Arts and Sciences Research Opportunities

Independent Studies in Arts/Sciences [.50] each
ASCI*3700, *4700 and *4710

Arts/Sciences Honours Research Seminar [1.0]

Both routes offer excellent research opportunities and look fantastic on grad school applications. Let’s learn about the differences!

ASCI*3700, *4700 AND *4710

These courses are truly independent research. So this means you’re in charge of finding your own professor and together coming up with your own research plan. Some students do lab work, but often it is based on writing a literature review. There have also been some unique community based projects too! Students have the best luck finding advisors when they email professors they have good relationships with, or with whom they have done well in one of their classes, asking: “I am looking for research opportunities, and wondering if there is anything I can assist you with”. Once you have the professor on board with supporting you, and a topic chosen, the two of you would create a “Course Outline” describing exactly what you’d be working on, what assignments make up the course, what the timelines are, etc. When you have completed the outline together, you both sign it, and email it to by the last day of classes in the preceding semester for approval.
You can find sample outlines here:


  • .50 credit(s) - Any semester
  • No specific academic average required
  • Find your own professor in any dept.
  • Opportunity for unique projects
  • Program Counsellor will enroll you in WebAdvisor


This course is the most similar to a 4th year thesis. It is limited to 20 students, weighted at 1.0 credits, and is essentially a major research paper and poster presentation.

You need to have a 75% cumulative average to enroll. The course professor guides your research and writing.

You still get to pick the topic you want to study! It is your responsibility to choose that topic, though the course professor can help you to refine your topic (e.g., narrow it down or broaden it as necessary).

Your research most often done through literature reviews and analysis of an interdisciplinary topic, and not lab work. It is best suited for strong writers who are looking to apply to graduate school.


  • 1.0 credit—Winter only
  • Most similar to a 4th year thesis
  • Need 75% to enroll
  • BAS Professor directs course
  • Assignments: Major paper + poster presentation


FAQ about ASCI*4010 Research Projects

What are the research projects like?  

The project is an 8,000-9,000 word paper (not including references) on an interdisciplinary topic of the student’s choosing. Most projects are based on previous research: it's a synthesis of ideas on a topic that bridges the natural sciences with the arts, humanities, or social sciences. Often, the topic bridges the students two minors, because those are the areas that students will have the greatest expertise. However, it doesn't need to involve either of the student's minors, and students are free to choose any topic as long as it bridges the sciences with the arts/humanities/social sciences. 


What are some examples of past projects?  

We’ve had an extremely wide variety of topics in this course. That’s what makes it so exciting! Here are some examples that demonstrate the breadth of topics:  

  •     The effects of antibiotic resistance on industry (biology + business);  
  •     The uses of Number Theory during wartime cryptography (math + history);  
  •     Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in the NFL (bio-med + sports + media);  
  •     The effects of the Catholic Counter-Reformation on the Scientific Revolution (history of science);  
  •     Eco-poetry (ecology + English);  
  •     Representations of ecology within science fiction (ecology + English);  
  •     Food insecurity and mental health (nutrition + policy + psychology/neuroscience);  
  •     Hypoxia in pilots (biomed + multiple social science);  
  •     Opioid treatment in remote northern communities (psych/bio-med + development);  
  •     Appropriate pricing for new medical treatments (biomed + economics);  
  •     Teachers' gender stereotypes & student outcomes (psych + women's studies + education);  
  •     Sustainable funeral practices (anthropology + ecology);  
  •     Impact of doctor reviews on medical practices (medicine + multiple social science);  
  •     Anxiety in humans and non-humans (psychology + animal behaviour);  
  •     Ethics of human embryo research (biomed + philosophy);  
  •     Food addiction & public policy (neuroscience + policy);  
  •     Why genetic risk information doesn't motivate behavioural change (genetics + psych)  

Please note that the disciplines are sometimes approximate. These projects often span multiple disciplines, so you don’t need to specify exactly which ones are covered, as long as it’s clear that there is both a natural science component and an arts/humanities/social science component.  


Do students have advisors?

Students in this class don't have "advisors" in the same sense as thesis students within the disciplines. This is because usually no single faculty member will be an expert on the types of interdisciplinary projects that students are examining. Instead, the student becomes the expert on the topic through their own research. The ASCI*4010 instructor will advise students as much as possible, including general advice on theses, and topical advice wherever possible. However, it is the student who becomes the primary expert.


Do students collect their own data?  

Students in ASCI*4010 generally don't collect their own data, for a few reasons. First, most new data would fall firmly into one discipline (e.g., Biology, Sociology), so the project wouldn't fulfill this course's goal of bridging the disciplines. Second, the goal is for students to develop the skills required for a deep literature review, which is important in any discipline - you need to know the current state of the literature before you start collecting data. Third, we have some constraints within BAS: a) we don't have the facilities such as labs to collect new data; b) it's unclear what kind of data would be required for most projects; c) there are no advisors to teach whatever specific techniques would be required to collect or analyze the data (e.g., lab skills, statistics); d) oftentimes data can't be collected and analyzed within the one-semester timeline; and e) projects involving human participants (e.g., surveys) will usually take a month or more to get approval from the Research Ethics Board. All of this being said, if a student really wants to collect their own data, and has a specific idea on what data they want to collect, they should talk to the instructor as soon as possible to see if this is feasible. This will usually require that the student already have the skills they need to collect and analyze the data, and that the data can be collected for free without any special equipment. Dr. Barclay has taught this course five times, and this has only happened once, on a project that the student had already initiated with a faculty member. So there is zero expectation that students collect new data, though it is sometimes an option.

Got more questions? E-mail the instructor (, and the responses will be added to this list.

Note: In 2024W this course will be taught by Dr. Bruce who can be reached at