Basic Guidelines for Honors Research Projects
Our desired outcome for the honors program is a project that attains a high level of scholarship that demonstrates the best qualities of an honors level college graduate. These are exercises in scholarship designed to demonstrate a sophisticated writing style and quality; a significant depth of comprehension and understanding; a winnowing of a larger idea to a salient and definitive conclusion, observation or point of view; and ultimately, an ability to effectively convey a complex idea or result to a broad audience through an oral presentation. These are the hallmarks of success across disciplines and are what we aspire to for honors students.
What follows is a detailed description of the process, the procedures and specific considerations for students and mentors in this process. Further details will be given to students, to be shared with mentors where applicable, in the individual honors classes as part of the syllabi.
Requirements of the Process
- Student registers for HONR 300 "Honors Proposal" anytime after completing HONR 100, typically between Spring of the sophomore year and Spring of the junior year.
- Student secures agreement from faculty mentor(s) (and other group members, if applicable).
- Student and faculty mentor decide on an appropriate topic and research question for the project.
- The project need not be a novel or original thesis – that is for graduate level education and requires years of dedication to the project to be done well. An aspect of original research is certainly encouraged but not requisite. At this level it is reasonable to expect students will contribute their original perspective to a larger research question that may already exist. A significantly deep hypothesis will yield a different research path for each student because each is bringing a unique pattern of thought to the project.
- To this end, the honors program directors encourage mentors to have a definitive say in the selection of projects, as they are in the best position to achieve a project that is ambitious, research worthy, yet is actually accomplishable. The genesis of the idea or area of interest should be generated by the student, but the mentor will use their expertise of the field to pare the often overly-broad idea of the student into a legitimate investigative hypothesis. In short, mentors are to take a direct role in guiding the student's project, yet not direct students into their personal research projects. The desired outcome becomes a body of work both mentor and student alike will sincerely defend as an example of outstanding scholarship.
- Research projects must be permanently tied to the research proposal (Substitutions of summer research projects, internship experiences or other similar works are not acceptable). Therefore, mentor and student should exercise prudence in selection of project.
- Student works with faculty mentor to develop a complete proposal including:
- IRB approval, if necessary
- Funding request and estimated costs of materials, if desired
- Completed proposal form and document to be submitted in hard copy and electronically to the honors program director.
- For HONR 300, proposals will also be looked at several times by the honors directors as part of the class, so communication between the mentor and the honors program directors will be encouraged – in both directions.
- Student enrolls in HONR 350. Faculty mentor prepares a syllabus for the class and submits it to honors program director.
- Syllabus must include defined goals and progress measurements
- i. Meeting schedule
- ii. Writing targets (see c below)
- iii. Defined criteria for passing
- The goal is to have HONR 350 meet an honors level standard for an independent study
- The honors program directors recommend strongly that the written report meet the aforementioned high level of scholarship, be at least 75% complete, and contain a conspicuous mentor endorsement.
- Student completes regular progress report forms, secures faculty mentor's signature, and submits them to the program director.
- Student and faculty mentors prepare report of research or project findings to be submitted to the program director.
- Note that in addition to content, the honors committee evaluates the written reports on overall aspects of style, including reference style, consistent voice, proper figure labeling, and dissemination of the research to a defensible conclusion or point of view.
- Student registers for HONR 498 and completes recommended revisions.
- As noted above, one goal of HONR 498 is to revise the written report so that it conforms to the expectations of the honors program as described above. The goal is to deliver a report to the honors committee that requires no revision, just commendations.
- Student prepares oral presentation with faculty mentor's assistance.
- In both the written and oral aspects, it is desirable and possible to deliver high level technical information to a sophisticated and general audience at the same time without compromise.
- Presentation preparation will be a regular part HONR498 as well.
- Presentation practice will also be a regular part of HONR 498, particularly focusing on delivery and tone to balance target and broad audience delivery.
- Honors committee reviews final reports and presentations.
- The honors committee who will see the written papers as well as the oral presentations of the capstone will be judging with a high level of expectations to insure a consistent level of rigor across the entirety of the program while acknowledging that practices vary across disciplines.
- The honors committee is comprised of representatives from diverse academic disciplines so as to ensure that all methods and approaches to scholarship have a spokesperson during deliberations.
- On occasion, the honors program directors may invite faculty with particular expertise to serve as ad hoc reviewers for individual projects as appropriate.
- Honors program director informs student and faculty mentor of committee's decision.
- Honors program director notifies Registrar of program completion for transcript designation.
Students should expect to:
- Adhere to ethical standards regarding the treatment of human subjects, plagiarism, patents and copyright including the correct and consistent employment of a citation style appropriate to their discipline
- Respect and observe all safety precautions when engaging in laboratory and field research and artistic performances.
- Conduct themselves in a manner that reflects favorably upon the Honors Program and the University.
- Maintain primary responsibility for the completion of the project.
- Provide the initiative behind the project.
- Keep their faculty mentor and the honors program director informed of their progress.
- Prepare professional quality documents (proposal, research report) and oral presentations.
- Adhere to all program, school, and university policies.
Faculty mentors should expect to:
- Provide significant intellectual guidance and personalized mentoring to assist students in the design, execution, and assessment of their projects.
- Articulate clear expectations regarding standards of intellectual and technical activity commensurate with honors level work.
- Establish protocols for regular communication with the student.
- Prepare a syllabus for HONR 350 and provide copies to the student and the program director.
- Provide necessary supervision for student work, especially as regards safety precautions.
Honors Program Director
The honors program director is responsible to:
- Establish general guidelines and protocols for honors research projects together with the honors committee.
- Communicate the progress toward meeting the guidelines and expectations for research projects to students and mentors in a timely manner.
- Be available for consultation with students and faculty mentors.
- Facilitate the release of funds for use in student projects.
- Advise students and faculty of deadlines.
- Coordinate registration.
Additional Considerations and Special Cases
Projects must be designed and executed especially for the program and cannot be mere revisions of an earlier study. It is acceptable for an honors project to serve as a substantial extension of previous work, provided the honors project itself requires considerable additional research, testing, analysis, interpretation, or implementation. An honors project must comprise a relatively self-contained component of the larger body of work of which it is a part. Students wishing to build on previous efforts should discuss their ideas with their faculty mentor and with the program director. Students must demonstrate the cohesiveness and completeness of their honors project in the proposal document. In short, a stand-alone project, both written and presented at a high level of academic scholarship is the requirement. The final decision whether a project meets requirements lies with the honors program director.
Honors projects can be individual endeavors in which a single student works with a single faculty mentor to complete the project. Likewise, a project can be a collaborative effort including several students and/or faculty mentors in various combinations. Team projects provide an opportunity for a highly motivated group to complete a much more complex or involved project than would be possible for an individual. In addition to the routine components of an honors proposal (see "Honors Proposal Instructions"), proposals for collaborative projects must specify 1) the specific rationale behind the decision to collaborate on this particular project, 2) the unique intellectual or creative contribution each member brings to the project, 3) how work is to be distributed equally among team members, and 4) a procedure for enforcing individual accountability to group tasks. Collaborative projects involving students from multiple disciplines and schools are also encouraged. Students wishing to work on team projects should consult with the honors program director before beginning the proposal process.