CHEM 4F90 / 4F91 Guidelines

Part 1 — Admission of Students to Chemistry 4F90/4F91

  • All students registering for CHEM 4F90 must also concurrently register for CHEM 4F91. No marks for CHEM 4F90/4F91 are submitted to the Office of the Registrar until the thesis and defence are completed, and corrections to the thesis are judged satisfactory by the Examination Committee. A student who does not finish CHEM 4F91 will receive a mark of zero in CHEM 4F90.
  • Admission of students to the 4F90/4F91 program normally requires the achievement of a minimum 70% (B) major average and a minimum 60% non-major average.
  • Every faculty member has the right to refuse supervision of a specific student. However, this will be exercised only under extraordinary circumstances, and must have some defensible basis. The Chairman of the Department, in consultation with faculty of the Department, will judge the defensibility of such refusals.
  • In no case shall a 4F90/4F91 student be employed or paid by his supervisor while enrolled in the course.

Part 2 — Responsibilities of the Student, the Supervisor, and the Committee

The thesis program has been instituted primarily to provide Honours students with significant experience in the investigative process. Although it is undesirable to legislate formal regulations regarding the responsibilities of supervisors and committees vis-à-vis students, some guidelines are appropriate.


  1. The student has the responsibility of functioning as independently as possible. This does NOT mean that the student should never consult with the supervisor about what the student is doing. Informal but fairly regular discussions with the supervisor will be very useful. The student should be prepared to discuss what he or she has done in the last few days, and tell the faculty member what he or she plans to do next and why. Students should also get into the library and read additional papers related to their research; the supervisor is not expected to provide the student with all of the relevant work in the field.
  2. CHEM 4F90/4F91 counts as two credits towards graduation. A good rule of thumb is that students should spend as much time on each of these as on a normal course. This works out to 15-20 hours per week, divided between lab work, reading, computer work, or whatever activity is appropriate for the research.
  3. In addition to the research work, students are expected to attend all departmental seminars and CHEM 4F91 defence seminars. This is important to broaden students’ exposure to topics outside their research area and as part of the development of their seminar presentation skills. In the event of a scheduling conflict, students are expected to inform the 4F90/4F91 Coordinator. Students are expected to be able to write reasonably grammatical English, free of spelling errors (it isn’t fair to blame the typist). It is not the committee’s responsibility to correct the student’s grammar and spelling mistakes.
  4. The student must write his or her own thesis. The supervisor and/or the committee may assist the student with the initial organization, and may suggest topics that should be covered. The supervisor will usually read the completed thesis and suggest further revisions. However, the supervisor does not write or re-write the thesis for the student. A student who cannot satisfactorily organize and write the thesis, even after consultations with the committee, cannot expect to receive a good mark in CHEM 4F91.


  1. Thesis projects should be suitable for the illustration of the entire research process, from the formulation of hypotheses/identifying a research problem through to the decision-making steps and the communication of results. They should be real problems and not primarily isolated aspects or technical problems associated with the supervisor’s personal research program.
  2. B.Sc. projects are not the equivalent of M.Sc. studies and their principal goal is not the publication of a research paper. Consistent with the aim of the CHEM 4F90/4F91 program, they should be well defined and relatively limited in scope. Open-ended projects should not be encouraged and every effort should be made to avoid studies that are unlikely to yield results within the time period available.
  3. Since Year IV students cannot ordinarily be expected to have the background knowledge necessary to define a research problem and establish appropriate methods to study the problem, supervisors should work closely with their students in this phase of the study. Supervisors also normally assist in the development of analytical, observational and technical skills. The supervisor normally provides the student with a selection of research papers related to the topic of study, and assists the students to understand the nature of the research they are undertaking. Most students have difficulty setting up realistic experimental schedules, so supervisors should help with this.
  4. A most important part of the learning experience of 4F90/4F91 is data analysis, interpretation of results and integration of these into the current scientific thought. Since this is the ultimate reason for doing research, it is very important that students be exposed and assisted through this process by discussions with their research supervisors.
  5. Since most students require assistance in the organization of their reports, a schedule has been defined which provides time for the student to prepare and submit more than one thesis draft. Supervisors should ensure that the drafts are of reasonable quality with respect to style, organization, etc., before final typing.
  6. The duties of the supervisor cease with the final submission of the thesis to the CHEM 4F90/4F91 coordinator. At this time the supervisor reverts to membership on the Examination Committee.

