What do Honors Projects look like?
An Honors Project challenges students to be absorbed into the inquiry of a course in such a way as to give them more than ordinary appreciation for and mastery of the intellectual discipline in question. Whatever form they take, the work of an Honors Project should be higher in quality, more deeply analytical, and more challenging, rather than simply a multiplication of existing assignments. The most important components of an honors project are are the quality of the research, the originality of the author’s thinking, the author’s ability to link her work to theoretical issues of importance in the field, and the quality of communication in multiple formats.
For more discussion on this, faculty members should view a Zoom recording of a Fall 2020 In-Service Workshop on the Honors Program that includes a discussion of how to build Honors Projects. Further instructor-oriented guidance is available in PDF form: Honors Project Guidelines.
Building an Honors Contract
In general, an Honors Contract should supplement the standard Honors Contract form with a typed description, the more specific the better, of the Focus, Format, Meetings, and Milestones for the proposed Honors Project:
- Focus – What will the project focus on? The focus should be some aspect of content related to the course but one not normally investigated in depth as part of regular coursework. Effort should be made to find a connection to that content that connects to the student’s passion, pathway, curiosity, or concerns. For example, a MATH pathway student interested in being an architect and designing mega-buildings might be pursuing Honors Credit in a Sociology course. The Project could involve the societal impacts of mega-buildings – bringing an under-explored extension of the course content in direct conversation with the student’s career goals.
- Format – What format will the final project take? Investigative and analytical work need not always result in a research essay, although this is certainly acceptable for a project. Is there a presentation aspect that could work? A performance piece? An experiment to design and run? Is there a public information piece or publication piece or multimedia design piece? The student and instructor should discuss project formats and agree on one that the student can do well and that the instructor believes constitute academic rigor that they are comfortable evaluating.
- Meetings – How and when will the student and instructor meet over the course of the semester. In-person or video chat meetings are preferred, as opposed to only interacting via emailed questions and answers. The student and instructor should schedule (in the contract) and adhere to no fewer that three meetings of 20-30 minutes each over the course of the semester. These meetings should not focus on advising or regular coursework but should be conversations about the content and ongoing development work of the Honors Project itself.
- Milestones – How and when will the student submit pieces of the project to the instructor for review. It is strongly advised that you arrange a schedule of piece-submission for the project, rather than requiring the whole to be submitting near the end of term. For example, you might agree to have a Literature Review due at X date, and a Discussion section due at Y date, and a final draft due at Z date. Milestone submission allows the instructor to monitor progress and to coach the student on direction, effort level, and format throughout the middle of the semester so that there are no surprises near the end of the semester when the project is being considered for Honors Credit.
The student and instructor agree on, sign, and electronically submit an Honors Contract to the Honors Director (email submission preferred). See the Honors Home Page or posters around campus for the current semester contract deadlines.