Summary: The BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT
SPECIAL TOPICS CLASSES:
What they are for and what is involved (revised June 2011)
The Special Topics class (in Biology or Marine Biology) provides an opportunity for students
usually in their fourth year to pursue independent studies on topics of special interest in biology where
these are not otherwise offered in the curriculum. To set up such a class, the student (or a group of
students) must identify a professor or professors to supervise the class. Typically, those will be
professors who conduct some research in an area related to the topic and typically the student has taken
another class from the professor. A professor may or may not agree to supervise such a class.
Common Formats of the class; (i) directed reading and writing of a review paper (ii) a
research project, possibly comparable to that involved in honours research (iii) a group of students
might get together and organize a class, asking one or more professors to participate and (iv) other
formats may be considered.
Special Topics classes should not be taken as a way to get a credit regardless of the content.
Rather these classes are developed to provide a particular experience. Thus, in proposing such a class,
the student should have a particular topic in mind, and have done some initial exploration of the topic.
It is best to draw up a draft proposal for a class to present to a prospective supervisor. That proposal
should identify the topic, the material to be covered, and provide a detailed description of how the
student will be evaluated, including deadlines for submission of class assignments. The supervisor may