I work with one honours student a year on average, but sometimes none, and on occasion more. I just-about always have had substantial contact with students in previous classes before working with them in honours. I look for students to have a strong academic record, though I certainly recognize that there’s an enormous amount about people that grades do not reveal. I believe it is valuable to take a wide range of psychology courses, but I also admire breadth in study beyond psychology, and engagement with the world beyond school. I place a high value on students’ efforts to enhance their writing skills.
Sometimes students are not especially interested in research and seek out honours as a means to help them get into graduate programmes. I can understand that, but would only want to work with such a student if she or he can find some significant enthusiasm for a topic we might explore in honours. A positive attitude toward the substantial amount of work involved in honours is critical. My students make a lot of the decisions about what their projects will be, and tolerance for ambiguity, especially in the early stages, is important. I expect honours students to be self-starters and to own responsibility for managing their schedules and organizing their time and effort.
I do not expect prospective students to come to me with a specific project in mind. A general interest in one of the broad areas I do research in (currently family violence, parenting, tobacco) is necessary. I think it makes sense to complete honours within the four-year degree timeframe, and that it’s good to build in time for exploration and reflection; I am happy to begin Honours work in January of the third year, or not later than summer of the third/fourth year if the student plans to graduate in four years.
A lot comes down to making a match: Is there a match between a student coming to the door wanting to do honours this year or next, and my own work commitments? Is there a match between the student’s interests and mine? And is there a match that would lead me to think, “This is someone I’d look forward to meeting with every week for the next year or so”?