Faculty Guidelines for Honors Senior Colloquium and Research Theses
Like virtually every honors program in the country, Drury University’s Honors requires all students to complete and defend a senior research project in order to graduate “with Honors.” The goal is to engage Honors students in direct, hands-on, participatory learning experiences. The honors project is typically a baccalaureate-level thesis—not merely an extended term paper. You may consider it as similar in process to a Master’s project but at a level appropriate to undergraduates. The projects may be traditional research projects, creative works such as a collection of poems or a three-act play, or service-oriented exercises that are conceptually grounded in a body of knowledge. The projects may be within a discipline or interdisciplinary.
The Honors Colloquium & Research project is a yearlong process that requires sustained engagement. Faculty should refrain from participating on a committee if the subject matter is not sufficiently engaging. For those who do wish to participate, faculty mentoring occurs in many ways during the process. The following guidelines are not meant to constrain that mentoring, but rather to provide basic guidance through the process of directing a thesis.
Overview of the Process:
A timeline and list of deadlines can be found at the Senior Colloquium & Research page. Below is a more general discussion of the responsibilities of a member of a project committee throughout the process. We begin with a set of expectations for the Prospectus.
- Prospectus. The student works with the Thesis Director and Honors Director to write a brief prospectus, usually three to five pages in length.
- Ideally, the prospectus should be completed before registering for thesis hours, i.e., during the junior year. It should also be completed after preliminary research – such as literature reviews or beginning work in a lab – has commenced. Under special circumstances, the prospectus may be turned in during the first weeks of the student’s senior year.
- Because of the evolving nature of research, students are not bound by the prospectus. Nevertheless, it should accurately reflect the intended research and give some justification for the project’s originality and importance within the field.
- Depending on the discipline, a list of relevant source material may also be required. (An annotated bibliography is due in the first semester.)
- If there are special skills needed to complete the thesis – statistical or analytic techniques, for example – these should be identified in the prospectus. (If the student doesn’t possess these special skills, specific means for gaining those skills should be outlined in the prospectus.)
- As the student’s thesis progresses, the original project may develop in unforeseen ways. Results from experiments often yield unexpected results. Close analysis often changes a prior interpretation. Accordingly, there may be shift in what will be examined in the thesis. Any major changes should be discussed with all committee members and conveyed in an updated prospectus from the student.
- The Project Committee. In conjunction with their work on the prospectus, each student is responsible for assembling a project committee. Most committees will consist of (1) a project director, (2) another professor from the same or a related field, and (3) a third professor, usually outside of the major field. After faculty members have agreed to serve on a committee, the student turns in their names to the Honors office, along with a copy of his or her schedule for the semester so that the Honors department can begin scheduling meetings with your committee.
- Role of Committee Members. Serving on an Honors committee represents a substantial time commitment. It should only be agreed to if a faculty member is genuinely interested in the research project as outlined in the prospectus.
- The role of the Project Director is most crucial. The director not only meets regularly with the student but is in many ways responsible for supervising the successful conclusion of the project. This doesn’t mean the director should dictate the course of a research project; nor does it mean the director should assume a primary role in assigning deadlines, etc. Rather, the director should serve as an intellectual sounding board for students, helping them explore and develop their topic, suggesting fruitful avenues of inquiry, challenging conclusions and data presented, and in general engaging students with the rigor of academic research. A project director should be fluent in the field of inquiry, and willing to learn along with the student. Students will be asked to meet at least bi-weekly (every two weeks) with the project director. The project director will work closely with the student on research and text preparation. The relationship between the director and student in Honors Colloquium & Research is not unlike that between a dissertation advisor and graduate student; the director is a trusted advisor, a resource, and an unrelenting interlocutor.
- The role of the other committee members is less supervisory than advisory. The second committee member—usually within the same field as the project topic—should provide guidance on necessary research methods and materials. Meetings should occur approximately three times a semester with the student. The committee member outside the field serves as a representative of the larger University. His or her primary responsibility is to ensure that the Honors project merits that the student graduate “with Honors.” As with the second committee member in the field, meetings should occur approximately three times a semester.
- All members of the project committee share many of the same goals and responsibilities. They will review the prospectus, annotated bibliography, thesis outline, and drafts, making suggestions for additions and revisions whenever necessary. They will also review the final draft of the thesis to ensure that it adheres to the original prospectus, that it is grammatically correct, is an appropriate length, and that it contributes original research toward the chosen topic.
Requirements of the project: The Honors Colloquium & Research project should be an effort of qualitatively superior work. In general, page requirements are 60-90 pages in the humanities, with science projects generally shorter. Project committees provide guidance for what a project/thesis should be like.
Student responsibilities: Honors students are responsible for nearly all paperwork associated with the process. The Director of Honors will guide them through this process, which students are expected to begin a full year before their graduation and which include registering for Honors 401, completing a prospectus, and putting together an Honors committee. A handout with all relevant deadlines and meeting times for the Honors committee will be distributed to everyone involved in the project. Students are also responsible for scheduling regular meetings with members of the project committee.