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The Australian National University

Special Topics and Honours

By the end of first year, students should begin to think seriously about the possibility of undertaking Special Topics, which are individually-designed, research-focused courses for second and third year students, and Honours, a fourth year in which the student undertakes a 10-month research project and writes a thesis under supervision. Special Topics provide an ideal introduction to independent research, and are recommended for students interested in undertaking Honours.

1. What are Special Topics Courses?

2. How do I gain entry to a Special Topics course?

3. How much of my degree can be made up from Special Topics courses?

4. What are the constraints?

5. What projects are on offer?


There are several reasons for considering a four-year Honours degree rather than the basic three year BSc. Graduates having completed a project-oriented fourth year are favoured over those with a basic degree in selection for jobs. Employers prefer applicants who can show evidence of ability to plan an investigation, work independently on it, and persevere until it is completed, all within time constraints. The fourth year gives far greater opportunity for students to show initiative, and to follow their own lines of interest, than is possible in basic undergraduate course work. In addition, there is often opportunity to become proficient in the use of sophisticated equipment and techniques, experience which is seldom possible to gain in the classroom. Honours is also a direct entry pathway into graduate research programs, such as a PhD, and a career in research.

A student may elect to proceed to an Honours year through any of the programs offered through RSB, in an area of his/her interest. In order to do this, students must have a minimum of credit performance in 6 Group B or Group C units related to the Honours topic, but more stringent entry requirements may be imposed by the School. The Honours course includes a research project, assessable written material (including a thesis), and workshops on experimental design, data handling and communication.

On to Courses Available and the Biology Majors Planner

Read more about Honours in Biology

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Updated:  21 December 2010/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB /Page Contact:  RSB Webmaster