Honours Research Projects

General Information

Report Requirements

Assessment of Research Projects

Conjunctive Grading

Criteria for Honours Grades

List of Honours Projects

General Information

Progress and outcomes in your project will be assessed by a variety of means, some of which are designed to ensure that your work proceeds smoothly, others which carry a mark value. The research component of the Physics Honours program counts 50% of the final mark. The sub-division of this assessment is given below.

  • At the start of the project you and your supervisor will write a brief Research Plan, including a list of equipment/data/programs needed, a proposed plan of expected progress, and a statement certifying the supervisor's availability and the feasibility of the project. This Research Plan is due at Student Services at the end of the second week of your first semester of the Honours project. In addition, you and your supervisor will write a data retention plan to clearly specify how data is made available beyond your Honours studies.
  • A draft Introduction and Literature Review (see below) will be due two weeks after the start of the 2nd Semester of your project, with a copy going to the Honours Coordinator, along with a revised Research Plan (if appropriate).
  • A 20-30 minute talk on your project will be presented prior to the report deadline and will be scheduled by the Physics Office. ASSESSMENT: 10%.
  • A draft Report should be submitted to your supervisor approximately one month before the final version is due.
  • The final Report will be submitted at the end of week 12 of the second semester of your Project. ASSESSMENT: 90% (composed of mark from research group and at least two external examiners in the School of Physics).

Report Requirements

Students write an Honours research project Report. It should be written so that it can be understood by a physicist who is not a specialist in the subject. Such a person should be able to acquire a good understanding of the subject from your Report. As the ability to write clearly is an important skill for a scientist, it is desirable that you devote considerable effort to the clarity of your expression and to the organisation of your Report. Hence, you must not wait until the second half of your second semester to start thinking about it.

Guidelines for preparation are provided below. Reports that do not comply with these Guidelines will be returned for re-writing.


More detailed explanations are given below, but the layout of your Report (giving maximum number of pages allowed) should be as follows:

Section of Report Page Number and Comments
Title Page Page 1
Abstract Page 2 (100 - 200 words)
Statement of Originality Page 3 (format given below, to be signed)
Acknowledgements Page 3 (general statement)
Statement of Contribution of Student Page 3 (does not count in 40-page limit)
Table of Contents Page 4 (only counts as 1 page in 40-page limit)
Introduction, and Survey of Literature Approx. 6-10 pages (details below)
Main body of report (Sections as appropriate)
References Page 40 (only counts as 1 page in 40-page limit)
Appendices Not part of 40-page limit

The text of the Report must not exceed a maximum of 40 pages in total length. In no circumstances will permission to exceed the page limit be granted; penalties will be imposed for overlong Reports. If absolutely necessary, additional material may be included in Appendices. However, Appendices will not necessarily be read in detail by the examiners. The typeface used must be 11 pt or 12 pt and the margins must be at least 20 mm wide on all sides of the page (the page number may be put in the marginal area, clearly away from the edge of the paper).

The main body of text should be preceded by a Title page (page 1), a page with an Abstract 100 - 200 words long (page 2), a page containing a Statement of Originality (see below) together with Acknowledgments and a Statement of Contribution of the Student, which explain exactly what parts of the work are yours and what roles were played by others (page 3). You may place the Statement of Contribution of the Student on a separate page, but it will not be counted as an extra page in the 40-page limit. The last part of your preamble should be a Table of Contents (page 4), and if this takes more than one page, only one page counts toward the limit. These 4 initial pages are included in the 40-page limit.

You must acknowledge all assistance from staff and others under the headings Acknowledgements and Statement of Contribution of the Student on the 3rd page of the report, explaining their role briefly but precisely. You may give a general statement thanking people in the Acknowledgements, but the Statement of Contribution of the Student must be more explicit.You must give details of contributors to the project. For example, were you part of a team who performed the experiment, did someone write parts of the computer code, take the observations, build some of the apparatus, or do some of the analytic work? The reason for this Statement is to assist the assessment of the Reports, which are typically written in the third person like research publications. You are also required to provide on this page a signed and dated statement of originality of the form: I certify that this thesis contains work carried out by myself except where otherwise acknowledged. Digital/scanned signatures are allowed.

The text itself should be divided into sections with appropriate headings. After a brief Introduction, you are asked to present a section of about 8 pages which surveys the subject of your project and explains how the topic of your work fits into the bigger picture (this section could be given the heading Survey of the Subject, Literature Review, or similar). To prepare this you will need to consult the literature, a task you are advised to undertake early in the year. A section giving the outline, motivation for your project and significance of your results should be included here.  A draft Literature Review is to be submitted to the Honours Co-ordinator (and your Supervisor) early in the second semester of your project work.

Diagrams (with captions) should be inserted in the text at the appropriate locations.

