Senior Colloquium & Honors Research

For many Honors students, the Senior Colloquium and Honors Research project is the crowning achievement of their academic career. Previous projects have included video installations, full-length novels and performance pieces, but most often are comprised of original research in the humanities and sciences.

The process starts early in the year when students select a project director and at least two additional professors to serve on their project committees. The collaboration between the students and their committees begins with the selection of a topic, proceeds through extensive research during the fall and spring semesters, and concludes at the end of the year with twenty-minute presentations of each students’ research findings.

Visit as many of the links below as you like. They will help guide you as you think about doing a thesis.

Introduction

All students admitted into the program must complete a Senior Colloquium and Research project (usually a thesis) in order to graduate “with Honors.” The project provides Honors students with the opportunity to engage in sustained independent study of a carefully defined question or problem. Although typically based in research, this problem may be critical, experimental, or creative in nature. Above all, it should represent an effort to make an original contribution to the field.

Honors projects can vary greatly. In the humanities and social sciences, students usually compose essays of 60 to 90 closely-edited pages, plus notes and bibliography. Science projects are often based on extensive laboratory research or field research; while supported by a great deal of data, these final essays tend to be shorter. Creative projects may be comprised of original work such as a collection of poems, essays, or short stories; a novel or play; a photographic, sculptural, pictorial or multimedia exhibit. In all cases, however, the Honors Senior Colloquium & Research project is a substantial piece of work that goes well beyond normal requirements of the major. It should represent a student’s best work in their discipline, demonstrating critical thinking, a mastery of material in a given discipline(s), clarity in communication of complex ideas, and professionalism in production.

To complete the project, each senior takes Honors 401 (3 hours) and Honors 402 (2 hours) in their final year. The first class, offered in the Fall, involves regular class meetings, workshops on thesis writing, and explorations of various forms of research. The second class, offered in the Spring, is thesis credit rewarded upon successful completion of the senior research project.

Senior Honors students select a project director and at least two additional professors (one in a field or discipline outside that of the project) to serve on their project committee. The project director serves as a mentor and guide throughout the process. Although the majority of the work occurs during the senior year, it is useful to think of the process as beginning the year before. During the junior year, students should begin speaking with faculty members, exploring options, and beginning to narrow down their topic or project. By the second semester of that year, students should work with their project director to develop a thesis proposal. Beginning Spring 2009, Honors students will submit a proposal in March a year before they intend to graduate. The Honors Council will review that proposal and either approve it or return it for revision.

Students may begin their research as early as the summer before their senior year. Once the academic year begins, they should attend Honors 401 and schedule regular meetings with their project director. A calendar of intermediate deadlines will be assigned to help ensure the timely completion of the thesis. The director of Honors will keep all students apprised of important dates and deadlines.

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Choosing a Topic and Project Director

The best way to choose a topic is to ask the following questions: What ideas or topics have most engaged you in your academic career? What are you most curious about? What do you love? After you have developed a tentative idea, talk with faculty members in your department. They can help you sharpen your focus and steer you away from work that has already been done in the field. It’s important to select a topic that you feel passionate about, so that your project will continue to interest you during the year or more that you’ll be working on it.

Having a project director with whom you can work is another key to the successful Honors Senior Colloquium & Research experience. You’ll want someone who is familiar with the area in which you’re doing your project. You’ll also want to choose someone who is easy for you to talk with: someone you understand easily, someone who understands you. If you are someone who works best within a clearly established structure, you will probably want to find a professor who is willing to meet regularly with you and check on your progress from time to time. If you work well independently, you may want someone who has a light hand when giving guidance.

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Thesis Statements and Research Methods

Below are questions to help you to begin constructing thesis statements for Honors Senior Colloquium & Research projects in the humanities, arts, sciences, social sciences, and creative fields. Included also are questions to help you determine your appropriate research methods.

For a project in the Humanities or the Arts:

THESIS STATEMENT: Describe in a sentence or two the precise question or problem which you are going to address. (Thesis statements are often best constructed as the answer to a question that interests you.) At this early stage, identify possible explanations based on the literature in your field. If you have reached this point, you may identify a position you plan to defend or substantiate. It is altogether insufficient here to state simply that you are going to "research" or "investigate" or "look into" a question or problem.

