Copies should be brought to the main office on the due date (see list of dates) and a sticky note or other label stating who the copy should go to.

After your defense final copies will be submitted electronically for submission to Qspace.



Sample thesis title page: (and a tribute to the late Tuxedo!)


 Feline Control of Hamsters:  A Behavioural Study





 Tuxedo Newcomb





 A thesis submitted to the Department of Biology

 in partial fulfilment of the requirements for

 the degree of Bachelor of Science (Honours)



 Queen's University

 Kingston, Ontario, Canada

 April 2009







Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000