N.B.: When CHEM 4F90/4F91 is taken over the normal academic year (September to April), no thesis investigation may be initiated before commencement of the fall term. Students may carry out projects in the laboratories of faculty members for whom they have worked as summer research assistants but may not use for a thesis any data or material obtained during the tenure of such an appointment. Moreover, no Year II or Year III student may be hired as a research assistant with the understanding that he or she is then obligated to carry out a thesis project under the supervision of the faculty member concerned.


Each student registered for CHEM 4F90/4F91 will be assigned a committee, which will consist of the supervisor and at least two other faculty members (normally from the Chemistry Department, but exceptions may arise, particularly for joint majors). The committee has two functions: (a) to advise the student during the course of the research and writing of the thesis; and (b) to serve as the Examination Committee at the thesis defence. The student may consult with members of the committee at any time, and should also seek advice from other faculty members when this is appropriate. The committee will meet with the student at intervals, as outlined in Part 3, in order to evaluate the progress of the research and thesis.

Part 3 — Schedule


Each student will be required to present at least three seminars during the year.

  1. The first committee meeting will normally be scheduled during the first two weeks of the term in which 4F90/4F91 is commenced. The initial seminar should be approximately 15-20 minutes long and should deal largely with the nature of the problem and the proposed design of the study. The purpose of this seminar is to introduce the student and their research project to their committee and to provide for input by the committee with respect to the organization of the study.
  2. The second committee meeting must be scheduled before the end of the examination period in the first term in which 4F90/4F91 is taken. The student is to submit a written report to all members of their supervisory committee not less than five (5) days before the second committee meeting. The second seminar should be approximately 20-30 minutes long, and the student should present his or her research to date. The committee may then make recommendations as to possible further experiments, data analysis, etc.
  3. The final seminar, 45-50 minutes long, will be held within a reasonable time after final submission of the thesis, normally sometime during the final examination period during the second semester in which 4F90/4F91 is taken. This is the final defence, and is open to members of the department and students. In the presentation, the student should outline the problem, its background and significance, the research undertaken and results obtained, and the conclusions. There is then a 10-15 minute period for questions from the general audience. In addition there will be an hour for questions by the Examination Committee either immediately following the defence seminar or at a later time/date. The total session (defence seminar and examination) should not exceed two hours in duration.


  1. First term in which 4F90/4F91 is taken: Submission of a written progress report to the supervisory committee, before the end of the final examination period and no less than five (5) days prior to the second committee meeting. The progress report should display the student’s understanding of the background and goals of their project, and should form the preparatory work for the writing of the thesis. Therefore, its contents could include any or all of the following, as deemed appropriate by the supervisor and committee members:
    Introduction and Literature survey: Outline of the problem and pertinent background (sections can be combined or separate)
    Materials and methods: Experimental/computational protocol to date
    Results: Data generated to date
    Discussion: Preliminary analysis and conclusions
    Further experimentation: Proposed additional work and timetable for until completion
    Literature Cited
  2. Second term in which 4F90/4F91 is taken: Submission of the first draft of the thesis to the research supervisor should be approximately   three weeks before   the final submission date. This should allow sufficient time for revisions and final typing.
  3. The date of the final defence will be set by the 4F90/4F91 Coordinator in consultation with the examining committee no later than the last day of classes. The thesis must be submitted to the Examination Committee, no less than seven (7) days prior to the final defence, which should be held before the end of the final examination period.   No further revisions will be permitted until after the thesis defence. This version of the thesis is to be graded as submitted by the Examination Committee. Failure to submit the thesis on the deadline date will result in a reduced grade (see “Departmental Policy on Late Work” below) unless the Chairman of the Department exercises his or her discretionary powers.

Departmental Policy on Late Work

Normally 10% of an assignment mark is deducted for each day late, up to a maximum of 5 working days (one week including Saturday and Sunday) and, if the work is more than one week late, no credit is given. If a Year IV thesis is late by up to one week, 10% of the possible CHEM 4F91 grade will be deducted. A further 10% will be deducted for each successive week late, and a zero will be awarded if the thesis is not in by the last date for transmitting grades to the Registrar’s Office.

The above penalty does not apply if there are legitimate reasons for the work being late. In the 4F90/4F91 context, such reasons might include, for example, prolonged illness (supported by medical excuse) or persistent, long-lasting equipment failures. “I just didn’t feel like working in the fall term” or “I had to do a lot of work in my other courses” are not allowable reasons for not meeting the thesis deadlines.

Part 4 — Chemistry 49F0/4F91 Taken Outside the Normal Academic Year

Part-time students can take CHEM 4F90/4F91 in the evening (normally in successive years, i.e. CHEM 4F90 in one year and 4F91 in the summer or the following year), or in two successive summer day sessions (4F90 one year, 4F91 the next), or in some other combination. The same regulations apply to students who choose this option as to regular students, with the exception of certain changes in the deadlines. The deadlines will be set by the supervisory committee in consultation with the CHEM 4F90/4F91 Coordinator, and will be communicated in writing to the student during the first week of CHEM 4F90/4F91.