RESEARCH METHOD: When considering research methods, you are really trying to determine how you plan to complete your project. What will you do? Why? In what manner will you support or refute your thesis statement? What are you looking for, specifically? Why have you chosen these texts/experiments/survey questions/artistic medium/etc? Support with reasonable arguments (Not "because I feel like it", or "my advisor told me to.") What will your scholarship consist of? It is not enough here simply to state what you are going to read. Explain the questions you will pose and the methods (e.g., type of formal analysis, literary criticism, or hermeneutic) you intend to use to investigate, test, or interpret your thesis. Explain why these methods are feasible and adequate to demonstrate the validity of your thesis. What resources are necessary to undertake this type of research? Are they readily available? How do you plan to secure them?

Research paper in the Sciences or Social Sciences:

THESIS STATEMENT: Describe in a sentence or two the precise question or problem which you are going to address. (Thesis statements are often best constructed as the answer to a question that interests you.) At this early stage, identify possible explanations based on the literature in your field. If you have reached this point, you may identify a position you plan to defend or substantiate. It is altogether insufficient here to state simply that you are going to "research" or "investigate" or "look into" a question or problem.

RESEARCH METHOD: State your research question(s) as clearly as possible. Identify and describe the major variables and concepts you will include in your research project. Provide an overview of the methodology you plan to use. How will you address the research question? Will you use an exploratory, descriptive, or causal research design? How will you select your sample(s)? How will you measure your key concepts and variables? Collect and analyze your data? Do you have appropriate experience in this area? If not, how will you prepare yourself to undertake such research methods? What resources are necessary to undertake this type of research? Are they readily available? How do you plan to secure them?

Creative performance or production thesis:

THESIS STATEMENT: Simply “directing a play” or “writing a musical composition” does not constitute a thesis. You may wish to think of a question, problem, or issue first, and then design a creative work to answer or address this question. You must answer the basic question “what’s the point?” That is, there has to be a “why,” as in “why does this particular project matter in your field?” or “What is the point of doing this particular project? How is it academically or professionally appropriate? What will others in your area be able to learn from your thesis?” Present your thesis statement in a sentence or two that describes precisely the question or problem you plan to address in your creative process. Based on the literature and other documentation in your field, identify probable directions your work will take. It is insufficient to state simply that you are going to create or produce a work of art or a document. Include why this thesis is significant and how it contributes to your learning and to your academic discipline.

RESEARCH METHOD: How do you plan to answer or explore your thesis question/statement via your creative process and/or project? There must be a scholarly research component to your project. Has anyone in your field already done what you want to do? Is there a specific process you should or will follow? How will you communicate your concept? What research will aid you in your conceptual development and execution? Where/how/when did you learn of the processes or concepts you are using? What resources are necessary to undertake this type of research? Are they readily available? How do you plan to secure them? Also consider assessing the success of your project — how can you tell if a performance/film/play/concert etc. has had the intended effect? Did you appropriately and accurately answer your thesis question, or explore your thesis statement?

DOCUMENTATION: How will you document your creative work? An assessment/research paper must accompany all theses and will serve as a permanent record of the thesis in the University Honors library. This is the scholarly component of your thesis. You may also wish to include a recording, photographs, or other physical evidence of your thesis project. (You do not need to explain this in the proposal, but know that in your thesis document you will include an explanation of your thesis statement or question, describe your research methods and findings, and will evaluate the process and results of your project. Some people find it helpful to work backwards from such a document when writing the proposal.)

*Some of these rubrics have been adapted from those of Butler University’s Honors Program.

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While the schedule varies with each academic year, a general schedule for completing the Senior Colloquium & Research project looks like the following:

FALL SEMESTER
First week of class. At 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, there will be a meeting of the Honors Senior Colloquium & Research class in the Honors Seminar Room, Pearsons 105. If you are unable to attend, please schedule a private meeting with the director of Honors at some other time during the week. HNRS 401 will begin meeting regularly the following week.