References within the text should be indicated either by numbers in square brackets (in which case the list of references at the end of the Report should be in order of reference number) or by authors' names and year (in which case the list of references should be ordered alphabetically by name of first author). If the references, which should be listed at the end of the Report, take more than one page then only one page will count towards the 40-page limit.

You may wish to use a physics journal as a guide to format for references and other aspects of the thesis. Not all journals follow the same rules; however any major journal would provide an acceptable guide. Suggestions: Astrophysical Journal, journals published by the American Physical Society (e.g. Physical Review, Journal of Applied Physics, etc.), journals published by the Institute of Physics (Journal of Physics A, B, C, etc.).

Computational projects that involve the writing of computer code as a significant component of the research should include the relevant computer code in the appendices.


A high standard of presentation is required, using a word processor that can produce scientific notation. The document preparation system LaTeX is recommended. Ask staff or students in your department how you can obtain access to LaTeX and become familiar with it early in the year. You may also use Microsoft Word if you prefer. It is advisable to discuss the format of your Report with your Supervisor. An electronic version of a template in each of these two major format styles is available. The facilities of the School can be used for producing diagrams, photographs, and for photocopying.

Assessment of Research Projects

Criteria for Talk Assessment

Broadly, each 20-30 minute presentation will be assessed on the basis of form (the way the material is organized and presented), content (the extent of the material covered), and style (your personal delivery of the presentation - confidence, responsiveness to questions, etc.), with approximately equal weightings.

Criteria for Report Assessment

Some of the criteria for this assessment are listed below. The external examiners will in general not be able to judge criterion (4) and the first part of (3) in their assessment.

  1. Understanding

  • Perception of the problem.

  • Applicability of the method used.

  • Experimental or theoretical insight.

  1. Originality

  • What new ideas and novel methods were used.

  • What were the modifications and adaptations of existing methods.

  1. Effort

  • A judgement of the diligence of the student.

  • The content of the Report.

  1. Independence

  • How much assistance did other group members and the supervisor give.

  1. Professionality

  • Comprehensive iterature survey.

  • Critical judgement of data/results and their significance.

  1. Presentation

  • Ease of reading.

  • Clarity of presentation.

  • Informative introduction and conclusion.

To standardise grades, the examiners will refer to the Criteria for Honours Grades given below.

Conjunctive Grading

The criteria for the five distinct honours grades are given in the next section. For grading of the honours year as a whole, the School applies a cutoff on the total mark across the year; the first and second class honours are also subject to conjunctive grading. This means that both (1) the total coursework mark and (2) the research project mark should also satisfy a minimum standard. The standards are as follows:

H1 (first class honours): total mark >= 80; coursework mark >= 78 and project mark >= 78

H2.1 (second class honours, first division): total mark >= 75; coursework mark >= 70 and project mark >= 70

H2.2 (second class honours, second division): total mark>= 70; coursework mark >= 65 and project mark >= 65

H3 (third class honours): total mark >= 65

Criteria for Honours Grades

Outstanding First Class quality of clear Medal standard, demonstrating independent thought throughout, a flair for the subject, comprehensive knowledge of the subject area and a level of achievement similar to that expected by first rate academic journals. This mark reflects an exceptional achievement with a high degree of initiative and self-reliance, considerable student input into the direction of the study, and critical evaluation of the established work in the area.

Very high standard of work similar to above but overall performance is borderline for award of a Medal. Lower level of performance in certain categories or areas of study above.

*NOTE: An honours mark of 90+ is a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for the award of the Medal. Examiners are referred to the Academic Board Guidelines on the award of Medals found in the general policy pages at the front of the Examiners' Manual.

Clear First Class quality, showing a command of the field both broad and deep, with the presentation of some novel insights. Student will have shown a solid foundation of conceptual thought and a breadth of factual knowledge of the discipline, clear familiarity with and ability to use central methodology and experimental practices of the discipline, and clear evidence of some independence of thought in the subject area. Some student input into the direction of the study or development of techniques, and critical discussion of the outcomes.

Second class honours, first division - student will have shown a command of the theory and practice of the discipline. They will have demonstrated their ability to conduct work at an independent level and complete tasks in a timely manner, and have an adequate understanding of the background factual basis of the subject. Student shows some initiative but is more reliant on other people for ideas and techniques and project is dependent on supervisor’s suggestions. Student is dedicated to work and capable of undertaking a higher degree.

Second class honours, second division - student is proficient in the theory and practice of their discipline but has not developed complete independence of thought, practical mastery or clarity of presentation. Student shows adequate but limited understanding of the topic and has largely followed the direction of the supervisor.

Third class honours - performance indicates that the student has successfully completed the work, but at a standard barely meeting honours criteria. The student’s understanding of the topic is extremely limited and they have shown little or no independence of thought or performance.