Full-time students may begin CHEM 4F90/4F91 projects in January, or at the start of the Spring term Any full-time student beginning CHEM 4F90/4F91 in January or May must make a commitment to remain at Brock University until these courses are completed; expected completion dates are August 31 for January registrants and December 31 for May registrants.

It might be possible to move the completion dates forward by mutual agreement of the student and the supervisory committee, but students should keep in mind that a number of aspects of the research process cannot be accelerated.

Part 5 — Marking of Chemistry 4F90/4F91

The mark assigned in CHEM 4F90 is a composite mark that reflects the student’s ability to do research. Independence, initiative, record-keeping (lab notebook or other research record), lab skills, and other such factors enter the mark.

The mark assigned in CHEM 4F91 is the mark for thesis and defence. Ability to organize, writing skill, quality of oral presentations, and ability to answer questions in both the open and closed seminars are taken into account in assigning this mark. In the thesis defence, the candidate can expect to be asked questions not only on the specific work done, but also on anything related to the research or mentioned in the thesis. Fundamental principles of equipment and methods used, experimental techniques, the chemistry of the system being studied, and statistical principles in analysis of data are obvious areas for questions. Questions related to course work underlying the thesis project may also be asked (e.g. elementary concepts of chemical bonding and structure, as they relate to the thesis compounds). In general anything related to the project, that should be known by a student at this stage in the chemistry program who has taken the courses prerequisite to CHEM 4F90/4F91, is “fair game” in the defence. The student is expected to successfully answer a reasonable proportion of the questions asked.

Fifteen percent (15%) of the student’s final grades in CHEM 4F90/4F91 are assigned after the second committee meeting and are based, in part, on the assessment of both the submitted written progress report and seminar presentation. The 4F90 component is based primarily on the quality of the research performance (without an emphasis on research results) and the 4F91 component is based primarily on the quality of written and oral communication of the work. In both components the student’s depth of understanding will be evaluated. This 15% of the grade is to be communicated to the student not later than the week prior to the last date of withdrawal.

The CHEM 4F90/4F91 marks are assigned by the student’s Examination Committee, who then   jointly submit the recommended marks to the CHEM 4F90/4F91 Coordinator. The final marks will normally discussed   at the Departmental Marks meeting. The marks of all students are compared and adjustments made if necessary before the final marks are submitted.   In addition, a Departmental Marks Meeting may be called, at the discretion of the CHEM 4F90/4F91 Coordinator, to discuss the 15% grades assigned at the end of the first term in which CHEM 4F90/4F91 is taken.

No marks for CHEM 4F90/4F91 are submitted to the Office of the Registrar until the thesis and defence are completed, and corrections to the thesis are judged satisfactory. A student who does not finish CHEM 4F91 will receive a mark of zero in CHEM 4F90.

Part 6 — Preparation and Submission of Theses for B.Sc. (Honours) Degrees


The thesis for B.Sc. (Honours) degrees shall be a report of research work carried out during the honours candidate’s final year. A description of related summer work may be appended to the thesis but this description will not be considered in the evaluation of the thesis.

General Information

  1. Number of copies: At least three (3) copies of the final version of the thesis must be prepared and submitted in an unbound form to the Examination Committee, not less than seven (7) days prior to the final defence date. Each copy must be adequately secured in a spring back or similar folder, but not in a folder containing thesis pages which have had holes punched into them.
  2. Approval and disposition of the thesis: After the oral examination and approval of the thesis by the Department, the candidate must correct errors noted by the examiners, in each copy of the thesis, and then submit the corrected unbound copies of the thesis to the CHEM 4F90/4F91 Coordinator. After binding, one copy of the thesis shall remain in the Department, one copy shall be retained by the candidate’s thesis supervisor and one copy shall be returned to the student.
  3. Rights to lend and reproduce the thesis: Unless there is a specific arrangement to the contrary, the university will allow the thesis to be consulted or borrowed or to be used in whole or in part in photocopied (as allowed by the copyright protection law) or microfilmed form.

