Guidelines for Completion of an Undergraduate Thesis in Applied Human Nutrition

Introduction to AHN Undergradate Thesis

Students wishing to undertake an undergraduate thesis should approach a thesis advisor in the Winter semester of third year. Students normally have a GPA of at least 80% in 2nd year and above. The advisor must be a member of the AHN faculty. The thesis is normally completed in the 7th and 8th semesters of the program. Two thesis format options are available: a traditional thesis format and a manuscript format, as outlined below. Students should discuss the pros and cons of each option with their thesis advisor. In addition, the student will also present her/his work in the AHN graduate seminar course. Students may wish to attend the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition research seminar. (Speak to your AHN thesis advisor.)

In both options the student will…

  1. Complete a comprehensive literature search in the chosen area of study and sub-areas that provide sufficient background to demonstrate knowledge of the content area [students may take on-line tutorials or tutorials provided at the library to help with this task]
  2. Read this literature and digest this information to understand gaps appropriate for further research, limitations of the current research etc.
  3. Work with the advisor to develop a research focus and question(s) and identify research methods to answer the question(s) [note many undergraduate students lack the expertise to decide among the various methods and strong guidance from the advisor is anticipated]
  4. Review texts and primary literature (typically identified by advisor) on the research methods (e.g., mail survey), technical (e.g., BOD POD), statistical (e.g., chi square, intraclass correlation, regression), and other analysis methods (e.g., descriptive qualitative) to develop an understanding of the chosen methods
  5. Develop a first draft of research ethics and work with the supervisor on revisions [optional]; this includes development of consent forms, information letters, and participant feedback
  6. Develop questionnaires or other materials required for the research completion [as required]
  7. Complete data collection, analysis and discussion of the project results.
  8. Write up the project in the agreed format, and present at the undergraduate honours thesis presentation day at the end of the winter semester

Notes on Process

  • Dependent on the project, students may start tasks expected during NUTR*4910 during the first course NUTR*4810.
  • Some projects may be scheduled for the summer semester for data collection. In this event, it is anticipated that students may take NUTR*4810 during the summer semester to assist with this process.
  • It is anticipated that the student will meet with their advisor on a weekly basis and potentially more frequently during the course of data collection and analysis.
  • It is anticipated that several drafts of end products will be required and revised prior to the final end product submission to the supervisor/advisor.


Option 1: Traditional Thesis

The completion of a proposal and thesis is intended to provide the student with experience in the research process, including critical analysis of the literature, data collection and analysis. The thesis format option emphasizes experience in the development of a formal proposal, such as would be completed for research funding agencies.

NUTR*4810 Thesis Proposal

20-25 pages, double spaced, one-inch margins, 11-12-point font, with appendices and
references. Review and critical analysis of current literature including:

  • Specific objectives/hypotheses
  • Specific methods:
  • Study design
  • Subjects, target population of interest, including inclusion, exclusion, sample selection, recruitment
  • Outcome variables of interest
  • Data collection methods - Draft questionnaires or laboratory methods, methods to avoid bias, blinding, compliance, etc.
  • Sample size specification
  • Data management
  • Plan of analysis, including statistical tests to be used
  • Time schedule and personnel (if needed)
  • Approval from the University of Guelph Research Ethics Board (if needed)
  •  Budget (if needed)

NUTR*4910 Thesis

  • 20-40 pages text with supporting references and appendices, using thesis format
  • Literature review – from NUTR*4810 proposal
  • Specific objectives – from NUTR*4810 proposal
  • Specific methods (minor changes from proposal)
  • Results - new
  • Discussion - interpretation of the results with respect to addressing the objectives and/or hypotheses, including (possible) relevance to applied human nutrition practice
  • Conclusions
  • References cited


Option 2: Manuscript Submission

The product for this option is a high-quality manuscript developed for a specific journal. Due to timelines of the undergraduate thesis, submission may not occur within the two semesters under which the student takes NUTR*4810 and NUTR*4910; however, it is intended that with minimal editing on the part of the student and advisor, a manuscript would be ready for submission close to completion of this course work. It is intended that the student would be the first author on the submission and as such will work closely with the advisor post review and resubmission of the manuscript to the chosen journal. The advisor and other research assistants involved directly in the project will also be authors on the submitted manuscript.

NUTR*4810 Expectations

  • Audit of readings: primary articles, texts, and other materials read during the semester will be listed with a short description that demonstrates the student has identified the key concepts in the reading (i.e., what does this article say, what gaps does it identify, does the quality of the article suggest that more work is needed in the area, what is the statistical test to be used and why, etc.) This is a point-form document with complete citations [approximate length 10-15 pages]
  • Ethics form [optional]
  • Questionnaires and other research requirements as needed
  • A good draft of the literature review which presents a clear argument for the project and the research purpose [approximately 2 pages or longer dependent on anticipated journal] 

NUTR*4910 Expectations and Manuscript

Draft submission of manuscript in line with requirements of the chosen journal, including title page, abstract text, tables, figures, bibliography, and appendices [approximate length 20-30 pages]

  • Data collection [may be optional dependent on secondary data available for analyses]. This step can be quite extensive, dependent on the project (e.g. mail survey, nutritional assessment of a select group, provision of a nutrition education intervention and its evaluation.
  • Data entry, interview transcription [as required].
  • Data analysis [consultation with statistical support and the taking of a seminar or short course in these methods may be required such as the Basics of SPSS
  • Development of results tables based on analyses
  • Identification of journal appropriate for submission, review the requirements for submission
  • Writing of results text
  • Writing of discussion/conclusions