Also, by the end of this week, turn in the final recommendations for your project committee to the Honors Office (Pearsons 105). Committees will consist of (1) a project director, (2) another professor from the same or a related field, and (3) a professor outside of the major field. A copy of your schedule for the semester is also required so the Honors office can begin scheduling meetings with your committee. Please send your fall schedule (with times you cannot meet with your committee) to Courtney Allen in Pearsons 105.

Second week of class. You should arrange to meet with your project director to discuss your project. Together, you should discuss the need to revise or modify the Prospectus devised during your junior year. View a sample Prospectus

Prepare the last draft of your formal project Prospectus. Included should be such things as a brief introduction to the topic, hypothesis to be tested or statement of purpose, indication of methodology to be used, potential applications, etc. Review the Prospectus with your project director, and after you have obtained his or her approval, turn in a copy of the approved version to Courtney Allen in the Honors Office (Pearsons 105) before 4:00 p.m. on the Friday of the second week of class.

Mid-September. Every project committee will meet to discuss and approve the final draft of the Prospectus. The Honors Office will call the meeting and will distribute copies of the Prospectus to your committee members; all committee meetings throughout the year will be in Pearsons 105. Discussion will also include the status of present research and the direction of the project.

Mid-November. From the start of the semester to this time you will be preparing the Review of Literature and a Preliminary Bibliography. The Review should be a formally written narrative summary of the research that you have conducted since the beginning of the semester. Remember to meet with your project director before you begin writing the Review to discuss appropriate and discipline-specific formats. The Bibliography is expected to reflect substantial, in-depth study. It should include those books and articles that you have actually consulted. The Bibliography should be prepared in the format appropriate for the discipline in which you are writing (MLA, APA, etc.). Consult with your project director concerning the format of your bibliography. View a sample Literature Review

End of November. You must submit the Review of Literature and Preliminary Bibliography to Courtney Allen (Pearsons 105). You will receive a specific deadline well in advance.

Early December. If your project includes surveys, questionnaires, experiments, etc., you should have the instrument completed by this time. Submit a complete copy or description to the Honors Office. The form will be distributed to members of the project committee. Arrange to meet with each of them to determine if they have questions or objections.

Late November—Mid-December. Each project committee will meet during this time to review and evaluate what has been accomplished during the fall semester. If there are adjustments or changes that need to be made, this will be the time to discuss it. Soon after the beginning of the spring semester, you will need to submit a detailed outline of the project paper.

SPRING SEMESTER
First full week of class. Meet with your project director to review spring schedule for Honors Senior Colloquium & Research. Begin making plans for the formal public presentation in April. Please send a copy of your class and work schedule to the Honors Office ASAP.

Late January. Prepare a detailed outline of your project paper. View a sample outline After receiving the approval of your project director, submit your detailed outline to Courtney Allen (Pearsons 105).

Late January—early-February
. Each project committee will meet in Pearsons 105 to discuss proposed outlines. Arrangements for the individual committee meetings will be made by the Honors Office.

Mid-February. Senior Colloquium & Research class meeting, Pearsons 105, time TBA. You will have the opportunity to inform the Colloquium of the progress of your project. This is an informal meeting designed to promote discussion among students. Project directors and committee members are not expected to attend.

Early March. Final revisions of rough draft should be completed during this week.
ROUGH DRAFT DUE TO THE HONORS OFFICE - BURNHAM 308.

Mid-March. Arrange to meet with your project director to discuss your revisions of the rough draft.

Late-March. Your revised draft is due. It must be turned in to the Honors Office (Pearsons 105). This is the draft that will be reviewed by the project committee. You will need to contact each of your committee members individually and set up a time to discuss their suggestions for your paper. You should complete this round of individual meetings by early April.

Second week of April. Final revisions, consultations with project director and/or committee if required. THE FINAL WRITTEN DRAFT OF THE PROJECT PAPER MUST BE SUBMITTED TO THE HONORS OFFICE (Pearsons 105). This final version should incorporate all changes and corrections requested or required by the committee.

Mid- to late-April. Public presentations of projects, details TBA. Presentations will be held in the Olin Room and will begin at 7:00 p.m. each evening.

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Public Presentation

Each student completing an Honors Colloquium & Research project will present his or her work at the end of the Spring semester. Presentations will be held in the Olin Room and will begin at 7:00 p.m. each evening. Previous presentation topics can be viewed here.