Paper and Typing

  1. A good bond paper must be used for all copies of the thesis. The size of paper must be 8.5 x 11 inches. A margin of l.5 inches must be left on the left-hand side of all bound pages, and margins of not less than 0.5 inches on the other three sides.
  2. The original copy of the thesis must be printed with a high quality printer and must be clearly legible. If a colour printer is used it must be capable of printing the text in true black and not greyscale. Other copies should be printed with the same printer or photocopied on a good photocopying machine. The main body of printed theses should be Times font, 12 point type, double spaced (24 point spacing) in black.
  3. All text must be double-spaced except for quotations, footnotes, legends, tables and references, which may be single-spaced.
  4. Right-hand pages only should be used and numbered. These should be numbered in one continuous sequence from the Introduction to the last typed page, in Arabic numerals from 1 onwards.
  5. Embedded graphics may be in colour but they must be large enough and of sufficient resolution and print quality to be clearly legible.
  6. Plates, diagrams, tables, etc., which are not bound in with the text, but which are either loose or in an end pocket, or separately bound, should be given one separate sequence of numbering.
  7. If photographs cannot be scanned and included in the thesis electronically, they should be   securely dry mounted. In no circumstances should tape be used for any purpose in a copy of the thesis.
  8. Subsidiary papers and other loose material should be bound in whenever possible. If this is not possible, an adequately guarded pocket for such material should be provided at the end of the thesis. Any such loose material, and corrigenda sheets, if not bound in, should bear the candidate’s name, initials, degree, date and the name of the University.
  9. No interlineations, crossing out of letters or words, strike-overs or extensive erasures are permissible. In exceptional circumstances, characters or symbols not available on any word processor available to the student may be neatly added by hand with black ink.


A thesis should normally include the following major parts:

  1. Preliminary pages:
    • The first page must be a blank unnumbered sheet.
    • Title Page. The form of the title page must follow the sample shown at the end of these instructions.
    • Abstract. The abstract should be a summary of the thesis outlining the problem, methods of investigation, the main results and general conclusions. It should normally not exceed 500 words.
    • Acknowledgements. This section should be a brief acknowledgement of assistance given to the candidate in his research and writing.
    • Table of Contents. This should set forth all the principal topics and subdivisions of the thesis.
    • List of Tables.
    • List of Illustrations. This should include separate lists of all figures and plates.
  2. Text — Conciseness and clarity of exposition are of the essence. The format appropriate to the topic should be decided in consultation with the supervisor. Normally a thesis contains at least the following sections: I Introduction; II Experimental; III Results; IV Discussion.
  3. Footnotes — Footnotes, where considered necessary, should be placed at the bottom of the appropriate page.
  4. References (or Literature Cited) — The list of references is a very important part of a thesis and care should be given to its preparation. All references should be typed single-spaced, with double spacing between each entry. The general form of the references and the method of abbreviating names of periodicals should be the same as that used in the Canadian Journal of Chemistry,   or other appropriate journal recommended by the research supervisor.
  5. Appendices — Appendices should be used to present material accessory to the argument of the text. These may be of such a nature as not to form integral parts of the text, and of such extent as not to be appropriate as footnotes. Such material as extensive tables, mathematical developments, computer programs and additional experiments may well form appendices. Each topic shall form a separate Appendix, which must be identified by an upper case Roman letter. References used in Appendices will not be included in the list of References, but should appear as footnotes.
  6. Last Page. The last page should be a blank, unnumbered sheet.
  7. Additional Aspects — It is the candidate’s responsibility to ensure that details not considered here are discussed and clarified with their supervisor. See Section 2 Part 2 for reading references related to writing up research results, especially “Writing Your Thesis”, by J.M. Pratt.

Part 7 — B.Sc. Thesis Expenses

All typing, reproduction and other costs of preparing the thesis are the responsibility of the student. The research supervisor may have expenses paid from a research account at his/her discretion. Students arenot permitted to use departmental laser printers for printing.

Part 8 — Appeals

It is recognized that under some circumstances students may wish to appeal a final grade. The Appeal Procedure as outlined in the Undergraduate Calendar is followed. Since the final grades for CHEM 4F90/4F91 are not awarded solely by the research supervisor, in the first instance the student must refer the matter to the Chair of the Department of Chemistry. The Chair will appoint an ad hoc committee to deal with the appeal.

Part 9 — Graduation

Students intending to graduate at the Spring Convocation must complete an “application to graduate” by March 1st. And, students intending to graduate at the Fall Convocation must complete an “application to graduate” by August 1st. These are fixed dates as outlined in the Undergraduate Calendar. These application forms are available in the Office of the Registrar and must be submitted to them by the dates listed above.

Part 10 — Intellectual Property

All students must be apprised of Brock University’s policy on Ownership of Student-created Intellectual Property. Both the student and his/her research supervisor must fill out the Intellectual Property Agreement form and return it to Research Services.