Advanced Readings and Research

Foundations for the Thesis Project

Most of the upper-division Honors Program curriculum (six credit-hours) is devoted to the development of a thesis project under the direction of a faculty mentor. Through independent study and research, conducted over several semesters, students begin to apply the methods of their chosen discipline(s) to the investigation of a specific topic of interest. The extent and content of Honors thesis projects vary considerably across different fields of study. They may include significant components of textual criticism (in the humanities); laboratory research (in physical sciences); data collection and analysis (in social sciences); or, occasionally, creative expression (in art, creative writing, or dramatic or musical performance). In any case the thesis project introduces Honors students to the techniques of research, writing, and performance that they will encounter at the graduate level, and helps to cultivate the intellectual skills that are essential to critical inquiry and advanced scholarship.

The thesis project usually begins in the junior year with a sequence of two consecutive Advanced Readings & Research courses (HON 3100 and 3101: two credit hours total). With extremely rare exceptions, these courses are taken individually--most often 3100 in the fall of the third year and 3101 in the following spring; occasionally, some students may be on a slightly different timeline as decided with their honors academic advisor and thesis mentor.

In HON 3100, students will identify a research topic, work with a research librarian to begin compiling readings for the thesis, and learn how to find a faculty mentor. They will also be introduced to research methods and general thesis-writing strategies for various disciplines through several coordinated seminars led by Honors College faculty and staff and their colleagues. By the end of the semester, students will have secured a faculty mentor and with their mentor’s guidance, will develop a research plan that will be completed in HON 3101.

In HON 3101, students will execute the plan created with their faculty mentor, typically a series of readings (or a combination of readings and, for example, laboratory procedures) that should provide a solid foundation in a specific research field and should familiarize the Honors student with current methodologies, debates, and problems in the discipline. At the conclusion of the course, students complete and submit a proposal which outlines a research agenda or performance design and identifies the primary sources and tentative methods for the thesis project. After completing HON 3101, each Honors student may begin the senior-year Honors Thesis courses (HON 4V87: 4 credit hours total).


Honors Program

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